How do I clean up my Outlook contact list and ensure the right contacts are tracked into CRM?

Recently I was presented with a request that went along the lines of:

“I am using CRM via the browser but I want to start using the Outlook client as I believe not all of my outlook contacts are in CRM, what is the best way to get my outlook contacts synced into CRM?”

Now this may sound simple, just install the outlook add in, sync and then track the required contacts into CRM, but if you do this you could end up with a bunch of duplicate contacts in Outlook, your phone and then Outlook owning the contact records that you track into CRM, which is a big issue as I explain below.

  • When Outlook owns a contact via tracking it directly into CRM, it means that your outlook filters are dismissed for this contact. But what does this mean? Well its quite a major.
  • Imagine the scenario, the contact you tracked is reassigned to another person, in normal circumstances this might mean you no longer see this contact record, but because you tracked it, the contact remains tracked in Outlook.
  • Then say you decide to untrack this contact or delete the contact in your outlook, because you do not deal with that contact anymore, but then 6 months down the line the contact is reassigned back to you, the contact will not be synced to your outlook via the outlook filters as your actions in Outlook has overridden that of the filters as you told CRM you never want to see this contact in Outlook, by untracking it!

So basically if you track in Outlook you will overide the outlook CRM filters for this contact going forward and if you untrack the contact you will never be able to re sync this contact to the contact in CRM without first creating a duplicate contact in CRM merging them and syncing them back.

So what is best practice you ask?

Quite simple let CRM control what contacts based on your outlook filters should be synced to your Outlook and never track a contact via the track in crm buttons in Outlook! This way you will always see the right contacts from CRM and never get into a mess, where some are syncing and others are not. Now that statement may be contrary to what your CRM partner has told you but believe me it is the best approach.

From a training perspective, it simple means that when I am in Outlook and I want to create a contact that ultimately belongs in CRM, I should create it in CRM via the Outlook interface interacting with CRM, and then let the sync process bring the details back down to my Outlook and phone.

So now back to my problem statement, I have an employee who wants to get in sync there Outlook contacts and their CRM contacts by installing the CRM add in for Outlook.

Things to consider:

  • Phone contacts and are they syncing to Outlook
  • Other tools that may be syncing to Outlook
  • Personal vs business contacts

So maybe now you can see my dilemma this is not a simple process! So I have listed the steps below to what I believe makes the process as seamless as possible and ensures minimal duplicates of contacts across Outlook, phone and CRM.

  1. In outlook move all the contacts that you want in CRM to a new Contact folder called Business Contacts.
  2. Export that folder to an excel worksheet (file open, Import, export to file, choose excel, select new contact folder, export)
  3. Open the worksheet and remove all the additional Outlook columns to just leave the ones required to be imported or the ones that have content in
  4. Save the file as a csv file
  5. Import into crm with duplication detection on, mapping the columns to the appropriate contact columns via the Ribbon Import button
  6. Check the status of the import and hopefully minimal duplicates created, depending on your de-dupe rules
  7. Tidy up duplicates by merging in CRM
  8. Delete the contacts folder that contains the business contacts that you have just imported into CRM in Outlook (you have a backup in the csv file) to delete the contacts on your phone, as otherwise your phone may sync back duplicate contact records back into outlook
  9. Check phone has removed the contacts
  10. If phone has not manually delete contacts on the phone and sync
  11. Install Dynamics CRM Outlook add on
  12. Sync down owned contacts based on your outlook filters
  13. Phone and Outlook now have one list of contacts, with business contacts from Outllook and CRM synced appropriately to your devices

Now if ownership of records change the contacts will be removed from your outlook (if your outlook rules are based on ownership) and if you regain ownership of the record the contact will be re-synced back to your outlook.

Hopefully this will simplify your CRM rollup and on-going maintenance of users.

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4 Responses

  1. Thanks for a great article. Importing Outlook contacts into CRM is one of those things that new users usually expect to be a simple process, but in practice there are quite a lot of details to consider for a successful outcome.

    One typical scenario that will impact the import process is the fact that different users may have the same contact stored in their Outlook and mobile address books, which is something to consider regarding the duplicate detection rules during import. Nowadays when the Activity Feeds solution is found in more and more Dynamics CRM organizations, I usually recommend people to leverage the Follow feature to tag those contacts owned by other users that they wish to have in their Outlook and mobile phone, then ensure that they have the “Contacts I Follow” view enabled as an Outlook sync filter.

    • That is a great option to enable multiple users to have the same contact in their outlook. I recommend as an alternative solution to use a static marketing list and add your contacts that you want in your outlook to that. Then create an outlook filter around the marketing list.

  2. Nice article. Another good way to synchronize CRM contacts to Outlook is to use Connections. This way you have a nice overview of who is connected to the Contact in CRM and you have the possibility to import the Connections which saves a lot of manual labour.

    I personally use parent Accounts in my Outlook filters to determine which contacts are synced to my Outlook. This way I always have all the Contacts of the Companies I do business with in my mobile phone even if I haven’t yet Connected to or Followed a newly added Contact in CRM.

  3. Great article, we ended up writing a custom .NET import routine with the SDK which combines aspects of the approaches above, by taking all business contacts into a CSV file and then importing into CRM, de-duping along with way, and adding the contacts into a specially named marketing list owned by the user.

    Then add a system wide Outlook Sync rule to sync the users contacts where they are in the marketing list.

    I think we will expand our Sync rules to include Contacts I follow, or Contacts I am connected to, as the Add to marketing List option for people to get into their sync rules is not obvious, and the Follow or Connect angle makes a lot of sense.

    Thanks for publishing 🙂

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