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Maps and GPS Data in Microsoft CRM: A Few Things to Take into Account

May 23, 2013

Microsoft is embracing the mobile worker, and there are a number of applications geared toward smart phones and tablets for Microsoft CRM. One of the most compelling features people want in a mobile, connected CRM application is easy access to maps.

While applications like Resco Mobile CRM and CWR Mobility offer maps integrated within their apps, your data will need to be altered in order for the map functionality to work. Both of these applications need GeoCode (latitude and longitude coordinates) data populated on records. CRM provides latitude and longitude fields for addresses on Contacts, Accounts, and Leads, but these are not auto-populated. Resco does allow you to update the GeoCode from the app but requires that you physically visit the location, load the record, and set the GPS location.

Most people are familiar with Google maps and Bing maps, as well as a number of other mapping services on the internet. Both Google and Bing (as well as most others) offer remote-programmatic access to their services – known as an API. One of the biggest features the API presents is a way to get the GPS coordinates from a regular street address.

There are a few gotchas here though, Google and Bing both require an "API Key" to access the services from your own code or application. Both offer a free API key with some limitations – typically limited to X number of requests per day, hour, or year – and certain usage restrictions – such as internal applications only or public-facing websites only.

For 90% of Microsoft CRM use cases, both Google and Bing map APIs would require a paid subscription to stay strictly within the licensing terms. Both services don't publish their pricing and require you to contact a representative to get pricing. I will say that Bing's prices tend to be lower, but that is not always the case. If you want exact pricing, it's best to get it straight from the horse's mouth at https://cloud.google.com/maps-platform/pricing or https://www.microsoft.com/maps/.

Some organizations might get away with using a free API key, but it might be subject to service interruptions and slow performance, causing missing data in your system and frustrating users. A commercial license typically offers you access to faster servers, a service level agreement (guaranteed uptime), and technical support for custom development. This is one cost that is typically overlooked when deploying a mobile CRM that should be taken into consideration.

Getting an API key is only one step. You also need to determine how you will be utilizing the maps within your system. There are a number of guides online that include full-source code for implementing Javascript, custom workflow actions, and CRM plug-ins to auto-populate the GeoCode data. You can also implement maps on the forms using javascript. Of course, your ever-so-helpful CRM consultants at Armanino can help evaluate your needs and implement a solution.

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