Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mobile Express: Features and Limitations

Mobile Express for CRM 2011 offers a simplified mobile client that is integrated into the product, however, it has some key limitations. This post seeks to explain with pictures which are the pros/cons, main features and limitations of Mobile Express.

This is the default “landing page” when opening CRM via mobile client

All views on the selected entities will be available in Mobile Express:

Forms: Read
You can select which fields are available in the form. You will also be able to navigate to the related (child) entities

Forms: Edit
The fields which are available to edit via ME will appear in the form “edit” mode. Note that Field Level Security works in ME the same way as in the web client.
Nota that this is not a complete list of limitations but represent those that in my experience have been the most significant limitations of Mobile Express.
1. Lookup fields have no “browse” or “auto-complete”. This is one of the most significant limitations to end users when working with ME. Imagine for example that you need to escalate a case immediately and you need to select the team to which you need to escalate. If you are in the web client, you can easily browse the team and there is also auto-complete feature:
However, in Mobile Express you will need to type the exact team name and hope you did not make any spelling mistakes because if it does not match exactly with an existing record, the save operation will fail. This limitation applies to all lookup fields. As a work-around you might consider using OptionSet fields in ME instead of lookups (and you might need to build a plugin or some logic to map between optionset values and lookup values on save, but this topic alone can be an entire blog post).
2. No Ribbon = Few buttons. Because there is not ribbon in Mobile Express, the buttons available are very limited and you can certainly not implement custom buttons. Mobile Express supports the following buttons to act on a specific record:
- New (Create new record)
- Edit
- Save
- Delete
So for example, assigning a record to another user/team is challenging from Mobile Express because there is no “Assign” button and you can also not edit the “Owner” fields. A workaround would be to create a custom Lookup field to a user/team and expose this field in the mobile form (call it “Owner”) and then have a plugin that will do the actual assignment whenever this field changes. However, this workaround will also suffer from limitation (1) above.
Custom actions (such as “Escalate”) would have to be implemented as fields instead of as custom buttons (following the plugin pattern described above).
3. No sorting / filtering. Sorting and filtering which can be easily achieved in the web client as shown in the screenshot below are not possible in ME:
4. No “select multiple”. When you have a view in ME you cannot select multiple records at once so you cannot bulk-edit, bulk-assign, etc.
5. Maximum 2 fields per view. Mobile Express views will only display the first 2 fields of the view.
6. No visualizations. ME does not support charts, dashboards or running reports.
7. On-demand processes. While automatic workflows will trigger from Mobile Express, you cannot start dialogs or workflows on-demand.
8. Form limitations. You cannot have custom JavaScript or web resources embedded in the mobile form.
9. Not available offline.

Again, this is not a complete list of pros and cons, so feel free to contribute if I left out something significant.

No additional license required. Limited functionality (see above)
Native application within CRM/xRM. Not optimized for specific device (same interface for all phones and tablets).
Same support channel as the rest of the CRM/xRM application (Microsoft directly, no third-party vendors).  
No additional IT infrastructure required.  
Simple to implement, manage and maintain.  
Access via web (no need to install applications in mobile devices).  
Lowest cost.