Extending Dynamics CRM with Bing Maps
I’ve seen a fair amount of buzz lately around using Bing Maps as part of tighter integration between location information and business apps. The basics, in the context of integration with a CRM system, usually include things like displaying a map on a customer account or contact record to give quick access to the user, but MS hopes to inspire folks to have a more complete vision.
The Bing Maps Blog published a post last week that shows some of the capability of using live Dynamics CRM data to create a heat map. The post is fairly technical in how it’s written (read: I can figure out the gist of what’s going on, but it gets detailed with code examples and my eyes get a little glazed). It really seems geared to inspire folks to try adding their own heat maps as a way to get more familiar with extending Bing services. I spent some time reviewing the details and checking some of the associated links and here’s some of what I found.
Choosing the Components
The Heat Map functionality leverages several technologies including Bing Map community-developed resources (plug-ins). These are shared in an effort to reduce the development time and cost required to deploy this kind of visualization. There are over a dozen other Bing Map plug-ins like this with source code available which fall into several categories:
- Layout (this is the heat map category)
- Data (tools for putting data in a map)
- Extension (tools to give the user additional interaction with maps)
- Optimization (there’s a cool route optimization plug-in)
Assembly Still Required
These are built in a modular way so you can use what you need to help accelerate development, which brings up an important point: These are not finished utilities that are ready to be installed, but rather the tools to be leveraged when developing your own.
Even the heat-map post, which gives you the full source code for deploying such a map for your organization, will undoubtedly require some additional development to customize beyond simply showing “All Opportunity Estimated Revenue”.
Certainly there are other map services available that have an API that allows this same sort of thing. Here’s a comparison of several (with much more detail than I care to go through). I spent some time researching Google Maps in particular, and they do have a heat map capability in their API. It definitely appears that it could deliver a very similar functionality.
What caught my eye with the Bing Map blog post was that they showed how to use some of their tools to extend their mapping software into a more powerful business tool. It’s one thing to have a raw capability, but seeing how a few community-developed tools can be combined to rapidly create a professional-looking data visualization makes me appreciate what Bing brings to the table.
I’m excited to see how this continues to develop. 🙂