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Tech Insights 6 min read

What is field mapping in Dynamics 365?

A simple but powerful feature that can be incredibly helpful once you’ve figured out how to use it, field mapping is something that you should integrate into your workflow as much as possible. In a nutshell, it’s a mechanism that maps one field to another, allowing data to be copied between corresponding records.

What is field mapping in Dynamics 365?

Field mapping is basically a copying function. Let’s say you’re creating a new contact record for an existing employee, or a new sales opportunity for an existing lead. You have to go through your database, and manually re-enter information from fields in one record into the corresponding fields of another record. This can be frustrating, as some of the data entry feels entirely redundant. It’s also time-consuming, and it opens up the possibility of making errors. With field mapping, this whole process can be done automatically. You specify a particular relationship between sets of records, select the relevant fields, and the required data is just copied directly from one record to another.

Mapping one field to another in this way is a lot easier and faster than the manual data entry method. And the more records that you’re creating or updating, the more time that you’ll save with the field mapping feature. Not only is it a time-saver, it also serves to protect the integrity of your data. If the information in the first record is accurate and up to date, then this will also be the case for the record that it is copied to. There’s no risk of having mismatched data, and you’ll avoid the problems that can result from this further down the line.

In Microsoft Dynamics 365, there exist 3 relationship types:

  • 1:N (One-to-Many). The entity relationship is one entity record for the Primary Entity can be associated to many other Related Entity records because of a lookup field on the related entity.
  • N:1 (Many-to-One). The relationships that exist between entities and refer to each entity as either a Primary Entity or Related Entity. The related entity, sometimes called the child entity, has a lookup field that allows storing a reference to a record from the primary entity, sometimes called the parent entity. A N:1 relationship is just a 1:N relationship viewed from the related entity.
  • N:N (Many-to-Many). An entity relationship that depends on a special Relationship Entity, sometimes called an Intersect entity, so that many records of one entity can be related to many records of another entity.

How to create or edit field mapping in Dynamics 365

Setting up field mapping is quite a straightforward process.

1. In your Power App solution, select the Solution and the Entity you want to work on. Then, select Relationships.

2. Once you get into the Relationships parameters, you select New Relationship and you select One-to-Many.

3. Choose the Related Entity.

4. Save your relationship by clicking on Done and then, on Save the entity.

Activating advanced relationship behaviors

When creating one-to-many and many-to-many relationships, you can set advanced behaviors. These options refer to as cascading behaviors because they cascade down the hierarchy of related entities. You can choose between one of the following standard behaviors:

  • Referential, Remove Link: in this type of behavior, you can navigate to any related records, but actions taken on one will not affect the other.
  • Referential, Restrict Delete: In a referential, restrict delete relationship between two entities, you can navigate to any related records. Actions taken on the parent record will not be applied to the child record, but the parent record cannot be deleted while the child record exists. This is useful if you do not want child records to become orphaned. This forces the user to delete all of the children before deleting the parent.
  • Parental: In a parental relationship between two entities, any action taken on a record of the parent entity is also taken on any child entity records that are related to the parent entity record.
  • Custom: In a custom relationship between two entities, you select the behavior associated with each of a set of possible actions.

What are the field mapping rules in Dynamics 365?

Though the process of creating and editing field mappings isn’t too complicated, there are a few reasons that the process might not always work exactly how you want it to. To avoid or troubleshoot any problems that arise, here are some important rules to bear in mind when you’re setting up a field mapping in Dynamics 365.

  • Field types must match.

The data type in the Source field has to be the same as the data type in the Target field. For example, if the data from the field in your parent record is of the type “Option Set”, or “Whole Number”, this must also be the data type for the corresponding field in the child record. When copying something like contact information, this usually isn’t an issue, but do make sure to check that the field types are the same if you are facing any difficulties.

  • The target field length should not exceed the source field length

This is something else to be aware of when field mapping. If the text field in the parent record is of a different length than the corresponding text field in the child record, the mapping might not work properly.

  • Field mapping is just copying data

Another important thing to bear in mind is that the field mapping function simply copies data from Source to Target, at the time that the mapping is created. It doesn’t synchronize one field to another! If the data in the parent record is changed, the corresponding field in the child record will remain unchanged, and vice versa. So if a customer’s contact address is changed in one record, for example, remember that you will need to go back and create a new field mapping if you want the corresponding records to be updated.

Can field mapping be generated automatically?

Yes, it can! Instead of creating each field mapping manually, you can get Dynamics 365 to automatically set mappings up according to some basic commonalities between fields. This is something that can be very useful when you’re setting up mappings for custom entities, but do be careful when you’re doing it with system entities.

When you’re viewing the Mappings list, after locating a relationship and selecting Mappings, you can select Generate Mappings from the More Actions menu. This provides you with suggested field mappings, based on fields that have similar names and data types. These will replace all existing mappings.

This is a great option when you’re using custom entities, as it saves you the time of setting up each field mapping, and you can easily delete any mappings that you don’t want. With system entities, however, it’s possible that you might lose important expected mappings.

How can I learn more about field mapping and Dynamics 365?

Field mapping is a technique that will become indispensable if you’re regularly carrying out tasks that involve updating of large amounts of customer or client data, or regularly creating new records from existing ones. Drastically cutting down on redundant data entry, it’s one of the most effective ways to save time when entering data, and it vastly improves the accuracy of the information that you’re recording.

Streamlining your workflow and guaranteeing improved data integrity, field mapping is just one example of the many incredibly useful features that the Dynamics 365 CRM software offers. Regardless of the size or type of operation that you’re running, a CRM solution can completely revolutionize the way you work, offering tools and information to improve performance at all levels.

At Gestisoft, we provide powerful CRM software solutions that offer custom implementations of Microsoft Dynamics 365 and other CRM products. Our custom products are tailored to your goals, and adapted to the specific needs of your business or project. Based in Quebec, we’ve been helping firms of all sizes across Canada since 1997. Our solutions and services improve quality of customer service, marketing efficiency, and sales performance. We also offer technical demos of the leading CRM products, and consultation services for those who are in the market for a CRM solution. Do not hesitate to contact us if you need more information or want to implement a CRM software in your business.

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September 21, 2020 by Frédéric Charest VP of Marketing

Data-driven Growth Marketer with a Passion for SEO - Driving Results through Analytics and Optimization