Microsoft Dynamics CRM Product Families & Product Hierarchies Explained

In the latest Dynamics CRM 2015 update Microsoft has given its product catalogue a makeover to improve the experience for sales teams.

At the heart of these enhancements is the introduction of a new product family feature enabling:

• Territorial based pricing lists
• Product hierarchy visualizations
• Inherited product attributes
• Bundled products
• Guided product suggestions

Territory Price Lists

In CRM 2015 sales teams can now link territories directly to price lists.

By doing so the appropriate price list is automatically set as default for opportunities, quotes and orders that are created in Dynamics based on the territory assigned to the sales person’s user record.

It's an excellent solution for sales teams distributed across multiple regions and territories by ensuring the correct price list for their area is automatically applied.

Product Families & Hierarchies

By using product families CRM users can more effectively manage, categorize and navigate the products and services in their catalogue.

In our earlier post we focused on CRM hierarchy visualisations introduced in CRM 2015. The same format is used to present the structure of each product family.

The screenshot below shows a product family which represents the training courses that an organisation delivers.

At the top of the hierarchy we’ve defined a ‘Courses’ product. Below this sit three packages for which the organisation offers courses for. A third level has been expanded to highlight two courses that are linked to one of these packages named PretX.

In this example, separate product families could be defined for other training solutions, or to manage other services which are offered by the company including consultancy, support or maintenance.

In CRM 2015 the product catalogue has been updated to include the new product families option.

The updated view details the new product types.

Existing CRM users may notice some new icons:

Product Family

Product Linked to a Family Hierarchy

Bundled Product

Click Add Family to create a new product family hierarchy.

At the top level of the product family as shown in the first screenshot above we've created a ‘courses’ family record.

Before this product, and any others in the same family, can be added to any sales opportunity it must first be published.

Inherited Product Properties

One of the most important improvements that Microsoft has introduced is the ability to set product properties that cascade down to each linked ‘child’ product in the family.

These are product attributes which enable sales people to refine the makeup of each product when they create a new opportunity. As a result, this reduces the need for sales people to consume time by creating new products on the fly.

Individual product properties can be set as mandatory to ensure a sales person completes these attributes when a product is added to an opportunity.

Several data type are available for each property / attribute:

  • Option Set – select from a drop down list
  • Decimal – set minimum and maximum numbers
  • Floating point number – set extended decimal place precision
  • Single Line of Text – set maximum character length
  • Whole number – without decimal placing

Some examples of product properties could include colour, dimensions, version, weight and flavour. Typically these variants would not directly affect the product price.

For the Courses product family that I featured earlier, two attributes have been set that will apply to all products in this hierarchy.

In the example above each property is configured as a mandatory option prompting the sales user to add more detail to their opportunity, quote or order when these products are selected.

For the training venue a default value has been set, users can also pick from 3 other variants.

As we’ve touched on already these attributes flow through the product hierarchy. As a result all ‘child’ products in the same family will inherit these characteristics.

That ensures a great deal of time is saved in managing and configuring these products.

It’s important to note that these attributes are only available for products that are associated with a family hierarchy. A standalone product won’t have this option.

When we move down to the next level in the product family these inherited properties are shown.

Additional product properties can be set at any level.

In this example above we’ve added a further property called Database that will state which data source is to be used for the training.

Because we’ve added the new ‘database’ property below the primary ‘Courses’ level in our product hierarchy this item won’t be applied to any adjacent branches in the Courses family. It will only appear on associated products in the PretX family that are linked to this record.

However, what’s great about this new feature is that products can inherit characteristics from multiple parents.

Let me explain by moving down to the third level in our product family.

Courses > PretX > Introduction Training

As shown below this introductory training course has inherited three product properties. Two of these (Delegate Size & Venue) were inherited from the global ‘Courses’ product that sits at the top level family.

A third property (Database) has fed through from the next 'PretX' level that sits immediately below 'Courses' as we’ve covered.

The family hierarchy field provides a useful breadcrumb trail to confirm where an individual product sits in the product family.

The hierarchy icon in the top right corner of the screen can also be used to open the hierarchy visualisation.

While it’s not possible to directly edit the properties that each product inherits CRM does include flexibility to make changes at a child level on the settings and the default values of these items.

This is achieved by opening a property entry shown on a child record and selecting the override option. Beforehand, the revise option will need to be selected on the parent record in the product family.

We’ll now update the Delegate Size attribute shown on our advanced training course.

The global attributes that were inherited from the top (Courses) level of this family listed 3 delegate tiers up to a maximum of 10 people.

For this course we only allow a maximum of 6 delegates so these options have been amended to reflect the reduced capacity.

Once saved and published the properties for this product have been updated. The overriden element is highlighted with an adjusted icon as shown below.

An impression of how product properties will appear on an opportunity can be gained by clicking the preview button in the ribbon.

Product Relationships

Another product enhancement is the ability to select complimentary products and services to help sales professionals promote cross-sell and up-sell options, or even quote for accessories and substitute items.

By doing this it means Dynamics CRM is more prescriptive supporting sales teams in their efforts to increase order values and deliver better service.

The options that are defined in product relationships appears when a product record or a product bundle is added to an opportunity. These are shown as ‘suggestions’.

In the example below we’ve configured 4 suggestions for this product including upsells for training manuals and post training support.

Depending on the option selected, product relationship suggestions can be set to two way (bi-directional) to make them refer each other, or one way (uni-directional) to reflect the defined hierarchy structure.

By creating a new opportunity we can see these new functions in action.

The introductory course has been added to a new opportunity and in line with the defined product properties the user is immediately prompted to enter more detail as shown by the warning 'x' shown above.

Clicking the edit link pops up the associated properties.

Once these properties are set the CRM sales user can move over to the suggestions column and scroll through these options including the up-sell items we’ve defined.

For this example we’ll add post training support to our quote by selecting the option and clicking pick.


The final product update I want to highlight is a new option for bundling products.

This function groups multiple products together enabling them to be sold at a more advantageous rate.

Using bundled products will also save CRM users time if they repeatedly add the same series of multiple products to their quote and then apply a discount.

From the product catalog select ‘Add Bundle’ and select the individual products that will be included.

A product bundle does not require a parent record. Individual items can be added to a bundle from one of more product families, or include products that aren’t linked to hierarchy.

As with all CRM products a price list must be associated with the record.

For this example we'll add a new bundle which comprises an introduction course, an electronic training guide and post training support.

The introduction course that I've added to the bundle is associated with a product family and has defined product properties so this has been highlighted in the properties column above. These items must still be completed when the bundle is added to a sales opportunity, quote or order.

The screenshot below shows how the expanded bundle appears on an opportunity form once the product properties are completed.

It's worth noting that CRM 2015 doesn't support nested bundles so it's not currently possible to include a bundle within a bundled product.

Although I've covered many aspects of the new CRM 2015 product based improvements there are still many more points that could be added including cloning products, retiring and revising products all of which serves to demonstrate the depth of changes that Microsoft has introduced to transform the product catalogue!

To find out how your organisation can benefit from these new product features please get in touch, we'll be delighted to discuss your requirements. Or, check out our What's New in Dynamics CRM 2015 post to learn more about the other updates.