Understand the execution context

The Event Execution Pipeline passes registered plug-ins a wealth of data about the current operation being processed and your custom code's execution environment. The following sections describe the data that is passed to your plug-in or custom workflow activity.

For plug-ins

With plug-ins you can access this data in your code by setting a variable that implements the IPluginExecutionContext interface:

// Obtain the execution context from the service provider.  
IPluginExecutionContext context = (IPluginExecutionContext)

This IPluginExecutionContext provides some information about the Stage that the plug-in is registered for as well as information about the ParentContext.

More information: ParentContext

For Custom Workflow Activities

With custom workflow activities you can access this data in your code by setting a variable that implements the IWorkflowContext interface:

// Obtain the execution context using the GetExtension method.  
protected override void Execute(CodeActivityContext context)
 IWorkflowContext workflowContext = context.GetExtension<IWorkflowContext>();

This IWorkflowContext provides some information about the workflow that the custom workflow activity is running within.

Property Description
ParentContext Gets the parent context. See ParentContext
StageName Gets the stage information of the process instance.
WorkflowCategory Gets the process category information of the process instance: Is it a workflow or dialog (deprecated).
WorkflowMode Indicates how the workflow is to be executed. 0 = asynchronous, 1 = synchronous


The ParentContext provides information about any operation that triggers the plug-in or custom workflow activity to run.

Except for specific documented cases, you should avoid taking a dependency on values that you find in the ParentContext to apply your business logic. The specific order in which operations occur is not guaranteed and may change over time.

If you do choose to take a dependency on values found in the ParentContext, you should take steps to ensure that your code is resilient to adapt to potential changes. You should test the logic regularly to verify that the conditions you depend on remain in effect over time.


The rest of the information available is provided by the IExecutionContext interface that the IPluginExecutionContext and IWorkflowContext classes implement.

For plug-ins, all the properties of this execution context class provide useful information you may need to access in your code.


For custom workflow activities, these properties are generally not used.

Two of the most important are the InputParameters and OutputParameters properties.

Other frequently used properties are SharedVariables, PreEntityImages, and PostEntityImages.


A good way to visualize the data that is passed into the execution context is to install the Plug-in Profiler solution that is available as part of the Plug-in Registration tool. The profiler will capture the context information as well as information that allows for replaying event locally so you can debug. Within the Plug-in Registration tool, you can download an XML document with all the data from the event that triggered the workflow. More information: View plug-in profile data


All the properties of the execution context are read-only. But the InputParameters, OutputParameters, and SharedVariables are ParameterCollection values. You can manipulate the values of the items in these collections to change the behavior of the operation, depending on the stage in the event execution pipeline your plug-in is registered for.

The ParameterCollection values are defined as KeyValuePair structures. In order to access a property you will need to know the name of the property that is exposed by the message. For example, to access the Entity property that is passed as part of the CreateRequest, you need to know that the name of that property is Target. Then you can access this value using code like this:

var entity = (Entity)context.InputParameters["Target"];

Use the Microsoft.Xrm.Sdk.Messages and Microsoft.Crm.Sdk.Messages documentation to learn the names of the messages defined in the SDK assemblies. For custom actions, refer to the names of the parameters defined in the system.


The InputParameters represent the value of the OrganizationRequest.Parameters property that represents the operation coming in from the web services.

As described in Use messages with the SDK for .NET, all operations that occur in the system are ultimately instances of the OrganizationRequest class being processed by the IOrganizationService.Execute method.

As described in Event Framework, operations go through a series of stages and you can register your plug-in on stages that occur before the data is written to the database. Within the PreValidation and PreOperation stages, you can read and change the values of the InputParameters so that you can control the expected outcome of the data operation.

If you find that the values in the InputParameters collection represent a condition that you cannot allow, you can throw an InvalidPluginExecutionException (preferably in the PreValidation stage) that will cancel the operation and display an error to the user with a synchronous plug-in, or log the error if the plug-in is asynchronous. More information: Cancelling an operation


The OutputParameters represent the value of the OrganizationResponse.Results property that represents the return value of the operation. Each of the message response classes that are derived from OrganizationResponse contain specific properties. To access these properties you must use the key value that is usually the same as the name of the properties in the response class. However, this is not always true. The following table lists the message response class properties that have keys different from the name of the properties.

Response Class Property Key Value
BackgroundSendEmailResponse EntityCollection BusinessEntityCollection
CloneContractResponse Entity BusinessEntity
CloneMobileOfflineProfileResponse CloneMobileOfflineProfile EntityReference
CloneProductResponse ClonedProduct EntityReference
ConvertSalesOrderToInvoiceResponse Entity BusinessEntity
CreateKnowledgeArticleTranslationResponse CreateKnowledgeArticleTranslation EntityReference
CreateKnowledgeArticleVersionResponse CreateKnowledgeArticleVersion EntityReference
GenerateQuoteFromOpportunityResponse Entity BusinessEntity
GetDefaultPriceLevelResponse PriceLevels BusinessEntityCollection
RetrieveResponse Entity BusinessEntity
RetrieveMultipleResponse EntityCollection BusinessEntityCollection
RetrievePersonalWallResponse EntityCollection BusinessEntityCollection
RetrieveRecordWallResponse EntityCollection BusinessEntityCollection
RetrieveUnpublishedResponse Entity BusinessEntity
RetrieveUnpublishedMultipleResponse EntityCollection BusinessEntityCollection
RetrieveUserQueuesResponse EntityCollection BusinessEntityCollection

The OutputParameters are not populated until after the database transaction, so they are only available for plug-ins registered in the PostOperation stage. If you want to change the values returned by the operation, you can modify them within the OutputParameters.

Shared variables

The SharedVariables property allows for including data that can be passed from the API or a plug-in to a step that occurs later in the execution pipeline. Because this is a ParameterCollection value, plug-ins can add, read, or modify properties to share data with subsequent steps.

The following example shows how a PrimaryContact value can be passed from a plug-in registered for a PreOperation step to a PostOperation step.

public class PreOperation : IPlugin
    public void Execute(IServiceProvider serviceProvider)
        // Obtain the execution context from the service provider.
        Microsoft.Xrm.Sdk.IPluginExecutionContext context = (Microsoft.Xrm.Sdk.IPluginExecutionContext)

        // Create or retrieve some data that will be needed by the post event
        // plug-in. You could run a query, create an entity, or perform a calculation.
        //In this sample, the data to be passed to the post plug-in is
        // represented by a GUID.
        Guid contact = new Guid("{74882D5C-381A-4863-A5B9-B8604615C2D0}");

        // Pass the data to the post event plug-in in an execution context shared
        // variable named PrimaryContact.
        context.SharedVariables.Add("PrimaryContact", (Object)contact.ToString());

public class PostOperation : IPlugin
    public void Execute(IServiceProvider serviceProvider)
        // Obtain the execution context from the service provider.
        Microsoft.Xrm.Sdk.IPluginExecutionContext context = (Microsoft.Xrm.Sdk.IPluginExecutionContext)

        // Obtain the contact from the execution context shared variables.
        if (context.SharedVariables.Contains("PrimaryContact"))
            Guid contact =
                new Guid((string)context.SharedVariables["PrimaryContact"]);

            // Do something with the contact.


Any type of data added to the shared variables collection must be serializable otherwise the server will not know how to serialize the data and plug-in execution will fail.


For a plug-in registered for the PreOperation or PostOperation stages to access the shared variables from a plug-in registered for the PreValidation stage that executes on Create, Update, Delete, or by a RetrieveExchangeRateRequest, you must access the ParentContext.SharedVariables collection. For all other cases, IPluginExecutionContext.SharedVariables contains the collection.

Passing a Shared Variable from the API

If you need to introduce a shared variable when you call an API, use the keyword tag from either the Web API or the SDK for .NET to pass a string value.

This value will be accessible in the Shared Variable collection using the tag key. Once set, this value cannot be changed, it is immutable.

More information: Add a shared variable to the plugin execution context.

Entity images

When you register a step for a plug-in that includes a table as one of the parameters, you have the option to specify that a copy of the table data be included as snapshot or image using the PreEntityImages and/or PostEntityImages properties.

This data provides a comparison point for table data as it flows through the event pipeline. Using these images provides much better performance than including code in a plug-in to retrieve a table just to compare the attribute values.

When you define an entity image, you specify an entity alias value you can use to access the specific image. For example, if you define a pre-entity image with the alias 'a', you can use the following code to access the name attribute value.

var oldAccountName = (string)context.PreEntityImages["a"]["name"];

More information:

See also

Event Framework
Write a plug-in