reImagine 2015 - Day 1

It’s been a great start to day one so far (as I am writing this throughout the day to save trying to remember it all later!).  This isn’t going to be about everything that happened today, however it’s the things that were most interesting to me.

Keynote & Opening Session

Wayne Morris was the official keynote speaker, and spoke a lot about SMB (small and medium businesses).  Some of the more interesting stats talked about or displayed to me were:

  • 12 million organizations have 10-250 employees, representing a huge opportunity in the coming years
  • cloud adoption is growing at 8 times the rate of on-premise
  • SMBs who are tech-savvy grow faster than those who aren’t. I forget to note the actual stats, but it was something like 15% faster growth in revenue on average.
  • 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience

Next up was Chad Sogge who was presenting GP “now”. Part of this included four partners talking about their experiences with the cloud, service-based architecture and/or the web client. The cool part for me (but irrelevant to anyone else!) was two of the four companies are near me in Waterloo region. Watserv is based in Waterloo and Diamond Municipal Solutions has an office in Cambridge that I can literally walk to from my home. I love seeing Canadian firms at these events generally but it’s even more neat to see those who are local to where I live and work.

My favourite moment of this partner showcase was Martin Olsen and the eOne Solutions demo. Not only did he show off an upcoming Service Builder product, he explained the difference between men & women and had the crowd in stitches. Now we all know what “sure” means!  I’d try to explain it but you just had to be here!  I think he thinks we women are complicated! :)

Next was Jeff Trossen and GP “next” which was declared to be Dynamics GP 2016, with an ETA of April 2016. The biggest feature will be a redesigned HTML5 web client, although it was clear that this wouldn’t mean rewriting much to get existing web client code to work with it. They showed Diamond’s products as an example of something they simply installed and it worked without touching it. Hopefully all ISVs have the same experience when “upgrading” their web client code to GP 2016.

Here are some of the new features planned that caught my eye. Note: nothing is confirmed to be a feature “for sure” until closer to release time.

  • Smartlist improvements around how numbers export
  • A new home page part to display Power BI
  • Inventory All-In-One Viewer
  • Sales All-In-One Viewer
  • A report that shows missing accounts for Excel Budget Wizard imports (finally!)
  • Requisitions now can be used for Project Accounting
  • EFT addition for Scotia Bank (Canada)
  • A/P payment batches can now include batched payments by credit card
  • Workflow improvements on batch approvals, now the edit list can be emailed for more info to support approvals
  • Powershell cmdlets for deploying GP in Azure
  • Addition of a Historical Received-Not-Invoiced report

The HTML client was also demo’d on an iPad to show it will work with any browser on any device.

Jen Ranz and Jodi Christiansen demo’d some of the new features next and it was good to see it in action, live.

General Breakout Sessions

The rest of the day we started to split up into Sales & Marketing sessions (at the hotel) and Consultant & Developer sessions (at Microsoft). Here is what I attended and some of my takeaways or thoughts on those. It was a busy day as always and by approximately 4pm I found my brain was full and not much else was “sticking”!

Njevity - “Azure Uncovered”

  • This was described as what Microsoft doesn’t want you to know about Azure. It was only a 30 minute time slot but over 10 minutes was a sales pitch about Njevity’s solutions, which as a sponsor, you’re entitled to spend your time how you wish. I guess I was disappointed that when it got around to Azure, it seemed to be more of a bashing of Azure than what I expected.

Jodi Christiansen - “OData”

  • This was a good session around creating dashboards showing some tricks in Excel using only the Account Transactions view to built several different pivot tables and charts, using the Timeline feature to easily select dates, and how to “attach” the timeline slider to all of the pivot tables to refresh the data at the same time. Cool stuff.
  • Next was some Power BI Desktop. It looks very cool but Jodi had some challenges in the demo with the default data type on one of the columns she was using. So, unfortunately, what this showed me is it is a very cool tool but not super easy to learn perhaps. I guess that’s a good thing where we consultants can really show our worth and expertise in learning a tool and deploying dashboards for clients. It isn’t quite a self-service tool it looks like.

Chris Dew - “Demonstrating the WOW of Dynamics GP 2015”

  • This was a great session where Chris walked through how to show the wow of the possibilities of connecting various things together seamlessly using the eOne tools like SmartConnect. Some of what he walked through was the same demo from the morning opening session but talked more about what it did, and that we can all do the same with their eOne Sandbox.
  • In brief, he had everyone open up a website where it asked us to sign up for tickets to an event. He showed all of those “online website orders” appeared in GP as SOP invoices; changed an address and showed it updating CRM; changed a phone number in CRM and showed it updating GP; and finally showed an excel report of the SOP invoices, changed some things like the prices and updated all of the orders in GP in that unposted batch. All of this with SmartConnect and Real-Time integrations between various sources.
  • He showed a bit of the morning demo as well of an integration to an unrelated app called Timely to schedule a consultant’s time based on an order from a client. Briefly here is what he demonstrated: an order is typed in a new web app for something that requires installation; saving the order creates a SOP invoice in GP and schedules an installation on a consultant’s timeline in Timely; In the morning demo they went a step further and showed entering time on Timely and ultimately billing it, all via APIs and SBA. Very cool. The point of this was to demonstrate that clients are starting to simply google/bing looking for solutions and don’t necessarily call their partner for advice. The days of looking for apps specifically written for GP may be gone, as we can use cloud apps’ APIs to connect data and bring it into GP or vice versa.

Belinda Allen - “Excel Experts Unite”

  • The always entertaining Belinda Allen presented this session and started off by asking who in the room felt like an Excel expert. Very few put up their hands, many “tentatively” believing they may be experts!
  • Lots of good tips and tricks were shared, too numerous to mention (some that I have to try to recreate to ensure they “stick” in my mind as well!). One great tip was if you deploy the default excel reports, and create new reports, save your .odc connection files to the same folder as the default deployment. This way they will appear in the Excel Reports navigation list within GP for users to view. I never really thought about using the nav lists before but it’s a lot easier than remembering where the reports are located! I need to look deeper into Navigation Lists because I really ignore a lot of good functionality that exists there.
  • One of my favourite tips from this session was how Belinda approaches requests to convert history when implementing GP. Like most others, she can’t get paid enough to convert history. However, what she does do at times is convert history to SQL tables in their SQL database, and create Excel reports to view the history so it “seems” like it’s in GP and right there for users to reference when needed. Really brilliant approach!
  • My second favourite tip was if you are going to use out of the box stored procedures, MAKE SURE you use only the ones starting with “see_”, which are for the out of the box SSRS reports. Those are select-based stored procs with no danger of them executing any other code like insert or delete.

Brain Full!

By this point in the day my brain was full, I don’t think I could have recited my address let alone learn anything else new. I was hoping to sit in on Belinda’s Power BI session which followed my last session, but I knew it wouldn’t register. I briefly sat in on the Create your own workflows session until I realized it was heavy into Dexterity. So I wandered over to the 1-on-1 experts room where John Lowther and Bob McAdam were hosting the session. Some great discussions on hosting partner differences, multi-currency and generally hanging out until the evening reception.

It was a great day overall… my only “beef” was the timing of lunch was very late (for me)… it was at 1:30pm which my body clock still thought was around 2:30pm, so needless to say I was starving and the long lineups for lunch didn’t help! I think everyone would have loved to eat earlier if they could.

Welcome Reception

At the end of the day, after a very long first day, everyone congregated at Microsoft for an evening reception. Free food and drink always gathers a crowd! As in previous years, it was a great evening with an excellent selection of food for us to choose from and free beverages of your choice.

Since I was really tired from the day and the busy travel day the day prior, I ate and had a beverage but left relatively early after only about an hour at the reception. It was a beautiful day, just over 30 degrees Celcius, so I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and walk back to the hotel. I’ve done that in prior years, and it’s a long walk, a little over an hour, and just under 6kms!  After sitting all day, it was nice to just get some exercise, even if it was only walking!

There was a “Smartner Party” hosted by eOne Solutions in the evening, same as last year, but same with last year, I fell asleep in my room before attending!  Sad but true… thankfully today (Tuesday) as I finalize this blog post, I’m more alert than many of the other attendees this morning! :)

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