Today was a half-day for the official part of the conference, unless you were taking part in post-conference training offerings. I chose to sign up for post-conference training, as I always take advantage of something interesting if I can while I am here. I figure this week is an investment in my self development and it’s worth taking advantage of any face-to-face training I can take that will help me be better at what I do.
The day started off with the Silver sponsors presenting their wares in a similar 3 minutes per partner approach.
Next was a brief wrap up which was mostly a big thank you to the Association of Dynamics Professionals and those who were instrumental in giving up their time to create certification exams and work behind the scenes. Everyone who wrote the first exams this week were encouraged to stand up to be recognized. I’m proud to have been one of that group.
Pam Misialek announced that next year’s conference will once again be in Fargo at the Hilton Garden Inn, and will be September 19-21, 2016.
After that, the “keynote” was different from prior years in that is was split up into the sales & marketing vs developer & consultant groups. I attended the one called Techies Unite. To be quite honest, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to all of the speakers except to the very first speaker, Tim Brookins, who talked about the internet of things (more on that below). The others were talking about the Microsoft hack-a-thon and other topics, and while interesting, I was finishing my blog on yesterday to get it off before the regular sessions continued! My bad…
The Internet of Things
Tim Brookins talked about the insurance industry, and data gathering via things like dongles in your car measuring how you drive. He tied that into privacy and how you need to be willing to pay for keeping it. It was interesting to me as it was something I’d never really thought of in this way.
The gist of the presentation was that the purpose of the dongles is to reduce your insurance premiums if you are a good driver, since it tracks and sends back to the insurance companies all sorts of data on your driving habits - time of day, speed, braking habits etc. If you are not a good driver, you would not voluntarily use the dongle, why would you? Also, if you concerned about the data capture and lack of privacy, you wouldn’t use the dongle either. On the insurance premium side, in general, rates are driven based on what kind of group you fall into. In this case, it could be the group of drivers using the dongles and those that don’t are two rate groups. If, statistically, the drivers who use them are good drivers, then it makes sense that, collectively, their premiums go down. As more good drivers take the dongle as a way to have lower insurance premiums, that means that non-dongle-using group has premiums that are going to increase over time, as the drivers left in that group are high risk bad drivers. The way Tim was bringing this full circle was for those with privacy concerns, who choose to stay in the non-dongle-user group, effectively you may be paying for increased privacy as you are also in a group where the poorer drivers are, with higher premiums.
The other analogy he provided was that of email. He asked for a show of hands, who paid for their personal email. Barely anyone put their hand up, which wasn’t much of a surprise. He pointed out that if you are a user of a free email service like gmail. outlook.com or hotmail, you’re getting what you pay for in terms of privacy, which is having little expectation of any, as those providers have to make money somewhere.
There weren’t that many session slots today and to be honest, I didn’t find many of the options that appealing. I was “clouded” out which were the main focus of the non-sales & marketing sessions. I sat in on Andy Snook’s session “Navigating Microsoft like a Pro”. It didn’t necessarily apply to me, as I’m not a reseller or an ISV, but it was interesting to listen to nonetheless.
The key points I took out of this session were:
- Build a business plan. Know what drives your revenue and who your audience is (whether it be market, industry, vertical, size or geography). Know where Microsoft fits into that plan and also know if it would survive without Microsoft. Then stick to your plan, it’s your business, not Microsoft’s.
- Know that what motivates Microsoft isn’t going to coincide with what motivates you and your business. It would seem that market share (customer adds) and revenue go hand in hand but they aren’t synonymous.
- Build a network. If you don’t know who to reach out to, reach out to your network. He put his contact info up on screen and encouraged people to contact him. If he can’t help, he might know someone who can, and that is the point of a network.
- Attend events and participate. Getting in front of people at Microsoft may not be easy, but also recognize that during an event, it is nearly impossible. Stay late, plan your conference around including extra time to meet with those you want to meet with after the conference is done. Most are more than willing to spend the time with you, but, during the event, when they are already stretched thin as it is, isn’t realistic.
After that, I chose to skip the last time slot of sessions. I had to get to Microsoft for the afternoon and I simply wanted to get into more comfortable clothes and get something to eat first. Since the shuttles were cancelled back and forth, I was fortunate to run into Terry Heley who I’d known for a long time, and she gave me a drive back up to the campus which was awesome.
Advanced Workflow Training
The afternoon session I attended was on workflow. I haven’t done much with it yet, only configured it briefly to test the basic functionality. I learned more about it of course, and had the opportunity to ask a lot of questions. I also learned that yet again, the knowledge one must have is increasingly complex to fully implement some of the solutions available now. Example: if your client wants to be able to approve workflows via email from anywhere, you need web services installed of course, but you also need a publicly available server address. For instance, they described setting up a public DNS record (specifically a PTR record on your web host), pointing to a static IP address on your router (which you might have to request through your ISP). Then on your router, port forward 48620 to the server where web services is installed. Did you get all of that? If you don’t need it that accessible, then approvals via email have to be done on devices on the network only, via VPN or local. How many clients will want “everywhere”? Hard to say but there are security concerns to address and the configuration side which are more skills needed by the partner implementing this (or on the client’s side).
Some other things I learned:
- When creating conditions for workflow steps, be careful with how you set up your and/or commands. You might expect brackets will be used in evaluating an expression but they won’t. The example in class was a condition for a step triggered only when the vendor = “X” and the originator was either Bob, Doug or Mary. The way to configure this wasn’t intuitive at all to me, but because brackets are effectively ignored, you would have to set up the logic like this: vendor = x and originator = bob OR vendor = x and originator = doug OR vendor = x and originator = mary. It would never occur to me to configure it this way as it seems very ineffective, but there is no other way to make this example work in the current workflow logic.
- When modifying email messages, if you want to display line item information on the approval request emails, you need to do 2 things, which aren’t included by default in the out-of-the-box message:
- On the body section, add the field Document Line Fields to the body somewhere, where you want the lines to be displayed
- On the lines section, mark off each of the fields you want to be displayed in the lines section.
- When using the approval assign-to option “hierarchy”, it refers to the Active Directory hierarchy, as in, whatever is in the “manager” field is where the approval will flow next. The challenge is if IT doesn’t populate this field, it’s something else to potentially add to the scope of configuration of a GP implementation. Also to be considered would be whether the hierarchy in A/D is representative of the actual hierarchy you wish to have in your workflow. Sometimes the literal manager isn’t the person to whom the hierarchy might suggest it should go, based on say payroll hierarchy, or the A/D hierarchy isn’t as up to date as what Payroll has for instance.
Post Training Fun
After the training was done, and my official reImagine agenda was complete, I joined up with the MVPs and friends to go out for dinner at a local Indian restaurant. A fun time was had by all and it was nice to unwind and tell stories and have some laughs.
It’s been a fun conference, and tomorrow I’ll post a “wrap-up” post with any final thoughts.