reImagine 2016 - Day 3

The last day of the reImagine 2016 conference was a half day, like previous years. The plan when I woke up this morning was pretty simple: check-out, take in the 3 sessions in the morning, kill a bit of time doing my blogging in the afternoon, head to the airport and fly home. Well… it turns out I had more than a few hours to kill as I’m still in Fargo, as are probably a dozen or two other people who were hoping to sleep in their own beds tonight! Many of the people I knew were on a 5:15pm Delta flight to MSP (Minneapolis), and then I was to have an 8pm-ish flight to Toronto. Around mid-day, we all started getting notifications.

  • Flight delayed, now leaving at 6:10pm.
  • Flight delayed, now leaving at 6:55pm.
  • Flight delayed, now leaving at 7:10pm.
  • You get the idea. The last I saw, it was delayed to 8:45pm.
  • I just checked and it *actually* departed at 9:35pm.

Meanwhile, the flight to Toronto was at 8:04pm but it too was delayed and it left MSP at 9:48pm tonight, not that it matters anymore! Once it was past the point of arriving in time for my original 8pm Toronto flight, I called Delta planning to fly to MSP and stay in a hotel. I was told there were no hotels and just to stay in Fargo. They booked me on a 5:05 am flight. Ugh. They tried to book me on a 6:30-ish flight from MSP to Toronto which would have been about a half hour transition. Uh, no thanks.

Now as I am writing this, I see more flight delays. Now I don’t leave until 7am. Good news / Bad news. Good: I don’t have to be at the airport for a 5am flight. Yay! Bad news, what was a long layover I have a sinking feeling is going to turn into a tight one if there are further delays. The track record at this point isn’t promising! But, we’ll see. Many of us here tonight are on these very early flights so there may be a Dynamics GP party at the airport if we all get there and have further delays!

And now onto the real content!

Session 1 - Advanced Excel - Belinda Allen

I consider myself to have pretty solid Excel skills but I know Belinda knows her stuff and there are always tips and tricks I can pick up, and I picked up a couple of good ones today.

  • In Pivot Tables, under the Design tab, change the report layout to show in Tabular form to fix the layout which defaults to Compact form all the time. I always change this but I have been going a long way - on Pivot Table options, when this method is much quicker! I just wish Excel would let you save a default report layout type.
  • 3D Maps, which used to be Power Maps, is now under the Insert tab/menu in Excel. You need to be connected to the internet as it uses Bing maps.
  • Using “Get and Transform” in Excel, there is a file source “From Folder” which is totally awesome. I am actually excited about it for Power BI, because it’s also a data source option there. Stay tuned for how I plan to use it. Anyway, assuming the files you drop in a given folder are formatted the same way each time, setting up a “From Folder” data source allows you to essentially remember the steps you take to format the file each time in the data model and keep using it over and over instead of manually doing something or writing a macro.
  • Last tip was one I already knew about but forgot how cool this really is. There is an add-in called Inquire and it’s a “COM” add-in that comes with Excel (2013 I think, but 2016 for sure). One feature it has is to compare two notebooks. For example, you send out budget templates to department managers and you want to compare what you sent out to the ones they sent back to see what they changed. It tells you what cells were changed and how, formatting, formulas, values etc. Pretty cool.

Session 2 - Understanding OData - Jodi Christiansen

I’m still catching up on OData and haven’t tried configuring it anywhere yet, due to not having a test environment with a domain to do this. However it seems pretty cool and the security is handled through GP which strikes me as easier to manage vs. being purely in SQL for many customers. Here are some of the things I took away from this session:

  • OData stands for “Open Data” protocol
  • If you have GP 2016 installed, check Partnersource (or Customersource) for an update to the RTM version.
  • It’s single tenant right now, but will be multi-tenant in the future
  • GP security controls access to the data via the Windows or Organizational Account assigned to the GP login in User Setup (and the roles in User Security). There are new roles and tasks with OD_* naming convention for just this purpose.
  • There’s a blog on the GP Support and Services team site this link came from if it’s ever broken (2023 update - link is broken!) - search for GP 2016 OData.
  • The Reporting Services setup window needs the URL which you can get from the Microsoft.Dynamics.GP.OData.Host.Exe.Config file.
  • You need a certificate to install/configure OData (and a domain)
  • The Data Sources window is where you manage what types of views etc. are available via OData.
  • The Publish OData window has URLs for each object you have published.

One other comment I heard late but didn’t get a chance to clarify was a Power BI thing. Someone asked a question and I only heard part of the answer but it sounded different from what I wrote in a day 1 article. Essentially the answer was around Pro vs. Free Power BI and the gist was if you need the Pro version to publish some kind of content, you will need Pro to consume it. That may be out of context, I’m not sure, but it contradicts something that was asked and answered the other day in Mark Jensen’s session I thought.

Session 3 - Jet Express for Consultants

I initially sat in on this session but to be honest, I left after 15 minutes because the presenters were still going through their marketing schtick. They started the session assuring us they would leave 20 minutes for questions and 15 minutes in, we still hadn’t made it past “this is why we’re so great” (my words, but still, sure felt like that). All I was thinking was: this is a 60 minute session and that means you’ll cover the product for maybe 25 minutes assuming you were actually getting to some useful content shortly. So, I have nothing!

Dynamics Pros Exams

So I left and my luggage and I shuttled back to the hotel to proctor an exam. There were a few people who signed up to take the 1pm exam sitting but a couple of people needed to start earlier if they could because of tight flight times so I offered to proctor for those early folks and let Joe Carroll handle the next set. We both ended up sitting there proctoring everyone anyway and working away on things as we waited. I believe there were 8 more exams written during that session?  Decent turnout, good to see.

Drinks and Group Dinner

So, by the time the exams were being written, both Joe and I were re-booking our hotel rooms and changing flights etc. (we were both scheduled to be on the same flight). The afternoon, after the exams were done, I spent at the hotel bar, propped up with my laptop intending to write yesterday’s and today’s blogs while killing time. I sat there for 3.5 hours and managed to get one blog done, and a draft of part 2 of the day 2 blog. Too many interruptions and side conversations and laughter and stories about what we were originally supposed to be doing etc. It was a fun afternoon but tiring at the same time, trying to get things done but not quite getting it done!

A group of people were going out for dinner and meeting at 6:45pm and they kindly offered to take in more of the stragglers. That was great, and we all went to a place within walking distance. Mekorma generously paid for the entire group, and we’re talking over 35 of us that went for dinner! Thank you Mekorma for your generosity!

And, that’s it… at least I hope there isn’t anything more to tell re: flights! Here’s hoping I get on my flight in good time tomorrow and make it to Toronto as planned. I’ve got a tee time to play golf with a friend at 4:30pm Toronto time - it’s only my 2nd round of golf all year - so I’m overdue and I really hope I get out to play that twilight round to finish my season!

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