Collaborate Canada 2017 Calgary

Today was the 3rd of the 4 city Collaborate Canada events, hosted in Calgary, Alberta. Same as the previous days, it was aimed at users of 4 of the Microsoft Dynamics product lines: AX, CRM, GP, NAV, and the applicable D365 content mixed in.

Being a Tourist

I got in late Saturday afternoon so I could have a full day to wander around Calgary, and get used to the time change. I had only been to Calgary once and that was 30+ years ago! The weather was fabulous and milder than normal so it was great for wandering the downtown and enjoying the trails. I put in over 15,000 steps traversing all over.

On Sunday night, I ran into Tyler Doerner from WatServ, who lives less than 30 minutes from me but I only manage to see in any other town other than my area. We grabbed a bite to eat at Milestones, and watched the Grey Cup and Sunday Night Football. A bit later, Bob McAdam, Pam Misialek and Rod O’Connor joined us for drinks and we closed the place. That sounds much worse than it is, since they close at 10pm! I was tired after a long day of walking so I called it a night and left for the hotel.

Opening Session

Bob McAdam, GPUG General Manager, kicked off the session with the UG content. He even briefly wore a toque, provided by Rod O’Connor, in case his head got chilly! Gotta love it. The night before, we got talking about some drinking game, and today’s drinking game could have been every time Bob said “excited”. (LOL, love ya Bob, but we might have been a bit tipsy!)

Katie Cook from Microsoft did the opening session and it was slightly better than the previous but only because some of the Ignite videos were removed. Too many videos and still too much D365 content, in a room of existing customers of existing products. I fail to understand what they think the audience gets out of that, other than confused. Why not show 4 customer success stories, preferably Canadian, but one of each product line? Something showing the power of each product, that users can be excited about or at least relate to.

GP crowds & content

I believe the crowd expected for today was again around 150 altogether (all attendees) and the room was pretty full for the main general session. However, on the GP side of things, it was the lowest attendance yet. If I’m being generous, I think there were 3 customers, plus 1 who identified himself as “interested” in GP but not a current customer and everyone else was a partner (consultant, reseller or ISV). One of those customers I didn’t see again after the morning sessions, one was there all day, and one was a fellow who wasn’t in the first session so I’m only guessing he was a customer. I’m trying to round up…

Pam Misialek’s opening GP session was so small she started off with a once-around-the-room introduce yourself approach, which is how we know who was who. The rest of the day, the non-customers mostly scattered and thus the actual attendance was 1-2 people per room.  It just seems hardly worth it, except the attendees who were there could get any question answered they wanted! There were 2 sessions cancelled due to lack of attendance, one of Kerry Hataley‘s and one of Rod’s. One of mine was nearly cancelled but one of the consultants who came, a relatively new consultant, wanted to hear my session so we had a 1-on-1 chat about it. I’ll give a shout out to Encore here, the reseller that this consultant works for. She came with a client, flew in from Winnipeg, and it’s good to see a reseller supporting that. She came to learn as well as catch up with a client, but it wasn’t even local to where she works, so it was not an inexpensive day to send her here.

Other Thoughts

Lunch was a bagged lunch (sandwich, salad, chips etc.). I asked Bob about it and he mentioned that Calgary’s catering costs were much higher than other locales so the end result was not quite as nice a meal in this location for lunch. That surprised me, I would have guessed Calgary would have the lowest costs vs. the bigger cities the events were in. The food in the others had been very good, something I took for granted; it’s easy to forget how expensive catering is for events of this size.

I liked the venue because all of the breakouts, except the first general session, were in the same area and thus all food, reception and mingling were closer together. Rod mentioned he wasn’t a fan of the rooms themselves because there was no power for users, as the tables were well away from the walls where outlets were. I didn’t notice I guess! I really liked that the rooms had podiums for speakers although I didn’t use it to stand behind for either of my sessions (go figure!).

The after event reception was good, it’s always an enjoyable time to mingle with the other attendees. I was hanging out and talking with Gord Wengreniuk, one of the founders of JoeSoftware, whom I had finally met in person earlier in the day. We have talked on the phone on numerous occasions but had never met in person. One of the things we chatted about with others at the reception was the attendance and possible reasons why it has been so low. Gord’s take on it, while acknowledging that his own firm had not promoted the event much either, is partners may want to see the event and quality of the content themselves before recommending it to their clients. I can see that but I also think partners truly believe their customers might be poached by other resellers if they attend.

I stand by my belief that if you have a good relationship with your clients, and treat them fairly, they won’t be looking to leave. I think events like this open up customers’ eyes to new things and most customers need your help, as their partner, in implementing them. Encourage them to come to events like this where they can meet other users and learn things from others. Then, encourage them to bring ideas back and have follow up conversations with them about it! I hate seeing partners coming to present, and none of their own clients are here, as I’ve seen twice now in 2 cities thus far. You want to get in front of other people’s clients but don’t want to promote this event to your own? That’s just not right.

Community Generosity

I wanted to give a special shout-out to Gord Wengreniuk from JoeSoftware, for a number of things he did for me yesterday.

Earlier in the day, we met briefly to say hi in person and then went our separate ways as he attended mostly CRM content. At the last session, he dropped in to the tail end of my 1-on-1 “Free Add-ons & Resources” presentation with the other consultant I mentioned above. At the end, Gord gave me an Amazon Echo Dot, which I thought was pretty cool and generous.

After the reception part, we went for dinner with a few others in the community: Steve Tanner, Bob McAdam, Rod O’Connor, Gord and myself. I was once again the recipient of some of Gord’s generosity. We were running late to get me to the airport on time so Steve initially offered to cover my meal, so I could just get going and pick up my luggage. He said it was his pleasure, and thanked me for giving my time to present at the events. Wow, I thought, this community never fails to amaze me. It turns out Gord didn’t have to get luggage so he actually picked up my meal tab and then arranged for an Uber while I ran to the hotel and got my bag. Both Steve’s offer to pay and Gord’s actions were incredible generosity for which I am very thankful. I made it on time for my flight to Vancouver, with thanks to both of them.

So, this is a sincere thanks to Gord for his generosity and support.

I love our GP community!

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