I’m back in Fargo, ND for the annual Dynamics GP Tech Conference. Today was the first day of the conference (Monday August 20th).
I arrived on Saturday morning, with very little trouble, except some minor stress of believing I might have been bumped from the 2nd leg of my flights to Fargo. It turns out, if you book in a low enough class of ticket, you aren’t assigned a seat until you are at the gate in the airport. No choice of seats, you get what you get and you’re technically on standby until then and could get bumped. Fortunately, I did not, but next time I may not be going for the absolute cheapest fare I can find.
In previous years, I would post an article about the trip down etc. but since it’s already Monday, I’ve missed the intent of that and I’ll skip it. I’ll cover off the highlights here and then get on with my thoughts on day 1.
I landed in Fargo around 10:30am Saturday morning and was at the airport before 11am. I had been in contact with David Musgrave, who arrived the day prior from his 30-hour trek from Australia. David wanted to go to the West Acres mall nearby to shop for clothes and little did I know that agreeing to that would turn into a 4-hour marathon shopping session! Whew.
For those that don’t know me well, I typically wouldn’t last more than 5 minutes in a mall unless there’s either good food or electronics. LOL. In fairness, I do check this mall out every year as they have a Roger Maris museum which is pretty cool, and an Eddie Bauer store which I can handle shopping at!
David modelled this very snazzy jacket in our epic adventure: (spoiler: no, he didn’t actually buy this one!)
After the mall, we returned back to the hotel, and went our separate ways for a couple of hours and re-connected again for dinner as we were the only 2 in town so far. By day’s end, I’d put in a ton of walking and the step counts showed that!
On Sunday, the forecast for Fargo was more or less 100% chance of rain until mid-afternoon and sure enough, it poured most of the day. I met David for breakfast and took advantage of his offer to show me a full tour of his product, GP Power Tools. My company purchased this when we upgraded to GP 2016 this past spring, as we previously had the free prior version, Support Debugging Tool. I *knew* it was useful but I really have not had one iota of time to dedicate to learning it. As I explained to David, even as a very experienced GP consultant, I found his product very overwhelming.
Long story short, we sat together for nearly 4 hours (another epic journey!) and he walked me through the highlights of the functionality. I logged into my DEV server at work to look at some of what he showed me with my own data and we talked through some scenarios I had in mind that I thought this could work for. It’s not often that you get a chance to sit with the developer of a product you own and get that kind of in-depth walk-through. I really appreciated David’s time and he was thrilled to do it, as, like me, he didn’t have a lot of things on his agenda! I am pleased too that one of my feature suggestions made it into his product! We found a very small non-functional bug and David fixed it while we talked so it’s ready for his next release.
By the time we were nearly done, fellow MVP Mariano Gomez and others started to arrive and we packed up and joined them for lunch. The rest of the afternoon I spent by myself in my room doing some odd computer work and watching some movies. I met more colleagues, including fellow Canadian GP MVP Rod O’Connor, for dinner and some laughs. All in all, a good day and somewhat productive too, quite a bonus!
Day 1 Opening Session
Bob McAdam kicked off the opening session as usual and we got underway quickly into the good stuff. Jodi Christiansen and Chad Sogge started the opening session with the first big news of the day: GP 2018 R2 will release on October 1, 2018.
What’s big about this? From my perspective there are two things. One, it’s not being labelled as GP 2019, so it’s not a major release. It might be “big” in terms of incremental functionality like other R2 releases have been but it’s not another major version. From an upgrade perspective, I’m happy about that since the upgrade paths only allow jumping 2 versions as it currently stands today so we will remain 1 version back for the time being.
The second thing is the time of year has changed to align with other Dynamics product releases. This release will contain the first elements of a direct tie-in with Dynamics 365 Business Central called Intelligent Edge & Cloud. Timing the releases with BC releases will be important as time goes on to keep changes in sync.
This feature is potentially going to be huge as it will allow the sync of some data from Dynamics GP and other on-premises Dynamics applications (called Edge devices) to Business Central and the Common Data Service for additional functionality. Initial data replication will be limited to non-historical data:
- GL Accounts and beginning balances
- Customers and outstanding transactions
- Vendors and outstanding transactions
- Items and quantity on hand
It’s hard to summarize this “briefly” other than the above, and Mariano Gomez already wrote a good blog about this which is here, so I won’t get into further detail here until more is released.
Here’s a brief summary of some of the other potential new features we may see in GP 2018 R2 in October. I say potential because, while they likely are going to stay as described, they are still in QA and there’s no guarantee they all make the release.
- Monthly Recurring Batches improvement: an option for “use last day of the month” instead of simply adding a month to the last transaction date. Anyone who has forgotten to change March’s posting date from March 28th will appreciate this! Personally, I think there’s a missed opportunity here as it could have been tied to the Fiscal Period calendar and been “use last day of fiscal period” instead to accommodate businesses that run 4-4-5 fiscals or other non-calendar month periods.
- Inventory HITB gets some love with the option to exclude items with zero value or quantity (two options, technically speaking). This should help performance quite a bit.
- Posting Setup gets an additional option around “Allow Transaction Posting” to choose “Post Thru GL”. It’s not clear yet which posting options will have this as Jodi did note that some things *couldn’t* be done this way. Bank module transactions and Voids come to mind but we won’t see it fully until feature of the day starts which of those (if not both) will have this option on it.
- Purchasing All-in-One View will now display vendor document number.
- SOP Navigation Lists can now be used to print documents in Originating currency not just Functional currency. Anyone using multicurrency may find this useful.
- Inactive Chequebooks can be hidden in the lookups.
- Email support is added for the Purchase Order “Other” form, instead of just supporting the “Blank” form.
- Customer statements can be emailed right from the customer maintenance window.
- A new option in System Preferences now gives admins the ability to hide Business Analyzer on all users. (yay!)
- Password length will be increased to 21 characters! (big YAY!)
There were more things covered but those ones resonated with me.
Pennies for Taylor
The next part of the session was a video put together by Belinda Allen. Fellow MVP Shawn Dorward’s son Taylor was in a drowning accident on July 4th and ever since has been in recovery. From starting off in a medically induced coma to where he is today is already remarkable so far. As Shawn said in the video, thus far there hasn’t been a single day where Taylor has regressed at all. They know that might not be the way all the time but so far, every day has had some progression or new thing Taylor has been able to accomplish. Shawn and family are documenting every step of the journey and started putting a penny in a jar for every new thing Taylor does in his work towards recovery. Early on it was a simple as responding with a slight hand squeeze. The video was both great to watch and hard to watch, I’m not sure there was a dry eye in the room by the end.
If you’re interesting in following, the family is posting daily updates on Facebook and there is also a website now set up (blog) with links to the posts.
Website - https://penniesfortaylor.wordpress.com/
After a brief break, the next session was still a “full room” session (not split into different sessions). It was the first PowerApps shootout and featured Belinda Allen, Mariano Gomez and Kerry Hataley. It was a fun session with lots of laughs and some pretty great performances! The format of the session was 2 rounds, first to show off a PowerApps app they had already created and then for the 2nd round to create an app on the fly.
- Mariano showed off approval of cheque batches
- Belinda showed off reviewing and changing credit limits on customers
- Kerry showed off stock counts from a phone
- Mariano created an app with a google map for a customer location and ability to email a customer when you’re on the road in the area.
- Belinda created a PowerBI report, an app and a Flow all around the contest and scoring for the contestants.
- Kerry continued with the stock count theme showing off how it could read a barcode to find an item for stock counts.
… and the winner was: Kerry! It was a close race!
Partner Solution Showcase #1
The next timeslot was 3 ISV sessions. I sat in one which I won’t name because what I have to say isn’t a reflection on their product but a general observation of some “tools” I’ve seen which raise a few flags in my accountant mind.
There are a few vendors that provide different toolsets for Dynamics GP, typically offered in bundles, which are promising sounding utilities and tools that do all sorts of things that users have asked for. The vast majority of these things no doubt are useful to some customers but there are always a handful where the tool seems to be simply circumventing the controls that the system was designed to have in the first place. There were a couple of things mentioned today, and the questions from other attendees indicated others had some similar concerns on a tool or two mentioned today. Like I said above, the vast majority are useful and there is good value from these types of packages for the most part. Any tool, used improperly, could be damaging even if it otherwise doesn’t have internal controls implications.
Breakout - Creating new revenue streams with PowerBI, PowerApps and Flow
This session was presented by MVP Belinda Allen (& Brian Blanchard from Microsoft, who unfortunately was quite under the weather and only able to participate in some Q&A).
In my current role, obviously, the “create new revenue streams” part of the presentation was no longer relevant to me but the entire session was fantastic. There were so many tips and tricks on building a library of templates to use and how to manage them, it was useful in many other ways to me. There were lots of tidbits of information picked up in this session that I hope to use.
Breakout - Self-healing SQL servers
This session was presented by MVP John Lowther and again, was a great session full of interesting tips and tricks for managing your SQL server. Among the things I took away from this session was his creation of an Admin database for all objects related to administration instead of putting custom objects in Dynamics GP databases. His method, in a nutshell, is to incorporate a big “health check” stored procedure that is a set of other procedures and scripts that check various things including managing memory, as well as things that might be business logic “checking”. His example was checking that employees have a 401K benefit whenever there is a corresponding 401K deduction code.
I’m looking forward to looking at the sample code to see how I can introduce some centralized admin on our own dbs.
Partner Solution Showcase #2
I skipped this session as none of the 3 were relevant to me. Instead, I went to check out the Microsoft store in the building and caught up with Shawn Dorward for a bit. He was presenting next and going through his presentation to get ready. He was a little stressed I think so I offered to help him (buddy up) with his presentation to reduce some of that and we ended up jointly presenting the next session!
Breakout - Be a better partner, tips for the new/tired consultant
This was Shawn’s session that I joined him to co-present at the last minute. It was a perfect session for a last minute change such as that since it was a lot of discussion and talking and not a lot of demo where scripting or order of presentation needed to be fine-tuned or practised beforehand. Shawn and I know each other fairly well and the session worked out well in my opinion. As a former consultant I have lots of experience in the area and was happy to help Shawn and co-presenting took some of the stress off his first presentation back after being off the past several weeks with his son’s recovery.
The rest of the day was an evening mingle at Microsoft and an ISV party at the new eOne Solutions office around the corner. I attend both briefly but came back to my room to write this, which as I now look at the clock, I started over 3 hours ago. It takes a while to re-visit everything that has happened in the first few days here, even with my notes handy and an agenda to reference!
On to bed for me and another day awaits on Tuesday!