How did I get here?

I recently posted a tweet, asking you how you got to Power Platform.  The responses were great, full of so many different answers.  I love how diverse they were, and how it really solidified for me that any path can be the right path.

For me, my path here was anything but intentional. Anyone that knew me as a young adult would have had me editing a big glossy magazine and living in Manhattan.

But a broken leg changed my path. When I was stuck with nothing to do, I started working as a software tester. Then I was writing requirements. Then I was architecting solutions. And now here I am. 

Back when we called Power Platform plain old XRM, I was amazed at how much I could build without a single line of code.  Now, we have an entire ecosystem to empower anyone.  Wow.

I was always interested in tech, curious about how things work, how can we solve problems in the most logical way. When I had the chance to teach others how to do the same thing, I knew I found my place. The opportunity to help people find a better version of themselves is quite a motivator.

My work has brought me around the world.  Seeing great things, meeting great people, eating great food. 



How to craft a good entry for a call for speakers/presentations

I’ve presented probably hundreds of times. I’ve evaluated hundreds of sessions.

What sessions get picked? What sessions don’t get picked?

In general…

  1. Relevant topic is important. Super important.
  2. Unique topic is important. But not so niche that only 2 people will attend the session.
  3. Catchy, but not cutesy session title. Shorter is better.  We can help you with this later if needed.
  4. Catchy, but not cutesy session description. At least a paragraph, but not so long that I no longer need your presentation.
  5. If your session description is one poorly written sentence, but your bio is 5 paragraphs of perfection, that means you care about you (good) but don’t care about my event (bad).
  6. Fill out the details on the call for speakers. There’s lots of empty cells on those spreadsheets when we review, if yours is full of answers, we pay attention.
  7. When asked “how did you find out about us?” don’t say “online.” OF COURSE, you found out online, where, how, who?
  8. We don’t have to know you, but if we don’t make sure you have enough of an online presence that we can evaluate your fitness as a presenter and subject matter expert. Also, answer the question above if you have a named person that we do know that said to go submit, that gives credibility.
  9. I personally love to nurture new talent. So, don’t let lack of experience prevent you from submitting. And don’t assume a long pedigree is a magical front of the line pass.
  10. Ask for peer review on your submissions. Find someone that has subject matter expertise, and a good handle on the event, and get their feedback.

Hello again

For years I blogged a lot.  It’s how many of you got to know me.  Then it became a chore and I let it slide lower and lower on my priority list until it no longer had a place on my to-do.  My last post was nearly 4 years ago, my last tech post, even longer.

I tried to revive my writing at the beginning of the pandemic, but my heart just wasn’t in it.  So, I decided to give myself a break and not feel like I had to exceed at everything all of the time.

With the pandemic I went from travelling more than 100,000 miles per year to nearly no miles per year.  We would go months without putting gas in the car.  Photography has always been a hobby, but without new adventures that slowed down so much that I wasn’t even keeping the batteries charged for my camera.  We couldn’t see our kids.  We couldn’t see our parents. I was in quite a funk like most all of us. 

I love to eat, so I’ve always loved to cook.  But now we were cooking all of our meals. I started documenting more of what we made.  I learned how to make my own wine, I named it Tipsy Traveler.

My random pandemic accomplishment was design school.  I attended, and graduate from, a self-paced online interior design program.  I’ve been putting that to use in designing our new house.

So, here I am trying this writing thing again. 

I split my blog, one for tech, one for the other stuff.

From a tech perspective my role has evolved to more training and curriculum and less hands on keys making things for clients.  I joined the board of directors for a non-profit that helps excite high schoolers in technology. I still share my voice to decision-makers in DC trying to help small tech and app makers.

For the other stuff, I started to document and share some of my cooking and design work.  And it makes me happy to relive the stories behind the photos, so I’ll be including that here.  And who knows, maybe there will be some new travels and new photos, too.

The techy stuff will be here, the non-techy stuff here.  And there will certainly be crossover between the two because that is who I am.

Oh, and I got a puppy.  His name is Lio. 

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Clinical depression is not an emotion

Some days I have regular old situational depression.

My old dog died a month ago.  I’ve been sad. 

I have a chronic illness that will never go away and promises a lifetime of pain.  That really sucks.

And with the empty nest we have now, it gets kinda quiet and lonely sometimes.

These are all normal; I don't need drugs for that. As much as that makes me sad some days, I welcome it, I don't shy away from emotions.  But sad terrifies me.

The battle against depression is a long one. Every variety of depression looks a little bit different than the next. For me it’s crying. Just crying. If you asked me what was wrong, I'd have no answer.

When life itself was miserable, depression just felt ordinary. But I knew I needed help when I had everything I could have ever dreamed of, and I still cried every day. Literally every day. I am currently responding well to my meds, and I have been for over a decade. It took a couple of tries to find the right one for me. That’s where a good doctor can help. I still feel a full range of life's emotions.  But without the weight of the beast that is depression sitting on my shoulders.

I have achieved personal and professional success. I still have depression. It is not situational.

Luckily, my depression does not come with the despair and hopelessness that so many others feel. However, if not treated, I can see how it could go there quickly.

I have found great success with a good doctor and good medication.  If I was not that fortunate, then I could totally see where self-medication would be a welcome relief.  This is how many many addictions find their way into the lives of people you love.

If you need help, please get it. It is a sign of strength to get that help, not a sign of weakness. Find a doctor that will step you thru the process of finding your way out from under the weight of depression. It is exhausting to pretend to be ok when you are not.

If you know someone that needs help, help them find that help. If you don’t know what to do, ask someone (like me) for ideas.

If you are reading this, know that I will be there for you. I am happy to be your 3am phone call when the tears just won’t end.

I am not ashamed. I should be ashamed if I didn't seek treatment or if I hid behind a diagnosis.

Most days I win. Some days the demons win. I am fortunate that my battles are small ones.


A decade of XRM

It took us ten years to get here.  But many of us already were “here”.  We’ve been using the platform as a platform for a very long time.  In 2008 we published our first XRM book for developers, CRM as a Rapid Development Platform.

So much has changed, so much as stayed the same. Microsoft CRM 4.0 gave us so many of the core platform capabilities we still use today.

I have two quotes to set the stage.

The first is from a book review posted on Amazon.

“The perception is that Microsoft have put out a 'CRM product' but what most people don't realise is that Microsoft CRM is actually an application development platform that happens to come pre-configured with CRM functionality. “ (from Guy Riddle)

And the second is from the book itself. More specifically, Chapter 2 on making line of business applications.

“I think that it cold be argued that what Microsoft should have done with CRM 4.0 was separate its application development platform from the implementation as a CRM application. By doing that it could have established the CRM 4.0 platform as a solid development platform for building line of business applications. Then they could market CRM 4.0 as being built on this application development platform. Then developers would be able to license just the platform portion and be charged a license fee that is appropriate for using only the application development platform capabilities.”

CDS 2.0 is essentially exactly these two things from ten years ago.

In 2008 we were talking about the cool new features of platform functionality that we now had with CRM 4.0. Some of the things we could not even imagine going without today.

CRM 4.0 gave us user-defined workflows. You no longer needed a developer to automate the system. The birth of Citizen Developers!

And now you could trigger workflows based on more events without needing to engage a developer. Suddenly record changes were triggers. For users to define automation.

Both CRM Online and multi-tenancy were introduced.

With the addition of multi-currency and multi-language capabilities we now had the basis for an implementation that had users all over the world working together in a single tenant.

For me the relationship changes for that release are the unsung hero. Sure CRM 4.0 gave us many-to-many relationships. But it also gave us multiple relationships between entities (system and custom), and self-referential relationships. We could make create hierarchical data with this stuff. We also now had the ability to display columns of data from related entities in our views. We could see the address of the parent account while looking at a contact grid. Come on, how can we brush aside the R in CRM? Think about how you use the platform today? These items are just taken for granted.

Email integration improvements. We got email tracking that no longer required the tracking token. And we could now track emails from POP3 and not just Exchange configurations.

We also saw a host of other random platform updates that we now take for granted.

· Automatic resolution on lookup fields

· User defined duplicate detection

· Report wizard

· Callouts became plugins

· Backward compatibility.

I had the lofty goal of a blog series written by me covering feature by feature, chapter by chapter the then verses now. And now I have instead begun asking some of the super smart folks around me of writing guest posts with their take on these things. Stay tuned.


Custom learning plan for accidental admin in #Dyn365 (akaCRM)

The is the next installment of the occasional series to offer custom learning paths. Access to the Dynamics Learning Portal is required to use this plan. https://mbspartner.microsoft.com

What happens if one day you come to work and suddenly you are left in charge of your company’s Dynamics 365 (for customer engagement) system. It’s a small company, last week you were just the power user, a champion of the system. But now, the dedicated “CRM guy” has suddenly left. What do you need to know to administer the system once they give you the keys?

Fear not! I have made a custom learning plan for you to follow o help guide you through this potential disaster.

https://mbspartner.microsoft.com/MyLPShare/006df59d-9503-40ff-823b-d3cdc902f8f0

There are four sections, Lessons, Integrations, Demos and Miscellaneous. Let’s look at each one.

Lessons

These are videos that for the most part are less than an hour. They have been extracted from larger courses just for this Learning Plan. If you are totally new to the admin role, start at the top and work your way down the list. If you have some experience and need to backfill the gaps, choose the one(s) that help you the most. These are focused on what to do and how to do it within your Dynamics 365 CE itself.

Integration

In all of my time in this Dynamics bubble I have never seen a CRM implemented on its own. There is always something else. ALWAYS. So in here you will see lessons on using other business solutions, Outlook, Microsoft Social Engagement and so on. There is also a link to documentation for portals.

Demos

Yes, demos. You say to yourself, I don’t do sales, I don’t need a demo. But you do. This is a great way to watch someone use the system. That makes you better at administering it.

Miscellaneous

There are some webinars, new release details and a link to an actual instructor led workshop.

If you need a lesson in using the Dynamics Learning Portal, have a read here http://julieyack.blogs.com/my_weblog/2018/01/decoding-the-dlp-part-one-your-first-90-days.html


Looking for Technical Blitz for Dynamics 365?

It’s been re-named!

See you there.


Attend Showcasing Dynamics 365 Demos - 2 Dates Only!

Monday, February 12 @ 8 pm PST l Tuesday, February 13 @ 8 am PST

As a follow up to the November 2017 Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales Blitz, we invite you to attend Showcasing Dynamics 365 Demos. Product specialists are excited to share the demo strategy, resources available, and how to deliver the content for the following Dynamics 365 business applications:  Sales, Adobe Experience Cloud, Customer Service, Field Service, Finance and Operations, Talent, and Retail.

Please join us at 8 PM PST on 12 February or 8 AM PST on 13 February. Subject matter experts will be on hand to answer your questions and on-demand sessions will be available on-demand following the live-streamed event.

Register Now!


The questions your implementation consultant wants to ask you, and why

Any good business analyst has a go-to way to extract requirements for your Dynamics implementation. There’s the standard how many users, show me your process collection of questions. But that’s not where the real useful info comes from.

Requirements gathering and planning is not a one-way conversation. If all you had was a list of “go make this” you should just do it yourself. Successful requirements planning needs to be a negotiation. You tell me what you want/need/like. I tell you the most effective way to make that happen in Dynamics. You agree, great. You don’t, then we dance a bit and agree on an approach. This is actually the best value an experienced consultant can bring you.

For me the most important question is simple. It’s “Why?”

Customer: We need to see all of these things on one page.
Julie: Why?
Customer: It’s how we do it now, so we need to do it that way moving forward.
Julie: Why?
Customer: Our users are afraid of change.

What I get from the conversation:

· I need to be very aware of making things easier for users. Adding extra navigation steps will hurt user adoption in any engagement but maybe even more so here.

· Use the OOB features that make this less of an issue. Editable sub-grids on the forms. Quick create forms. Business process flows.

· Remove the stuff they don’t need. The business doesn’t care about freight terms for their account records? Gone!

· Maybe I need to investigate other people in the organization to help me get requirements, this one is afraid of change. If we aren’t changing, why am I here?

I posed a question online and the responses were often sarcastic (I know, big surprise). But, the underlying result of these sarcastic responses will help make a better implementation.

What inflated expectations did the sales guy promise would be simple to do?

I would hope that it doesn’t need to be said, but sales and implementation really (really) need to talk. Yes, sales should be selling what’s possible. But sell it in the right context and the right size/effort.

May I have a list of any medications you may be taking?

We’ve all had the customer that made us feel crazy. Changing requirements. Meetings that go off the rails. If only we could know in advance the obstacles.

How often will this requested custom feature be used? By whom exactly? What's his or her name? Is it a real person or an imaginary friend of yours?

Do we really have users that will DO what you’re asking? Are you sure? Did you ask them?

Is this your ACTUAL business process or just how the system we are replacing forced you to do it?

All too often what you see is a list of the old functions from the old system. If all we’re doing is wrapping Dynamics to mimic the old system, meh, I’ll pass.

Why do you need a wolf?

This goes back to my favorite XKCD, the logic boat. The premise is here’s your task list, it seems impossible and illogical. So, you question it.

Do you like cats?

I got nothing.

Do you know the muffin man?

Again, nothing.

**Here are the genuine responses, of good straightforward questions to ask to get to what you need to make a good implementation of Dynamics.

· Who holds the final decision card on cost to develop the request and priority of the request?

· How is what we are about to build going to generate value for you and your company?

· What are you expecting this to do for you? How can I improve upon the last one you had?

· What would you like to accomplish? How can we help meet your business goals?

· Which license will you be using?

· How will you measure success? Followed by, will your answer be the same in 1 week, 1 month, 1 year?


Decoding the DLP part one- your first 90 days

The Dynamics Learning Portal is a great resource. But how can you get the most out of it?

This is the first in an occasional series of tip and tricks and tidbits to help you, and your team, get the most from the DLP.

This first post will be my recommendations for a Learning Plan take for someone in their first 90 days of being a Dynamics professional.

You’ll notice I didn’t call out a developer or an architect or a user or any particular role. That is because I feel there is a particular set of skills, knowledge and awareness that each participant needs to have. Regardless of role.

You can find the custom Learning Plan here, and add it to your DLP profile.

(There are several pre-configured Learning Plans already available and they are great, this is just my take for this particular scenario.)

The Learning Plan is in sections, and each section has learning resources I selected. For the most part, each item is less than 6 months old (at the time of this writing).

I loosely placed the sections in the order to be followed. However, if you can get a workshop on your schedule, go for it. Then come back and backfill any gaps. Within each section I also ordered things based on my suggested path for you to complete.

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First, let’s go over some basic DLP Learning Plan functionality.

Each section can expand and collapse. If you’d like to re-order, or remove, any item from the Learning Plan once you’ve added it to your profile, that’s easy to do. From the Learning Plan, you can see your progress for each asset. You can also add learning time to your calendar.

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From the workshops section, and any workshop/live event you can see two links. You might see a Register Me link, and you should always see the Invite Me link.

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The Register Me link will appear if there is a currently scheduled delivery that you might be able to attend. Some events are in person, some are online. If your selected workshop is not currently on the schedule, or the scheduled delivery doesn’t work for you at this time, click Invite Me. That gives the team insight to course demand and gets you notified when the course does get scheduled.

So, this First 90 Days Learning Plan shows at nearly 60 hours of time needed to complete. And that’s a lot. However, as I go thru the sections in more detail, you’ll see some of those items coming off for many of you. I think a more practical estimate is around 40 hours of time, not including any labs you may take from online courses.

The first section is the Demo Series. It clocks in at over 4 hours. I put this at the top so it was easy to find, but don’t expect you to watch every minute of it. This is a great reference for you to go back to, even after 90 days. It will help by showing you some of the possible.

Next we have Topic Pages. Easy peasy. The first three are role focused, and even if you’re not a presales resource, you should know what presales cares about and so on. Then there’s Power BI and LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Both are great additions, and common additions, to many Dynamics projects. I have never seen Dynamics exist on its own, there’s ALWAYS something more. You need to learn a little about some of the more.

From there we see Blitz. Blitz is an event put on by product resources, the folks designing and making the actual application. CDS (Common Data Service) is here. And it’s great foundational knowledge.

And now we see E-Learning. This is where you’ll spend some time. Here’s a quick matrix of the portions of the course you need in your first 90 days. By all means, watch all of the modules. But, for the purposes of our first 90 days, here’s my suggestions.

Course

Modules in first 90 days

Introduction to Microsoft Dyn365

all

Learning LinkedIn Sales Navigator

all

Microsoft Social Engagement

all

Sales Management in Microsoft Dyn365

0, 1, 2, 3, 6

Customization for Dyn365

0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8

Configuration for Dyn365

0,1,2,5,6,7,

PowerApps and Flow

all

For workshops we have two in this Learning Plan. Dynamics 365 University for Sales Professionals is a good foundational course. If you an make this happen, you’ll not need several of the e-learnings above. As far as the Extensible Platform course, you need a little bit of foundational knowledge before you’ll get a ton out of it. Consider that one your stretch goal.

And now Assessments. You’ll notice none of this has talked about, or targeted any exams. That’s not the goal. However, I know many individuals are motivated by testing their knowledge, even if just for themselves. So, here’s the assessments that most closely represent the knowledge here. The reality is that if you are in your first 90 days, you will not likely do well on the assessments. However, you will continue to build the knowledge needed to pass the assessments soon.

Finally, we have the specialization section. Not everyone needs an intro to Field Service, or Talent, or Project Service Automation. But if you have an interest or a need, these are a good starting point for you.

If you do not have access to the Dynamics Learning Portal, contact your organization’s partner rep or manager.


My omni-channel customer service travel experience

I’m currently on the road, gone for most of the month of October. And truth be told, I’m actually CURRENTLY delayed and stuck in Nashville. I’m heading to Sydney, and with the fires around San Francisco, there is a bit of uncertainty about making it in time before my class tarts Monday morning.

But, let’s go back to my story.

All the travel from my month was booked online, no surprise there. It was the experience I expected, and included a couple of hours to find a good seat to go from Sydney to Munich.

Since I left home, some of the plans have changed and I have had to edit/cancel the reservations; and interact with representatives of the providers.

I needed to cancel an itinerary with Iceland Air (Amsterdam to Reykjavík to Denver). I was able to determine that the fare I had booked would be somewhat refundable, but might have had some penalties/fees. I was not able to cancel automatically from the site, I had a choice to call in or use Facebook Messenger. I went the Facebook Messenger route. I’ve pasted the entire conversation below. It took just over one hour from start to finish.

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I also wound up needing to cancel my Sydney to Munich (Sydney to Jakarta to Singapore to Munich). That I booked via Expedia on Garuda Indonesia Air. I was not able to locate my itinerary via the airline direct; but I was able to find that my booked fare class was cancellable, but with unknown penalties. Same exercise with Expedia, reservation easily found, but zero info about the fare class, cancel options, or really anything beyond this is your reservation. No cancel options online, you must call customer service. In their favor, the call was fairly quick, the flights cancelled easily after a quick confirmation of penalties. The ticket was cancelled and all refunded except for a penalty of around $98.

Most of this month-long journey I’m staying at Marriot properties. They have a mobile app that I’ve used before for check-ins. But once checked in you can still use the app for great things. I will find out in Sydney if it’s a different experience based on location, assuming I get to Sydney. In the app you have options for things like more towels or toiletries and wake-up calls. There’s also a chat option. I used that a ton in Nashville at the Gaylord/Opryland hotel. It was awesome. Here’s a sample of the interactions.

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And now my current experience; trying to fly Nashville to San Francisco to Sydney. My original itinerary had me out of Nashville around 5pm, and arriving in San Francisco with a two-hour connection. I got the message below yesterday, more than 24 hours before my scheduled flight (I got it both in text and email).

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That’s good service and prompted me to change to an earlier flight from Nashville to San Francisco, hoping some padding in the day would help.

The delays started right after I arrived at the airport. The delays are not United’s fault, I get it. But it is their job to keep me informed. That is not happening.

I have not received a single text or email regarding the flight.

When I log in to the site, this is what I see:

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Notice the arrows. On the right is a message telling me that I’m delayed; and that I’m booked on my flight and the next one as a buffer. Sounds like good service. Notice that I’m hovering over the “View updated reservation details”. In the bottom left, you can see it will direct me back to the United home page. I am now a delayed and confused (loyal) customer. Now we have bad service. So now I have to call to find out when I’m going where. Agent at the premier desk swears I’m not double-booked. We chat and decide the best path is to stay on the itinerary I have, there are not many options for getting to Sydney this is my best bet.

Now here at the airport, the gate agent brings out a snack cart for those of us waiting for the delayed flight. Super good service. The delay is not United’s fault, but they are doing what they can to make it a bit more palatable. I tweet about it. United replies.

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Did they just ask for my flight number? Not that it’s a secret, but don’t they have that already? My reply is a let-me-google-that-for-you link. Sure enough, it comes right up with my delayed flight.

And ironically, I just got a flight delay notice for the later flight to San Francisco. The one I’m not on.