No really, what is Dynamics 365?

Every business uses technology.  This is business management software, or business applications. These business applications can be quite simple or quite complicated.

Microsoft’s Business Applications include a suite of products and services called Dynamics 365. Dynamics 365 applications can be organized into a few different groups.

Sales and marketing

Service

Finance

Commerce

Supply chain

Within the sales and marketing group you will find Dynamics 365 Sales, Dynamics 365 Marketing, and Dynamics 365 Customer Insights.

Within the service group you will find Dynamics 365 Customer Service, Dynamics 365 Field Service, Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, and Dynamics 365 Customer Voice.

In the finance group you will find Dynamics 365 Finance, Dynamics 365 Project Operations and Dynamics 365 Human Resources.

In the commerce group you will find Dynamics 365 Commerce, Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, Dynamics 365 Sales, Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection, Dynamics 365 Intelligent Order Management, Dynamics 365 Customer Insights and Dynamics 365 Marketing.

Within the supply chain group, you will find Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, Dynamics 365 Intelligent Order Management, Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Insights, and Dynamics 365 Guides.

You probably noticed that a few of the products I mentioned were repeated.  That’s because these products are versatile and can support businesses in different ways.

Additionally, these products are built to work directly with other Microsoft products such as Microsoft Teams, Power Bi, LinkedIn Sales Navigator and more. 

Dynamics 365 products also work well with products made and maintained outside the scope of Microsoft.  These are called integrations.  Some of these integrations require a simple plug-and-play connector and others require a professional developer to write code to allow communications between the systems to share data and actions.

These Microsoft Business Applications are robust and solve many business problems.  They are also configurable to allow businesses to offer users the applications they need to do their jobs.  They are also customizable to allow professionals to pick and choose what to offer users with a strong foundation of the Dynamics apps.

Careers in Dynamics 365 are quite varied.

Let’s think about what it takes to make and support business software.

First you have to plan and design the solutions. This requires industry experts who understand what the business needs.  You’ll need someone to capture and document the needs and solutions.  And you’ll need a solution architect to orchestrate the overall solution to be made.

Then you need to build the solution that was just planned.  If this is with Dynamics 365, you will need professionals skilled in configuration of the apps, who also understand the requirements of the business.  Sometimes you need professional developers to write code to build these applications.  You need team members proficient in automation.  You need a team to test the solutions.  You need someone to train users.  And so on.

This is of course an over-simplified narrative.  But the point is that with Dynamics 365 you can find great career opportunities for skilled professionals. 

Looking to learn more about Dynamics 365?  Join our user group for learning.  https://aka.ms/BAPCommunity  


Getting geared up for conferences again

Wow, it's been a hot minute since we've all met in person, no?

I am immunocompromised and as vaccinated as vaccinated can be.  My doctor and I decided I can travel again, even speak at events.  So, come October, I'll be out there with you all.

I had written a post about being prepared for an event (CRMUG Summit 2016 to be precise).  And it is all still good advice.  But now we have to add a a few more items to the list.

  • We all missed in-person events, but many of us are still terrified of germs and have spent the last few years avoiding them.  Please don't be the person that gets me (or other vulnerable people) sick.  If you suspect you have an active contagious anything, stay home this round.

  • Don't be offended when someone like me is wearing a mask, or asks your vaccination status before giving that hug (can we establish a V hand signal, like V for victory and V for vaccinated??).  There are still people dying from COVID and flu.  I'd rather not be one of them.

  • Remember what we all loved about being in person.  Talking about the cool things we've been doing.  Sharing our stories from the field. Learning from each other.

  • Be forgiving.  We've all had an isolating couple of years.  We may have lost some of our social skills, we may have gained a few pounds, many have lost loved ones.

  • Be smart. Wash your hands often.  See a sanitizer station- use it.  Don't sneeze or cough toward others.

    I'm really getting excited about seeing my community again.  I really did miss you all.



    Original list:
  • Minimize distractions back at the office. Work extra hard now to avoid the trap of trying to work AND attend the conference. If you find yourself replying to emails three times in every session you attend, you aren’t really going to get much out of the session. If you have to keep up with the folks back at work, set aside time and plan for a session to spend working in a quiet corner instead of being partially engaged in several sessions.
  • To ease the stress of leaving behind people at the office that would rather be at the conference with you, get their questions to take with you. What are their burning questions or concerns? Make sure you find the answers and resources to take back with you. Share the schedule with them in advance and then set up a lunch-and-learn the week you return and share your new knowledge and skills.
  • Dress for comfort. Now, I will say no jammies for sure. But also, not a suit. Good shoes are the best thing you can bring. Promise.
  • Stash some good snacks in your bag. You may find yourself in a great discussion and miss a conference meal or break. So grab some granola bars, some durable candy, whatever helps you make it to the meal later on. And drink water. You will be walking more than you plan, avoid dehydration.
  • Every speaker, planner, expert is approachable, so approach them. Raise your hand in the session. Wait after the talk to ask your question. Find them at lunch and sit at the same table. Go to the medics’ station. They are there to share their knowledge. So let them.
  • Plan your sessions in advance, mostly. Be open to last minute choices.
  • Get yourself a fresh CRM trial before you go so you can immediately try that new cool thing you learned. Ok, get at least THREE new free trials. I suggest one that is bare, one that specializes (like sales or service) and one with a solution like Field Service or Project Service in it. Different things work different ways with added customizations or data.
  • Take notes. Doesn’t matter if you’re a pen and paper person (me too!), if you like to scribble on your tablet or if you type it all organized. Take notes. I promise you won’t remember it all the next day.
  • There will be booze. Don’t be THAT person that acts a fool and gets everyone to pull out their cameras and you find yourself rather embarrassed.
  • Make friends, make memories.

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. 

PXL_20220601_160808171


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?