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August 2010
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October 2010

User groups- what do you need? what do you give?

I’ve got user groups on my mind this week as I head up to Redmond for some meetings just for that purpose, discussing user groups and their parent organizations.

I personally am in the unique zone in between a .NET developer and an IT Pro.  Since I also organize conferences and events, I work with the SQL family of groups as well.  I know of no other profession with the same level of volunteerism to better the professional community as a whole as those that are into technology development and management.

These “parent” organizations, INETA, GITCA and PASS, all work to help member groups further their message, their impact.  This can take many forms.  What do you, as a user group leader or member, need from these larger orgs to make your groups and your profession better?  It might cost money, it might cost time, but what is it?

Then comes my question that is not asked often.  What do you bring back to the larger organization?  To your professional community?

INETA North America

INETA Community Speakers- I Signed Up!

Did you notice the pretty new badge over there?  To the right?  Right under my picture?  I have just signed myself up as a speaker in the INETA Community Speaker program.  Click, request me, I might be able to come visit your groups!  The cool things about this program?  I just happen to have a list (click the link below for all the official details, you just get my favorites here).  I’m not sure I can place my list in any particular order, so assume all these are equally awesome reasons.

  • The reach of speakers will be further than before.  Let me explain.  I’m not talking so much about geographic reach, but people reach.  More user group members/attendees will be able to learn from more speakers and more speakers will be able to present to more groups.
  • A side-effect that is worthy of its own program, grooming the next generation of speakers.
  • More speakers, and YOU decide if they’re meant to be in the program or not.  In the past the INETA speaker program has had a reputation for being somewhat elitist, weather real or perceived is moot at this point.  The speakers can enter themselves and the community reports back on the experience.  As a user group leader you will see a summary and can decide if they would be a good fit for you.
  • No hard limits.  I guess the only limit would be some bank account somewhere.  With that said, the program has no defined limits, as long as a group only has a single pending speaker engaged at a time, then you’re gold.  As a group leader, you report back after the event and that triggers behind the scenes processes to get speakers their payments.  But since the payments available are set based on distance traveled, with some basic limits, the costs are much more controllable and then we can have more events.  If there seems to be some abuse of the program, that will be handled on a case by case basis.
  • And it’s not totally set in stone.  When your group is in Billings Montana 250 miles doesn’t get you too far to increase your speaker pool too much, right?  So if that’s your situation, get in touch with us (INETA) and we’ll work with you to make an event work.

So your call to action?  User group leader?  Go look, see what’s there, maybe request a speaker?  You want to speak?  Make a profile, get a badge, do a blog post, book some events.  And tell people Smile.

A huge (like HUGE) shout-out of thanks to Chris Williams and Lori McKinney from the INETA board for planning this program and making the needed technical changes to our website and behind the scenes processes that were needed to get this going.

INETA NorAm - Community Speakers

Do your homework- both buyers and sellers of Dynamics CRM

I’m going to start this post with a request to read the whole thing before you form opinions or pass judgment on me for its content.  I promise to come full circle if you stick with me.

I received what I believe to be a legitimate solicitation email attempting to get my business to utilize their CRM services for Dynamics CRM.  I’ve pasted part of it below.


This email came to me from a firm that professes its expertise in Dynamics CRM and its relationship as a prestigious partner with Microsoft.  No, I will not share the name of the organization or the individual it came from, that is not the point.  I am sure they are a fine organization that simply made a mistake today, we all do it.  Now let’s learn from it.

The email has many formatting errors and issues, looks like a copy/paste problem to me.  First piece of CRM email advice, make a marketing list called “Test” and use it.  Have the list contain members within and outside of your domain/firewall/AD environment.  Use it first before sending things like this.  Second piece of advice, be weary of copy/paste from another source into the email dialogue, this is not simply a CRM issue, it’s all WYSIWYG’s.  This could become an issue for any of us, so until you learn which fonts/programs copy/paste well for you, send out lots of tests.  Images?  Links? Again, TEST TEST TEST.  CRM can and will send your pretty emails, just test first to make sure it really is going to be what you are looking for.

So, Dynamics CRM sellers, partners, experts…make sure that you maintain a professional appearance when touting your CRM expertise in solicitations.  I doubt this campaign will get you any business.  Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses.  Partner with other firms that strengthen your weaknesses to better serve your clients.

Dynamics CRM buyers and users…shop around a little before deciding on your provider.  Know what they excel at, and don’t excel at doing in CRM.  Are they good implementers?  Customizers? xRM-ers?  Your needs are different and their expertise is different.  You can and will find a partner that works for your needs.  Heck if you want some direct advice, drop me an email and I will step you thru finding one (privately).

I don’t believe any listing process is perfect, but I know the Dynamics’ team tries their best to ensure labeled partner organizations have earned their stripes.  I’ve linked below to the partner finder page.

Find partners here.

CRMUG Summit 2010, you should go

Why should you go?  well, cause I can’t and I want to hear from you all about it?!

Seriously, this is a great event and I would go if I didn’t have a mom conflict that week.  Yes, the rest of this IS a cut/paste from the group’s marketing package, but the event is truly worthwhile and full of great info and networking.

A great way for you to be successful, and to ultimately help drive your company’s growth, is to attend CRMUG Summit 2010 - the premier annual conference for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Customers, CRM User Group Partners and key Microsoft Dynamics CRM team members. CRMUG Summit will occur October 25 to 28 (with optional training courses on October 25 and 29) at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld in Orlando, Fl.
A jam packed agenda with 50 breakouts sessions, including the traditional roundtables, presentations, Microsoft Conduits, and Partner Showcase Theatres. This is the biggest and best agenda ever for the CRMUG Summit!

Quick Stats from Summit 2009:

· 94% of CRMUG Summit 2009 attendees rated the content & speakers Above Average!

· 85% rated Above Average for the value in Networking with others at CRMUG Summit 2009

· 91% rated Overall Value of CRMUG Summit 2009 Above Average

· 98% of the AXUG Summit 2009 attendees stated they would attend again or recommend others to attend!

Register for CRMUG Summit at:, but hurry prices increase after September 24th!

CRMUG - Microsoft Dynamics CRM User Group - CRMUG Summit 2010

Silverlight 4 Jumpstart book FINALLY released

We finished work on this book what seems like a loooong time ago.  However, we had some “issues” that were beyond our control that prevented its full release.  The book has quietly been distributed to Amazon.   We’ve been selling it in electronic form for a little while but today, finally today, we were able to get our live site ready to sell direct to you. 

So….all of that brings us to here, Silverlight 4 Jumpstart is awesome (in my biased opinion).  It’s written by one of the smartest people I know, David Yack.  He is able to bring to you his extended experience and knowledge of Silverlight in a way that is approachable.  The writing style is different than most other technology books, it’s more of a conversation between you and David. 

Use the link below to order directly from us (if Amazon is your thing, no hard feelings, we make money when it sells there too, promise).  Here’s a couple of discount codes for you, each one offers you 50% off the retail price of either the print book or the eBook.  The eBook is only available for purchase direct with us.

For print book:  Julie Blog 4 Book

For eBook: Julie Blog 4 eBook

If you’re an owner of any of our previous books, watch your email for discount codes there too.

Silverlight Jumpstart

Dynamics CRM 2011 Topics for xRMVirtual

Once we had the Beta release of Dynamics CRM 2011 xRMVirtual set up and sent out a survey for topic requests.  The results are in and we will do our best to cover these in priority order, assuming we can line up content and experts.

9-17-2010 1-14-33 PM

Be sure to watch CRMUG for non-developer topics that were hand-entered into our freeform question.

Some other requested topics include:

  • Integration best practices
  • Ribbon customization
  • Dialogs
  • Web resources
  • Performance optimization
  • Data auditing
  • New scripting capabilities
  • Online vs On Prem

My Take on Time Magazine’s Attempt at Evaluating our Schools

My first thought when I saw this week’s cover was “Great, another bashing of our schools with nothing tangible and no real-world perspective. Here we go AGAIN.” I personally have a passion for how our public schools educate our children. My interest was piqued.

Well, statistics are quoted; our spending and performance to1101100920_400 other nations are compared. We get the stereotypical sob stories (granted many kids have a hard enough time just existing that we need to make school a safe and good place for them to be). Teachers, charter schools, unions, statistics, all the regular targets for an education diatribe are present.

And yet they still manage to miss the point. Totally miss the point.

We, the collective, are failing our kids. Our next generation is being sent out into the global economy created by us, totally unprepared to thrive in it. The world is changing virtually daily, largely due to technology advances, and we have not taught our kids HOW to learn. Sure, everyone needs to have a base set of skills, reading, math and reasoning being the highest of priorities for all. But when we know how to learn, then we are prepared to deal with the daily changes that so many jobs require. We then teach kids to think quickly and under pressure and to be successful at it. How else can we prepare the next generation, and those that follow, for the jobs and a world that does not yet exist, even within the wildest dreams of the most innovative among us?

I grew up in a blue-collar union family. I understand why unions have existed, but I think they may have outlived their usefulness. Years ago, prior to the many labor laws we now have, unions protected workers from unscrupulous corporations. However, too many now have turned into a means to protect jobs for those that otherwise would have been fired or demoted long ago. Now, place that into our education system. How is that serving our children? How is that serving our future?

The concept of tenure in our public education system is truly frightening. In no other industry would someone be granted that type of job security. With our future on the line, why educators have this benefit is beyond me. You work to keep your job, it’s that simple. You are paid accordingly.

Teachers are remarkable people. I have been fortunate in my life to know many that simply amaze me with not only their skills in the classroom, but their pure passion for what they do. With that skill and passion, the impact they have on their students is huge. I understand that there are great teachers that can’t always reach all their students all the time and bring them to reach the statistical goals that we have placed upon them. Test scores are a piece of the whole that can define good teacher performance. But like any other job there is more to it than that. How do they serve their students? Are they the enthusiastic ones or the tired ones? Do they handle parent communication well? How is the relationship with their peers? Their supervisors? Do they want to excel? Do they give of themselves in their classroom as much as they expect in return from their students? Again, like any other job.

Parents need to step up and parent their children AND let the teachers teach. Don’t be a helicopter. Find that fine line between being present and involved and sticking your nose in too much so that the teacher cannot teach. Hold your children responsible for their own education. Yes, teach responsibility. Take away the xBox and the iPhone when homework isn’t done, even if it makes you unpopular at the dinner table. Read with your children, help them with their homework and discuss current events. A teenager’s opinion on politics and government is an awesome thing. That untainted view of the world that our children can offer often leads me to reevaluate some things. It’s great when everyone is on friendly terms but your kids already have friends. What they need the most from you are rules and guidance. Yes, admittedly things are much more pleasant when things are friendly around the house, especially with teenagers. But there will be plenty of time to be friends once they finish growing up.

In every step along the way, we also need to give ownership of their education to the students themselves. We as a society will offer them mentors, good influences and bad (I think watching the occasional irresponsible adult mixed in with the good ones helps teens to decide that they don’t want to turn out that way). But when all is said and done, they have a responsibility to themselves. Teach them to own it.

Oh, and by the way, please stop making unqualified comparisons to performance of students in other countries. Unless we are prepared to fully change the American way into the Icelandic way (or the Swiss way or the French way, etc.) we will not have the same results. It is an entire culture that shapes educational performance, not simply a classroom experience. Learn from them, but we will not become them, and they will not become us. Diversity is a pretty cool thing, embrace it.

Where does all of this lead us? I’m not sure. Hopefully with some change. The trend of cross-training professionals into teacher positions is a spectacular start. The breadth of knowledge that can provide is certainly worth pursuing. Some educators will need a shift in thinking, a shift toward being a lifelong learner so they can take that into their classrooms. Parents need to step up and do their part, volunteer, bring your own skills to the schools, and get to know the educators around you.

Not every child is fortunate enough to have an Erin Gruwell or a Becki Pedersen or a Louanne Johnson or a Debra Heitmann in their school careers. But if we realign the goals of education to match the desired outcome, we will be better serving our children.

Since there were several pieces regarding education in this issue, below is a link that shows search results for “teacher”.  Look for the stories dated September 2010.

TIME Magazine - Search Results

Dynamics CRM 2011 Beta Day

We’ve all been waiting, most of us impatiently waiting.  Today is Beta day. 

We, xrmvirtual, had our biggest meeting this week when we were given a sneak peak and whirlwind tour of CRM 2011.  The meeting had almost 500 in attendance (I don’t mind sharing it was 485).  The video (below) has been viewed over 300 times today alone!  The video is almost 2 hours long, but it flies.  Seriously, Eric Boocock went fast, but you could still keep up.  If you want the quick all you need to know to get excited/started about CRM 2011, this video is where you should start.

Linked below is also the download links for the on-premise bits.  Make sure you get the ReadMe too (the key is in there).

The list of new things is way more than a simple blog post, it’s like a year’s worth of blog posts.  Here’s a start.

Julie’s list of what’s cool, in no particular order…

  • It looks so much better.  No, not just because it LOOKS better but with the shift in color intensity, that’s less eye fatigue, people can look at it longer and not get their eyes as tired.
  • Ribbon.  Not only Ribbon, but customizable ribbon, make it your own.
  • Auditing.  I cannot tell you how many requests I’ve had for this in prior versions, there was always a way, but now it’s automatic.
  • Dashboards for the common person (read this to mean no code required).  The dashboard designer really is THAT simple and gets you access to loads of cool things to put on the dashboards.
  • Dialogs (in a former life they were call scripts).  This gives you if this then this steps.  If caller has a parking ticket, then transfer to this line.  If caller is reporting code violation, then what type of violation, then transfer.  I have so many uses for this in my brain, I will be busy for a while building them.
  • Drag and drop form designer.  HOLY COW, about time folks.  Add to that the ability to add new fields (attributes) on the fly as you build the form, and woohoo.  What a time saver.
  • Solutions.  This allows vendors (like me maybe) to package up our offerings, lock them (manage) and plop them on top of your CRM deployment.  This protects our (and your) intellectual property.  It also can offer easy ways to layer sets of customizations within a single organization, even if not locked down, but as a way to manage deployments.
  • Customize from the form.  You no longer have to go thru Settings->Customizations->Customize Entities->Entity to change that form, add a field, etc.  If you have the security permissions, just click the customize part of the Ribbon and customize away.
  • Multiple forms per entity.  How many of you wanted this one, raise your hand.  Yup, all of us.  Just as soon as you had more than one solid user, you wanted another form.
  • Field level security, another woohoo.
  • Role based forms/field views.  This one is a game changer in my head.  I can now setup a form for User A,a salesperson. They get a bunch of fields on their form, sales-y fields.  Then we have User B, an accountant.  They need many of the same fields as the sales person, but they also need more and less.  Before creating this was not easy and not supported.  Not once you set it up, tadah.  The reason it’s a game changer… all users, regardless of customization needs, can now easily co-exist in the same organization and never see the customizations that don’t apply to them.


User group recording

Download details: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Beta