Dynamics 365 Users In Pittsburgh – User Helping Users

Last year I attended the CRMUG Summit in Tampa and have to say I was very impressed with everything that I was involved in. During the summit I attended two classes in the Black Belt Series and completed the series when I returned to Pittsburgh. The information that I learned in this series I put to immediate use on our Dynamics 365 project. I also met with a local Pittsburgh Chapter leader and discussed participating in the local chapter.

This past January, I facilitated the first meeting of CRMUG Pittsburgh at the Microsoft Office . We have a very good discussion about the local chapter and how it can benefit others. We talked about the value of the user group and what we would like to have presented and discussed in future local meetings.

The local chapter is a place to learn from other users, vendors and Microsoft about Dynamics 365. This is a place to enhance your network of people who you can discuss ideas and ask for help. Vendors at the group do NOT do sales pitches, this is part of the rules of the group. They are they to support the community and build relations. User, like myself are there to learn, teach and discuss ideas.

The next meeting is in April, to help make the meetings as valuable as possible to our local community we have a survey to collect information on themes of the next meeting.

To help create a better local chapter of CRMUG please fill out this short survey. The results will be used to create the agenda for the April meeting.
Create your own user feedback survey

Please register now for the CRMUG Pittsburgh meeting, April 18, 2017 from 1:30 to 3:30.

CRM Summit 2016


That is a one word description of my experience at CRM Summit last week in Tampa. The Summit is hosted by CRMUG, an international user group for Dynamics CRM.

**CRMUG Vision
To engage every individual and company using Microsoft Dynamics CRM in value-added networking and knowledge sharing and to be the single most important communication channel for Microsoft to seek guidance on future development of Dynamics CRM. Read more about CRMUG

As a first timer to the Summit and any event by CRMUG I wanted to share my experience. I was so impressed with everything that I saw and participated in. Today, I am going to share my experience from my perspective as a new comer. I will then follow up with some additional posts on what I learned.

CRMUG Academy Black Belt Training Series

Before the official start of the Summit, Academy Classes are available. The academy classes are priced very reasonable and I encourage you to take advantage of them or look for them on the CRMUG site. I decided to attend the Administrator Blue and Purple Belt classes from the Black Belt Series. I am looking forward to completing the series with the Brown and Black belt!

Both of the classes where instructed by Chris Weilandt, a Senior Solution Architect from Edgewater Fullscope. The series is designed to take in sequence, moving from Blue to Black Belt.

Blue Belt

Monday, I participated in the Blue Belt Academy, this is the first in the Black Belt Series. Chris provided a foundation of CRM and Office 365 as it relates to CRM. Starting with user maintenance, settings, business units, teams, security, form and view configuration and closing with field level security. This was a great way to begin the journey and start learning the powers of CRM.

Key Takeaway: Hierarchy Security

Purple Belt

Tuesday, I continued the academy with the Purple Belt and learned more. Chris continued with some advanced form configuration, multiple forms, custom entities, advanced find and closed with reports and dashboards.

Key Takeaway: Reporting and Dashboards

Dynamics 365

The keynote was so full of excitement. We walked from the Tampa Convention Center to Amalie Arena. Microsoft had people waving Dynamics 365 flags and some people on hover boards guiding us to the arena. I worked my way through the security gates to enter the arena and the excitement grew.
It was like a rock concert in the arena!

You won’t want to miss the official opening for Summit 2016! Microsoft joins in the celebration with an inspiring presentation of the Microsoft vision, including an exclusive first look at the all-new Microsoft Dynamics 365 by Microsoft EVP Scott Guthrie.

Dynamics 365 brings together the Dynamics products into a seamless suite of applications. Dynamics will have a CDM (Common Data Model) which will provide seamless integrations between the applications. Moving from opportunity to cash will be available with Dynamics 365 out of the box.

You can move between Sales, Marketing, Financial and Operations and the data is shared across systems! This is HUGE!

We have been building an Enterprise Service Bus to accomplish this bringing data from CRM to Oracle Financials. If you use Dynamics 365 Marketing, Sales and Financial you won’t have to build an integration, it is out of the box!

Microsoft also showed demos of Cortana Intelligence Suite and how artificial intelligence is used to help you make decision and relate records in CRM. This is then extended by adding actionable email with intelligence! Corresponding with your contacts has never been so easy and guided.

Key Takeaway: Common Data Model; Cortana Intelligence Suite; Actionable email with Intelligence  

So Much Learning

One thing I found out quickly is there are a lot of very good sessions and I ended up starring them through the CRM Summit app, triple booking myself! I then went back several times trying to single out each time block for a session I will attend. I tried to attend as many session as I could and also moved across skill sets to get the most valuable information to bring back to share with my company.

Below are some of the sessions I attended and my thoughts about each of them. I am not going to go through what I learned just my impression of the sessions. I have added a Key Takeaway after each section for future posts. I added a new section on my blog for Dynamics CRM that will be a place to write what I learn and share information about CRM and Dynamics 365.

I also met with one of the leaders a of the local Pittsburgh Chapter and talked with him about my involvement with the local chapter. Bob, was very friendly and excited about growing the Pittsburgh Chapter. User groups only work if people become involved and I will be working with Bob and the others to help the Pittsburgh Chapter.

Key Takeaway: Webinars; Local Involvement

Introduction to CRM Development

My first session was a good start. A basic introduction to developing plugins for Dynamics CRM. Corrie Rands went over how to register a plugin as well as the tools that are available to get started. This was a great session for anyone that wants to get started with plugins, I worked on plugins but still left the session with some great tips and tricks from Corrie.

Key Takeaway: Tools! Debugging Technique

Power BI + CRM = Better Together

Mike Hammons presented on Power BI and CRM, this session was full of demos and how to use the content pack of PowerBI. Mike showed how to embed PowerBI dashboards within CRM as well as some of the limitations of using the provided content packs. Mike really showed how powerful PowerBI is and how using it with CRM there is so much that we can present to our users.

Key Takeaway: Embedding PowerBI in CRM & Content Pack Limitions

Advanced Techniques to be your Organization’s CRM Guru

Kylie Kiser and Patrick Wright jumped right into some of the great tips and tricks that can be used every day as a CRM administrator. So many wonderful tips provided in this session that I learned about.

Key Takeaway: Security, Data Management

How to Maximize Value with Dynamics CRM Presented by Avtex

Below is an affiliate link for Marc’s book.
What to say about this… Well, Marc Wolenik is the author of Dynamics CRM ‘Unleashed’series of books. I just purchased Dynamics CRM 2016 Unleashed before coming to the convention and was honored to hear him speak and talk with him afterwards. He presented 25 tips that are very good for anyone using Dynamics. I started reading his book on the flight to and from Summit and write my thoughts on the book once I finish.

Key Takeaway: Use Business Process instead of Code

Security Best Practices – the Basics (Part 1)

Gustaf Westerlund guided us through best practices on security. The differences between Position and Manager Hierarchy security. He continue with concepts of teams, users, roles and business units. Gustaf provided some very good best practices for designing your security system.

Key Takeaway: Hierarchy Security

Different Strokes – Javascript vs. Business Rules

Donna Edwards shared some very useful information on when to use Business Rules verses Javascript. Business Rules in CRM continue to be more robust and powerful, a lot of functionality that was previously limited to Javascript can now be performed with Business Rules. This helps with upgrading CRM as well as providing more configuration options to CRM.

Key Takeaway: Configuration over Code

CRM Real Time Integrations with Azure Service Bus

I was excited to see this session, we are using Azure Service Bus to integrate CRM and Oracle. Abraham Saldana started with the concepts of Azure Service Bus, explaining the differences between the different patterns:
– Topics
– Publisher / Subscriber
– Queues
Abraham explained a lot in the short time he had for this session. If you have an opportunity to watch this on a webinar I would put this on your list.

Key Takeaway: Enable Custom Workflow Activities


This was one of my longer posts, I wanted to provide my perspective of the Summit and I hope I accomplished that. While I was at the Summit I joined CRMUG as a member for my company. I am also excited to be an active member of our local Pittsburgh Chapter to help build our local community. I am also already excited about next year’s summit in Nashville!

Like I mentioned earlier, I will be added a special section to my blog on CRM to post information, tips, tricks that I learn and also information about the local Pittsburgh Chapter.

Tight Integrations for CRM, SharePoint, Office and Yammer

I have built my career based on Microsoft technologies, I have furthered my career by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of other technologies and integrating them when needed.

Slide03 of 16

One session at the Hitachi conference that I was very excited about was “How Successful Organizations are Using the Power of Microsoft CRM with Yammer, SharePoint, Lync and the rest of the Office Productivity Suite“. A very big topic based on the title of the session and something that I expected receive a lot of value from.

Personally, I would have liked to see this topic go deeper than it did, I don’t think it lived up to the title. But, I did enjoy the session and did learn a lot.

SharePoint is tightly integrated with Dynamics CRM and has been that way since CRM 2011. You could use Dynamics CRM Online and still integrate with an on premise SharePoint environment. Files that are uploaded would then be uploaded to SharePoint Document Libraries and allow you to make full use of FAST Search.

Also, you can use Yammer (Microsoft Enterprise Social Platform) to “follow” accounts. So, you have have people on Yammer follow accounts without using a CRM license. Information that is shared about an account is then available to others in the organization regarding that account.

CRM has to drive the organization as well as the workflow of the organization. This is key as I mentioned in previous posts, Microsoft has built the platform of tools that seamlessly connect together with the organization’s already familiar Office Suite.

Hitachi, then added some more powerful integration between CRM and SharePoint providing for external facing SharePoint sites. Hitachi also developed a tool that will transparently migrate attachments from Exchange into a Document Library lowering the size of Exchange and email. Provide a central location for email attachments that can be shared around the organization as well as taking advantage of FAST Search yet again.

I was impressed with everything I heard, I would have liked to see more a of demo of these features to seal the deal.

I am curious if you have integrated CRM, SharePoint, Yammer and Office. What was your experience like?


Image above from https://flic.kr/p/c7icKs

CRM is a 360 Degree View of Clients

Center of Everything

Metropolis Globe New York

Customer Relationship Management, that is what a CRM tool is. This tool’s sole purpose is to be the full view of your clients, a 360 degree view. For any CRM to achieve this goal you must have the buy-in from high level stakeholders, everyone must understand the vision and users must use it.

It’s actually a little funny, users don’t want to use a CRM if there is nothing there useful, but to make it useful users must use it and populate data in it. This is why buy-in is so important, buy-in helps with user adoption, once there is useful data, user adoption will gain and the full value of the CRM is visible.

A CRM tool is NOT just for sales and marketing, it is for anyone who interacts with your customers. There is information for anyone in your organization that interacts with a customer in the CRM, there is also information for staff that is building products/service, they can see what how a customer feels about the product/service.

A tech support call comes in and the tech support person sees that this customer is in the process of a large purchase, what does this tell the support person.

A sales person is going on a call and sees that this customer has been having a lot of issues with something. The sales person can then contact the support and work out the issues and walk in with information about the issue at hand which is proactive.

Think of collections, collections is calling a customer that is overdue, but first they check and see there are some implementation problems. How would you react to this collection call with this information.

Using the CRM as the center of everything provides so much value to the organization and to the client. This helps keep communication open and clear. Social CRM features also helps with monitoring social media for issues or questions.

Keep your CRM as the center of everything and make it work for you and you can reap the rewards and return on your investment.


Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/werkunz/3545012600/in/photolist-nJ4aN-6jkNZb-3iAFnZ-3iF7Mu-3iEQ93-3iEAb7-3iAp2v-2Syzpo-3iALiK-3iF2qC-5WRVHV-bt8N3i-fctJfU-egnE2Q-3iAxUz-bEjbpz-9Jdv3A-d3Nc69-5B4oiH-3iAvk6-3iAAqk-7tQ4Fc-mkKZgB-fP2ZrN-cwN1Hm-6pg7JU-26c7hH-4ndF9W-3iAjHk-7Fynhd-3iAhzv-3iAn7e-3iAtrB-oeSeNu-26gAvs-7Ve3dp-bt8MPc-9Gks6w-b19Y5-7Ve3jp-aqKd96-yFGek-asMVyb-mkMcC9-97qcyQ-fctPK7-97qcyU-fcemMr-nXs76z-9pQFDR/

Understand your business processes before you implement

This third installment of my reflections from Hitachi’s CRM 2014 Conference brings me to business processes.  CRM products are NOT silver bullets, purchasing a CRM does NOT provide you with a fix to processes that have not been documented or shared.

Before implementing any CRM product, make sure you have a solid understand of the processes that you wish to automate with the CRM. There are many advanced functionalities available within most CRM products, but understanding and being able to communicate your business processes are a prerequisite to implementing the CRM to automate said processes.

A solid CRM product should provide a 360 degree view of your customers. Integrating to other systems may be required as well as workflows to enforce a business process.

The procesess should be documented in a “living” form to track changes to the process and to understand the reasons for a process. Later there may be questions and if the process is documented you can understand (or remember) the reasoning you or someone else made certain decisions.

Having clear documentation of business processes also help you build a return on investment report that can help you justify additional expenses by showing how the funds can be recouped.

Once the vision of the CRM is defined, processes should be documented and agreed upon. Ultimate these processes are already documented and available and may just need to be refined.

Have a solid vision statement and share it with everyone

Last week’s conference with Hitachi Solutions had many great sessions as well as a lot of time to talk with other companies that are customers. This networking time I find vital to talk someone about how their implementation want, what road blocks they had and how they managed to overcome obstacles.

At the start of any project there should be a vision statement, this little piece of text is often overlooked and has very costly results in my opinion. Without a proper vision of what the intended goal is, others will operate on assumptions. Those assumptions may or may not match what the intention of the project was.

During my time at the conference I have found that I am not alone in not seeing vision statements on projects. This is a very common occurrence and sadly leads to  low user adoption as well as performance on the project.

A very clear vision statement should be established at the start of any project, not just a CRM project. This vision statement should be circulated from the highest part of the organization and shared with everyone. It should be a short “elevator pitch” that is at the tip of anyone’s tongue.

The above image is from http://www.prodality.com/get-employees-buy-vision/

Hitachi Solutions CRM Conference 2014

This past week I attended the 2014 CRM Conference hosted by Hitachi Solutions. They are a leading Microsoft Partner with Microsoft CRM software as well as SharePoint and Yammer.

I attended the conference with some very specific goals. We are currently using an older version of Microsoft CRM and need to upgrade. We are comparing both Salesforce.com and Microsoft. Our technology organization is very based on the Microsoft stack as well as Oracle financials.  I have used Salesforce.com and have a developer account on their platform, but needed more hands on for the Microsoft product. I also wanted to better understand how SharePoint and Yammer fit together with CRM.

The conference was three days and covered several different tracks, I attended some very good sessions and learned a lot from them. I have a couple key take a ways which I will write about specific in additional posts this week.

  • Have a solid vision statement and share it with everyone
  • Understand your business processes before you implement
  • CRM is the 360 degree of your clients; center of everything
  • Microsoft has tight integrations for CRM, SharePoint, Office and Yammer

Some of these may sound like they should have already been known, but the emphasis on these was well worth bringing them back home.