28 April, 2010

The Best of Convergence 2010... from a Consultant's perspective.

I had a great time at Convergence this week.  With ~8,500 people in attendance this was quite an event that Microsoft pulled off remarkably.  Here's are some of my takes on the conference and some reasons why you should consider attending next year:

1.  Learning Opportunities galore!  The opportunity for education and learning for everyone at Convergence is at an all time high.

I don't have to administer GP systems on a day to day basis in my role BUT getting the opportunity to sit through another Mariano and Dave show on the Support Debugging Tool reminded me how much work that can be.  I had a client at the conference ask me why I hadn't turn him on to this tool before after he had attended the session.  Ooops!  Visit the Support Debugging Tool Portal for more information http://blogs.msdn.com/developingfordynamicsgp/pages/support-debugging-tool.aspx

I finally got to see a Polino 50 Tips session.  You can download the slide deck here http://msdynamicsgp.blogspot.com/2010/04/convergence-2010-50-more-tips-in-50.html.  I've been a GP consultant since 1997 and started working with Mark in 1999.  Yet, I still learned a lot in this session.  Even if you're the most seasoned consultant, GP administrator, or power user you need to check this out.  Plus, if you sit up front you are better looking for it.

The interactive sessions were great.  GPUG sponsored a session in which we discussed various solutions, problems, and uses applicable to SmartList Builder for Dynamics GP.  Participants had an open forum with industry experts & Microsoft Support Engineers to voice their requirements or problems and get immediate feedback, suggestions, and in many cases solutions on the spot.  That type of response alone was worth the price of admission.

2.  Networking, networking, networking... Together.

Catching up with old friends like Bob McAdam at Tribridge, Dwight Specht at IBIS, Marc Blumenthal at Intelladon, Susan Looby at ACE, and my partner Tom Karpowich at Straight Arrow Consulting was great fun but reconnecting with current and former clients, renewing relationships, and making new connections really made this worthwhile for me.  I was able to help a few people out with some problems they were having, a few others helped me find some solutions to some of my clients problems, and I was able to pick up a few new engagements to boot.

3.  The Expo was terrific.

The ISV network for Dynamics GP is fantastic.  The Closer was quite a popular attraction, I was able to help a client review some retail management solutions with Professional Advantage and Nodus Technologies, and some of the Atlanta Falcon's Cheerleaders dropped by.  There's virtually a solution for every problem and requirement at the Expo.  It was worth the price of admission just to be able to talk to all of the ISVs and take some of the products for a test drive.

4.  Reviewing new and existing but under utilized functionality has better equipped me to serve my clients Today and Tomorrow.

Today:  Everyone should spend some time with Excel Report Builder for Dynamics GP.  It's extremely simple to use and administer.  Admittedly, I had not used this feature of Dynamics GP.  But, after sitting through a very well delivered session on the subject I now feel like an expert on the tool.  It's that simple and will allow you to very quickly and easily create Excel Reports hooked directly to your GP data that can be accessed by anyone in your organization WITHOUT logging into GP.  Saves time and money.  Who doesn't like that?

Tomorrow:  As a Field Service Consultant, among many other things, I was excited to see some new enhancements coming out to that suite of modules with GP 2010.  Consolidated Contract Invoicing, support for Kits and Non Inventory Items, and multi-level escalations are just a few of the great new features coming out next month.  Everyone is excited about GP 2010.

5.  Dynamics CRM continues to impress on several levels.

I've been working on a CRM Implementation this year and am very familiar with the core functionality and customization tools so I didn't attend sessions on those topics.  There were just too many other sessions I felt compelled to attend.  But, it was obvious to me that the CRM footprint continues grow within the Dynamics family of products.

I have followed the evolution of the integration between Dynamics CRM and Dynamics GP and was able to attend the session on that.  There are many integration options and they continue to grow rapidly.  You can learn more about that here  http://crm.dynamics.com/en-us/technology/integration.aspx.  They demonstrated how non developers can quickly create unique synchronizations between the systems leveraging a simple mapping UI.  Of course, there is advanced functionality that does require some developer skills, such as hooking up services to external applications, that will allow you to create more complex integrations.

In summary, I had a great time.  The food and drink were abundant and varied.  The accommodations were excellent and convenient.  The location in the heart of Atlanta was fun and exciting.  The people were engaging.  The content was of exceptional value.  I can't enough about how much I got out of this conference.

Other than the 3 mile hikes between sessions in the Georgia World Congress Center and some bottlenecks in the flow at escalators I just can't find anything to complain about.  Of course, with over 8,000 people in attendance you have to expect some logistical challenges.  I have to applaud everyone who made the event what it was.  Well done!  Thank you!

Start making plans for next year!

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