Slacking & a story

I know I’ve been slacking on this whole blog challenge thing. CRM has been taking up more and more of my time along with SharePoint going gang busters. Not to mention it takes real effort to put blog posts (even 300 word posts) together. I have several fellow tech bloggers that I’m amazed at who can put together several stellar posts a week when I have trouble just getting one together.

Rob Collie – www.powerpivotpro.com – is one of those bloggers in particular. He puts out 2-3 blogs A WEEK and they each are all excellent as far as I’m concerned. I had the opportunity to meet Rob at #SPC13 and he is as engaging and smart in person as he is on his blog. I even got the opportunity to have drinks with him and a whole host of Microsoft Program Managers. So the story goes like this . . .

On Monday morning of the SharePoint conference I get an e-mail from Steve: “Go have dinner with this guy,” along with a link to a blog post (LINK). I’d heard Rob’s name mentioned but never really followed his blog much or considered myself a PowerPivot expert by any stretch. I had spoken on PowerPivot in SharePoint and how to set it up, but as far as using it I felt I was still a relative n00b. But Steve is a smart guy and has never steered me wrong when it came to tech or drinking so I figured what the hey. Shot Rob an e-mail and heard back within an hour or two. Instructions for Wednesday night was to stroll on down to the Experts Exchange and then go with a group of Microsoft BI folks to dinner. Sounded pretty cool.

Monday and Tuesday flew by. On Wednesday I was starting to get pretty excited and anxious all at the same time. I may work on a BI team, but I was far from a BI expert. My advice to myself was “stick to what you know lest you sound like an idiot in front of people smarter than you.”

After the conference wrapped for the day I headed down to the Experts Exchange. This is a pretty cool event at the conference where Microsoft Program Managers, MVPs, and MCMs meet with conference attendees and answer their biggest questions. It was pretty sad that Microsoft BI only had 2 tables while other Products/Topics had far more. At the BI table was Rob and several other program managers: Diego and Kay (rhymes with Hi).

We started talking about PowerPivot and SharePoint and service architecture. It was immediately apparent to me that all 3 of the guys were beyond experts at this material: THEY DESIGNED IT. Diego was a Program Manager for the Excel team and Kai was a Program Manager for the SSAS team. Very smart, very cool dudes. They broke down the architecture of PowerPivot and SharePoint to its most basic level and even took time to answer my pitiful questions.

After Experts Exchange it was time for dinner. I figured the place would be PACKED. Went over to Red Square in Mandalay Bay and sat down with a small group of about 10 or so. Not what I was expecting. I figured the place would be full of people clamoring over each other to talk with Microsoft’s BI brain trust, but sadly it looked like I was the only Microsoft customer that took Rob up on his offer. I felt like Wayne and Garth at the Aerosmith concert. Rob sat next to me, across from me was Jen Underwood, and to my right was a Senior Program Manager on the Excel team. Holy sh^t! I was a simpleton among geniuses. I – sadly – did not catch everyone’s names and nor could I keep up with all the genius talk. It was just nice to sit there and be a fly on the wall while BI experts solved the world problems. Only here these folks did have the ability to solve the world’s problems. Pretty surreal if you ask me.

After a few hours the party’s attendees started to trickle out one by one. I was determined to be the last guy there. The folks at the other end of the table meandered down to me. Come to find out they figured it was only Microsoft employees and Rob at this thing. Astonishing how they didn’t think anyone would be interested in attending. Boy were they dead wrong.

Dynamics CRM reactions

As the newly minted Dynamics CRM admin at Trek, I feel I’ve got just enough experience to be a danger to myself and others. Therefore, it’s time for a blog post.

We’re using the Microsoft hosted, Online version of CRM and it’s been interesting to find many Microsoft Partners have shied away from that choice. As opposed to SharePoint consultants pushing the Microsoft O365 kool-aid, it seems that many partners are pushing their own hosted versions over Microsoft’s. Very much a departure from what I’m used to.

What’s also interesting is that Microsoft CRM plays second fiddle to Salesforce.com right now. I haven’t done enough research to know who has the larger install base, but it’s definitely clear from a Marketing standpoint that Salesforce is where it’s at right now. In my native world, SharePoint is – hands-down – the king of Enterprise Content Mgmt systems, but with Microsoft CRM it feels like the product is playing catch-up.

Strategy-wise, 3 things have struck me about ensuring success for your CRM deployment:

  1. Know your processes – you have to know how your users are going to use this; “build it and they will come” does not work here
  2. Don’t make CRM a fancy front end to your ERP system – this blog post sums it up for me
  3. Social (just like in SharePoint) is king

Know your processes

I’ve read a lot of blog posts lately about failed CRM deployments that were supposed to “replace Outlook.” Replacing Outlook – while a noble pursuit – is a lackluster strategy if you don’t know how your people actually use Outlook to begin with when it comes to managing customers. It means you have to ask the hard questions and get your hands dirty with your users. Document as much as you can when it comes to process. That way expectations can be set and everyone understands how things should work.

CRM cannot be a fancy front end to ERP

The blog post I linked above did more for me than almost all the others combined. If you want to guarantee an almost certain death to your deployment, make it a front end to your ERP system. While surfacing data from your ERP system is not entirely bad, recreating ALL the data is bad. Why would I go to CRM to do some of the things I can do in my ERP system when I can just go to my ERP system and do everything.

Social is king

If you’re not collaborating in your CRM system, then you’re doing it wrong. Same can be said for SharePoint. Social is only going to get more and more important as time goes on and more people join social networks in their personal life. Obviously Microsoft sees value in Social since they dropped 2 Bil on Yammer, meaning that product is going to be ingrained in all other Microsoft products. Therefore, there are now 3 truths in life: Death, Taxes, & Social in the workplace. Get used to it.

Conclusion

So that’s what I’ve learned so far. I have more opinions on the subject of CRM, but they may/may not be right based on my experience thus far. I’ll post more as I get more “in-the-know.”