Intro to the Dynamics User Group Summit
If you’re new to Microsoft Dynamics and don’t really know what the User Group Summit is… well, let this be your intro. The User Group Summit is a conference held every year that is put together by users for users. It’s not just CRM users… The conference also includes D365 users, as well as AX, NAV, GP, and SL users. The conference is set up so that depending on the solution your company or department uses, you can attend relevant sessions and easily meet peers that use the same software.
For the 2018 conference, Trovare sent two representatives from our sales and marketing team. Even though other members of the Trovare team have attended past conferences, this was the first time for us. The goal was to take in as much information as possible. We feel that we accomplished this through the many learning sessions we attended, as well as the many discussions we had with users and partners during the week.
Things to Do at User Group Summit
Attend Learning Sessions
You could seriously spend the majority of your time jumping from session to session during the week. The only problem is that you’ll have to choose carefully. Even though there are hundreds of sessions taking place, it’s impossible to attend all of them. The good thing is that the sessions are categorized, so if you’re a marketer, you can find the marketing sessions and schedule those on your calendar. Each hour-long time slot has multiple sessions going on at the same time. Some companies will send multiple users so that they can split up and attend as many sessions as possible. Sometimes it’s hard to choose between two sessions. Best thing to do is join the one that sounds most interesting, and if it’s not what you expected, get up and go to the other. I saw plenty of people doing this and I think the presenters understand. The goal is to find relevant, helpful information… if the session is neither of those then it’s best to leave and find one that is.
Meet Other Users
The first official day of the conference is all about meeting people. They even had a first-time attendee happy hour on the first day. Unfortunately, you only have a short period of time to actually meet people during the happy hour. A good portion of the hour is spent watching a presentation about how to get the most out of the conference. This is fine, there are plenty of opportunities to meet other users.
During breakfast and lunch is probably the best time to meet other users. The easiest thing to do is to grab some food and sit down at a table with a group of people you haven’t met yet. If you’re not good at approaching people, don’t worry. You could sit down at a table by yourself, and most likely someone is going to ask to join you.
Some people may ask, what is the benefit of meeting other users? There are actually a few benefits to this…
- You may meet people in your industry that are using Dynamics. They may be using it for something that you had never even considered. Now you have something to look into when you get back to the office.
- You’ll probably find that a lot of users struggle with some of the same issues that you do. Sometimes you can solve those issues just by talking about them. It’s possible they may have solved your issue a few months ago… now you have a solution!
- You’ll be surprised how many companies out there do something that you never knew existed. The interesting thing is learning how they’re using Dynamics to run their business. This is where you learn something new and maybe even get new ideas for what you do.
Find Partners and Consulting Firms
If your company is actually looking for a new partner or consulting firm, then the conference is a great place to start your search. The expo hall allows you to walk around and talk to as many companies as you want. It may be a little overwhelming to listen to one sales pitch after another, but it’s worth it to make sure you’re partnering with the right firm. We always feel it’s important to meet face to face with people to get a better idea of personalities and what it would be like to work together. It doesn’t always make sense to go with the biggest and most well-known firm out there… especially if you are a small company. Some big firms will also not work with companies under a certain size. In the end, it’s very important to do your homework and make sure you take the time to choose the right partner for your business.
We also found that not all partners/firms attending the conference have booths. Some of them use the conference as a way to meet up with clients that are attending the conference. It can be a great way to meet with multiple clients in one location during the week. You can talk with these partners as well, and it’s pretty easy to recognize them. Everyone wears a badge, and partners will have a red band along the bottom that says “PARTNER”.
Browse the Expo Hall
There’s more to do in the expo hall than get bombarded with people trying to sell you their services. In the back of the expo, there’s a stage where partners and sponsors give quick sessions on their products or services. The first time we walked by they were doing timed sessions. There was a list of companies on a screen, and a representative from each company had 60 seconds to give their elevator speech. After the 60 seconds, there was a buzzer, which meant you were done and it was the next person’s turn. This was a good way to hear the sales pitch from a safe distance and then decide if you wanted to learn more by stopping by their booth.
During the first two nights, the expo hall had drinks and finger foods available as well. This was another great opportunity for meeting people and networking. There were places along the edges of the expo floor where you could stand or sit and chat with people. There was also a way to volunteer and give back with Rise Against Hunger. All you needed to do was throw on a red cap and join the assembly line in packaging some of the nutritious dehydrated meals they had available.
Partake in the User Group Summit After Parties
Parties may not be your thing, but for some people it’s a great way to relax, meet people, and have some fun after a few days of non-stop learning and networking. There are some parties (or events) that are listed in the on-site activities (on the website), but others you’ll only hear about if you talk with certain partners or sponsors. We attended a ClickDimensions happy hour on Wednesday that we were informed of when we visited their booth. Apparently, there were other similar events like this one throughout the week. Below is a picture of the Fastpath after party on Wednesday night.
Become a User Group Model
This is just a joke really… When I was walking through the session halls the summit photographers were taking photos of a group of people. I stopped to let them get their shots in and they told me to get in the photo. After the first shot, we did 2 other set up photos. We were joking that I was chosen to be a model for the User Group Summit.
The Microsoft Keynote took place right after breakfast on the third day of the conference. The day before, during the general session and town hall, there were a few questions and jokes about the constant name changes for the Microsoft business applications. Microsoft covered this topic at the very beginning of their keynote. They explained that there have been many changes, but they are creating a unified experience with the 365 brand.
I felt like there were two main focuses of the Microsoft keynote:
- Power Platform (Power Apps, Power BI, Azure) – Using the Power Platform to customize and extend Dynamics 365 and Office 365.
- New AI and Mixed Reality Business Apps
The Microsoft team went through a few different demos showing us how the Power Platform and the new AI and Mixed Reality business applications will change the way we use Microsoft Dynamics.
User Group Summit App
There was also an app you could download for the conference. The most useful part of the app was the ability to browse the schedule and find what you wanted to do next and where you had to go. While browsing the schedule, you could “star” certain sessions that you were interested in and then view those in your personal schedule. It helped to stay organized and know exactly where and when you had to be someplace.
Unfortunately, the app fell short in other areas:
- Expo Hall Sponsors & Partners – I wanted to get a full list of all the sponsors and partners in the expo hall. They did not have a print out of this, but I was told it was on the app. There were some listed in the app, but not all of them. Apparently, the only sponsors and partners in the app were the ones that actually went in and registered their company in the app. There was a board in the expo hall with a list of every booth, so I took a few pictures in order to get my list.
- Summit Attendees – Same thing here. In order to be listed in the app, you had to download the app, sign up, and edit your profile. Apparently, there was also a field you had to check that allowed other people to find you. Of all the people we met at the conference, we only found about 20% of them within the app.
- QR Code Scanning – Another letdown. The idea was that you could use the QR code scanner within the app to scan peoples badges and it would bring up their profile so that you could connect with them. We tried this repeatedly and it never worked. Every time we tried we were redirected to an error page. We even talked to a Dynamics Communities representative about the issue. She said she would forward our issue to the person in charge of the app, but we never heard anything more about it. This would have been great if it worked. We met quite a few people, but not everyone had business cards. This would have been an easy way for us to connect with people.
Location of the 2019 User Group Summit
On Tuesday during the general session, they teased about the location of the 2019 summit. They had a map with a few different cities up on the big screen. Then they said, “Sorry, but we’re not going to tell you today. We’ll announce next years host city at 8:18 AM.” Pretty exact time, but they were actually right on time with announcing it the next day before the Microsoft keynote started. The 2019 User Group Summit will be in Orlando, Florida, October 13-18.
Overall I felt that the conference was a great experience. We met a lot of great users and partners throughout the week. The interesting thing is that so many users face the same challenges. The number one thing we heard was that companies have a hard time getting their users to change and actually use the CRM as it should be used. For some companies, it’s easier because inputting the data is essential to running the business. For others, it’s a matter of showing the value of CRM and helping their users adapt.
There is definitely a lot to learn from the sessions, but I feel the biggest benefit is the relationships you build throughout the week. These are relationships with people that share a common interest. How often can you sit in a room and talk to a group of people that all work with the same software and business applications? I know it’s not that often for me… most of the time I find myself sitting with a group of people trying to explain what CRM is and what it does. It’s refreshing to meet and talk with people that understand CRM software and share some of the same experiences that I have had.