Microsoft Dynamics Convergence 2011: it’s a Wrap


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April 13, 2011 – Another year, another excellent Convergence. With no ado whatsoever, here’s my Dynamics CRM-centric summary, as pithy as I can make it:

  • Last year was the “cloud + social” Convergence. (If you care for a ride on the way-back machine, here’s my Convergence 2010 summary.) This year there was plenty of talk about the cloud, and plenty about social’s impact on and inclusion in Dynamics CRM, but not in the same proportion as last year. Partly this is because cloud and social are no longer the new-new thing, but more importantly because Dynamics CRM 2011 is the new-new thing, and you can only have so many sessions!
  • The CRM session topics provide a pretty good summary of the most important new features of the new version (and a few soon-to-be-new features, such as integration with cloud SharePoint in Office 365):

    • Harnessing Cloud Technologies with CRM 2011. Building solutions on Azure+Office 365+Dynamics CRM 2011
    • What’s New in CRM 2011
    • Harnessing Social Technologies with CRM 2011. how, and why, to integrate Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn into CRM solutions.
    • Complex Business Process Management in CRM 2011: one of my favorites, on workflows and the new dialog processes, plus how to custom workflows on the .NET/WWF framework.
    • Behind the Cloud: How Microsoft Runs Dynamics CRM 2011 Online. That is: how does Microsoft manage the massive scale required by its CRM Online. I didn’t go to this one but I wanted to. In Kiril Tatarinov’s keynote we learned that there’ve been 40,000 30-day free trials since CRM 2011 Online launched in February. I personally account for .001% of them, so I find this topic interesting!
    • Boost your Sales and Marketing Productivity with CRM 2011. This was about productivity, user-adoption, the new UI and the Outlook client.
    • Customer Care Accelerator R2 for CRM 2011. Yes, the Accelerators live, and apparently have made the transition to CRM 2011!
    • MS Dynamics Labs presents Graduating from Accelerators to Solutions. I didn’t get to this one either, but it sounds important. Any of these accelerators available yet as managed solutions downloadable from the Dynamics Marketplace?
    • Solutions Management in CRM 2011: Drill Down. This made my top three list. Anusha Shankar was the most upbeat presenter I saw. She absolutely loves those solutions! Especially the managed ones, I think.
    • Analytics Made Simple with CRM 2011. Eric Boocock’s presentation was very good, but it was 100-level, so I didn’t get as much out of it as I did Barry Givens’ session. See next.
    • Advanced Analytics for CRM 2011. Barry Givens’ presentation was definitely the best one I attended. I even considered attending the repeat session he gave! Custom charts and dashboards, contextual dashboards (e.g., turn the account form into an account dashboard), good perspective on analytical uses of Web Resources, the best short presentation on FetchXML and SSRS reports for CRM online I’ve seen. I always figure if I attend at least one presentation as good as this one, it makes the show a worthwhile thing.

    And by the way, I’ll cover a lot of topics similar to to what Barry did in my upcoming “Super-Mega Dashboard and Reporting Blowout” session (the April session of my monthly CRM Essentials for Customizers). Find out more and register here…

  • The best line I heard was from John Leonard, a Microsoft public sector SSP. John was introducing a mini case-study discussion about an xRM application the IL Dept. of Corrections implemented to improve its ability to track and manage the 45,000 inmates in its 27 facilities. The first line of his intro: “Like all good stories, this one starts in prison”.

  • As I said, the public sector sessions were quite good. One of the highlights was a demonstration by Todd Sharp of Engage, a Microsoft partner focused on developing public sector add-ons on the xRM platform. (Their web site is, which Todd pointed out, paying dutiful tribute to Engage’s marketing team, is not just a URL, but also a call to action.) He showed the coolest xRM application I’ve seen in the last few days. It’s called USFederal360, and it mashes up a number of subscription databases in areas like public records, makes them all available to subscribers in a totally xRM UI, refreshes them periodically, but you can associate your own data with them, such as activities and other record types. Anyway, this app is definitely cool, and since I want to keep this article pithy, I definitely won’t describe it any further. Check it out here:
  • Of course, I made a couple of visits to the conference bookstore, and purchased the brand new, updated edition of Jim Steger’s and Mike Snyder’s Working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. The 4.0 version (same title, substitute 4.0 for 2011) is a classic of the genre, possibly the best computer book I’ve ever read. (Certainly the one I’ve read the most!) I haven’t read the new one thoroughly yet, but I’ll review it shortly. Anyway, even if it’s not as good as their Working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0, it probably belongs in your Dynamics CRM library. Here’s an article written by my good friend Jerry Weinstock (who unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to talk to at Convergence), called the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Book Club. It’s got mini-reviews and links to the books currently out on CRM 2011.
  • I was disappointed that I did not get to attend sessions by either Julie Yack or Anne Stanton. If you did, you probably understand why I was disappointed that I didn’t. At least I got to see them a few times. And I finally met Jim Glass in person. Jim (perhaps you know him as JaAG?) authors my favorite CRM blog, A CRM Riff. One remarkable fact about JaAG’s blog is that it’s the only one I’m aware of with enough data in the archives to perform time series analysis. Unbelievable! He’s got an unbroken string from Feb. 2005, and has averaged a little over 12 articles a month since then. Here’s the total article count by month, along with a 6-month moving average to make the trend more obvious:

The apparent downward trend since about January 2008 worried me a little at first, until I checked out JaAG’s other blog, , and figured out this was probably some kind of positive indicator for work-life balance. Phew!

  • Last but not least, I ran into my friend Jonathan Lee of the Riics Corporation as he was heading to the airport, and we had an extremely efficient 5-minute conversation as I walked him to his cab. He just sent me an e-mail and asked me about something I inexcusably forgot to include in the first edition of this article: what are the best card scanners for CRM? (How could this topic NOT be included in a Convergence summary article?) Here are the two I’ve had personal experience with, and have recommended to clients who’ve had success with them:

So there’s my summary of Convergence 2011. Besides missing Julie’s and Anne’s sessions, my only regrets are the other sessions I didn’t get to. Now, if only I can find where the recorded sessions are posted! Anybody know?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Richard Knudson
Richard Knudson is a Dynamics CRM consultant and instructor, and has a special interest in cloud computing and helping organizations realize the potential of social CRM. His company, IMG, specializes in helping businesses implement and customize the Dynamics CRM platform.


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