Happy Birthday to me – 2 years as a CRMUG member

Today I am at the first CRMUG event in the UK “North of the border”. Yes, we have our first chapter meeting in Edinburgh, for members from Scotland and the north of England, on November 20th.

I travelled up here by train yesterday and took the opportunity to go through my slides for a quick intro session telling people all the great reasons to become full members of CRMUG (rather than Basic members, or “Subscribers” as they are now called). I wanted to mention how long I had been involved with CRMUG, and a quick look back in my Outlook calendar revealed the strange coincidence that it has been exactly two years to the day!

Back in the mists of time…

On 20th November 2012 I attended my first CRM User Group meeting at Microsoft’s UK headquarters in Reading. I had been meaning to go for a while but something (usually work) always got in the way. The meeting included a roadmap presentation from Microsoft – I think there must have been some stuff about the Polaris release in that one. There were also a couple of customer showcases, including a particularly memorable one from Mersey Travel who were using CRM with a portal built on ADX Studio to manage HR and training for about 4,500 employees of the various transport companies that come under their umbrella in the Liverpool metropolitan area and surroundings.

I won’t mention the name of the other customer showcase, but what stood out in my mind was they had loads of custom entities (many dozens, possibly over 100) – and none of them had a custom icon. A very complex system with some very clever automation and difficult reporting, but it must have been a nightmare for users to navigate.

We even got to meet the amazingly energetic and inimitable CRMUG Director Tony Stein, who flew in specially – he wrote about his take on the event on the CRMUG UK Community forum. When he asked if anyone could pitch in to help out with organising future events, I put up my hand – I don’t know if it was just Tony’s infectious enthusiasm for building a community or some kind of Jedi mind trick, but it worked!

Veni, vidi, vici

The next CRMUG meeting within travelling distance was in Rome in February 2013. I agreed to go along and chair a round table on Leads (I think), and present a deep dive session on charts and dashboards (plenty of tips and tricks and bits of XML).

One of the other presenters, an MVP from the UK living in the US, managed to lose his passport between arriving in the UK for a family visit and flying onwards to Rome, so could not attend. So in anticipation of the slightly less technical members of the audience joining my session I had to make some last minute changes and make the dive a bit more gentle and less deep. Bear in mind this was a conference delivered entirely in English – a second language for the vast majority of the audience of about 100 people.

We also had a very frank exchange of information in a Microsoft conduit session with some of the senior product managers who were there – this was just after Polaris had shipped, with some features being perceived by many as half-finished. This kind of direct dialogue between CRM users and Microsoft staff who could give real answers, and take back our comments directly to the product team was something very few people get to experience outside of the MVP program or working for a very big partner – another great advantage of being a CRMUG member.

I studied Latin far too long ago to remember how to decline all those verbs and make them first person plural rather than singular. But CRMUG definitely came, saw and conquered in Rome – this was the start of a chapter in Italy and put the seed of the idea in the mind of Pernille Poulsen to go and do the same in Denmark. It just made me want to do more to build the UK group too.

Onwards and upwards in 2013

With an enthusiastic committee, meetings in the UK went from strength to strength. 117 people came to the meeting in May, more than in Rome or at any regional chapter anywhere in the world. Numbers have never been quite as high as this again, and we still don’t know what what we did to get the message out to so many people and convince them to come along.

In May I presented a session with 20 tips for all users of CRM from general productivity through using Outlook effectively, administering CRM more easily and helping users through good design. We also had a road map, a customer showcase, and a great discussion about User Adoption by Rory McKeand from NCFE (using PollEverywhere to great effect for audience participation).

And a star was born… Scott Durow gave his first presentation for CRMUG UK and wowed everyone with his upbeat style and his ability to engage the whole audience. He explained some pretty technical topics (best practices for building workflows and reports) in a way that made them accessible for all. He has since delivered some of our most memorable and highly rated sessions in the UK.

I’ve covered a bunch of topics from workflows to data visualisation, as well as hosting our “XRM Factor” challenge, in which John Grace of North52 got the audience vote for his presentation of Sonoma Partners’ Universal Search and narrowly beat Scott Durow’s superhero-themed demonstration of using Fiddler to help with CRM development.

Reaching the Summit

As well as attending and presenting at CRMUG meetings in Reading, London and Rome, I went to Summit 2013 in Tampa to deliver two Academy training courses before the conference, a presentation session and share an Ask the Experts panel with MVPs Gus Gonzalez and Richard Knudson. Due to some project deadlines I did not get to see much more of the conference or the city, which was a great shame.

I returned for Summit 2014 in St. Louis and this year managed to spend a bit more time meeting up with people I otherwise only know through various online communities. I delivered two days of training and three sessions, plus joined in some Q&A panel discussions.

Out of the 130 or so sessions at Summit 2014, four received evaluations with a perfect score of 5 for overall satisfaction from every person who filled out a feedback form. Two of those four were mine, with a total of 69 returned evaluations between them (compared to 33 for the other two together). I also had the number 10 session at Summit with an average score of 4.88 from 35 surveys. The only other person to have more than one session in the top ten was Britta Scampton, one of the CRMUG “All Stars” and Minnesota Regional Chapter co-chair, who definitely deserved this kind of feedback.

What’s next?

It has been really enjoyable thinking back about all these things I have had the opportunity to do through CRMUG in only two short years. I have been able to share my experience and knowledge with literally hundreds of people and hopefully helped them to be more successful in their implementations of Dynamics CRM. With another new version around the corner, this process does not look like it will be stopping anytime soon.

After our Edinburgh meeting today, the next UK meeting that we have scheduled is on March 18th in Reading. Although we have been alternating venues between London and Reading for a while, there are no dates around then with availability of rooms in Microsoft’s Cardinal Place office in Victoria. So save the date for a Q1 meeting in Reading – reserve this in your calendar by downloading this .ics file. We’ll have a social evening the night before as well. We might do something other than just meet up in the pub – perhaps book a table for a meal somewhere if people are interested. Let me know in the comments what you would like to do, and I’ll see you in March!

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