CRMguru is born – a new chapter and a chance for review

How did I get here?

When I started this blog I wanted to share information on a whole range of technology topics under the banner of “getting IT right” – helping people to figure out the best ways to use information technology to get things done. As a self-confessed geek who loves to dig into the detail of things, I also wrote about various neat tools (see, only a geek could call tools “neat”!) and techniques to wrestle software into doing what people really wanted out of it. I tried to get to the “why” as well as the “how” as I firmly believe (to paraphrase) that with great [IT] skill comes great responsibility [to follow best practices].

I made a conscious decision early on not to join those who seem to only produce “echoes in the blogosphere”. Writing a post of less than 20 words, saying “Someone else just wrote a great post over here <link>” is not what blogs are for, in my not so humble opinion; that’s what twitter is great for (up to a point). Worse still, “quoting” the whole of an article written by someone else is not so far different from blatantly stealing content with no attribution so I wanted to stay clear of that too, with the occasional exception of quoting parts of articles written expressly to be widely publicised such as press releases and hotfix release information.

If you don’t have something to add to the conversation to at least give it some context and explain why the linked post/article/information is important, why bother joining in?

I also did not see much point in writing “how to” articles for things which were well documented in books, online sources or simply accepted as common knowledge (sometimes of course it can be hard to judge what is really known by everyone).

So did it work? What do people read most?

Many of my most popular articles are things which are not well documented elsewhere, such as these top three of the most-read posts of the last six and a half years:

How to add national holidays in Outlook 2010 – the basic feature to add holidays for your country is well understood, but this article dug a bit deeper on topics such as removing holidays added by mistake (especially duplicates) and adding custom holiday dates to your outlook.hol file to share with others. The related post Outlook 2010 has incorrect holidays for UK and many other countries has had far fewer total readers, but this makes sense since the issue mainly affected English-speaking countries outside North America, and much of “continental” Europe. Both posts still see big peaks around Christmas / New Year and just before Easter – I guess people in 23 countries look at their calendars and realise Easter Monday is clearly in the wrong place and want to find out how to get it moved to the right date.

Using DSMod to update Active Directory – this was my very first post  and a perfect example of the sort of thing I wanted to write when I set out on my blogging ‘journey’, and I am really pleased that it is still enduringly popular now, and the second most read of all time (which I know is to some extent is self-proving, as it had the most time to be read). This was a real geeks’ article about how to use some simple command line tools to update user information stored in Active Directory. Is it still relevant? Possibly even more so since that directory information is even more ‘visible’ now as it surfaces in Outlook through “contact cards” (the summary of a correspondent’s information you see when you hover over their email address or name on the to / from line of an email) and is of course copied to Dynamics CRM user records too. I have some notes on my “blog ideas” list for an article about which AD fields are copied to CRM, and therefore what DSMod commands would be helpful to get those fields populated with correct information.

Excel 2007 calculation bug displays apparently wrong numbers – still getting loads of hits despite being about a bug which was fixed a long time ago, in a six-year-old version of a product. Judging by recent comments on this post and in forums more generally, some people seem to think that every time their numbers don’t add up as expected (due to rounding of displayed numbers in many cases), it must be the multi-million dollar, multi-million user software that is not able to figure out high school maths, although no-one else seems to have noticed.

Moving towards Dynamics CRM

Over time, I have become slowly more focussed on Dynamics CRM rather than being a total IT generalist. I still retain an interest in Office, particularly Outlook and Excel, and often use knowledge gained in my days as a system administrator to deal with network infrastructure questions relating to on-premise CRM deployments. As my work balance has changed, so has the content of my blog, so in the last year some of the most-read posts include an article outlining options for training and certification in MS Dynamics CRM 2011, how to Configure CRM 2011 and ADFS 2.0 on a single server on port 443 and When and How to use Child Workflows in Dynamics CRM.

I thought the time had come to change the name of the site to reflect the sort of information being posted here lately, so people have a better expectation of what they will find here, rather than it looking like another company blog. The new colour scheme and logo seemed appropriate to support this change of theme and direction.

Why CRM “guru”?

There are various definitions of the term”guru” which I hope to aspire towards in the posts that I write here.

The common themes are that a guru should be a teacher, one who imparts wisdom and knowledge to others, in some cases a leader as well. One possible etymology is that a guru “dispels the darkness of ignorance”. Through the articles in this blog I certainly hope to share the experiences I have gained as a Dynamics CRM consultant and trainer to shed some light on features which are not necessarily well understood or clearly documented and showcase some best practices of using the software to get the most out of it, from a technical or operational and business perspective.

I certainly do not use the term “guru” to claim that I am the greatest expert on the subject (that is for others to judge), merely to explain that I intend to use my knowledge to help others avoid common pitfalls and use features in ways they had not thought of, just as I have learned so much from those who have done things before me – too many to mention individually but some of whom are linked through the “blogroll” at the bottom of the screen.

I hope to be able to enlighten you for another few years yet.


Further changes to Getting IT Right

Since the changes in June the amount of content on the blog is growing and the number of daily visitors continues to rise. August is the first month with more than 1,000 visitors, and should end with a cumulative total of 5,000 visits since the blog began in January.

So I chose a new theme, this time it’s Fadtastic which I think has a nice clean feel to it. I hope you like it too. My main reasons for choosing it were not just aesthetic, but practical – it is highly customisable so I can choose exactly what navigation aids and information to include in the right hand pane.

I know that many readers arrive after following links on forums or search engines to some of the more technical “tutorial” type posts, especially “The One About DSMod” (sounds like a geeky episode of Friends!). The new navigation should help to find some of the other content more easily.

Incidentally, the BlogRoll of sites I like to use is now at the bottom of the page. I need to update this with more places that I have been using a lot recently.

Let me know what you think of the new layout.

Minor changes here on VeroBlog

As the total number of posts here grows I felt things needed to be a bit more organised.

I have changed around a few of the category headings to be more useful and updated my BlogRoll. I also shuffled the site layout around a bit (God bless the power of well-designed themes in WordPress!).

When I browse other people’s blogs I tend to look at recent posts and then drill into categories, rather than looking by month. So I brought out categories as a main navigation feature on the left and generally de-cluttered the sidebars.

I hope you like the new layout (as if you even noticed…)

Why am I here?

I finally decided to enter the world of blogging, and the start of a new year seemed to be the perfect timing so I thought I should get it started now and hit the ground running in 2007. Too many thoughts come to mind, too many great web pages are discovered and lost again, too many problems are solved and the solutions forgotten. I wanted to be able to share some of these things with other people.

Since I spend most of my time with computers in one way or another, it’s pretty likely that the majority of my blog entries will be on IT related topics. I am particularly keen to share my thoughts, feelings and experiences of managing Windows systems, active directory admin and using group policy. Over the next few months I should find something to say about Vista and Office 2007 too.