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!

Read about all the things I have had the opportunity to do in two years as a CRMUG member »

Training for Dynamics CRM from CRM Masters

CRM Masters logo small

I’m excited to announce that I’ve partnered with Feridun Kadir to set up a new Dynamics CRM training business, CRM Masters Ltd.

We have a schedule of training courses that will give you the practical knowledge that you need to implement, customize and maintain CRM 2011 and 2013.

Our courses are designed to give you highly-focused instructor-led training to cover topics you won’t find on other courses.

Please review our list of Dynamics CRM courses and if there is an area that you feel you would like training in that you don’t see please let us know.

Passed 70-291 to become MCSA:Messaging

“Implementing, Managing, and Maintaining a Windows 2003 server Network Infrastructure”, also known as The Beast has been slain.
Turned out to be a cuddly bunny rather than a beast (a bit like the end of Monty Python’s holy grail only in reverse).

I had put this off for so long because I thought I was weak on a couple of areas and needed some polish, and since everyone says it is one of the hardest I wanted to be sure to nail it.
But I was in the exam centre on Friday anyway (taking my CRM Applications exam MB2-632, also nailed) and I had second shot to back me up, so I figured “what the hell, even if I fail majestically at least I will know much more accurately what to expect on this one next time”.

So I waltzed away with 889 in a shade under half the time available (105 minutes out of 215 – I know some do better than that but I was well pleased with the result). Finally gave me my MCSA:Messaging and only two more to go (293 and 294) to MCSE.

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Microsoft Certified Application Specialist times five

MCAS logo I took five MCAS exams on Friday and passed them all. Some were easier than others, as always, but overall I found them a lot less stressful than when I took four on the same day to get the Microsoft Office Specialist:Master qualification.

Overall I like the way the Office exams work – the real application (minus the help!) running in the top half, and the questions at the bottom. Each question has a few tasks to complete, and you are measured on the end result, not how you got there.

This is a much better test of real-world ability to use the software than any multiple-choice questions can ever hope to be. Yes, it means that you could take a few wrong turns, and click on some irrelevant buttons before finding the thing you were looking for, but you can do that in real life too. The exam is limited to 50 minutes, so you can only afford to do this on a handful of questions, and you need to be able to make up the time on other questions by reading it once and going straight to the correct feature or function.

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Industry Insiders article – Don’t Secure Your Documents!

An article I wrote for Microsoft’s Industry Insiders blog site has just been published.

This week I was asked by the IT support guy who works for one of my clients about how a user could put a password on a document. Since I am both their external consultant and their MS Office trainer, I was the right person to call.

To me this question is always a red flag as it implies that the user does not understand the places which already exist for them to save documents in such a way as to give access to the correct group of colleagues (or just themselves). My answer was therefore “I’ll show you how to do it for the sake of argument, but you should tell the user that they should not do this”.

Read the whole of this article about a proper approach to document security and avoiding mere security theatre.

The Industry Insiders site looks at various topics affecting corporate IT, with a slight lean towards information security, which is unsurprising since it is maintained by IT Pro Evangelist for Security, Steve Lamb (and evangelist manager Eileen Brown)

How many people share your Microsoft qualifications?

When I am revising hard to pass my various exams I often get asked by friends and family “so what exactly does this qualification mean?”

The implied question is “how special is this?” or “how many millions of others already have one of these?” to which I never had an answer because Microsoft never provided one.

Now I can answer these questions as Microsoft have posted a page listing all the major technical qualifications such as MCP, MCSA, MCSE, MCSD and MCDST along with the number of people who hold each one. Obviously some people get counted several times for their MCP, MCSA and MCSE (for example), but it is still a useful indication of how you compare to others. They have said this page will be updated monthly, and should soon include all the new Vista and Exchange 2007 MCITP stuff.

As things stand at the moment this means that when I pass my 70-291 (hopefully very soon) I will be one of about 42,000 people in the world with an MCSA:Messaging (2003).

I’m not sure how special that makes me feel, but it is certainly a step up from being one-in-two-million vanilla MCPs.