Microsoft Dynamics GP MVPs Reflect On the Convergence 2013 Experience

Last week at Convergence 2013, a group of Microsoft Dynamics GP MVPs were kind enough to sit down with us at the end of a long Day 2 to recap their experiences.  Not all of the conversation was suitable for publication (for example, let's just say that presenters really do care about their session evaluations). And some sentiments were completely universal, like the fact that none of them were not happy about Microsoft's failure to send Asia Pacific Escalation Engineer David Musgrave of Support Debugging Tool fame to the event.

Here are some choice moments from our conversation with Belinda Allen, John Lowther, Mark Polino, Jivtesh Singh, and Leslie Vail.  Thanks to all of them for their time and an entertaining discussion.

Microsoft Dynamics GP MVPs at Convergence 2013From left: John Lowther, Leslie Vail, Belinda Allen, Mark Polino, Mark's wife, and Jivtesh Singh

MSDW: Some bloggers were given Surface tablets to use during Convergence.  How are they working out?

Jivtesh Singh: People are really impressed by Business Analyzer on the Surface and are considering buying the hardware just to get the tablet-friendly Windows 8 version of Business Analyzer.  And people are very excited about seeing the web client on it. Not all users need to deal with the functional areas that are still pending like HR, manufacturing, field service, and other areas.  The web client session was almost full.  A lot of customers hadn't yet learned about the web client before Convergence since it was still relatively new and the vast majority are going to wait to upgrade until after the first service pack, which is due in April.

Belinda Allen: I did the 'GP for Prospects' session earlier and I showed the same [demo] that's been shown elsewhere.  And I did it all on the Surface with SQL 2012, GP 2013, and Office 2013 and I ran it all off my surface.

Jivtesh: You're supposed to say "Really, the whole ERP running on her Surface?" SQL Server, GP, and Excel, all the latest versions.  Not just Business Analyzer, the full fledged product. I think part of getting more people to show it off is that people love Excel and want to use it and there are some things that intimidate them about. 

Belinda: Mark [Polino] and I were discussing that we wish there were more tools like the dashboard Microsoft has developed for people to download and use.  Like for the dashboard I demonstrated, you can see that on my blog, but it's also on Pam Misialek's official blog.  One of the tabs has instructions on how to set it up.  I took out the CRM pieces for my quick demo today but it was fully functional.

Another interesting Excel tool is going to be the Data Explorer that was released [as a preview] in February. It allows you to pull public data for different uses.  I considered setting it up for a demo extracting sales data to explore it geographically, but it was more of an Excel demo than a GP demo.

Mark Polino: I have a whole book on dashboards coming out. And another session today was on what's new in GP 2013 and Office 2013.  I think people are getting lots of good new information at Convergence. The drillback from Excel into GP got covered in both of my 50 Tips sessions, both of my Dashboard sessions, and in the Excel session.  So conceivably someone could see it four times depending on what sessions they're going to.

Belinda:  For that downloadable dashboard, I had two sessions where I showed it.  Mark showed it already and will again, so that same dashboard is popping up all over the place. It is hard to get away from it. 

Mark: My philosophy has come down to: build a dashboard.  I don't care what you use at this point.  I don't care if you have to hit the 'Excel export' button every month on a SmartList to make a dashboard. Once you get the first one or two done, it doesn't matter because you'll start to get the dough you need to make what you really need happen. 

Belinda: You know what the coolest thing about that dashboard was? It was the cash in the bottom corner. Not the ratios but the cash balance - how much money you have in the bank right this minute.

Mark: And ratios are cool because people think they're hard.  If I want a quick, current ratio, I can just set it up to do it.  There are some assumptions that I have my accounts set up right, and those are probably some big assumptions for some companies, but then you at least get to have the conversation about setting their accounts up right.  They'll getting there.  They're seeing dashboards everywhere - on Business Analyzer, Excel, vendors are showing off anything and everything that resembles a dashboard. At some point they'll get to a point where they will buy or build something that resembles a dashboards and at this point I don't care as long as we're getting more data out than we're putting in and we're a long way from that.

Leslie Vail: When GP as we know it first came out and they really got into ODBC particularly, I thought, 'wow this is awesome, we're eliminating the need for Excel and we're making it better.  And now it's come full circle.  Excel is the report writer. But it's definitely a better report writer than Report Writer.

Mark: Thank you for saying that.

MSDW: What else are you excited about?

Jivtesh: I've been working on [something for the Surface] similar to Kinect for Business Analyzer.  It is a Leap Motion device that tracks your [hand movements] rather than full body. I'm working on something but [the project] is under wraps right now.

Belinda: He was being cruel to Aaron Donat and me. He was saying 'You get five guesses of what this thing does."

MSDW: How have your presentation experiences been this week?

John Lowther: I had someone give me all  "one's" and the comment was "Problems with AV." Otherwise it was fours and fives for the session on maximizing SQL Server performance with Dynamics GP. It was supposed to be an interactive session with maybe twenty people, and a few minutes before it started they moved it to a room with 200 people that was filled up.

Mark: It's been a fun day, I've done eight sessions so far.  Two more tomorrow (Thursday). 

Belinda: Speaking of Excel gods:

Mark: How have you guys found attendees attitudes so far?

Belinda: Overwhelmed or excited.

John: I have had several tell me that this year's is a lot better than last year.  But everybody hates this badge.

Mark: Yeah, no pockets, no mini guide, no place for business cards.  My negatives are small.  I'm not a fan of the Convergence app, I think they rushed it.

MSDW: What about GP 2013 interest and enthusiasm?

Mark: A lot. It came out end of 2012 and folks said they wouldn't do an upgrade during year-end. And with the service pack coming out in April.  But they're loving the fixed assets.

Jivtesh: There were no updates to fixed assets in the last two builds. That's where people get really happy.

Mark: And it's not a hard upgrade but it does add the web client, which if you want to go that way certainly adds some complexity.  But a straight upgrade - from GP 10 to 2010 wasn't bad and 2010 to 2013 should not be bad.  The 9 to 10 upgrade was hard because of the security change and the user interface change.  But they've sort of settled on what they like at this point.

MSDW: Do you think people are perceiving the staged release of the web client as a quality problem?  Microsoft seemed to suggest they got some criticism of that sort.

Mark: I still hear folks who are on non-core financials, they want field service stuff but that is fairly complex so it will take longer to develop and test.  The original release was at year end so people weren't ready to go to it, it wasn't the features.  Now it's April and there's a lot more web functionality to go with it.

Belinda: I'd guess [product management] getting more grief from partners than from users. 

Mark: Or from competitors. 

Belinda: And some people may have been confusing the web client with Business Portal, which wasn't ready yet until April. A few people went ahead and upgraded to GP 2013 and there was no path for them [in SharePoint] because it wasn't ready.

About Jason Gumpert

As the editor of MSDynamicsWorld.com, Jason oversees all editorial content on the site and at our events, as well as providing site management and strategy. He can be reached at jgumpert@msdynamicsworld.com.

Prior to co-founding MSDynamicsWorld.com, Jason was a Principal Software Consultant at Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC), where he implemented solutions, trained customers, managed software development, and spent some time in the pre-sales engineering organization. Jason has also held consulting positions at CSC Consulting and Monitor Group.

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