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Meet me (and CRMUG) in St.Louis: Five things I learned at Focus 2017

UGFOCUS is the premier advanced-learning conference for Microsoft Dynamics users. The conference encompasses four user groups: CRMUG, AXUG, NAVUG and PBIUG.

CRMUG at Focus 2017

On May 8th and 9th my colleague, Monica Heir – Senior CRM Consultant, and I traveled to St.Louis to attend Focus 2017. As someone who is relatively new to the universe of Microsoft Dynamics (I use universe because world is just not adequate!), I was incredibly excited to dive into the UG community and absorb as much knowledge as possible. While Catapult works with NAV, CRM/Dynamics 365 and Power BI, I choose to attend the CRMUG sessions due to the fact that I not only represent a Dynamics CRM partner, but also an end user.

Meet Me in St.Louis at Focus 2017

I have to say that the conference far surpassed my expectations. While it did not include riding a trolley or singing my heart out à la Judy Garland in “Meet Me in ST. Louis” (don’t worry – I arrived a day early so I could fit that in), I did leave with a head full of new knowledge. I also took my first steps into the CRMUG community and met some incredibly smart and interesting people that I look forward to keeping in touch with! And of course, I came away with a list full of things to do once I got back to Vancouver. As I was reminded by my colleagues – there’s nothing like a conference to remind you of all the things you should/could be doing!

Here are 5 of my favorite takeaways from Focus 2017.

Five Things I learned at FOCUS 2017

1. Always Think About How Your CRM Can Support Customer Experience

“Your competitors are every experience that your customer has with any company” said Margaret Wise – VP of Strategy at Arke (@mgtwise) during her session “Customer Obsession: How to Leverage CRM to improve Customer Experience.” And technology is playing an ever increasing role in customer experience. However, it’s impossible to keep up with all the technology out there. “While technology changes exponentially, business changes logarithmically” said Wise. Therefore, its important to master the fundamentals. More specifically, a CMS (Content Management System), Portals, and Marketing Automation system. Your CRM should be the linchpin; enabling you to leverage customer data throughout your marketing/sales process to improve the customer journey, and consequently the customer experience.

However, as demonstrated in the session “Navigating the Customer Care Journey – Dynamics 365/CRM Service,” the customer journey is not the only place where your CRM plays an important role in improving customer experience. It’s also in the user journey. In fact, as Microsoft MVP and Ford CRM Specialist Clarissa Simpson (@okkiwiflyhome) said, “a better user journey makes for a better customer journey.” Why? Because by taking CRM users to an emotionally intelligent place of calm and balance you can avoid aggravating emotionally charged situations. Therefore, its incredibly important to go beyond conceptual design and consider user experience when implementing/configuring your CRM. In other words, usability testing should be your best friend!

2. We Should All Be Getting “Down and Dirty” Dynamics 365 for Field Service

Prior to attending Focus 2017 I wasn’t super familiar with Dynamics 365 for Field Service. However, I left Derik Bormann’s (@Derik_Bormann) session with an new sense of admiration for the module!

Like the sessions described above, there was emphasis of the fact that technology can enable positive customer experience. More specifically, with Dynamics 365 for Field Service companies can change they way in which the provide customer service, leading to happier customers, greater efficiency, and cost savings.

We hit on three major components of the Field Service module: work orders, the scheduling board and the mobile application. Perhaps my favorite – but only by a little – was the mobile application. The mobile application provides a ton of functionality which helps technicians and the back office better communicate on customer and equipment information, scheduling, and inventory, for example.

Moreover, in Dynamics CRM there is more than one way to do something. This is also true in Field Service so it was interesting to see the different ways in which the end user can interact with scheduling; from using the visual representation of the schedule to inserting/modifying records to working with the record itself.

3. When It Comes to the Relationship Between It and Business – It Needs to Be a Case of “Love and Marriage” Rather Than “It’s Complicated”

Marrying the Business to IT at Focus 2017

Full disclosure: I’m slightly biased when it comes to this one. This Focus 2017 “lesson” was imparted to me by my colleague – Monica Heir. Should I put #ad here?

But in all seriousness, attending her session “Should the Squeaky Wheel Get the Grease? How to Prioritize Competing CRM Projects/Modification Requests” was eye-opening. IT Governance topics are traditionally not the most glamorous (gee, I wonder why?). However, it was apparent that the tricky nature of the relationship between IT and the business (ie. end users) during CRM roll-outs and beyond is something that everyone struggles with.

Monica explained that both parties need to take a step back and recognize that the other party has a wealth of expertise that the other does not. Along with clear and open communication channels, this mutual respect is the foundation of a 9 step process for dealing with residual project work and sustainment efforts as well as new requirements, bugs, and projects.

4. Dynamics CRM/Dynamics 365 is Increasingly Becoming “a Tool in the Toolbox”

I mean two things with this. Firstly, people are finding new ways to use CRM everyday. For example, look at the health insurance company using CRM for case management. Or the city collecting municipal data such as the location of stoplights. In short, we are seeing an expansion from “true sales and service” to XRM. In short – if you can dream it, you can build it!

Secondly, CRM is increasingly being used in conjunction with other tools such as Power BI. This was evidenced by the large amount of Focus 2017 attendees who were attending both CRMUG and PBIUG sessions. It’s no longer just about CRM, its about consuming and visualizing the data that comes out of it.

5. The CRMUG Community is Really Cool

I have to level with you here – “really cool” doesn’t feel quite right. What I’m trying to speak to is a level of collaboration and information sharing that I found incredibly exciting. While I’ve attended a number of other conferences and networking events, Focus 2017 really stood out to me due to the eagerness of my fellow attendees to be there. Everyone was excited to connect with one another; whether it be through discussing upcoming product developments, sharing experience related to common issues, or demonstrating software and functionality to other attendees.

A Big Focus 2017 thank you!

So in conclusion, thank you to my fellow attendees for your curiosity and enthusiasm. Your willingness to share your knowledge was much appreciated by this newbie! And of course, thank you to all of the speakers for the time and effort that you put into your sessions. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one that I attended. Lastly, a big thank you to the organizers – it would not have been possible without you!

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