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Highlights from eXtreme365 2017 in Long Beach

I’m back in the land of frozen tundra after attending my second Dynamics 365/CRM conference in the span of a month. eXtreme365 2017 in Long Beach was a great week, and not just because I left snow behind for the sun, the sand, and the happiest place on Earth.

eXtreme365 and CRMUG Summit: A Comparison

To start off with, both eXtreme365 and CRMUG were great events, and I intend on attending both next year. However, since I got to attend both of these events for the first time almost back-to-back, I thought I’d share my thoughts on what I saw as the differences between the two:

  • In terms of target audiences, CRMUG Summit is geared at both Dynamics users and technical staff, but with an emphasis on users, whereas eXtreme365 is more geared at technical. As a technical person, there were more than enough sessions at both conferences to keep me occupied.
  • CRMUG Summit was a significantly larger event, and it felt even larger because it’s run along side the other UG conferences (NAV, AX and GP). Summit had a larger number of sessions to pick from (on average, I would say twice as many as eXtreme), but, because of the focus on users, many of the sessions were not technical. The fact that the other UG conferences were happening at the same time also meant that, in social situations, it was very likely that the other attendees we not familiar with your particular Dynamics product.
  • The Summit sessions themselves filled up fast (often standing-room only, or worse, ten minutes before the sessions started). There were a few standing-room only sessions at eXtreme, but, in general, the rooms for the most popular sessions were larger and able to accommodate the attendees.
  • eXtreme had a much more intimate feel, including social/networking events each night, and because the number of attendees was smaller, you were more likely to run into familiar faces.
  • In terms of conference facilities, the Opryland Convention Center for the Summit event was obviously much larger, and quite a bit more complicated to find your way around.
  • The trade show floor at CRMUG was significantly larger, but again, many of the exhibitors were focused on the other Dynamics products besides CRM.

Overall, I think there are positives to a large event with lots of people, and a smaller event with a more targeted crowd. I look forward to both next year!

APP Innovation Challenge

The highlight of the week for me was participating in the APP Innovation Challenge. The Challenge, which was organized by the fantastic Julie Yack, occurred during the day on the Monday, before the conference officially kicked off in the evening. The general premise of the Challenge was that participants were put into groups and given a task to build something innovative using Dynamics 365 and present it to the entire conference during the next evening’s Celebration Dinner. We were assisted by a group of Dynamics MVPs, and one of the great things about the event was that there were as many MVPs as participants, so we had the opportunity to work one-on-one with the brightest Dynamics minds.

My team was tasked with leveraging the new Online Management API to create CRM Org backups that were saved to Azure Storage indefinitely, instead of the standard backups which are kept for only three days. We built an XrmToolBox plugin to do the job. I’m happy to report that, after including some unabashed pandering to the judges, that we were declared the winners of the event. Our prizes included an Amazon Echo Dot (which thankfully just became supported in Canada), as well as free registration for eXtreme365 2018.

I can’t recommend enough participating in the APP Innovation Challenge next year if you have the opportunity. There is no better way to hone your skills then to work with a bunch of Dynamics MVPs for a day.

Also, stayed tuned if you are interested in the Online Management plugin for XrmToolBox. I’ve been working on cleaning it up for release to the community, so it should be available soon.

The Future for Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement Platform

Despite the general consensus that there is still work to be done on the name(s) of what everyone still calls Dynamics CRM, I’m very excited about the future of the Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement platform. Specifically, I attended a couple sessions by Matt Barbour where he talked about recent updates to the platform, as well as where the platform is going. The work right now is separating the “apps” (Sales, Customer Service, etc.) from the core platform. In the not-to-distant future, these apps will actually be contained in their own solutions, and only installed when necessary. So, for example, if you only install and license the Sales app, the Case entity will not exist in your organization (right now, even if you only have licenses for Sales, the Case entity exists in your organization, and there is no technical restriction that stops you from using it; licensing is based on the honor system). This may make things a bit tricky for ISVs, since they will need to be very careful not to introduce unintended dependencies to their solutions, as now what used to be “core” entities may no longer exist in the system.

Location, Location, Location

As I mentioned in my post after CRMUG Summit in Nashville, for this conference I had a hotel room booked at the conference venue. As I suspected, this was worth every penny. The battery life on my Lenovo laptop is not what it used to be, so being able to leave my laptop in my room and while still being close enough to get to it case of client emergencies was great; also great was not having a 20-minute walk back to my hotel at the end of the day.

The Happiest Place on Earth

Disneyland truly is the happiest place on Earth, and even though I’ve been a handful of times, I never miss the opportunity to visit anytime I’m in southern California. I was able to sneak away twice during the week thanks to the limited flight selection from Regina to L.A., which meant I arrived early the day before the conference, and I couldn’t fly out until the next day after the conference ended at noon. I, of course, wanted to get home to my wife and two young kids as quickly as possible, but unfortunately I had no other option than to stay where it was warm and be that weird older guy going on rides at Disneyland by himself.

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