Sunday, April 19, 2015

Expectations for eXtremeCRM Madrid 2015

eXtremeCRM 2015 will be hosted in Madrid, Spain, on April 21-22.

This is the fifth year the conference is held in Europe, of which I have personally taken part in Prague 2011, Rome 2013, Barcelona 2014, and now on the way to Madrid 2015. So by now I have some expectations.

 

eurekaWhat it is not

Attending the years until now have been rewarding in a quite a few ways.
But I will start with stating what it is not, at least not for me.

The conference has never given me epic revelations of new technology, implementations previously unheard of, or new killer features. There are lots of third party solutions, functions and products being displayed, but the general feeling I get is "nah, if we too went that way, we would have done the same thing, just a bit better".

The great reward it gives is by making connections, discussing topics and problems with fellow developers from around Europe and the world, and actually getting the feeling of

ok, perhaps we are not doing half bad after all…

This is really something worth valuing and not to be taken lightly. Confirmation.

It is sort of a Swedish culture, unfortunately, to assume that someone else must be doing this in a better way, we only know half of what we should know to do this in an acceptable way. "Why should we polish and brand our internal tools and market them publicly, surely someone else does this better…"

We do struggle to lose that attitude, but it is a hard fought tradition. And eXtremeCRM helps us in that sense. You might call it CRM professional therapy ;)
So I try to talk to people.

microsoftMicrosoft Hot Shots

Another great thing about eXtremeCRM is to hear the key notes from the Microsoft hot shots, and trying to read between the lines of their well tailored presentations.
When he said "we have looked in to the possibilities of…" does that actually mean "we already did, but if I told you I'd have to kill you"….?

Even more valuable it is when you don't have to read between the lines, like during the opening of eXtremeCRM Rome 2013. Bob Stutz enters the stage and simply asks the crowd "What are you doing here?" The crowd went silent, then awkward murmurs, then uncomfortable feelings of too much jet-lag for the speaker, whoever he is….
"Well, I tell ya, if I were a CRM administrator, ISV or consultant, I would not have put up with the mistakes we have made. But I am grateful you are still here. We messed up. Big time." as a response to the troubles of withdrawn update rollups to CRM 2011 etc.

At another session, the person responsible for the new Custom Actions functionality was faced with a question on the benefits on using it in a particular way. The person on the stage (no names will be mentioned, to protect the innocent) replied:
- "No, you are not supposed to use them that way! They were not designed for that and we take no responsibility if you do that. It should not even be possible."
- "But sir, the SDK documentation describes how to do it, just that way…"
- "Oh… I didn't know that… I'll get back to you…"
Another awkward, but memorable, moment just took place.

expertAsk the Experts

The sessions were we get the chance to Ask the Experts are always interesting. Usually, it begins with an auditorium where there are a few MVPs smiling on stools on the stage, and a silent audience. Then to break the ice, one of the MVPs who really gets a kick out hearing himself through the microphone starts talking about some arbitrary problem he or she faced a while ago. This leads to the first question from the crowd, usually by someone who feels sorry for the other guys on the stage.
The question is answered, and perhaps the answer is satisfactory.
And that was the ice breaker.
Another person raises the hand, and starts with "Related to that, we had another issue with…" and then something completely irrelevant from the first question, but this too is answered as well and politely as possible from the panel.
Then someone picks up the ball and throws it the other way. "As you are all MVPs and/or Microsoft representatives, please tell me WHY you removed the Save&Publish button we had in CRM 4.0!".
Someone else likes the direction of that ball "And how did you think when you designed a navigation optimized for tablets or touch screens, when 98% of the users use a classic PC??"
And so it goes on.
In a session where it feels like the first 10 minutes were a complete waste of silent time, they usually have to cut half the questions due to lack of time.
But interesting it is.
And answers you get.

InnovationInnovation Challenge

This year, for the first time, I will participate in the Innovation Challenge. I am really looking forward to this full day of working together with other CRM developers and consultants supervised and guided by ten MVPs from around the world.
It is quite scary, on one hand, to be put in this company of experts trying to perform and deliver and measure up to the collective expectations.
On the other hand, it is very inspiring to get the chance of doing something (yes, "something", I have absolutely no idea today what we will be doing tomorrow) at this level and in this company.

Fiction

Then, of course, there is Mario and Liugi. But I think, this year, they will be replaced by Jabba, Han and perhaps Chewbaka….

Language barriers

pardonYes indeed, English is the native tongue of the entire IT business. But that does not mean it is the native tongue of all IT people. Not even all CRM people elected to do presentations at eXtremeCRM.
I consider myself quite fluent in understanding English. I have worked in IT with people from Finland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Australia, US and a few more, recently even India. It usually works out quite well. Even if our closest neighbors in both geography and linguistics (Denmark and Norway) really have to improve as they are generally the hardest to understand, things work out.
But do not bet that you will be understanding everything at every session. The hardest sessions are the ones where the speaker feels really confident speaking English… when he really should not feel that.
So he (or she) speaks about a really complex issue that he/she really loves and wants us to learn everything in a session of 45 minutes, so he/she speaks at the speed of light. In Englishish.
With some luck, the presentation is available for download where you can read it later that night, and feel the revelations hitting you.

Moving on

FXB-100w Come to think of it, I am probably moving on from that Swedish way of thinking.
The eXtremeCRM therapy might actually be working.
As a fact, I actually have polished that internal tool and made it public. Of course, not entirely and solely signed by myself. I do it under the flag, or flagship, of an MVP. But I did release the FetchXML Builder. Under the French flag of XrmToolBox.

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