CRM MVP Question and Answer – Jukka Niiranen

This weeks MVP is from the cold climate of Finland and the when ever I hear his first name of Jukka, I think of the Chaka Khan.  Here join me in singing it in your head

Chaka Khan – I Feel For You – Wow this has been watched nearly 5 million times!

That’s it, now the ear worm is firmly placed into your head

Jukka Khan, Jukka Khan.

Here is a picture of him, so if you are ever in Finland look out for him.

Here are his Rockstar highlights, clearly not many people take CRM 2011 exams in Finland! Jukka has been a CRM MVP since 2013 which I was suprised at because I thought he had been an MVP longer than that, which just shows you have to be on top of CRM game for quite a while before bestow the MVP honour upon you.

Jukka rockstar

Jukka has uploaded himself to the internet, like Voldermort he has split his soul into several parts making it almost impossible to delete him.

Not everyone puts in much on the CRM MVP profile but Jukka’s is very good.

Jukka is the Lead CRM Consultant at CodeBakers, Finland. He started working with Dynamics CRM in 2005, initially on the customer’s side as a project manager for a CRM 3.0 implementation. After managing a development team for global CRM system roll-outs in EMEA & APAC regions and learning the ins & outs of the Dynamics CRM platform while solving real life problem scenarios, Jukka joined a Microsoft partner organization to assume a senior CRM consulting role. With over 10 years of experience on working with customer data management, loyalty programs, direct marketing, campaign management and other CRM processes, Jukka has developed skills for viewing the related information systems through the eyes of the end user and is focused on delivering Dynamics CRM based solutions with high usability to ensure user adoption.
I guess most people will know Jukka from his excellent and detailed blog posts on his blog Surviving CRM
The blog post below I thought were particularly good


Thanks for Jukka for answering my questions and after the recent MVP awards I noticed some new people were awarded MVP status, so I quickly pounced and asked them whilst they were still new and eager and have managed to snaffle a few more CRM MVP’s to be questioned by the Hosk.

If you want to read previous CRM MVP Q&A by clicking the link on the header – HOSK’S CRM MVP Q&A


Name, current job title and social media links please
Jukka Niiranen, CRM Consultant at Digital Illustrated –



blogging on Surviving CRM

sharing Dynamics CRM news on Google+ .

What does an average day at work look like
Looking at my work hour stats from last year, around ⅓ of my time was spent on presales related tasks. The rest is mostly around customer projects, either in delivering new system implementations, upgrades, integrations and new feature development. I do meet with customers quite often, but I try to reserve regular slots for focusing on designing solutions to more complex problems and putting together materials that help in communicating these to both the customers as well as our internal team members.

What different roles/Job titles have you had whilst using CRM
My first experience with Microsoft’s CRM was in the role of an ICT Specialist in charge of managing a CRM 3.0 implementation on the customer’s side. Next I moved to a larger user organization that had an internal CRM development team, where I worked as Internal CRM Consultant, Lead CRM Consultant and finally as Manager, CRM Team.

A few years ago I switched over to the partner side as Solution Manager, then Senior CRM Consultant and currently my business card says Lead CRM Consultant. I’m not sure how descriptive these job titles are of the actual roles and daily tasks, but let’s just say that I’ve had the pleasure of working in positions with a good mixture of responsibility plus freedom to influence my own focus areas in the field of CRM.

What job did you did before you starting using CRM
Contrary to what many of my colleagues and customers usually think, I don’t have any technical degree but rather I came from the business side to the world of CRM. I was working with customer loyalty programs and direct marketing campaigns, i.e. using the CRM systems as an end user before moving into designing and implementing the systems.

What was the first version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM you worked with and how long have you been using Microsoft Dynamics CRM
My journey with Microsoft’s CRM solution began when they released the first version in Finnish language, which was MS CRM 3.0 in late 2005.

How do you stay up to date with the CRM
The online world is full of great information sources for anyone who wants to keep up with the latest turns in CRM, whether it be Dynamics CRM product specific or related technologies and business trends. Over the years I’ve collected around 200 RSS feeds for Dynamics CRM that I regularly read via Feedly. For the breaking news of what’s happening right now I usually get the information via Twitter and the #MSDYNCRM hashtag.

How do you find time to contribute to the CRM community whilst doing your job
I see the community contributions as a way to improve my capabilities for doing my day job. There’s no better way to learn any topic than writing it down and instructing it to others. During the course of my daily activities I usually come across a number of things I’d like to research in more depth and this is the fuel that I use to power my blog posts. It gives me a good excuse to spend more time on any given problem that I’d normally have as a part of a routine assignment in the role of a consultant. As a result of it, I gain far more insight on the topic than I would have if I’d just deliver a point solution to a single customer.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a successful career in Microsoft Dynamics CRM?
CRM today is quite a different ball game than it was 10 years ago, even though we’re fundamentally still working on the same core challenges of managing customer relationships and all the information that revolves around it. While it’s a bit of a cliché to say, both the technology and the behavior of customers and system users is changing at an ever increasing pace and it’s unlikely to slow down anytime soon. In order to be successful in your career that touches Dynamics CRM in some ways, you’ll need to learn how to embrace that change.

Instead of longing for tried & tested patterns with familiar applications and tools, develop the skills and learn the habits that will allow you to survive in this world of uncertainty that doesn’t have any single right answer to a specific problem. Don’t just “do CRM”, rather try and challenge your own perceptions of what CRM actually is by keeping your eyes and ears open to what others are doing with the same technologies.

What where your first impressions of CRM 2013 and what do you think now.
When the new UI was revealed back in Spring 2013, it really did bring together many of the features previewed earlier in the CRM Online only Polaris release in a consistent and fresh way. Later when the new process management capabilities like Business Rules and Real-time Workflows were introduced this also brought a highly welcome extension to the platform capabilities.

Looking back to the release of CRM 2013 now, it truly feels like a whole new chapter for the product, even if many of the underlying platform components and API’s from CRM 2011 are compatible with the new version. CRM 2013 offers a toolkit for functional consultants like myself to design solutions that are so much more advanced than what was possible just a few years ago, which is why I think the product has a bright future to look forward to.

What one feature would you add to CRM 2013
I work with several devices during the day and always prefer solutions that can be accessed directly from a browser. I’d love to see Dynamics CRM bring the tracking capability of activities available to also environments that don’t run the PC Outlook client, since server side synchronization doesn’t cover all the use cases needed.

Most annoying feature of CRM 2013
I can’t really pinpoint a single feature that would be causing me the most frustration personally. It’s of course not a perfect product for all scenarios and there is plenty of configuration work needed to make the platform behave as a solution that meets the user expectations of specific customer organizations, but that’s just the everyday work that a consultant like myself needs to do.

I guess what I’d most want to see in the product is a more granular level of control being offered to the system customizers for polishing the details in the user experience, since some of the new CRM 2013 features are now more locked down than the previous platform components.

You favourite 2 CRM blogs (I have filled the first one in for you)

1. Hosks Dynamic CRM blog
2. Leon’s CRM Musings

There’s such a wealth of great blogs focusing on the Dynamics CRM features or development side of things that I can’t pick out favorites. Leon’s blog, on the other hand, has consistently delivered interesting insights into a different side of the CRM consulting business that doesn’t get nearly as much coverage in the Dynamics blogosphere. So, if anyone’s thinking of starting their own CRM blog (and why shouldn’t you?), I recommend taking a look at how Leon has managed to turn his own perspectives into a highly enjoyable blog to follow.

What year will Microsoft Dynamics CRM have more customers than Sales force
I won’t give any predictions on if or when Dynamics CRM would possibly pass Salesforce. I think that the most important milestone has already been reached, because effectively there are only 2 solutions out there that most customers view as the potential CRM systems they could adopt and one of them is Dynamics CRM.

Rather than focusing on the rivalry between the two horses, I think the most interesting question to think about would be “who’s gonna be the next challenger?” I doubt we’ve seen the end of innovation when it comes to software that can help companies manage their relationships with existing and potential customers.

Are you doing more CRM projects with CRM online? Do you think it will all be online in the future
If there was no “power of choice” available for Dynamics CRM then it could of course be 100% cloud deployments. However, there are scenarios where an on-premises solution or a domestically hosted server do make a lot of sense from the customer’s perspective, so I wouldn’t say there is going to be a complete end to on-premises deployments within the next few years. Having said that, the cloud certainly is the new default, which means that nowadays you need a good reason for not going with CRM Online, whereas just a while ago it would have been the opposite.

What is the best tool/solution you have used recently
Rather than a single tool, it’s a box of awesome time saving tools that no CRM consultant should be without: XrmToolbox by Tanguy Touzard. I’m sure most CRM folks will have heard of it, but I urge you to also keep up with all the great new additions that Tanguy keeps on releasing into the Toolbox by following his Dynamics CRM Tools blog.

What CRM certifications do you have, do you try and keep up to date with CRM certifications
I previously had the CRM 2011 certifications for Applications and Customization & Configuration. Now that the new version was released, Microsoft Finland was gracious enough to arrange a training bootcamp for current CRM partners to get certified on CRM 2013, so I managed to pass the same exams for the latest version, too (cheers to @fonsell at @MicrosoftOy for making this happen!). I also have a certificate on the SureStep implementation methodology.

Even though certification exams tend to be largely about learning the details in the training materials by heart, I do think they serve as a useful metric for validating a person’s knowledge about the standard application functionality and high level processes. The real skills that a CRM consultant needs will be acquired in the field via real life customer scenarios, but it’s important to have the a thorough understanding of the product you’re working with to be able to recommend the right kind of solutions to the business problems that customers will have.

How important is it to have good business analytical skills working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
This depends a lot on your role in the project, of course. I’d say when you’re working with implementing a system like Dynamics CRM the emphasis on business analysis skills should be quite high. While the product contains a large share of the platform functionality that will be needed for meeting common customer requirements, there aren’t many readymade processes to address the business needs of specific verticals. This is the expertise that someone in the project needs to bring onto the table.

I would further like to stress that it’s not just the industry knowledge that makes a difference between success and failure in a Dynamics CRM implementation project. The general understanding of what information processing challenges users are typically likely to encounter when working with CRM data in the day-to-day tasks of their business roles and how these could/should be solved in a Dynamics CRM based system will be a key ingredient to delivering successful CRM implementations.

How useful is it to have programming knowledge to become a good Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional?
If you’ve got a programming background, you can surely get up to speed with extending Dynamics CRM via custom code solutions quite quickly. However, as I mentioned earlier, I see the no-code side of the product’s capabilities growing at such a remarkable rate that a person with zero programming knowledge can solve a large share of the business problems by just learning how the Dynamics CRM platform works.

Me, I have zero experience on writing code and I’ve managed to do quite alright with leveraging the platform when building solutions. It is naturally beneficial to be able to speak the same language as the developers in your team, but I wouldn’t consider programming knowledge to be a requirement.

What knowledge/experience do you have with software/systems which integrate with Microsoft Dynamics CRM e.g. (sharepoint, SQL Server, Scribe, Etc)
I’ve been more of a power users when it comes to other productivity tools from MS (SharePoint, Excel, etc.) rather than an expert consultant on the topic. I do work with SQL, Scribe and many other applications as a part of the tasks I have within a CRM project, but usually there’s a person more qualified than me who assumes the ownership of configuring these systems. I enjoy learning to use new tools as much as any geek, but I do it mainly to gain an understanding of how they can be used to solve current or future business problems I’ll come across, rather than necessarily being the admin or key user of the systems.

How often do you travel as a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional?
Currently I’m working for a company where all the customers are domestic, with most of them also located in the Helsinki capital region where I live, so there’s fairly little need for overnight travelling.

Can you see yourself not using CRM in your career in the future
At times I do ask myself the question “what comes after CRM?” Not because I would be actively trying to distance myself from CRM (technology or process wise), but mainly to ensure that I don’t lose perspective on the big picture of where CRM fits and what it’s connected to, what else is there around it in the great big world of business technology.

I started my CRM journey over ten years ago and at that time I didn’t really have a clue on where I was going to be by this time, nor how the field of CRM would look like. Whatever I’ll be doing in the next 10 years is equally difficult to predict, so I’m just trying to keep my eyes open on new innovations and opportunities around me, to be prepared for the environment that I’ll find myself in the year 2024, and to keep my mind open to a neverending learning experience.

What is favourite part of being a CRM MVP
It has to be the ability to learn from the collective pool of wisdom that is the current CRM MVP community. Not just all the information they possess but also the perspective that it gives you when reflecting on your own personal work with the problems and opportunities that the other MVP’s encounter and share with you.

What are your hobbies outside of CRM
I’ve always been a music freak that looks to fill up any quiet moments in the day with audio waves that provide stimulation for my brain. In the 90’s I hoarded up a large collection of CD’s from various genres of electronic dance music, but in the past few years I’ve had to let go of these physical artifacts and consume my daily dose of beats via streaming services. As for physical exercise, I always prefer to do it in the outdoors, which means cycling trips during the summer or longer walks in the winter time, with my headphones firmly attached to the ears, of course.

What was the last book you read and what was the last film you watched
The book I’m currently finishing is “Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day” by Todd Henry. The last movie I went out to see in the theaters was “Gravity”.

Has CRM ever got you in trouble with your partner/family.
My partner is very supportive of the work that I do around CRM and I’m very grateful to her about giving me so much space for my own hobby projects around it.

Have you friends ever told you to stop talking/tweeting/blogging about CRM? What does your partner/family member(s) think of CRM
I try my best not to expose my friends or family to the CRM related content that I produce, since it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting for them as it is to me. Sure, occasionally I get requests on not being so “connected” all the time, which is when I have to remind myself of the fact that there are people also outside of the social networks, as strange as it might seem…

Tell me something interesting/unusual about yourself
My backup plan for making a living in case my business studies wouldn’t have landed me a job was to become a truck driver. During my military service in the Finnish Defence Forces I acquired a license for driving 60 ton trucks, but apart from one summer job and occasionally moving a few busses around for a friend, I’ve never had to practice that profession. Up until this date, I’ve actually never even owned a car myself.

Who is the first CRM MVP you remember reading/seeing
It’s difficult to know the exact right answer for this, but I would say Ronald Lemmen must have been one of the earliest CRM MVP’s whose blog posts I regularly came across when searching for answers to questions regarding CRM 3.0.

Tips for someone who wants to become a CRM MVP
Here are five principles that I would give as advice for any Dynamics CRM professional aspiring to be an MVP:

Be active on several different sites/networks/forums. No matter if you’ve got the best CRM blog in the world, having a presence that is limited to a single channel isn’t going to be beneficial for the MVP Award evaluation process.

Be consistent. No one has enough time to be active on all possible channels where Dynamics CRM is discussed, so it’s important to focus your efforts on those where you feel you can regularly contribute content.

Amplify the work of others. Often times you can bring value to the community by simply sharing the best content that you have come across while reading blogs. Become the “filter” that other community members trust for curating the feed of relevant CRM news.

Remember to interact, not just share. The Dynamics CRM community is a relatively small group of professionals spread around the globe, therefore a bit of personal touch in communication can make a big difference.

Measure your impact. Keep track of the community related activities you perform, analyze the stats and feedback, then adjust your actions accordingly. Quantifying the value of your own community contributions isn’t easy, but remember that this is the criteria Microsoft will need to apply when evaluating all the MVP nominations.
Quickfire questions (choose one option and no explanation)

Steve Jobs or Bill Gates
Steve Jobs

Javascript or .NET

Internet Explorer/Chrome/Firefox/Safari

Wine/Beer/Soft Drink

Certifications or Use CRM

twerking or tweeting
For the love of god, tweeting!

books or ebooks

save or autosave
Whichever the app has been designed for

OnLine or On Premise

Windows 7/Windows 8/Linux/Mac/Other
Windows 8

work from home or work from office

Miley Cyrus or Billy Ray Cyrus
Achy Breaky Heart!


Zero Inbox/Overflowing Inbox
Zero Inbox

Early Bird/Night Owl
Night Owl

Do Today/Do Tomorrow
Do Today

CRM Developer/CRM Consultant
CRM Consultant

Hot Weather/Cold Weather
Cold Weather (which we Finns like to call “Summer”)

Half Full/Half Empty
Half Empty, it’s time for a refill!