This week we have another of the new CRM MVP’s and today it’s Adam Vero from the UK.
Adam Vero has given himself the grand title of CRM Master and he has a blog called CRM Guru, so it’s good that Adam is CRM MVP and has the knowledge to back up his titles.
Why CRM “guru”?
There are various definitions of the term”guru”. The common themes are that a guru should be a teacher, one who imparts wisdom and knowledge to others, or in some cases a leader as well. One possible etymology is that a guru is “one who dispels the darkness of ignorance”. Through the articles in this blog I certainly hope to use the experiences I have gained as a Dynamics CRM consultant and trainer to enlighten others, and to shed some light on features available and best practices of using the software to get the most out of it.
I am certainly not using the term “guru” to claim that I am the greatest expert on the subject (that is for others to judge), but that I intend to use my knowledge to help others, just as I have learned so much from those who have done things before me.
I did say to Adam I was jealous of his title and I wanted a simliar title for myself but Adam like the great teacher he is informed me I already have a grand title
and that ladies and gentlemen is why Adam is the CRM Master (of the universe)
Adam has contributed more comments on my blog then any other person and his comments I usually find very insightful because it’s usually pointing out something I have got wrong or adding some additional information. Sometimes the hole’s in my blog post can force Adam to write whole blog posts on stuff I missed.
like this excellent blog post, which is a classic example of a CRM MVP doing a deep dive on a subject
talking of Adam’s blog he recently wrote another really useful one
An interesting fact about Adam is he helped write some of the excellent MOC material for CRM, so when you are studying for the CRM 2013 certifications, remember to thank Adam for writing excellent documentation and then curse him for making it so long.
Adam organizes the UK CRM User Group (CRMUG) meetings!
Thanks for Adam for answering my questions
If you want to read previous CRM MVP Q&A by clicking the link on the header – HOSK’S CRM MVP Q&A
QUESTIONS and ANSWERS
Name, current job title and social media links please
Owner of Meteor IT and co-founder of CRM Masters
What does an average day at work look like
It can vary a lot, from on-site meetings for discovery and business analysis, to working remotely on customer systems to customise and build out their CRM environment. I spend some time writing training materials, and other days I will be in the classroom delivering Microsoft Official Courseware (MOC) courses for learning partners as an MCT.
What different roles/Job titles have you had whilst using CRM
Consultant, trainer, project lead, depending in the project and the requirement – often all three at once.
What job did you did before you starting using CRM
I’ve been in IT for 20 years: teaching school-age kids, programming (we didn’t call it development in those days!), technical sales and service delivery for blue chip customers, systems administration and IT management for a large law firm.
Along the way I picked up various skills around process re-engineering and specification of software to manage these processes, which later I came to fall back on when I started working with CRM.
As an IT manager and later in my consultancy practice, I worked on many projects involving substantial change management and user training, especially during company mergers (always a political minefield). This has helped me to figure out how to ask the right questions and propose pragmatic, workable solutions using CRM that users can easily and willingly adopt.
What was the first version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM you worked with and how long have you been using Microsoft Dynamics CRM
CRM 4.0, about 6 years ago now, when it was just out. My first project was for 120 users across marketing, sales and service, so a pretty complex system with lots of ongoing incremental changes to rollout over the best part of a year – talk about being in at the deep end!
How do you stay up to date with the CRM
With difficulty, given the rapid pace of changes and new releases. I have over 70 blogs in my Outlook RSS feed, which I try to keep on top of using saved searches to show me the most recent, unread posts only. This is also useful as an offline archive so I can easily search for something I know I have skim read once before, when I get to a situation where I need it.
I try to travel by train when I can and this gives me a chance to catch up again, but usually leads to me opening loads of links to further reading.
Twitter is great for pointing to even more stuff to read. When I have fewer deadlines to meet, I can spend as much as 10% of my time reading up on new features or neat ways to “out think” CRM to achieve interesting results.
How do you find time to contribute to the CRM community whilst doing your job
I’ve always given back to the community in different roles – in the past I have done loads of stuff with Windows security, active directory and group policy and was active in that arena, I am a MS Office Master Instructor and spend a lot of time in the Office forums too.
In particular in my early days with CRM I could not have dealt with some of the challenges I had without other people’s efforts in forums, blogs and other ways of sharing information. That stuff meant I could do the job and at least get to go home on time sometimes. So now I make a point of trying to do the same to give something back.
Luckily as my own boss, I get to call the shots and spend time online, as well as organising the UK CRM User Group (CRMUG) meetings, which run as whole day events, three times a year now.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a successful career in Microsoft Dynamics CRM?
Choose a path that plays to your strengths. If you are a people person, look at the business analysis and functional consulting end of the spectrum, if more technical then maybe you want to spend more time installing, customising or supporting. And of course if you have a beard and sandals then stick to writing code.
What where your first impressions of CRM 2013 and what do you think now.
“This will really upset some of my customers” – it’s a lot of change to take in all at once. I do lots of migrations and people were just getting nicely used to CRM, to the point where they would not want to go back to their old systems (in a “Daz doorstep challenge” kind of way), then they had to start all over again.
I still think this is the case, but there are lots of compelling reasons to upgrade (for me, Quick View forms alone is a huge one). For new customers this is much less of an issue, and I think the learning curve is possibly slightly less than for 2011. This assumes you have built a well thought-out system – including customising the SiteMap to optimise where things are, and maybe reached for Ribbon WorkBench to prioritise the buttons shown in the Command Bar for some entities.
What one feature would you add to CRM 2013
Off the top of my head, either field level security for at least some system fields, or the ability to customise the behaviour of composite address fields (for example to include custom option set fields or lookups that are often used to replace things like country and state).
Most annoying feature of CRM 2013
The big change of emphasis to how Leads are used, how Leads are qualified (and the lack of control and customisability of that process), and the fact that there is a strong shift towards B2B scenarios.
You favourite 2 CRM blogs (I have filled the first one in for you)
Hosks Dynamic CRM blog
Probably Jukka’s Surviving CRM at http://www.niiranen.eu/crm/ for all round range and depth of topics.
What year will Microsoft Dynamics CRM have more customers than Sales force
I don’t know, and genuinely don’t care. Don’t get me wrong, I love Dynamics CRM, but in a growing market I think Microsoft should be more focused on growing the customer base by delivering a quality product so that the vibrant ecosystem of partners and ISVs can deliver great end-user experiences, and not looking over at what “the other guy” is doing all the time.
Are you doing more CRM projects with CRM online? Do you think it will all be online in the future
I’ve been doing a mix of online and on-premises over the last few years. I think there is a shift to online for some new customers, but many conversations I have are with people that for one reason or another just won’t move into the cloud. The lack of control of the ever faster release cadence and the need to constantly test, retest and retrain users is usually the biggest perception problem.
What is the best tool/solution you have used recently
I probably could not do my job without http://XRMToolbox.codeplex.com/ – I can do things that would otherwise take way too much time and effort, and in budget conscious projects would probably therefore get pushed out of scope. There are so many great tools in there it’s probably cheating though, like claiming a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman as you favourite “single” tool.
What CRM certifications do you have, do you try and keep up to date with CRM certifications
I passed exams for CRM 4.0, then 2011 and now have two of the core three for 2013 under my belt. For me it is a way to validate my own skills to make sure that when I sit in front of a client and propose a particular solution I am comfortable it is the right way to go.
I have to stay current because as an MCT I can only teach Dynamics MOC courses for which I have passed the related exam (there is a grace period of six months after each exam comes out where prior versions count).
Preparing to train people I find is always a good way to learn a subject thoroughly. Last year I was lucky enough to be the lead author on the Customisation course for 2013 which was a great way to force me to really get to grips with the new release and investigate how features worked which at that point were not even fully documented (although the Implementation Guide now has some great topics from a customisation point of view).
How important is it to have good business analytical skills working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Very important. Even if you are not involved directly in the customer-facing, discovery part of a project, I think you need to be able to understand the business drivers behind a set of requirements. This may help you to propose a more practical way to achieve an objective, or at least to understand why that pesky functional consultant has requested that you customise or develop something in a particular way. Equally you may be able to ask the one question that makes a big difference in the approach you take, and avoids you developing down a blind alley that later need a complete redesign to take into account a change of direction that you might have been able to anticipate.
How useful is it to have programming knowledge to become a good Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional?
It depends on the role.
As a lead consultant I have often worked closely with developers, although I don’t write code myself. I can usually ask them the right questions, and equally answer theirs to get the best out of what they can bring to a project. I try to encourage dialogue to avoid them simply developing whatever I first suggested – if they can see a roadblock, or suggest a different angle, I want to understand their reasoning and work out the best approach. So I find it useful to at least understand some of the limitations they are working with, and know in advance what I think is feasible and what will be inherently difficult or complex, even though I can’t actually do what they do.
I also find that having done some programming in my dim and distant past (as a hobby, then as a job), the discipline of breaking something down into small logical parts and building them back together to a whole solution is a useful skill in analytical thinking. I often find the edge case or corner case in a scenario to ask the customer “so what do you do if this comes up…” because I am thinking about all the logical paths in a process and see the gaps in what they have defined, just like learning to trap errors.
In other roles, I am sure you could be a great business analyst, or trainer without knowing any of this dirty “code” stuff, as long as you have someone on the team to broker that conversation.
What knowledge/experience do you have with software/systems which integrate with Microsoft Dynamics CRM e.g. (sharepoint, SQL Server, Scribe, Etc)
I spend a chunk of my career in systems admin, so had to look after Windows, Exchange, SQL and so on, as well as network infrastructure. Of course, this knowledge gets out of date as new versions come along, but again, as with programming, it allows me to ask the right questions of the right people when I need to, and to understand their answers (and questions) too. This kind of background helps with things like ADFS / IFD since there is so much reliance on basics like certificates, split DNS, and so on, whereas someone coming from a DBA or development background may struggle more with this.
I wish I had more in-depth knowledge of SQL server to be able to do a better job of optimising performance for high-volume environments, but there is only so much time to become expert in so many things.
How often do you travel as a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional?
Every month, but not every week.
Can you see yourself not using CRM in your career in the future
I guess “never say never”, but right now I see no reason to want to move away. I like the variety it brings, since every customer’s business is different and every project is a fresh start, but using familiar pieces.
What is favourite part of being a CRM MVP
Knowing that I will get a chance to voice my customers’ feedback directly to the product team, and hopefully getting a slightly longer lead time on seeing new features coming down the line to get up to speed ready to use them in the next project, or be able to write training materials to help others keep up with the release cycles too.
What are your hobbies outside of CRM
I like to cook, and I do a bit of home improvement here and there, but with two young kids they keep me busy enough.
What was the last book you read and what was the last film you watched
I’m currently reading “:59 Seconds” by Richard Wiseman, and last week took the kids to see the Lego Movie.
Has CRM ever got you in trouble with your partner/family.
Not CRM itself, but when project deadlines approach and the hours spent on final snagging lists go up, this can inevitably put a strain on others in the house.
Have you friends ever told you to stop talking/tweeting/blogging about CRM? What does your partner/family member(s) think of CRM
No, I realise that most of my friends and family are not in the slightest bit interested. My wife is very generous at letting me talk at her sometimes if it will help me figure out the answer to a problem.
Tell me something interesting/unusual about yourself
I came 8th in the Cub Scouts district chess championship when I was 8. I was really pleased because reaching the quarter finals that meant I got a certificate, which I still have to this day. Maybe this set me on the path of wanting to validate my skills and get certificates for it. (By the way, I am not a very good chess player, and much prefer backgammon.)
Who is the first CRM MVP you remember reading/seeing
Probably Richard Knudson is the first I remember avidly following, and I learned a great deal of what I know about Workflows from his DynamicsCRMTrickbag blog.
Tips for someone who wants to become a CRM MVP
Visit the forums, and find a “how do I…” question you don’t immediately know the answer to (especially one that is unanswered after a few days). Reproduce the scenario, build a working solution, and test it out for yourself. Write up the answer, and if it merits it, turn it into a more detailed article on your own blog. Repeat.
Write about things that others are not covering, look in more depth at a feature, and give people a step-by-step guide on how to do something unusual.
Carve out a niche. Become the “go-to” guy or gal for ADFS, or Workflow, or security, or Business Process Flows, or the new 2013 sales process, or the Dynamics Connector. This will get you noticed without you having to make much noise.
Quickfire questions (choose one option and no explanation)
Steve Jobs or Bill Gates
Certifications or Use CRM
twerking or tweeting
Tweeting (in Yorkshire, t’werking is what you do at t’office)
books or ebooks
save or autosave
OnLine or On Premise
Windows 7/Windows 8/Linux/Mac/Other
work from home or work from office
Miley Cyrus or Billy Ray Cyrus
Zero Inbox/Overflowing Inbox
Early Bird/Night Owl
Do Today/Do Tomorrow
CRM Developer/CRM Consultant
Hot Weather/Cold Weather
Half Full/Half Empty