Day 2 at the 2013 Dynamics GP Technical Airlift seemed a lot less busy. Not in the sense of fewer people attending, but in the sense of less rush, less overload. Chalk it up to a better night's sleep the second night (and chalk that up to less socializing last night, haha, no correlation there I'm sure!).

Today was a mixed bag of sessions for me, once again, partaking in some developer sessions and some consultant sessions.  I must admit yesterday I wished I could clone myself as I would have loved to see 2 or 3 more of the things yesterday, where today I had trouble selecting sessions because not as many stuck out as obvious “must attend” ones to me.

One funny story I forgot to share in yesterday's post. Somehow at last evening's welcome reception a small group of us got talking about names, and spelling and language.  I said I always forget when I'm in the US, to pronounce “Z” correctly.  Out of habit, whenever anyone asks my name to fill out something, like checking into a hotel, I always say my name, then spell my name. Not sure why, I probably don't even realize I do it, it is so automatic. Anyway, out of habit, I spell it out, K U N T “Zed”.  Then I nearly immediately remember where I am and correct myself to say “Zee”. So I was relating this story, and one of the guys asked me “What's Zed?”.  I'm thinking he's just never heard that Canadians pronounce Z as “zed”.  So I just explain, “zed” in Canada is “zee” here. Then he asks, “What's Zee?”. At this point we're all laughing, and start reverting to A, B, C to explain the alphabet to him, jokingly of course. (and if you fail to see why that's funny, maybe you just had to be there!).

Opening Session

There were six more sessions today, starting with a general opening session. The keynote speaker was John O'Donnell, a Windows Phone evangelist.  It was a good presentation, but in my opinion, a little too much Windows Phone content for me. It sounded like it was intended to be more about the apps and app stores and future possibilities for GP apps in the future, but it came across to me as really just about Windows Phone history. No offense at all to John, he was clearly invested in the technology, and the history and that was clearly evident; for me it just missed the mark a little.

A couple of nuggets from there that I did take away though, he talked about the concept of live tiles as well as the concept of panoramic displays (multiple screens that you swipe left or right for more info, if I understood it correctly).  He mused about how that might be used on a GP home page in some manner in the future (one or the other or both, they are not necessarily connected concepts).  Live tiles in particular I could see on a home page easily, with live content instead of graphs and KPIs.

Breakout Sessions

Here are the sessions I attended and some thoughts and take-aways on those:

  • Dashboards for Dynamics GP:This was presented by Jared Hall and it was well done overall. He showed off some very cool features in Excel 2013 that I definitely want to check out, things you might never notice if you didn't know about it (Flash Fill for instance).  It beats the heck out of LEFT, MID and RIGHT formulas!  There were a couple of disappointing things in that session for me. One was there was little demonstration of building an actual dashboard except at the end (he did build one in 6 minutes though, pretty cool!). I would have liked more hands-on of this as that was the title of the presentation.  The second thing was more of a pet peeve: a couple of times he referenced the crowd with phrases that indicated he thought we were customers (“you'll impress your boss with this”).  No offense to Jared, but I would think he'd know it's a partner conference, not a customer conference.
  • Dexterity & Services: This was the first session I didn't attend the entire session… nothing to do with the quality of the presentation but the content was WAY over my head and it was beyond my even attempting to distill it into what I could understand.  It was going through using SanScript vs using .Net to use web services. I hope the content was useful, I definitely knew I wasn't the target audience when I sat in on it, so I'm sure lots of developers were happy to get some hard core code content!
  • GP BI for Developers: This one was one of the sessions where the alternative session offerings didn't seem as interesting to me content wise, so I sat in it to see what it might cover. Unfortunately, it seemed like a lot of the content was repeat of the Dashboards session Jared had, except for a deeper dive into Word Templates. I was left hoping for some more “new” stuff for this one…
  • Advanced Excel: This was an excellent session, presented by Belinda Allen.  I really enjoyed this even though a good chunk of the content was not new to me.  Some of the cool things I learned were: double clicking on excel reports or data connections in the navigation list view of Excel Reports deployed, opens it in Excel; creating a Microsoft query (*.qry file), saving it and creating a shortcut in Shortcuts in GP, opens in Excel (neat!); a couple of neat formula tricks for Period and Week Number that I didn't know existed; and of course the PowerPivot stuff which she did a great job of demo'ing was all new to me.
  • SQL Skills for Consultants: Another excellent session, presented by Steve Endow and Christina Phillips, was a great way to end the day.  I really love the “immediately useful” sessions where you can go home and use this stuff right away. This was one of those. Again, using SQL a lot, a good chunk of the content was not new for me but there were again lots of new things I didn't know that I know now!  The two of them really presented well together and did a great job of keeping it light. Some of the new things I learned: look at including “with (nolock)” on select queries to avoid locking up tables unnecessarily; some better ways of using Left Outer Join with “where xyzfield is null” (I used to use “where not in” but I think this method is better than mine); Common Table Expressions (CTEs) – way cool; using “with ties” in Top N selects (who knew?); something about a Covering Index I want to research more; ROWNUM and PARTITION functions (commands?); and finally a PIVOT command that I knew existed but have never gotten the syntax correct to make it work.

That's it for now… now time for some socializing and some dinner!