The first day of any conference, I find you’re spending a bit of time purely getting used to being at a conference again. Where are the rooms? What sessions do I want to see? What did I forget in my room? When are the meals and breaks?

Yesterday was no exception to that… even though I’ve been here many times now, this year the content was split between venues: some at Microsoft and some at the Holiday Inn. That meant logistics, and thinking about your agenda and reason for being here. Day 1 was a logical split (in my opinion) with Sales and Marketing presentations at Microsoft and Consultant and Developer sessions at the Holiday Inn. Personally, I tend to mix and match those two content types. So that worked for me.

There was far more choice this year than I recall having last year. Not including the general session in the morning which all likely attended, nor the evening reception at Microsoft, there were 20 session options at Holiday Inn to choose from during the day and 11 at Microsoft. Some of those were “work room” sessions, where you could go and sit 1 on 1 with someone to work through your specific questions if you wanted to.

General Session

The first session of the day was the only full-group session, right after breakfast. The room was packed with 600+ attendees. Crazy full, every seat at every table full… awesome!

I was an early bird and was fortunate to be joined by several of our more famous Dynamics GP gurus – and Mariano Gomez kindly took a group photo of a bunch of us.

Pam Misialek, Belinda Allen, David Musgrave, Me, Sheila Jefferson-Ross, Leslie Vail

Pam Misialek, Belinda Allen, David Musgrave, Me, Sheila Jefferson-Ross, Leslie Vail

Jesse Byam did a fantastic job of MC’ing the introductions and making a few jokes at the expense of several in the crowd, in a good-natured way of course! My favourite comment was when he was roving around the breakfast line and commented that someone’s breakfast plate was missing something. “Where’s the meat?”… I guess you had to be there!

What we learned: the person in the room who has been in the partner channel the longest was 32 years (and I didn’t get her name!) and David Musgrave won the “longest trip to get here” unofficial contest at 37 hours travel time.

Pam kicked off the general session and the key takeway for me was this was supposed to be different, more hands-on than before, so you can walk away ready to use the information you’ve learned, which is a slightly different focus than previous years. Her analogy was to be like your Personal Trainer, and follow up and kick your a** if you’re not starting to use what you’re learning! (My paraphrasing, I don’t think she said she’d kick our a**es!)

Joe Carroll of Dynamic Partner Connections was next and, among other things, talked about a new independent professional certification for Microsoft Dynamics professionals. This was great news, but to bring it to fruition, we, the partner community, need to be engaged and help – volunteer for a certification committee, be active on the DPC website, get involved. This will be successful if we all collectively make it what we want it to be.

Pam continued and let us know that the GP2015 launch will be more collaborative than ever before. She acknowledged in the past, Microsoft often suffered from the “here it is partners, now go implement”, and this time it has evolved. There will be more webinars, more information via GPUG chapter meetings, preGame at next year’s Convergence, etc.

From there, the general session went into a lot of the new features that have been introduced. There are lots of blogs on the new features coming in GP2015 and the new features that were released in GP2013 R2, so I won’t re-hash those here. It’s too many to list!

Rest of the Day

The remainder of the day there were the usual assortment of breakout sessions. I was slightly underwhelmed by the sessions this time around, which had more to do with me being in the right sessions than the presentations themselves. My favourite session of the day was GP2015 Workflow for Consultants, presented by Jared Hall. For me, this conference is all about learning, and this was the only session on Day 1 that I walked out feeling I had the information to sit down and configure some workflows right away.

I attended something during every time slot except one, where nothing happened to float my boat so to speak… and I checked out the West Acres Mall instead, and my annual trek to the Roger Maris museum! The mall is across the street from the hotel, so it was an easy trek to get some fresh air and get a short walk in as well. Being a baseball fan, this is one of my favourite things to do each time in Fargo, even though the museum is small, and the contents don’t change too often!

Roger Maris Museum

A few of the baseballs he hit for his record 61 home run season.

A few of the baseballs he hit for his record 61 home run season.