A continuation of the first part of my articles on the GP2013 Web Client, this goes through some of the other training things that were covered that are installation related. Some of the things in this article are:
Tuesday was the unofficial first day of the conference for me with the agenda being one of two things for those who chose to come a day early. There was a sales presentation for those on the business development side and there was technical training on the web client for the rest of us.
Generally you have to pay for training but due to the importance of this product release and the new content, Microsoft put this training on for free – which was awesome. They really want to make sure the Partner channel is informed and ready for the web client specifically, and understand the “stack” dependencies to be able to troubleshoot it when it does release.
… Otherwise known as OMG it’s already July???? I talked to two clients today and yesterday about this and both of them forgot too… so apparently I’m not the only one not paying attention to time these days!
Yes, I, too, fell into the trap this year of letting time merrily fly by without realizing I didn’t blog about the Cdn Payroll tax updates for mid year.
So, now to the not-so-new-news! Yes there is mid-year 2012 tax update as there is every year, and this year the provinces affected are: Ontario and Nova Scotia.
There is only one bug fix in this update which is for Quebec employees, QPIP exceeding the maximum limit based on rounding in certain situations. I don’t know much about that one, that’s just what’s in the notification email I got when the update was published.
(updated with more information Sun March 25, 2012)
You read that correctly! Microsoft has decided to change the way they work with some of their utilities and tools. Previously there were charges to get access to tools or utilities like Customer Modifier and Customer Combiner (and Vendor, Account, Item etc.). On the partner side, we had to purchase those outside of the normal ordering processes (they weren’t “modules” like ordering something like Integration Manager was). They want to streamline that to eliminate some of their Direct Billing policies and that means Dynamics GP customers win!
Yesterday I went golfing, and it was the first day that really had that “autumn turning to winter” feel about it. It was about 8 degrees Celcius when I teed off, and yes, I froze my backside off in the process. But the sun came out and gradually I only needed 3 layers to keep warm. ; ) (Such is life in Canada when you want to golf in October!)
October 1st also is a new season business-wise: the new Microsoft partner requirements officially begin. For my firm, that means I officially do not meet the requirements to be a reseller anymore. This isn't new, it hasn't “crept up” or caught me off-guard… no, partners have been well aware of the changes for many months now.
Am I disappointed? Yes and no. When I started, I was really proud to be a full Microsoft Dynamics GP reselling partner… I had customers who wanted to work with me, and only me, and they switched VARs to demonstrate their committment to my business as I had to theirs over the years. Little did I know when I started, how difficult it is to be a small fish in a big pond. Systems are heavily geared towards larger partners, particularly on the business transaction side of things. I've grown to realize that doing business with firms where I'm such a blip on the radar is not fun, and it's not easy. If you don't have a partner service plan or credit terms, it just takes a lot of back and forth to get business transactions done unfortunately.
Overall it's been interesting, from a business perspective, dealing with Microsoft and a few third party ISV vendors. I don't regret my decision to become a reselling partner in the first place… it's had its share of hassles but I've learned a few things.
Focussing on the future…
I've been living and breathing Microsoft Dynamics GP, Great Plains, eEnterprise, whatever you call it, for over 12 years now and losing my “reseller” partner status is not going to affect that. I've spent FAR too much time with this product to change careers. For all of my venting at Microsoft or others in terms of doing business with them, their products are great, they are well positioned in the marketplace, and they have a tremedous team of people behind the product many of whom I've met over the years and I know they really care about making GP better.
I'll still be a “consulting” partner which gives me access to everything I've really needed. Heck, software was 4.6% of my revenue last year – mostly enhancement revenue at that… hardly worth fighting over. I'm working with a great small GP reseller who is small enough to be a good partner for my firm to work with on the software side of things and large enough that they don't have to constantly worry about meeting new partner requirements. That will allow me to give my clients a quality combination of two solid firms with years of experience to support them in both software and services over the years. I'll give up a little on the software revenue side of things but in the end, the winner will be my clients… and at the end of the day, that's the only thing that matters!
The mid year tax update is posted for GP10 and
coming soon for GP2010. Changes are only (so far) for Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.
New this time around: this is only the Canadian changes. At the end of June there will be a hotfix which will contain US tax changes and other bug fixes. You only have to install the tax update if you are in the jurisdictions involved – the hot fix in June will be cumulative and will contain the tax updates PLUS the regular bug fixes that normally would be in one service pack.
Here is the download link for GP10.
Here is the download link for GP2010.
Edited: June 9th – added download link for GP2010.
At long last I’m back, and aim to get back to regular weekly (if not more frequent) blogging!
First topic, last week I installed GP2010 SP2 (aka R2) at a client site and all was fine. That is, until I was doing some unrelated work in Report Writer, and was getting an error message when coming back into Dynamics GP.
I had some trouble finding this specific error but did find a post on the partner technical forums with the same problem, from a couple of months ago, that had gone dormant. I updated the post with my information, adding to the original poster’s info, and it turns out it is indeed a bug.
The errors are specific to the following situation, in GP2010 R2 (11.00.1752)
- You have Extender installed
- You go into Report Writer or Modifer during your session of being logged into GP
- You go back from RW or Modifier into Dynamics GP and receive one if not two errors
- You get a similar error when exiting Dynamics GP – but ONLY if you had been in RW or Modifier during your GP session. (No error if you never go into RW or Modifier)
The first error is pictured below (top is the error, bottom is scrolling down to the rest of the text). It is an unhandled script exception error:
“Illegal Address for field ‘[Not Found]’ in script ‘Unregister_Triggers’.”
Scrolling down further is:
The second error occurs immediately after the first one AND when you exit Dynamics GP if you had been in RW or Modifier during your session. Another unhandled script exception.
“Object has no reference.”
Scrolling down further
There appears to be no impact on the functioning of Extender or Dynamics GP. I didn’t do a TON of testing but what I did test, nothing seemed impacted by the errors. The fact that there are no errors unless you go in and out of Report Writer or Modifier tell me they are not errors in functioning of the modules themselves but something else.
Microsoft has written this up as a bug and hopefully it would get resolved in SP3 assuming they can determine the cause.
UPDATE: December 6, 2011 – this is resolved in KB2599505 (aka US Payroll 2011 Year End Update service pack)
I noticed Microsoft posted a date extension on Partnersource to obtain the new certification requirements. It was posted on April 1st, so in light of that being April Fool's Day, I didn't want to get sucked into some bad prank and looked again today at the information.
Well, the joke's on me, it's real! The original deadlines were to be this coming May 1st, now it's been moved to October 1st. For me that is great news, the only thing better would be the elimination or reduction of some of the minimum requirements, like say SQL exams, multiple people or minimum revenues.
For customers (& sometimes for partners too), the changes are not always clearly communicated. Most customers have no idea of the changes and if they are affected.
What is changing?
The requirements for being a GP reseller were one or more people (employees or consultants) combined to hold GP Financials and GP Install/Config exam certifications. The requirements now, and being enforced as of this October, are:
- 2 or more people (employees or consultants) combined exams of the below items
- GP Financials exam
- GP Install/Config exam
- SQL Server Implementation & Maintenance exam (SQL2005 or SQL2008)
- 1 of those people must have also passed the Implementation Methodology exam
After meeting these, there are also increasing revenue requirements which all but guarantee that small partners, even if they can obtain the certifications, may not be able to maintain the revenue requirements each year without adding new customers.
Once you get those requirements, you maintain eligibility to be a reseller, but still are not considered a Silver or Gold ERP Competency partner… the requirements there are even higher. I have no issue with the significant requirements for the ERP competency levels of Silver and Gold. The old Certified Partner and Gold Certified Partner requirements were too low a bar… everyone, unless you were small like myself, was Gold (it seemed), so there was no way to distinguish between partners that way IMHO.
I had achieved the old requirements and am currently a GP reseller. Under the new requirements though, different story, and the extra time will help me determine if this is the right focus for my business. The new minimums, when I factor in the revenue requirements, make it unlikely that I will be a reseller for long.
The impact of the changes
What is happening now is a lot of “partner aggregators” are popping up. These are nothing more than a bunch of small people like me, and other independent consultants who didn't have the certs to be a reseller by themselves, joining forces to be one larger partner. Combined all the people meet the certification requirements together, and all share access in Partnersource and have ability to sell to their clients. My concern with this is it's artificial: sure, on paper they meet the criteria as a reseller partner but in substance they don't go to market as a large entity or otherwise act like a large firm because by definition they are a bunch of individuals, not colleagues that work together in proven ways to deliver results to clients. However, it's a way around the system and if the MPN changes continue to move forward, this will be the new reality. I'm quite certain Microsoft wasn't intending this to be the outcome of their changes!
What I see happening for customers
I see more customers opting to take advantage of their ability to designate a “reseller” partner and a “consultant” partner. If the changes mean fewer larger partners for the software, and the customers are perhaps dissatisfied with the services or attention they get from the largers partners out there, they may look more towards independents like myself for their services even if they continue to keep their VAR reseller as just the software guy.
It's an interesting time for my customers… I have a handful of active clients, only one of which switched over to my firm as a GP client. The other clients are all “customers” of other VARs in the Greater Toronto or Southwestern Ontario area who have chosen to obtain services from me, due to dissatisfaction with the attention or service or skillset from their current VAR. All of them have had conversations with me about switching completely to me, GP wise, and I've been open with them about proceeding with caution while I am not yet meeting the new requirements. I don't want a client to switch to me only to find I can't resell the software to them in a few months – and I've been totally up front and honest with my clients about that. They are happy that I am open with them, and that I am not taking the chance to add to my customer list without them knowing these little details. The customer that did switch to me early on is well aware that I may end up helping them identify a new local VAR for reseller status only, at the point when I no longer meet the requirements… they went in with eyes open and fully aware that it may be temporary.
Know your rights
My last word on this subject is customers should know they do have choices and a little known fact is they have the ability to designate in essence two partner firms on their Dynamics account – a reseller and a consultant. Of course, it's no surprise that most people out there are unaware of this, why would a partner tell their customer this?
Today is day 3 in Fargo, and the majority of the day is wrap up and some chances for the vendor sponsors to present their wares. The room is emptying gradually as the day progresses as people are heading to the airport to catch their flights.
This is mostly some observations of the overall conference and a wrap up of my own.
I'm very much a “put a name to a face” kind of person. I'm fortunate to have a lot of contacts in the GP community both Microsoft and others but there are many whom I either have never met personally or just don't get a chance to see except at conferences like this.
This week I had a chance to catch up with some Microsoft folks who I have had contact with over the years – Terry Heley, an escalation engineer who I get a lot of payroll scoop from throughout the year, and Jodi Christianson, who is now in pre-sales but I've known her since she did a training course in Toronto many years ago for Project Accounting.
I met some fellow bloggers, including David Musgrave, Mariano Gomez, Leslie Vail and Steve Endow. There may even be others here that I haven't run into yet, but it's neat to get a chance to talk shop with others who also share their knowledge and in most cases have been pioneering the GP blogging LONG before I have been doing it.
How cool is it to be sitting here at a session, catching up on blog posts, reading Mariano and David's blogs and they are sitting right in front of me while I read them? Neat stuff… a bit surreal. As I write this, David is writing another blog, so I'm keeping my eyes on my blog links for when it's posted to read it.
Learning new stuff
I'm not sure if this is a Canadian thing but I'm reminded of the Mastercard “priceless” commercials. If you haven't seen them, they go something like this: Flight to Fargo: $435. GP Tech Conference: $500. Learning the upcoming GP features first: Priceless!
I love to learn. People who know me, know I can soak this stuff up all day every day. I think that is part of being a geek… it's not the pocket protectors and bad glasses, it's the sitting at a computer all day at work, being glued to your smartphone on your way home to stay in touch, and then spending all night on the computer or tablet or smartphone again, constantly learning, researching, and looking up new things. That's me in a nutshell!
Seeing new places
Part of going to conferences and things like this is seeing new places. Given how cold it was this week, and I'm still getting over a cough and cold, I didn't venture out too much. The furthest I went was to the Sandbag Central for the volunteering I did on Tuesday night. Otherwise I ventured to the West Acres mall across the street, it was the closest source of entertainment without getting into a cab! One of the neat things there was a small Roger Maris Museum which was more of an exhibit than a museum. There was a video room where you could watch a brief video and sit on actual Yankees stadium seats – cool! The glassed in area was tons of memorabilia and a fabulous walk through some baseball history. I love watching baseball and it was neat to dive into this exhibit to soak up some history and learn more about a great baseball player.
Day 3 Content & Wrap Up
Other than the sponsor sessions and presentations this morning, there was another presentation on GP12 and details on the UI changes. It was exciting to see the upcoming changes, although nowhere near final. We can't talk in depth about this stuff, you know, lawyers and things like that. What was cool is among the planned changes are introducing thin client functionality, and the screens they showed us were pretty cool looking. The UI redesign, whenever it happens, for the thin client will be a big improvement to GP!
The Q&A was mostly the usual questions except for a spectacular litany of questions and criticisims around the Partner Network changes, and other related things, from Mark Rockwell of Rockton Software. Kudos Mark for saying some of the things that have been on many of our minds before!
Time to head home
It's nearing the end of the conference and it's time to pack up, wrap up and head back home. For me, I leave Fargo later this aft, about 4:30pm and I will arrive in Toronto, after a stop in Chicago, after midnight tonight E.S.T. It will be a long day by the time I get home (another 45 minute drive from the airport to home). Friday is a rest day fortunately and I imagine I will be sleeping in a little bit!!!
Day 2 at the Dynamics GP Technical Conference in Fargo: It was another long day, with a lot of information presented in the sessions. On the weather side of things, it was quite a bit warmer today vs day 1, which I have come to learn was unseasonably cold for this time of year. Great…. it reminds me of a trip I took to Sault Ste. Marie a few years ago in January where it was the coldest weather on record at the time (and still was the record low temps). I must be blessed! 🙂
I would say today there was not a lot of “new new” content provided, just more details on the same general functionality introduced in the prior day's sessions, where it related to the upcoming R2 release.
The first session I sat through was presented by David Musgrave and Mariano Gomez on Customization Tools. It was a fabulous session looking at how to handle 3 similar customizations using three different tools. First they used purely Dexterity, second was purely Modifier with VBA, and third was a hybrid using Visual Studio Tools for GP, with a little Dex and a modified window with Modifier. It was a very neat way to remind us there are lots of options for customizations and no one tool is always the answer.
Another session I sat through was a deeper dive into SRS reporting for GP2010 R2. The session covered the possible* new features and changes, most notably some of the following items:
- Integrated deployment with Dynamics GP Utilities, instead of having some server tasks and some client tasks to complete.
- Some refreshing of look & feel elements such as visual indicators where a drillback to GP exists and some style changes to reports to make them a little nicer presentation-wise.
- Demos of new mapping functionality in Report Builder 3.0 that is used with SQL Server 2008 R2. Imagine, sales reports by geography, visually showing high and low sales numbers on a map instead of just a graph or report.
- Multi-company reports and how they have accomplished it, looking at some of the background stored procedures to combine data into one report across companies.
* the disclaimer is what we say is not final and the constant reminder to us all in attendance was until you see this in the final product, these features may change! 🙂
GP2010 R2 Overview
I sat through another session with more of a general overview of the upcoming R2 release, not just the BI tools. We got a chance to see in a little more detail how some of the following items are coming along (same disclaimer applies!):
- A clean up of the Reporting Tools Setup window, less clunky and better organized data
- Excel Builder will have multi-company abilities as well as an option to bulk-deploy excel reports
- Navigation List performance (speed) improvements are coming – SIGNIFICANTLY improved load times! Yay!
- Email message setup changes, more in depth details of the ability to add data fields to message ID's
- Adding email options to the Report Options windows on any report, where users want to email a report to someone instead of printing (or printing to PDF and emailing manually).
- More details on the Word Template Generator showing just how nice it will be to convert ANY Report Writer report to a Word Template. Wow, am I ever looking forward to that functionality!
- Smartlist Builder gets an upgrade with a column ordering tool, no more having to re-order columns in Smartlist afterwards, for default smartlists created by Smartlist Builder!
- Extender gets a minor tweak with the ability to copy list values from one field's list to another.
Last was a session relating to Management Reporter. I've seen it before but haven't gotten really hands-on very much yet. It was good to see the differences between MR and FRx, where the improvements are and what isn't changed. Here are the things I found interesting:
- It's now native 64bit, built on the .net platform and C# with the data stored in SQL. No more G32 and F32 files!
- User setup includes security more similar to GP Security – role based
- The report viewer no longer uses the cheesy green drill icon! Too bad really, there goes my one opportunity to have a little fun during training and make some jokes about the drill.
- The row formats are purely dimension based, and from the looks of it, very easy to use and more flexible than in FRx. It will list your segment descriptions, account categories and any AA dimensions and you can build a row GL link by entering data in any or multiple of those cells.
- The column filtering feature uses the exact same functionality as the row format. No more masking the entire GL account with “?” marks
- Logos are now possible on the report defiinition level (aka catalog)
- Another new feature in columns is the ability to specify a page break. If you're familiar with FRx you know that it will not break naturally width-wise so if you have a wide set of columns, it will try to cram them all in on one page. Eye chart anyone?!!? So this isn't fixed with MR but they threw us a bone – the ability to specify in the column where to page break.
- Report groups are available, an improvement to the FRx chaining feature to print multiple reports together
We got a little bit of insight into the Feature Pack 2 release which will be later this calendar year as well as the roadmap. More to come on those as we get closer.
The end of this session was an interesting discussion on domains being required to install Management Reporter. I had asked the question initially, if that was ever going to change. It turned into quite a hot topic and the end of the session morphed into discussions with the development team who were in the room. The beauty of being at this conference is getting a chance to talk directly to the development team and the product team, with the opportunity to explain a requirement to them directly.
The Night Life!
After yesterday's sessions, there was a reception and expo. It was a great chance to meet others in a more social setting, and talk to more Microsoft folks as well as vendors who were present in an expo setting.
Of course, the Tim Tam Slam was also a featured event at David Musgrave's table. I chickened out completely – wearing a white sweater and trying to suck hot chocolate through a Tim Tam cookie before it disintegrates just didn't seem like a good idea! Keep your eyes on David Musgrave's blog (link above at the top of this article) for more info on this. I was watching him start a blog post with content of one of the participants in the event so I'm sure it will be up and online soon to watch.
EDITS: Updated confusing opening sentence to clarify this is about the second day; added links to other Tim Tam Slam posts.