Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

Convergence Wrapup

Funny thing about blogging: the more topics I have to post about, the less time I have to actually write the blog!

With that excuse in mind, let me quickly review my trip to the Convergence conference last week. I was planning on blogging from the conference or from the hotel at night. However, I was swamped running from meeting to meeting at the conference, and our damn hotel didn't offer free Internet access. I don't know why, but I just flat out refuse to pay $9.99 for 24 hours of Internet access at the hotel!

DAY 1 - THURSDAY
We flew into Dallas late on Thursday, and grabbed dinner at the hotel. Nothing too exciting to report. Believe it or not, I think Dallas was colder than Chicago. Uh, remind me again why the conference isn't in San Diego or Florida?

DAY 2 - FRIDAY
Friday was Partner Day at Convergence, and we heard plenty about Microsoft's People Ready vision in the opening keynote. I then hoped over to Brad Wilson's and David Thacher's session on Microsoft CRM. Of course, this is old news by now but they announced that Microsoft CRM now offers a special version of the software that hosting companies can use to rent/host Microsoft CRM on a monthly basis. This hosted version of the software is known as the "Service Provider Edition". Each company can set their own price but based on my research it looks like $80 to $100 per user per month to host Microsoft CRM this way. All good stuff.

DAY 3 - SATURDAY
Saturday was weird because they didn't have any events scheduled until noon, and then they had like 3 or 4 events running concurrently that I wanted to attend. Jim and I got the chance to meet with fellow Microsoft CRM blogger Ben Vollmer, and we loved talking with him. If you look up "straight shooter" in the dictionary, they should have a picture of Ben Vollmer in there. That cat tells it like it is with absolutely no sugar coating!

We also caught up with another blogger: Philip Richardson. Philip has been on the Microsoft CRM product team for just a few months, but amazingly he already knows the entire product inside and out. I'm really excited that he's part of the team working on the next release of Microsoft CRM (code name: Titan). I also enjoyed hearing his theories on liquor versus wine, if you read his blog you know what I am talking about!

Saturday night was the opening reception party. Food was ok (not great), and it was freezing cold but the drinks were just fine. While sniffing around the dessert table, I ran into Microsoft CRM MVP Anne Stanton. Anne also has a great Microsoft CRM blog, and I congratulated her on the great quote she recently received in Business Week.

DAY 4 - SUNDAY

Sunday was great for Sonoma Partners because one of our customers was a featured speaker at two Microsoft CRM sessions. Kristie Reid from Quiznos did an unbelievably great job of presenting to a huge audience and sharing some of the benefits her company received from deploying Microsoft CRM (with our assistance of course). She even plugged Sonoma Partners by name which was nice... but I should have asked her to wear a Sonoma Partners t-shirt for her presentation too!

In addition, the Microsoft CRM product team gave away over 2,500 copies of the Working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 book at the two breakout sessions, and at the Microsoft CRM booth on the Expo floor. If you've seen the book, it is quite massive...so I'm glad that people were willing to carry that beast around the conference all day.

Brad Wilson and David Thacher also made some notable announcements about Microsoft CRM on Sunday, including:

  • There are now over 7,000 companies and 180,000 Microsoft CRM users worldwide (running in 22 different languages)
  • Microsoft CRM to Microsoft Dynamics GP (Great Plains) integration RELEASED
  • Microsoft CRM Mobile Edition RELEASED
  • Next major release of Microsoft CRM, Titan, will be "this time next year"

The three main design themes of the Microsoft CRM Titan release will be:

  • Multi-tenancy (handling multiple Microsoft CRM deployments on a single server)
  • Multi-language (supporting multiple languages in a single deployment)
  • Even tighter integration with Microsoft Office 2007

Sunday night was fun because we attended a Microsoft CRM customer reception and a lot of the CRM product team was there. While we were writing the book, we traded a lot of email with these people so it was great to finally meet some of them in person. In addition, I got to meet the Microsoft CRM "Freak" blogger! I admit that I didn't know what to expect about him because of his nickname, but he is a really nice and sharp guy.

DAY 5 - MONDAY
Bill Gates gave the keynote first thing in the morning, and it was awesome. Of course the work-related stuff was interesting, but some of my personal highlights from his speech:

  • Bill telling the story about how his six year old son likes to price out cars and options on the Ford website. Little does that kid know that Bill could probably buy every single car that Ford makes!
  • I liked hearing about Bill's involvement with the Gates Foundation. He is focusing on two key problems: 1. Global health 2. Education. He spoke quite a bit about what they are doing with high school education and it sounds promising.
  • Bill gave a "future" demo, which included some of the coolest possibilities of what work might be like in 5 or 10 years. I REALLY like the monitors of the future that he showed.

Just before we left to go home, we sat in on a Microsoft CRM Titan focus group, and we got to meet another Microsoft CRM MVP and blogger: Larry Lentz. I've been reading Larry's Taco Talk blog for a while, so I enjoyed chatting it up with him. Of course we had to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements to participate in the Titan focus groups so I can't talk about the details of the meeting content. However, I can say that the Titan release will absolutely rock! Version 3.0 is great, but Titan will be head and shoulders above any of the competition in the CRM space.

Overall, we had a great time at Convergence, met a lot of great people and learned some new stuff.