Scaling Up – Book Review

If your management is overwhelmed by all the ‘stuff’ that needs to be taken care of, and you want to focus on a few select things that matter most, this book can help you figure out what to focus on first, and how to prioritize the organizing principles in your organization. It takes a LOT of energy and an executive team that is 100% committed to implement though, so make sure that this is the right fit for your organization.

The author, Verne Harnish, runs a consulting company called Gazelles. This company focuses on ‘executive education’, and offers consulting services for growing companies. The book ‘Scaling Up‘ is the companion to Gazelle’s flagship corporate program, which helps owners and CEO’s navigate the growth of their businesses. A Gazelles coach will come in and guide the company to properly organize the pieces, using the book and some other tools, to get that job done. You could certainly just read the book and draw inspiration from it, but the real value comes from the advise you get from the coach.

Scaling Up distills a successful business into four major decision areas: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash. For each of these decision areas, the book describes what they mean, why they are important, and what you can do to optimize each area. The theory is that if you get all four of these areas right, then success will be yours.

The book hits all the major self-evident aspects of modern business (the right people in the right place, everyone is accountable, focus on your niche, don’t get distracted, implement measurable KPI’s, etcetera). What I like about it is that it is structured well; it is very easy to follow but there is a lot of depth in each element of the program.

You can tell that the book is written with extensive experience behind it, but you do need the experience and knowledge of a coach to really understand what is behind the book. As a standalone book you might get a lot of inspiration for structuring your organization, but I don’t think it goes deep enough to really have a lot of value.

I also wanted to mention that Gazelles also organizes a number of events where a bunch of speakers, who all write books in the corporate world, come out and try to capture your imagination, buy their book and hopefully hire them to come help you implement what they write about. I’ve attended the ‘Growth Summit’ once, and I was impressed with the line-up of the speakers, and I was thoroughly inspired to take real action. For all you CEO’s out there – if you could use some inspiration, or if you want to do some real bonding with your executive team, I can definitely recommend attending one of the Gazelles events.

 

Presenting at Directions US 2016

Just today I got word that I will be presenting at Directions US in Phoenix. Neither session has an official name yet but with this information you should be able to find them on the schedule once dates and times are finalized.

First, I’ll present a session about basic best practices for development in Dynamics NAV. Dynamics 365 comes in two flavors. The first is Enterprise Edition, which is based on Dynamics AX. The other flavor is the Business Edition,which is based on Dynamics NAV. Because there are the only two flavors, there is going to be a big influx of Microsoft partners that will need to do development in Dynamics NAV.

Eventually, the goal is to educate partners in how to set up their development practice, and the first step is to learn about some best practices of how to do the actual development itself. This is where my session comes in. Not very exciting stuff for seasoned NAV pros, but if you are a Microsoft partner that wants an introduction into NAV development, this is for you.

The other session will be a panel discussion about the current and future state of the technology for Dynamics NAV. Me and some other MVP’s will be happy to answer any questions you may have, and hopefully have a lively discussion. In my experience, there will be plenty of people in the audience who will have a lot of add to the discussion. These types of sessions are always fun to attend.

This is the view from my office in Flagstaff, AZ. I can’t wait to drive down the mountain in September and meet you at Directions in Phoenix.

Extensions! Extensions! Extensions!

Just a quick post today about something that is probably the most important thing to learn as a NAV developer, which is Extensions.

I remember going to an event where Steve Ballmer did the keynote. It was a technical conference, and he started his talk by almost screaming “DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS!”. It was meant to make the people in the audience, who were almost all developers, like the most important people on the face of the earth. He kept hammering on the point that developers were THE MOST IMPORTANT to Microsoft, and showed us all kinds of evidence that this was the case.

This past year or so has seen a big push toward this new thing in NAV development called ‘Extensions’. Rather than modifying the base code of the product, which is what most of the NAV partner channel is doing for their customers, extensions allows you to create custom functionality without actually touching the base code itself. Coming back from Directions this year, it has become clear that Microsoft is ALL IN on moving NAV development toward extensions. My fellow MVP and good friend Eric ‘Waldo’ Wauters wrote about extensions as well this week, so I won’t bother repeating that part.

What I want you to know about extensions is that as a technical NAV professional it is essential for you to learn about extensions. Your ability to keep your relevance in this industry will depend on whether you are able to effectively use extensions to develop a custom solution for NAV. Apps for Dynamics 365 are only possible with extensions, but it might even become necessary to use extensions for on prem implementations.

I’m signed up for a full day pre-conference workshop at NAV Techdays this year, which will hopefully give me the necessary skills to get that started for me. What are you planning?

Dynamics 365 and AppSource

I read this blog today, and I tweeted about it too. What struck me about the article is how it talks about how Microsoft wants to help you focus on your business while providing a connected set of systems that seamlessly work together for you.

You might have read about ‘Project Madeira’, for instance on Waldo’s blog, or Erik Hougaard’s blog, or many more just like it. Even Marko Perisic, the General Manager for Dynamics SMB wrote about it. Today’s announcement is about where Madeira leads, and it’s called “Dynamics 365” and the new “Microsoft AppSource”.

The landing page for Dynamics 365 is still very confusing to me. There seem to be a lot of products underneath it all, like ‘For Sales’ or ‘For Operations’ and more like that. Then on the pricing page there is another subdivision into  an “Enterprise Edition” and a “Business Edition” where you can play around with some configurations. Now some of those are based on NAV and some of those are based on AX. What always annoys me is that it is not clear at all to figure out what is what. If the Business Edition is based on NAV, how come I can only see a small subset of the functionality?

The part that does seem to be clear is that there will be a store of some sort where you can purchase, and they have called this store “AppSource”, check out this link. They even created a video with one of those supremely irritating cute little Ukulele ditties.

The article goes into some marketing fluff like “Helping customers transform with a new approach to business process” and “technology is transforming our lives”, but overall it does a pretty good job I think to talk about how business processes interact and how you need different systems to execute those processes. There are a lot of moving parts, like PowerBI, Cortana, Office 365, common data model, work flow, and a bunch of other ones. The purpose of the article seems to be that Microsoft is working on putting together a set of cloud solution that can help you put it all together.

Two new names to keep track of: Dynamics 365 and Microsoft AppSource. I’m sure in the months to come there will be a lot of new information about these. If you are a NAV partner, I would certainly consider going to Directions this year, and as an end user I’d look at the NAVUG events.

MVP Award Number 12

Ever since I received my first MVP award back in 2005, July 1st is a day where the first thing I do is check my email. This year I actually did not expect to get the award again, because I have not spent as much time in the community as I would like to this past year.

Wouldn’t you know, there was an email from Microsoft, congratulating me on receiving the 2016 Microsoft MVP Award. This is one of those things that gives me this very strange disproportionate level of pride. There are not many people who receive this award, even though there are many people who spend large amounts of time in the community. Still, to be singled out for this feels strange. A full dozen is pretty good.

I feel very fortunate to be part of this community, it is always a pleasure to meet people in person and talk about we help each other and how we can do better yet.

Registered for Directions US and NAV Techdays 2016

After careful deliberations and weighing of all options, we decided that I will attend two more events this year: Directions US and NAV Techdays. Lucky for me, they are two of my favorite events.

Directions US is organized by and for the partner channel. Partners go here to work on their knowledge, to learn about the latest development in our industry, to see what new products are available, and not in the least to network with our peers in the partner channel. Personally I like this event because there is a minimum of marketing fluff that is directed at the end user, and people are hungry for knowledge.

There were some other people that wanted to go to Directions as well. Because it will be held in Phoenix this year, which is just a 2 hour drive for me, it didn’t take long to pick me to go to this one. It is looking like I might even be able to present a session or two.

 

NAV Techdays is THE premier technical event for NAV professionals. This will only be my second time at this event (why I never went before that is still a mystery to me) but I could not look at a year as a successful one without going to Antwerpen in Belgium.

The content at NAV Techdays is second to none: two days of 90 minute sessions, all deep dives into the most geeky technical topics that you can think of. It would be an absolute honor to present at this event, but I’d have to brush up on my skills a LOT before I’d feel comfortable standing up in front of that crowd.

Before the event itself there are two days of workshops. These workshops are not included in the event price, but they are all well worth the cost of admission. I will be attending “PowerShell – Black Belt” by Eric ‘Waldo’ Wauters and “Deep Dive Eventing & Extensions” by Arend-Jan Kauffmann. I cannot wait to get those started.

See you in Phoenix and Antwerpen!!

NAVUG PHX Chapter Meeting

Today attended the second meeting of the NAVUG Phoenix chapter, which was held at the Microsoft office in Tempe. The picture is the view from the conference room there, and it is not a bad place to work if you ask me.

We had maybe about a dozen people in attendance. In addition to talking about current affairs of the chapter, there were a few useful presentations. Per Mogensen from mergetool.com presented the security features in NAV. One of the ISV’s presented their product and gave us a preview of another product that they were about ready to launch.

Then I had the pleasure to present about Events and Extensions in NAV 2016. My goal was to explain what this means for non-technical people. I only had 30 minutes, which is barely enough to scratch the surface, and it is very easy to get very technical on this topic. I hope I didn’t confuse people even more, if you’re interested, you can download the slides here.

It was great to meet some people from the user community and from the local partner channel.

Envision Not a Replacement for Convergence

Although it has been a few months since we went to Envision in New Orleans, I wanted to take a few minutes and write down my thoughts on this event. For me it has a very double meaning. On one hand it was a new type of event for me that brought a lot of food for thought. Rather than getting down into nuts and bolts of product knowledge, this event was more about thought leadership and marketing, two concepts that are more abstract than I am comfortable with.

In previous years, we (the company I work for) would always attend and/or sponsor the annual event called Convergence, which was the Dynamics event that was focused on the end user of the Dynamics products. After we had already purchased the VERY expensive platinum sponsorship for Convergence US in 2016, Microsoft decided to restructure their event rotation. They brought it to us as though “Envision” was intended to be more than just Dynamics, but it was essentially a rebranding effort, so it was really another iteration of the same thing. By the time that the session schedule came out, and there was not a single session about any of the Dynamics products other than merely marketing, we realized that this was an entirely different type of event altogether, and unfortunately it was too late to cancel our sponsorship.

The event itself was VERY poorly attended. Day one of the event itself felt like it was the afternoon of the last day of any other event. We hardly had any visitors to our booth, the floor felt like it was deserted all day long, and most of our guests at our traditional coffee stand were booth staff of other partners on the floor.

Normally, platinum level sponsorships come with 2-3 speaking slots of an hour each, and a partner session that can be uses to promote ourselves. This time around, we only received a couple of 15 minute slots at the media wall, which was very different. The picture is me presenting at the media wall, where I talked about the challenges of global implementations (slides here). There were plenty of people that seemed to be very interested in my presentation, but 15 minutes was barely enough to race through some of the highlights.

The highlight of my event was the opportunity to meet Scott Kelly, a NASA astronaut who had just come back from a year in space. Where I live in Flagstaff we are space nerds and we have parties to look at the sky at night. I had watched the International Space Station fly over and wondered how he’d be doing up there. It was great meeting Mr. Kelly, who told me that my town looks great from space.

Envision may be a great event if you’re into thought leadership and marketing, but it is no replacement for Convergence. Too bad, because I always enjoyed attending Convergence, both in the US and in EMEA. Time for groups like NAVUG to step up and fill the void.

Been a While

It has been years since I last wrote, way back in 2012 to be exact, when I was writing for a former employer. When I left that job, I got caught up in my new work, and writing was no longer a priority for me, or I should say my work had me so busy that I just did not have any energy to write. A lot has happened since then – just to name a couple: we moved across the country to Flagstaff, Arizona; our kids both moved out and they are both in college. My current job has taken me back into the technical side of my work, and I’ve discovered that I have fallen well behind on current technologies. As I am catching up, I am the beneficiary of many people’s blogs and forum posts, and this is inspiring me to start writing again and share this knowledge.

To get this started, I re-published the most interesting articles that I’ve written for my former employer. These were all added December 22, 2015, and the original publish date are at the bottom of the article.

I am in the middle of re-working this website, so there will be some changes. The plan is to start with a focus mainly on Microsoft Dynamics NAV, and I will expand into anything that I think is worth sharing. I’ll share articles that speak to me, like for instance this one by Bill Gates about his favorite books in 2015. I’ll share my thoughts about books, which can be newly discovered classics like Stephen Covey’s book about highly effective people, or more recent ones like Andrew Davis’s book ‘Brandscaping’. I saw Andrew at a business event last year, and he is a great speaker too.

Then there is the ever expanding list of things to figure out, such as how to make Windows shortcut keys work in VMWare Fusion on a MacBook, how to stop underscores to auto-format to italics (drove me absolutely crazy!), or where to find the Powershell ISE in Windows 8. Some of these things are surprisingly hard to figure out (for me at least), so hopefully sharing them will help some folks.

The goal is to make this website a body of knowledge of all the things that I pick up along the way. Hopefully it will be of some benefit for you, the reader, and if not then at least I can search this one site for stuff that I’ve collected. Enjoy the read and let me know what you think. Have a great day!

NAS on the Service Tier

If you have made heavy investments in automated solutions that run in NAS you can breathe easy, because chances are that it still works in NAV 2013!!

When Microsoft first came out with the news that the Classic Client was history, and that a number of object types were going to be discontinued, there was a LOT of speculation in the NAV world. Most of this speculation was based on unverified rumors, baseless “common sense” applied to unverified assumptions. One of these assumptions was “the Classic Client will be gone, so therefore NAS will be gone too”. Technically, these people were right of course. With a few minor restrictions (no forms, no dataports, no user input, no dialog boxes), NAS was nothing but a Classic Client without a user interface that runs as a Windows Service. Because the Classic Client no longer exists, NAS as we knew it is indeed gone.

What many of these people don’t realize is that the NAV team actually cares a great deal about making the life of the NAV partner channel easier. Everyone that knows about NAS knows how many products are built around it, even standard NAV functionality is implemented through the use of NAS (Job Queue, ADCS, to name a couple). It was in everyone’s interest to have a good alternative for NAS, and I believe the result is a very solid way to provide the ability to automate just about any user task in NAV. Coupled with the ability to create NAV sessions programatically, I believe that there are even more possibilities.

One aspect of your existing NAS implementation may cause some difficulties, and that is the fact that COM is no longer supported in NAV 2013. For instance, the “CP Timer” no longer works, the “Bus Adapters” no longer exist, and many other automation components will no longer work. For every use of COM you will need to find an alternative, whether this is .NET interoperability or whether you will need to find an alternative component. If you have existing NAS solutions, and you are thinking about upgrading to NAV 2013, please get in touch with your partner and start investigating what needs to happen (if anything) to keep your NAS solution running.

For a long time I’ve known about NAS on the Service Tier, and I’ve been looking forward to the time that I would finally be able to share this information. So sit back and relax, grab a cup of coffee and start the video. I’ll explain how to set up an instance of the Service Tier for NAS Services, and I’ll show you a number of ways that you can implement NAS on the Service Tier.

First published August 8, 2012