Recently, I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at Convergence 2011, an annual Microsoft Dynamic’s premier customer event. This year’s conference attracted more than more than 9,100 customers, prospects, partners, and industry experts representing 38 countries and 80 industries. The Conference Expo was sold-out with a record-breaking number of companies exhibiting Microsoft Dynamics-based solutions, including 236 Microsoft Partners – worldwide.

Opening Keynote – Winning with Microsoft Dynamics

Kirill Tatarinov, Corporate VP, Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS), and Steve Ballmer, our CEO, welcomed our attendees with the opening keynote. Tatarinov and Ballmer focused on the Power of Productivity by leveraging Microsoft Business Solutions to deliver simplicity, value,ballmer dynamics and agility to an organization while using Microsoft technologies that are familiar, intelligent, and connected. We were able to enjoy examples of customers using Microsoft Dynamics ERP, Dynamics CRM, and other Microsoft products to transform their companies into dynamic businesses.  Customers from Hard Rock, Amax, and Patagonia shared their stories around how they met their business goals and how Microsoft solutions have helped them grow and win.  We were able to recognize and celebrate Microsoft’s ten years in business applications and thank customers who have been with us during this journey. Ballmer announced the April 11 beta availability of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, and Tatarinov shared our vision of delivering the next major releases of our ERP solutions in the cloud running on Azure.  Demonstrating the power of Microsoft’s innovation, we featured a business scenario leveraging Kinect, Dynamics AX 2012, CRM Online, and SQL Server’s next gen business intelligence system code-named ‘Crescent’ to allow people working in a manufacturing shop floor to simply make gestures to make changes to a Kanban board.  Attendees were able to see a wide range of Microsoft Dynamics capabilities, from mobile to social to NUI. Watch the entire keynote.

Dynamics CRM in Power & Utilities

Doug Jones, Director – Solutions Engineering, Convergys , and I presented Microsoft Dynamics CRM in Power and Utilities.

Doug did a terrific job discussing what he calls the “Winds of Change” concerning customer information systems (CIS) versus CRM in the winds of changeUtility industry. Doug discussed how the traditional CIS installed at Utilities is operations and revenue centric. And, with the demands of the Smart Grid and consumers becoming more active participants in the energy value chain, Utilities are faced with decisions around how to shift from a customer billing system to a sales & marketing and service centric approach to support this transformation. Our recent smart grid survey supported this as 52% of the respondents said that their CIS systems would either have to be completely restructured or replaced and over 55% anticipated that customer bills would become more complex as a result of the smart grid.

Doug highlighted how utilities today could learn more from their customer interactions, including how their customers want to interact with their Utility provider. To better serve the customer, Utilities need to implement what he calls “Dynamic Decisioning” Taking action on historical and real-time events and providing products and programs to meet the consumer demands, including the ability to interact differently with customers by using SMS, Email, Social Networking (Twitter, Face Book, etc.). As Doug pointed out, utilities have a large investment in the traditional CIS and a rip and replace strategy may not always be the best option. Utilities instead could leverage a “Renovate vs. Total Replacement” approach – allowing the back- end systems to do what they do best. Doug used the analogy: it usually doesn’t make sense to tear down the house to get a new kitchen. And, in the case of a utility CIS it makes sense to look at front-ending multiple systems into one with a solution like Microsoft Dynamics CRM . Doug explained how this approach can lessen the overall impact of change and is a faster and more economical way to deal with M&A’s.

In my discussion I looked out how Microsoft Dynamics CRM, specifically what we call “Extended CRM”, provides an application framework where organizations can quickly and easily extend their CRM solution and build custom applications to track any business relationship–without compromising features, capabilities, budget, or delivery time. In fact in many of the scenarios I discussed you could drop the name “CRM” and call this a productivity and integration framework and platform. Dynamics CRM provides partners and customers with a platform tool for rapid customizations, dynamic services, and prebuilt functionality – delivering familiar, intelligent, and connected solutions to an organization. Michael Parks, our corporate vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions at Microsoft, reswiss knife for blogcently told me that he has never seen a product that has such a high customer satisfaction. As I pointed out to my audience we believe the reason for this is because it is familiar and easy since is integrated with outlook and uses the familiar office interface, it’s intelligent as it has amazing real-time analytics and visualizations built in and it delivers a connected experience by integrating seamlessly with other Microsoft technologies as well easing integration pains with legacy systems.

In my presentation I used the analogy of a Swiss Army to show the many different applications that Extended CRM is being used for in Utilities and we are finding more every day!

CRM360 Virtual Summit

Continuing the momentum from Convergence 2011 around the Power of Productivity, Microsoft is launching the CRM360 Virtual Summit – an online CRM virtual conference for our customers and partners. CRM 360 Virtual Summit launches on May 17, 2011 and aims to provide industry-leading practices around how to address CRM in an organization. Microsoft partners are aligned by ‘Industry’ tracks, including a track for Power & Utilities. CRM Virtual Summit

During the CRM360 Virtual Summit you are able to meet with Microsoft and Microsoft Partners to learn about their Industry-leading practices and solutions for Utilities Our partners Accenture, Avanade, and Convergence will be participating and providing industry-leading views on the changing dynamics of CRM in Utilities To take advantage of this great opportunity and guarantee your access to the Keynotes, Guest Speakers, Virtual “Expo Floor”, networking lounge, and more – Register today. Additional advantages for an attendee: No airline baggage fees. No inflated “event” hotel rates. All compliments of Microsoft. We hope to see you there! – Jon C. Arnold