To a Healthy Life

Hi All,

Apologies for the lack of articles recently.  I’ve been up to my usual design & architecture antics, but it’s not always blog worthy.  However, I’m strongly considering publishing some examples of the kinds of architecture and documentation which I build on a regular basis.  That is for another time.

Today’s article is conspicuously lacking technical content – because it’s not focused on technology for a change.

This article is about dealing with a heavy workload; dealing with the aspects of work which hampers your ability to collaborate, to perform at a high level and to generally to be productive.  I was asked by a colleague recently how I manage to still function when swamped with an apparent array of issues, pressure, lack of structure and other workplace conundrums. 

My answer was as simple as it was succinct: Whilst I value my work and my contributions there, I equally value my family and my personal time.

It was different when I was younger. 

Like most young programmers, early in my career I’d work long hours and put stress on my relationships with my significant other, friends and family.  I don’t think this is rare, it’s probably something of a rite of passage (for better or for worse).  Something changed when I hit my 30s, and I started to value my personal time even in the face of the growing challenges of how to stay relevant in a fast paced, always changing IT industry.  My hobbies and my home life started to gain more attention (and funding!), and although I remain committed to my work, my colleagues and to my clients, I’m equally guarded about my personal time.

These days I’m more seasoned and experienced, and it shows

In fact, I suspect it’s my equal focus on personal and professional time which makes my ability to focus on each sharper.  You can’t just talk about a healthy work/life balance, you have to make it work.

Another aspect of my life fundamentally changed just over 4 years ago, when we welcomed my first son into the world.  From that day onwards, I had an increasingly important role to play at home, and it continues to this day.  if, in the past, I had found it sometimes challenging to separate work from home life, it was not the case now.  Today, when I’m greeted at the door by my two beaming young sons amidst the chaos of delighted squeals of happiness, the angst and stresses from a full work day (or week) just melt away.

Naturally, the answer can’t always be to raise a family.  That said, there’s a few ways you might be able to engineer a healthier balance yourself.

1. Discipline.

When I take annual leave, I’m off the grid.  I don’t check work emails, and I won’t answer the phone (unless it’s an emergency).  Leave is my personal time, and provides me with the option to refresh/re-energise and get back some of my raw passion for technology.  Having said that, I make it my mission to do as much as possible leading up to any time off to ensure that my colleagues and clients have all the information they would need to continue working without my direct involvement. 

I also don’t have work email routing to my mobile phone.  I can still check work email (via a web browser), but I refuse to have mail “pushed” into my personal time via my phone.  These days it’s getting harder to separate work from life, but this is one aspect you can control.

2. Leave problems at the door

There are just some days when you aren’t going to solve all the world’s problems and you can’t be afraid to let some of it rest for another day.  The passage of time can be terrible for project timelines, but time has other benefits.  It can buy you time for further reflection, it can provide a window for others to provide insight or options; and in many cases it can help you to reclassify things you might have cast as a high priority, but which really aren’t.

3. Set goals, take enjoyment from your personal time

We all understand the value of setting goals at work, so why not do so when you aren’t at work?  Setting some individual goals, and making plans in your personal time can be equally as rewarding as shipping a product or promoting a solution to Production on time.  Draw motivation from professional and personal time in equal measures.

4. Keep it simple

Life’s full of rules and complexity.  I find often that the simplest approach is mostly the better option, which is why this list ends here.  Find what works for you.

Enjoy, R


CRM 2016 – Notes From Presentation

Upgrading from Dynamics CRM 2011 to Dynamics CRM 2016

Microsoft Canberra  29/4

As Dynamics CRM 2011 rapidly approaches end of life, many organisations are looking at potential upgrade paths.  Dynamics  CRM 2016, the most recent version, was released in December 2015 and represents significant benefit over previous editions.  This presentation focused primarily on the new features of Dynamics CRM 2016.

Note: Some content applies to CRM Online and CRM On-premises (where applicable).

Major changes (UI)

  • – UI/Touch Enabled
  • – Single Customer View
  • – Design once/deploy anywhere
  • – Big focus on mobility/BYOD/Cortana support/Remote wipe

User Interface Changes – Highlights

Streamlined nav bar
Toolbar based global search, added ‘quick create’ button (context sensitive)
Command bar (context sensitive) streamlined
Entity view (e.g Contact) removes popups (2011) and nav pane, displays single record view.  Responsive UI
Social view replaces activities & history (2013), combined from multiple sources (e.g Yammer).  Inline data capture.
Hierarchies – allows structured relationships between records
Mobile User Interface (FieldOne?)
Native application (Windows Phone, etc)
Capture activities in the field, e.g phone calls
Navigation integration (GPS)
Layout/display configuration driven vs code driven.  Rules aware. Field/data security fields/field level.  User can choose to share an entity’s (normally hidden) field with another user.

Productivity

Business Process Flows – visual cues
Collaboration – Office365 integration, e.g OneNote/OneDrive & Office365 Groups – structured & unstructured data (share with non-CRM users)
CRM App for Outlook – browser based email client, exchange integrated (a bit like OWA?)
Document generation – beyond generating emails, template driven ability to generate rich documents
Quick create – basic inline capture using popups if necessary to find & fill.  Quick create allows resumption of in-process activities, but still capture data as needed
Composite fields allow capture of data broken down for logical field types, e.g full name -> first / last name, addresses etc – streamlines UI
Process flow – Visual representation of status with a business process

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User can choose actions based on roles, stage gates.  Inline validation to highlight barriers to advancing the workflow
Workflow features clock timers (system wide by case/flow?), can span multiple business records, can trigger multiple outcomes/actions.  Flows can address different record types (scope)
Integrated social/office365/kb capability inside workflow stages.

Collaboration/Documents

Document management integration.  OOB integration to One Drive for Business, Office 365
Office365 groups – browser based online sharing and forum experience; launched from CRM or accessed directly.
OneNote directly linked, Notes integrated to shared OneNote experience.  Shared, users can see other user’s notes
Integrated plugin creates CRM contacts inline through Outlook or Outlook Web

Mail Merge Templates/Document Generation

Word templates (native) now supported for entity generation.  Templates stored in CRM, authored in Word.  Inline generates relevant documents on context (source entity), e.g Account Summary from Contact view.   Can also generate templates based on multiple CRM data types, the template can be edited in Word and uploaded to CRM to be used against CRM data.

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Social Engagement

CRM Online only?  Listens to social media feeds, provides analysis.  Can lead to creation of activities in CRM.
Shows keywords by sentiment, location etc.  Sentiment by region, demographic.  Shows key posts related; drill down to individual posts and create CRM cases.  Can extract details from posts to create contacts
Intention models – 4 types – uses Azure ML –  Information Request, Interest to Purchase etc.
Automated replies, based on rules.  Keywords, high impact profiles etc

Analytics

Excel templates, incorporates graphs OOB with predefined filters, etc
Interactive Service Hub – single/multistream dashboards, links to kbs.  Overview if case management, task lists
Delve – understanding unstructured data (e.g documents) relevant to context.  Presenting inline (uses Azure ML?).  Cross references against other sets, e.g. calendar, email, IM – CRM Online only?
Power BI – shows PowerBI inline via adapters.

Project Services vs Scheduling Engine/Field Management

Reactive scheduling and proactive scheduling – can reshuffle bookings, analyse booking needs – sensitive to rules based of skills, locality, localized work.  Integrates to field one (field management).  FieldOne features address validation (UI)?

Licensing Changes

Dual license – access to on-premise & online / bridging for migration, different data classifications (unclassified v protected etc.)
Basic license (like VSO basic)
Employee Self Service
Retired Connector License (no CAL for external data access)

IMG_1056

Summary

CRM Online, coupled with Office365 is feature rich, leverages the power of Microsoft Azure.  How much of this functionality carries over to CRM On-premises is a good question.  It’s not clear what is CRM Online only and is a base platform/suite capability (i.e available offline).