From the Basement to the Cloud with Vivian Voss

From the Basement to the Cloud with Vivian Voss

#113. Vivian Voss joins me to discuss her upcoming Scottish Summit session, From the Basement to the Cloud - Your Journey from CRM on-premises to Dynamics 365 CE.

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[00:00:00] When we finally got the approval, we thought, well, that's easy peasy. Just a few months and we'll be up and running. Cloud, that's nothing. Yeah, it took us two years, Welcome to episode 113 of the Amazing Applications show. Hi everyone. This is your host, Neil Benson. This is the first in a series of episodes where I'm fortunate enough to spend a few moments with lots of presenters from the upcoming Scottish Summit conference. It's being held this year in Glasgow, in Scotland, in June.

That's right. It's an in-person conference in a world, crying out for in-person connection and hugs, frankly. I really wish I was going just for the hugs.

Scottish summit 2020 was my last international trip. A couple of years ago. I flew from Brisbane to Dubai, to Glasgow and back again. And just one weekend to spend some time with thousands of you, crazy Dynamics 365 and Power Platform people, and to give and receive lots of hugs from people I'd only ever met online before.

Just before I introduce my first guest, I wanted to give a quick shout out to all the new Customery Academy students from the Power Platform School who have signed up for my Scrum for Microsoft Business Apps course. Power Platform School helps black, Asian, and others from ethnic minority backgrounds launch their Microsoft business apps careers with accelerated learning, mentorship, and creates opportunities for them with amazing Microsoft partners.

It's led by my MVP friend, Tricia Sinclair, who was on my show way back in episode 41. And I think it's coming up in the next episode. We've already [00:02:00] had our first Power Platform School graduate, Yacob Shenkute, complete the course and achieve has Professional Scrum Master I certification with

Congratulations to Yacob and all the others coming right behind him. Customery is very proud to be able to support the Power Platform School. 

My guest in this episode is Vivian Voss. Vivian is a Dynamics 365 solution architect at Alpha People. And she's an expert in Dynamics 365 Marketing also really understands the Sales and Customer Service apps as well.

She's from Sonderborg in Southern Denmark, where she is a blogger, a conference presenter, obviously from Scottish Summit and a co-founder of the new Customer Experience Platform user group. 

Just after we recorded this episode, Vivian received her first Microsoft MVP award. Well done, and well-deserved Vivian. 

You'll find links to all of Vivian's social profiles, her blog, and a signup link for the Customer Experience Platform user group, and a transcript of this episode at 

Like I said, this is the first in a series of interviews with some of the most interesting presenters who will be speaking at this year's Scottish Summit conference. It's in person, it's in Glasgow, it's in June and it's free. I'll make sure there's a link to that also in the show notes. So you can go and sign up before those tickets sell out. 

Customery is delighted to be one of the sponsors of this year's event. And unfortunately I can't make it, but look out for the 100 Customery staff who we'll be there representing Customery on my behalf. They're Lego minifigure-sized people wearing kilts. So I hope you don't miss them. Half of the proceeds from Customery Academy's Scrum for Microsoft Business Apps course taken by Scottish Summit attendees will be donated to the Scottish Summit's official charities. If you've been thinking about enrolling in my course, and you're going to be at Scottish Summit, then it's a great opportunity to help us raise thousands of pounds for some very worthy causes.[00:04:00] 

Today's guest, Vivian, holds her Professional Scrum Master certification and is a Customery Academy alumni. So let's get her onto the episode. 

Vivian, welcome to the Amazing Applications podcast. It's great to have you on the show. Thanks so much for joining us. 

Thank you very much, Neil, for inviting me. It is a, it's an awesome opportunity to talk about my session. 

So I wanted to get you onto the show to discuss your upcoming presentation at Scottish Summit. You're going to be sharing with us your experience migrating from CRM on premises to Dynamics 365 online, which I understand was quite a mission for you, part of your recent career. So why don't you tell us all about your session at Scottish Summit?

My session is called "From the Basement to the Cloud on how to take your own premises solution to Dynamics 365 CE". The idea, as you mentioned also, before it came from actually my own experience of, uh, of a project I was working for two years on. So in my previous workplace, we did take up a struggle, uh, with the company to get them to understand the cloud is actually the way to go, and it's not as scary as everyone might have thought previously. 

So we actually, when we finally got the approval, we thought, well, that's easy peasy. Just a few, a few months and we'll be up and running. Cloud, that's nothing. Yeah, it took us two years, but yeah. We managed to go through all the ups and downs of a project. Uh, we managed to figure out which processes we want to use, Scrum, waterfall, you name it. We were actually through it all.

Actually ended up with Scrum that worked the best. We also managed to lose some people in the process, gained some people in the process. But in the end, we actually managed to put up, uh, a good project. Everything's successful. Implementation was successful.

 The reason why I created the session in Scottish Summit [00:06:00] this year is also to bring out the ups and downs, but also I've had sessions before last year in Scottish Summit that talked about the good, the bad, the ugly of Dynamics Marketing. This year, I'm not doing the good, the bad, the ugly, but I'm kind of binding it into my session to talk about how people go through and maybe learn from the mistakes we did. And also celebrate the ups that we had, uh, in the end. 

It will also be full of resources for people to use. And the just taking note of when they are planning on their, upgrades also, we'd love a great feedback from other people if they're in the process or if they're starting. So to maybe get a bit of a discussion going there as well.

I've been wondering how many on premise customers there still are. I spoke with Seth Kircher who leads the Microsoft Fast Track team in the Americas. Microsoft Fast Track engineering team offers a migration service to help customers, and I was asking him, is there anybody still using it?

And he's like, yeah, there's still customers going live online every week. And your company or your experience just goes to show that these projects are complicated. They take a long time. There's an approval aspect to it, that can take a long time before the actual technical work starts. Was that a big company you were working with with of users?

What led to the project taking two years, do you think?

 I think the biggest thing for us, we decided to recreate a system that the company has been using for seven years. At that point, they had a lot of legacy. They had a lot of upgrades. A lot of custom code. It was not that pretty. 

So we decided to start from scratch. Which actually thought in the start will take less time. But then you get into the processes of trying to make, make it the best product you can in the end. And then you'll [00:08:00] start involving different departments and having them to align that, which was also one, uh, one learning that we took from it was that it's not that easy to get people to actually align and the, uh, on the same page all the time.

There was a lot of people management as much as there was about the technology. That was definitely a learning from that side. But then we also had it's a global company with around 750 users Dynamics CE users at the moment, and it is all over the world. 

Bit of a problems was trying to figure out how to get best performance for everyone, knowing that our servers are tenant is in Europe uh, people in Australia, for example, also should get the best performance as possible. Those were little quirks that needed to be also smooth out. 

Was that a difficult decision, whether to just lift your existing upgrade it, put it onto the Microsoft servers. You decided to not do that. like you've decided to do a new implementation and maybe just migrate some data at the end. that a difficult decision to make, or was it pretty clear that a new deployment would be the best option for you?

I wouldn't actually say it was a difficult decision because the problems we were having in on-premise version were always leading back to some custom codes or something back to the CRM version 2011. And we knew that, if we would just lift the same product up to cloud, we will once again, get some weird error codes that Microsoft takes months to figure out.

Uh, so we decided nope, we're done with that. There was the same problem also with our different integrations. We had ClickDimensions as marketing automation and they're all pulling back to some errors from CRM 2011 that we hadn't seen in five [00:10:00] years. 


Then there was, oh God, if we also have to deal with that, uh, in the cloud then it's gonna be a nightmare.

That's why we decided to take a clean cut and actually also removed as much as possible at the custom code then, and make it as, Yeah.

Now I say standard, I actually hate that word mostly because standard is so wide, so broad and can mean so many different things to people, but to leave it on the basic, basic as possible for Microsoft levels. 

That's funny. I've I've had some of my customers say, oh, well, we'll just use the standard processes that Microsoft has got for opportunity management or case management. It doesn't really have much. There's a bunch of features, but there's no best practice built in to Dynamics. It's pretty much a clean slate. You have to create those business processes yourself.

Exactly. It is. Microsoft has given you the tools, but there isn't really an end-to-end process that you can follow. 

Your company was using CRM for a long time and had decided not to upgrade. then 10 years later to migrate to the cloud. What do you think, led to deferring that decision for such a long time?

It's a private company, here in Denmark, owned by Bent Jensen. And I think it is, has to something to do with the fact that people don't trust cloud, if they're a bit further away from technology. They have a, I would actually call it a false sense of security regarding the servers and the machines that you see in films that nicely blink, give you a Christmas feeling.

Every time I look at movies, it has a feeling that if it's, if it's in my basement, then, then it's okay, then nothing's going to happen to it. I have the control, but if you say, okay, I'm giving the control over to Microsoft or I'm putting it away from myself and it's like, oh my God, what happens if something breaks or, [00:12:00] or what if they mess up?

I can't do anything. But, it's kinda to figure out how, how much you actually have those breakdowns yourself, or how much work you put into maintaining and money to it. So we made it kinda clear to them where we took the pros and cons and we figured out this is what you're actually paying to have it in the in your basement and this is what you're paying for cloud. And here is the downtime that Microsoft has said that their products have had, and here's the downtime that we have had in the past month. 

Well, that's 

So, so here, Yes. Yes. And that was actually the turning point. When they figured out that they could save a lot of money, plus it was actually more secure in the cloud. 

What type of audience should come along and participate in your presentation? How is it going to be? Are you going to be doing demonstrations or is it a of a business oriented session you're going to be running?

Actually, it started or built up from the session I did at the South Coast Summit here in October. Where it was 20 minutes and that was fully business perspective. Figuring out what processes and so on. But now that I have 50 minutes, I decided to put it, put it kind of mixed together.

It is still taking the business aspect of it, but it's also giving you the idea of what it is, uh, technically. Putting it all together, but it is level 200. So need to have a bit of understanding of CRM in general, but it's not going to go that technical that the business managers or product owners or people are going to be very bored because they're going to see a bunch of code and, uh, and customization that they have no clue about.

So it's kinda made to, uh, fit into a wider audience. 

Tell me about your participation in the of wider Microsoft community. You and I have known [00:14:00] each other online for years, and this is the first time you get to up. Uh, you've been participating in some other 


and things I'm really interested to hear your story.

Yeah, actually, it was the start of 2021 when I decided, okay, when I got the, I got accepted for the Scottish Summit last year to make a session. And there I met Sarah Lagerquist from Sweden. She was actually my mentor for the Scottish Summer session. And she got me involved in different groups of people that are very active, where I made new friends, made new connections. And I really started craving the feeling that there is a being part of the whole Dynamics community. And kinda that is where everything exploded, actually, right after a Scottish Summit this year was that, I decided I started up my own blog and started to writing about the Dynamics 365 Marketing and CE. And also speaking, as many places as I have found, that's relevant to both CE and Marketing. Not putting myself into other places yet, but who knows what the future might bring.

And the recent actually a month, a few months ago, we, uh, me and Guro Faller, started a user group with actually came from the Microsoft Ignite the session where they the Customer Experience platform, of not new products, but actually reforming their existing products and actually making an end-to-end process.

And we, none of us actually knew that there was a user group based on Dynamics Marketing or anything that put those together. So actually had our first session on the 15th of December. We had 20 people all in all attending. It was, it was amazing. People were so free feedback and it could also, you get the feeling that people were missing such a forum and that is always great [00:16:00] to hear when you're starting something up. Especially, if it's such a new thing. I have tried to keep myself busy. Trying to keep going with it, met a lot of amazing people and, I've figured out how to make my job and my, uh, my hobby or my passion to kind of match or a mix together. And I'm, uh, I'm loving it.

So there's a lot of support and participation for, I guess, Dynamics 365 Business Central started life as division in Denmark. Axapta's had a big presence there and now it's Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations. Is it the same for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement or the, or the new Customer Experience platform?

Is there a strong, healthy community behind that in Denmark?

Yes, we have a, we have a user group, a CRM, that has actually, has been over 10 years. So it has actually been very active. I have over 200 companies that is involved. But, and we have had the sessions quarterly meetups in those, in the user group. Until corona. Then it got a bit, bit, if you, how we could meet up. We have had a few online, but hasn't been that much of a success because everyone knows, has been struggling with Corona and trying to figure out how to do things.

 But we did actually start them up again here in November, had the possibility of meet up again. I have found such pleasure in seeing different user groups meeting up again after 20 and 2021, and then posting pictures or showing the sessions how happy people are to meet again.

It's such a pleasure to see, and it was the same for us where we had a whole day session and it was amazing. 

Yeah, we have the same here and in Brisbane and, uh, just on the road at the Gold Coast, we had in-person meetings the first time. And it was great, just felt good to share some experiences, share some [00:18:00] technical presentations, some news about what's happening and then have a beer.

We had a pub quiz and yeah, just some fun. Good, good to meet people in our industry and celebrate meeting in person again. 

The South Coast Summit, the event, that was the first one in person after COVID. That was my first session where a and conference were actually met the people that I had met online a few, few years before that I've been talking online for two years every day, basically, and just get to meet them.

And it's funny how you know the people, but when you meet them, you still kind of don't know them. So that was, that was a really, really weird feeling. In the start say, "Hey, I am..." "Oh yeah. I know you". And I'm actually getting to know each other on a different way as well. So that's, that's pretty cool.

There's always somebody who looks exactly like their LinkedIn profile picture. There's always somebody who looks nothing like there's. People who are taller in real life or shorter in real life. 


I remember my first community presentation. One of my first was actually in Copenhagen. It was at a Microsoft Dynamics conference called Convergence Europe.

It would have been 2007 or eight, maybe. Presenting on how Dynamics CRM 3.0 can cure cancer. I had a CA a skin cancer clinic in London using Dynamics to record the photographs of people who had, um, skin cancer, and had their lesions detected by professors who were logging in over the world. 

We are also starting off a Nordic summit , that we actually had to postpone last year due to COVID restrictions, but, we are planning another Nordic summit or a new one, uh, here in September at 2022. Where were taking people from the Nordic countries that we can find the, with a bunch of [00:20:00] Microsoft MVPs and the people from the community coming together and creating something cozy for Nordic, but the Nordic feeling and hoping to, to have it have something that we can actually just kind of rotate around the Nordic countries. Where once a year we could meet up somewhere and have our own conference there. So that we're also working on the, and hope to fingers crossed that we can manage to have it the habit hold in September 22. 

Vivian, can you tell us a little bit more about your blog as well? What kind of topics do you write about on your blog.

Uh, I started my blog actually a few years ago when I started getting a few years ago. Well, that's actually seven years ago now. When I started getting interested in the Dynamics world CRM and how, how things are, and actually use the blog to teach myself all the things I figured out with different products. And if there were problems then I wrote there, but it actually never was something I put a lot of effort in until I decided this year to go for it. I took a 90 day mentoring course from our old, well-known New Zealand Dynamics 365 Guy, Mark Smith, and he also mentioned how. That how his blogging has been and the net.

Okay. I'll just try as, as push myself, put some goals and, uh, and have managed to follow through so far with focusing primarily on Dynamics 365 Marketing and the, the CE products. Figuring out what are, what the tips are. If there has been some downfalls, if they're new things. Also fun with, uh, but still figuring out the same way, kind of teaching myself of new functionality and then writing out to maybe people that could be so things about that could be confusing.

That [00:22:00] has also actually been a great way for me to aquaint myself with different people from the community. For example, Megan Walker and, in Holland that have, the legends of Dynamics 365 Marketing. I've had a lot of inspiration from them and there's also really good resources here in Denmark, from Microsoft Denmark who also focus on the areas also from the customer experience platform.

Great stuff. Well, for those of you listening, we're going to post links to Vivian's blog and her LinkedIn profile. And to her session coming up at Scottish summit in a couple of weeks, it's called "From the Basement to the Cloud: : A journey from CRM on premise to Dynamics 365 CE." 

Vivian Voss, thanks so much for joining us from Southern Denmark, uh, and good luck with your presentation at Scottish Summit. 

Thank you very much, Neil. Thanks for having me.

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