By: Linda Rosencrance
Chief among those differences is a focus on new user-driven content, as well as an amplified Microsoft presence. In her role as programming director, Williams coordinates educational programs and leads strategic planning initiatives for the AXUG community. She also coordinates subject matter experts and volunteers to execute these strategic initiatives.
Williams talked to MSDynamicsWorld.com about the upcoming Summit event and why users learning from one another – the Summit mission – remains important.
MSDW: What makes AXUG Summit 2016 special?
There are two things that are different this year. The first is something special in that we have certainly gone back to our roots and really involved many more users and customers in the content. So what’s really going to be special this year, more so than any other year, is you’re going to see a ton of content that’s either led or co-led by a user or customer. And that’s great because the whole purpose of our community is to get those peer-to-peer interactions and learnings. That’s one thing we’re really proud of – how much of our content this year really has that user leadership.
The second thing is definitely the surprise of having Microsoft so involved in our Summit this year. We’ve always had Microsoft support from the support side, from R&D and from product marketing. But this year more than ever with their big opening keynote on Tuesday and bringing in some of the higher level executives, it’s very exciting. For them to be willing to market our event and advertise our event to their customers so we’re bringing in people who have not yet heard of AXUG or been involved. That’s really exciting for the AXUG community and membership.
Why is it important for Dynamics AX users to attend Summit?
AXUG Summit is important for AX users because this is the one go-to event of the year that’s designed for users and has content that’s specifically for the product that you’re using. So you will see some sessions led by Microsoft that are going to tell you about the future and what to expect with some of the new products. But really the majority of our content is all about the product that [attendees] are sitting in their seats at work using today. And how to be better at it, how to be more efficient and more productive, how to work through the problems ,and how to be smarter about their workflows and processes.
That’s why it’s important for them to attend. AXUG Summit helps users connect with other people who have solved some of these problems but also have really shined a light on some best practices and processes.
My grandmother taught me well – you learn from the mistakes of others. That’s a smart person. That’s where Summit really shines for users because it really allows them to connect with people who have already solved these problems to save them the headaches.
How is AXUG Summit content developed?
This year is very unique. Our content was developed 100 percent by track leaders. All the content is organized in buckets that we call tracks. So we put all the BI and reporting content together, all the finance content, the technical content and so on. Every one of those buckets was owned by track leaders. Those track leaders consisted of one user member, one partner member and then one or more Microsoft team members. The Microsoft team was there to support the user and the partner.
The user and the partner usually met before we had our call for proposals and they really got an idea of all the hot topics that are going on in community. We really tried to arm them with great resources and research and let them get together and [determine] based off that information and based on what they know what the topics were that would make our attendees happy.
Once we had our call for proposals summed up, we actually had a record number of proposals. Normally, we get around 40 to 50 and this year, we had 384 submissions and we can only fill about 180 of those slots. Those track leaders who had already met and come up with their hot topic lists, then took those lists and compared them to the proposals and they selected the sessions that were best for their tracks. It was great because it was the peers pretty much picking out the content they knew would appeal to people just like them.
What hot topics will be discussed?
I know that the “What’s New in AX” track will be a really well-received track because people are curious about the future of the product.
Next to that, some of the hot topics that are going to be discussed are going to be around BI. That’s because of all the new tools that are coming out with Power BI and Cortana Intelligence Suite will be embedded in some of the features of the new version of the product coming out. People are just getting really smart about how they’re working in the product, the information that they’re pulling out of the product, and how they’re using that to drive their business. And all of that revolves around BI. So that will be a big track and generate a lot of interest.
What ancillary events are available?
Sunday will start with our Academy sessions and they will go through Tuesday morning. We have a ton of Academy courses that [revolve around] all of our hot topics. Tuesday afternoon, we’ll roll right into the Microsoft opening keynote and as soon as that’s over, we’ll all head to the Expo Opening Reception. That will be our big grand opening reception on Tuesday night.
After the Expo Reception is over, we are doing a reception just for first-timers. We are inviting anyone who has never attended a Summit before to this event. Then we are handpicking some Summit veterans to connect with the first-timers to help them understand how to properly navigate through this big plethora of content, including how to follow sessions.
Then over the course of the AXUG Summit proper from Wednesday through Friday, we’ll have a sprinkling of other events to get our members and attendees together.