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One of my favorite things about being a Microsoft Dynamics CRM MVP is talking to people about Microsoft Dynamics CRM, not only about the issues they could be having with their deployment but also discussing features they like, features they would like to see or change amongst other subjects.
One subject that comes up once in a while is “How can I become a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional?”
For the purpose of this article, I am narrowing down the term “Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional” to Consultants, Solution Architects, Technical Architects, Developers and other professionals who work full time designing and implementing Microsoft Dynamics CRM organizations and solutions.
I have been asked many times by people that enjoy working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM but that currently are not working as a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional, in other words, they are using the product at their current companies or at a previous company while they work on their I.T. Department, Sales, Marketing, etc.
The questions that normally come up are along these lines:
1. How should I go about becoming a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consultant?
2. Where should I start?
3. Should I go get certified first?
I am a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional by accident, in other words, I did not set out to become a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Solution Architect and MVP; I landed a job as a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Technical Lead in 2009 and simply fell in love with the system.
I didn’t know if I was the best to advise other people on how to go about becoming a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional since I didn’t know how people went about doing that in the first place, simply telling people “Just put your resume on a website like Monster or CareerBuilder and wait for someone to call you to interview for a Microsoft Dynamics CRM job” would not look good.
So I decided to go and ask 19 current Microsoft Dynamics CRM MVPs (from all over the world) 20 questions about how they got to become a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Expert, is there anything they would do differently if they could go back in time and most importantly, would they do it again if they have the chance. I added my own answers to make it 20/20. I hope this helps answering some of the questions you have if you are considering a career as a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional.
Question #1: How long have you been a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional?
Neil Benson: Since 2006. Six years.
David Berry: 6 Years (1, if you exclude positions with shared non-CRM responsibilities).
Chris Cognetta: Since version 1.0 about 2002.
Donna Edwards: For about 10 years, since 1.2.
Gus Gonzalez: Since 2009.
David Jennaway: Since CRM 1.2 was released – probably 7 years.
Feridun Kadir: Seven years.
Larry Lentz: I started using Microsoft CRM v 1.2 in the fall of 2004 and went full time for my business in January of 2005. I have been involved in this type of program though since 1990. Started with ACT! Then GoldMine in 1998.
Joel Lindstrom: Six years.
Mitch Milam: Since 2005.
Jamie Miley: Since the beginning of 4.0 in January of 2008. I have worked with 3.0 though.
Gayan Perera: Over 8 years.
Scott Sewell: 9 Years.
Mark Smith: 10 years.
Curt Spanburgh: About the middle of 2002. My first article regarding it was in the beginning of 2003.
Ramon Tebar: Four and half years.
Jerry Weinstock: I passed my first CRM Exam – Microsoft CRM Sales and Industry v1.0 on May 16, 2003.
Gustaf Westerlund: Since 2005 when I started working with CRM 1.2.
Matt Wittemann: 9 years.
Julie Yack: Since around 2003.
Question #2: What was your role before becoming a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional?
Neil Benson: Freelance CRM business analyst working with Onyx CRM and Sage CRM software.
David Berry: IT Administrator.
Chris Cognetta: Infrastructure, Systems Architect CIO.
Donna Edwards: Software Release Manager.
Gus Gonzalez: I was a full time Technical Instructor teaching certified Microsoft, Citrix, EC-Council and CompTIA curriculum.
David Jennaway: IT consultant, covering a range of Microsoft development and server technologies.
Feridun Kadir: Co-owner of an IT Support company.
Larry Lentz: I have been basically a “computer guy”, caring for my small business clients’ networking needs. Specialized in Microsoft Small Business Server since the beta of the first version in 1997.
Joel Lindstrom: I worked in sales for 10 years in various roles, mainly inside sales. I used many different CRM systems, many of which were not very user friendly. This has been a big help in my work as a CRM professional—I know what it feels like to be burdened with a poorly designed CRM system that saps your productivity.
Mitch Milam: I was doing infrastructure and SharePoint development.
Jamie Miley: I was the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Eau Claire, WI that still makes some of the best custom vinyl windows and patio doors I have ever seen. Check them out at: www.parcowindows.com
Gayan Perera: Network Administrator / Developer.
Scott Sewell: Integrator for Onyx (CRM) Software.
Mark Smith: Manager of a Microsoft Training Company.
Curt Spanburgh: I worked for a Dynamics Gold Partner where we did Great Plains, SQL, Biztalk, Custom Dev business apps. I was a field Tech consultant and resolved dev issues.
Ramon Tebar: My previous role was .NET developer.
Jerry Weinstock: I essentially did the same kind of work but with a wide variety of other sales contact management systems.
Gustaf Westerlund: I was a newly graduated MSc EE and had worked for about 1,5 years as a systems developer. During the first 2-3 years I paralleled CRM with SharePoint but got fed up with the bad API:s compared to the beautiful construction that is Dynamics CRM. Even in versions 1.2 and 3.
Matt Wittemann: Web developer and designer.
Julie Yack: General software dev.
Question #3: Did you set out to become a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional or did it happen by accident?
Neil Benson: I wanted to start a CRM hosting company. Microsoft was supportive of the partner-hosted model and Microsoft CRM was growing in popularity.
David Berry: Accident. I was looking for a position in IT that would allow me to explore my passion for development. How fortunate I was to find one that allowed me to work within the xRM platform!
Chris Cognetta: I've always been interested in MS certs since the MCSE/Novell CNE days. I always had a background around all kinds of customer data and integration with it.
Donna Edwards: This was not a planned career path. My skill set included the ability to reengineer business processes. I was asked to review the Sales Process at a company where the sales cycle was 18 months. The process was onerous, relied heavily on manual processes, MS Word, MS Excel, and labor intensive. I recommended implementing a CRM system. Long story short, I implemented MS CRM 1.2 for the company and took over the administration of the system.
Gus Gonzalez: It happened by accident. On May 2009 I lost my job as a Technical Instructor as the company I worked for was forced to downsize dramatically. Since I was an IT Consultant for years before I became a full time Instructor, I decided to look for a change; I received a call from a company asking if I knew anything about Microsoft Dynamics CRM, I said I had installed it at a company I used to work for years ago but I wasn’t an expert by any means, they said “No problem, we’ll teach you if you want to interview for the job”, I went through the interview process and was selected as the new “Microsoft Dynamics CRM Technical Lead” for the company so I was pushed to learn everything I could about Microsoft Dynamics CRM as quickly as possible.
David Jennaway: Mostly accident. I was chief developer for our internal, bespoke CRM system. We tried selling it as a product, without much success, and decided to look for an existing product to use instead of continuing bespoke development, and MS CRM was on the horizon. After investigating MS CRM further, we decided that MS CRM would be an appropriate focus for our service offerings, and I became director in charge of delivery MS CRM consultancy services
Feridun Kadir: Partly by accident. The IT support company that I co-owned was a Microsoft Partner. One day, Microsoft Dynamics CRM turned up in the monthly software update – I thought, “What’s this?” so I installed it and the rest is history.
Larry Lentz: Always been involved with this type of program since I started my business in 1989. But it wasn’t my main focus. Up until this past year I continued to do network support. Then in January 2012 I decided to concentrate on MS CRM. Getting too old to schlep hardware around.
Joel Lindstrom: When I came to interview with my company, I was interviewing for a sales role—they saw that I had a technical aptitude, and recommended that I go into professional services.
Mitch Milam: I was working on a CRM-based product for a homebuilder and it grew out of that, organically.
Jamie Miley: It was accidental. I lost my job in 2007 because the window company couldn't afford to keep a full time IT person on payroll. They gave me one months’ notice and I started looking for jobs in the Eau Claire area. Within a few weeks I expanded my search to the Twin Cities area and the first offer I got was with Inetium (now Avtex), a CRM partner in Minneapolis, MN.
Gayan Perera: No, I was working as a network administrator in the late 90s and early 2000s writing automation scripts. Writing little tools was a hobby.
My plan was to get into infrastructure until I met Mark Smith (another CRM MVP). We both worked at a company here in New Zealand who was the first to implement Dynamics CRM 1.2 back in 2003/2004. When they needed a classroom management system to run the training arm of the business we took on the challenge. So I moved from being a network admin writing scripts to writing C# extending Dynamics CRM.
Scott Sewell: I chose Microsoft because I wanted to work in a large (or at that time, potentially large) market with a product that I expected to grow and mature over time.
Mark Smith: I set out to become one. I had Dynamics CRM 1.2 implemented as a customer from that point on I liked it so much I pursued a career with Dynamics CRM.
Curt Spanburgh: Our CEO gave us the software and said make this work. When I saw it, I realized that this was a game changer. I thought about all the Access frontends our Developers had done and all the SQL mistakes that were done by the “experts” we hired and saw that this was a new way to work on business apps.
Ramon Tebar: By accident. After one of my last projects related to RFID technology, I got an opportunity to work in AlfaPeople UK, where my great mentor Marco Amoedo drove me into this new Dynamics world. There I learnt the beauty of the platform and I understood how important CRM is for the business.
Jerry Weinstock: I kind of a backed into it. I was always interested in ways to do things faster and better with less effort and technology just became the route to get there.
Gustaf Westerlund: I have a friend who worked for Microsoft Sweden and knew some CRM. He had worked with a company to sell a xRM solution based on CRM 1.2 (yes, that could actually be done). However, the partner did not have anyone who could do the actual work of customizing CRM to the customers needs and he complained about this at a dinner we had and I was sort of in between jobs and said “How hard can it be?”. I’ve been working with Dyn CRM for 7 years now and have been awarded an MVP but still often feel like a novice. Maybe I was a bit naïve, but that’s the prerogative of youths.
Matt Wittemann: It happened by accident. I was the "web guy" at the company I worked for, and when Microsoft released their first fully .NET web application for business, I was given the task of understanding it and mastering it.
Julie Yack: It was an accident, we had a big client that got dumped by their CRM partner and asked us to step in and become the experts.
Question #4: Did you go to College? If so, what was your field of study?
Neil Benson: B.Sc. (Hons.) Biochemistry. At university I transposed a gene from a jellyfish to make yeast glow in the dark. My professor’s was researching cancer drugs but I just wanted to make glow in the dark beer.
David Berry: No. I believe practical application and experience are the best teachers, and couldn’t justify to myself the expense of schooling. I started early with technology and have been fortunate to remain engaged in positions that both edified me and allowed me to prove my penchant for excellence.
Chris Cognetta: Yes, AA Computer Programming, few credits short of BA. Focused more on technology and work at this point
Donna Edwards: Bachelor of Science in Information Technology with a Web specialty.
Gus Gonzalez: Yes. I graduated as a Computer Engineer in 2003.
David Jennaway: Yes. Engineering, specializing in fluid mechanics.
Feridun Kadir: Yes, I have a degree in Electronic Engineering from York University in England.
Larry Lentz: Yes. BBA in Finance from University of Texas in Austin in 1968. In 1980 I went back to school and got another BBA from UT San Antonio in Business Data Systems.
Joel Lindstrom: My major was marketing management—again, something that has been a benefit to my CRM career.
Mitch Milam: Yes. Computer Science.
Jamie Miley: I have a four year degree from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire. Then I also went back for my master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin.
Gayan Perera: No, only formal education is end of high school and Microsoft/Cisco certifications. Everything else learnt by reading books, chatting on IRC channels, writing little tools and scripts. Probably spent from about 4pm in the afternoon (after school) to 2-3am every day chatting on IRC looking after servers and writing scripts for people.
Scott Sewell: Yes, Business marketing
Mark Smith: No.
Curt Spanburgh: A little. I went at night when I was already working in the industry. I wanted a IT degree of some sort and studied databases and networking but I got tired of having people ask the professor “what’s the difference between a bite and a byte” or “what’s a join or index” and saw that I was being pumped for money when I could work. Being a book worm, I found that the teachers were asking me questions. Still, I had a lot to learn.
Ramon Tebar: Yes, I did: Faculty of Computer Science Engineering at the UCLM Campus of Albacete (http://www.esiiab.uclm.es/)
Jerry Weinstock: I have a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Master of Science in Transportation Engineering.
Gustaf Westerlund: I went to the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and have a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering. I focused on low level systems development as I originally set out to work in the computer games development.
Matt Wittemann: I have a degree in the very lucrative field of Art History.
Julie Yack: Yes, I have a master’s in business
Question #5: When did you realize that you wanted to be a Full Time CRM Professional?
Neil Benson: After 4 years in sales and complaining about our CRM system, my boss sent me to the IT department for six weeks to fix it. That was the start of my career as a CRM professional. I took a job selling CRM software, acquired a diploma in business analysis and started from there.
David Berry: About 2 and a half years ago, after receiving my first MVP Award. I thought to myself, “I really can do this.”
Chris Cognetta: I started my own business in 2004 and the customer wanted to implement CRM. I suggested MSCRM because they wanted heavy .NET integration and customization features via the SDK and web services.
Donna Edwards: After implementing CRM 1.2.
Gus Gonzalez: A few months into my “Microsoft Dynamics CRM Technical Lead” position; I simply fell in love with the system and I knew I wanted to do this for a long time.
David Jennaway: After I became one.
Feridun Kadir: See answer to #3.
Larry Lentz: Off and on over the years. In the late 1990s I thought of focusing solely on GoldMine. But it wasn’t until this past year that I took steps to focus on CRM.
Joel Lindstrom: The first time I saw Microsoft Dynamics CRM (3.0 at the time) and how easily it could be customized to fit the user’s needs. And it has only become more customizable in subsequent releases.
Mitch Milam: Almost immediately.
Jamie Miley: After I left Inetium it seemed like the CRM thing followed me around quite a bit in the form of recruiters that were always beating down my door looking for Dynamics CRM talent. It seemed almost more popular than my .NET credentials.
Gayan Perera: We realized the benefits of CRM early on and moved away from building one off web apps for clients. Now we’re a dedicated CRM practice, we do build web portals and mobile apps but they’re connected with CRM.
Scott Sewell: 9.5 years ago.
Mark Smith: After I had worked on and off with the product for about 3 years. I then setup a company dedicated to CRM and ISV solutions built on Dynamics.
Curt Spanburgh: After the release of CRM 3.0, I was at Conversion in Dallas and saw how much interest and potential there was. Then at the MVP summit we saw the beta of CRM 4.0 and that really encouraged me.
Ramon Tebar: After few months working for AlfaPeople. I really enjoyed that experience and I realized it was a promising field to carry on working.
Jerry Weinstock: When I saw a Microsoft demo of CRM 1.2 at an event in Kansas City in 2003 I knew that Microsoft got it with the integration into Outlook and it was time to standardize my work in that area and get out of the Website business.
Gustaf Westerlund: I was working 50-50 CRM and SharePoint and felt that my expertise in CRM was a lot higher valued and the system was a lot more fun to work with and the processes are more interesting. So I quit that job and became Dyn CRM Architect at Logica, which was my first fulltime job working with only Dyn CRM. I now own and run a small consultancy of 3 people including myself which focus solely on Dyn CRM.
Matt Wittemann: About 6 months after spending all my waking hours working with CRM, learning it in detail and implementing it for our customers.
Julie Yack: Still not totally sure, something more exciting might come along.
Question #6: What does a ‘day in the life of a Dynamics CRM Professional look like?
Neil Benson: Every day is different, but yesterday I replicated CRM Online demo data to a SQL Azure database and used Power Pivot to build a couple of reports for a CRM BI demo I’m doing in Minneapolis today.
David Berry: A lot of reading. Of course, there’s a deep involvement within the product itself on a daily basis, in various aspects. But, I find that I spend a good portion of my day keeping abreast of strategies, problems, solutions, and practical applications of the product. Consuming information about the product keeps your senses sharp and your mind limber to addressing any number of potential daily matters.
Chris Cognetta: Almost the name of my blog! Since I sit on the front lines of support I am more exposed to infrastructure issues and problems then just implementing business requirements. Anyone that wants to become fully rounded in CRM should consider a stop on a help desk.
Donna Edwards: It really depends on the role. There are several possible roles or paths one can follow such as Solution Architect, Business Analyst, Sales, Project Manager, Developer, System Administrator, Customer Support or a combination.
Gus Gonzalez: It depends. As a Solution Architect I am working on deploying Microsoft Dynamics CRM at our customers, ensuring that my vision for the solution is completed by all the parties involved on the project. This is normally how I spend 80-90% of my time, the rest of the time I am on internal meetings or sharing my knowledge with the community (Answering questions on the community site, blogging, etc.)
David Jennaway: There’s no one typical day. We aim for 60% billable utilization (which is probably low relative to the industry, but it is sustainable). For myself, and most of our consultants, we could be working on any part of an implementation project, which could be business analysis, design (process and/or technical), implementation work (CRM customization and/or development), user or system training, software installation and configuration, data migration and more. This work may be on a customer site, or it might be remote. Examples of non-billable days could be on customer support (which is actually more commonly small customization work, more than typical IT support), ongoing skills development or pre-sales work.
Feridun Kadir: This varies hugely for me. Because I work as an independent consultant, all my days are different. I could be delivering training, customizing a system, installing CRM, troubleshooting problems, writing reports, writing books, courses or exams. I also make time to answer questions in various CRM forums.
Larry Lentz: I am a Microsoft Certified Trainer teaching MS CRM classes. Mostly I do so remotely with students sometimes in all 4 US time zones at once. When I’m not teaching, I catch up on “other stuff”. I also run 3 IT Pro user groups:
· Small Business Server focused group meets once a month
· CRM/xRM focused group also meets once a month
· CRM 2011 Study Group that meets every Saturday morning. I have been running this group since 1997. We have been studying for Microsoft certification exams since then.
Joel Lindstrom: Every day is different—and that’s what I love about it. One day I’m translating a bank’s security requirements to CRM, the next, I’m working with a totally different customer in a different industry. It sure beats doing the exact same thing day after day.
Mitch Milam: That various for me. I work on customer projects about 50% of my time and the rest is consumed by training or product development.
Jamie Miley: Go to work at the client site. Code and test for 8 hours straight. Then fix the stuff that didn't pass inspection from the day before. :)
Gayan Perera: I think it depends on the role, as a developer my day typically involves writing integration code, talking with other developers and architects to implement best practices, writing tools that improve productivity.
Scott Sewell: chaos, but in a good way.
Mark Smith: Wow that’s a big one. It’s always changing, new challengers, new ideas on how to do business better using the Dynamics CRM platform. For me I touch almost every level of Dynamics CRM project apart from .net development.
Curt Spanburgh: It changes. Many clients have more than CRM so you need to know the other technologies as well. Sometimes you write code. Sometimes you configure the system. Some days you get pulled into Great Plain, SSRS, or marketing of your firms services, client visits.
Ramon Tebar: I guess it depends on the project and the role. If you are working as a consultant, you may have to travel and work in different places and projects every week. However, if you work for the end-user, your journey is normally the same and projects are normally longer, constant and based on the corresponding organization practices. In addition, Dynamics CRM is a flexible product where few Dynamics CRM specialists could kick off a small project or a whole team of consultants, analysts, architects, developers, etc., could work together to deliver a big deployment. It is definitely a different experience.
Jerry Weinstock: Since I own and manage our consulting company it consists of a wide range of topics – conversations with prospects, blogging and promoting the company, administrative tasks, managing and supporting our developers, consulting engagement proposals, business analyst work solving client configuration needs and planning new ISV solutions.
Gustaf Westerlund: Very different. I hold some classes, work in-house with my colleagues and are often at customer office working very closely with them. I most often have the role of Solution Architect.
Matt Wittemann: There's rarely a typical day. Some days are spent coming up with solutions to business challenges, trying things out, developing, testing, etc. Some days are spent meeting with customers in order to understand their needs. Most days are a mix of those things. And every day requires learning more about CRM.
Julie Yack: Never the same, sometimes it’s calls at 5am to a team in a different time zone, sometimes it’s working from my phone while horseback riding in the mountains.
Question #7: What would you recommend to anybody who wishes to have a career in Microsoft Dynamics CRM? What would the ‘first step’ be?
Neil Benson: Get certified and answer 100 questions on the support forums.
David Berry: The first step: understand what CRM is, and how it applies to business practice. Try to learn where the lines are drawn (or blurred) between it and other products, and how it fits into the scheme of the whole business operation.
Chris Cognetta: You need a solid IT background understanding the components that make up CRM, how it works, what can be customized/extended. Start with virtual machines where the entire application can run and where you can learn with no dependency on others.
Donna Edwards: Learn the application and get certified. Identify the skills you enjoy most, business analyst, developer, configuration.... and become an expert in that area of CRM while continuing to stay educated about CRM as a complete solution.
Gus Gonzalez: I think that the most important thing to make it in this industry is to find a chance to gather experience. If you are fortunate to find yourself on an organization that can give you the chance to learn as much as possible about Microsoft Dynamics CRM then go for it. If you are the IT Admin at a corporation that uses Microsoft Dynamics CRM, get involved. If you have a chance to join an organization that will let you build knowledge and experience as a Microsoft Dynamics CRM professional, take the chance. The most difficult thing for most people if to “get into the family”, in other words, gather knowledge and experience, once you are in continue to improve and never stop learning.
David Jennaway: There’s no one standard route, but I’d suggest gaining good practical experience either in IT implementation work (ideally with Microsoft technology), or in business analysis.
Feridun Kadir: Learn the product and learn what it is for.
Larry Lentz: Get familiar with the product. Download and install the eval version or get a CRM Online free trial.
If you are going to work professionally with any Microsoft product, then I highly recommend becoming a Microsoft partner. At the lowest level it’s free and entitles you to subscribe to the Microsoft Action Pack (MAPS). For $300/year you have about 10 user licenses for most of the Microsoft products including servers like SQL and Windows Server as well as Windows 7/8, etc. This includes the CRM 2011 Workgroup Edition. Take this and install it to learn it. The Action Pack also entitles you to use the software in your business, unlike MSDN and TechNet which only let you use it for development and learning.
Get “The CRM Field Guide”, of course and get involved with the various forums and groups like CRMUG focused on CRM.
Joel Lindstrom: Get familiar with the product—maybe you use it at your current employer. Educate yourself on the full capabilities, customization, etc. Get a copy of a good book, such as the CRM Field Guide (shameless plug) or CRM Step By Step.
Mitch Milam: Just dive in and learn everything you can. I started with CRM 3.0 and it probably took me a year before I was comfortable with my level of knowledge on the product.
Jamie Miley: Get into the application with a free trial. Then think about what your desired role might be. Do you want to be a PM? Then look into Sure-Step certification. Otherwise there are exams for customizers, applications specialists, developers, and infrastructure specialists.
Scott Sewell: learn the product, implement it (for free if needed) for an organization and then go through the refactoring process of correcting your initial, inevitable, horrible mistakes. Also, take the tests and get in the forums and research/answer as many questions as you can – you’ll learn a ton about areas you had no idea existed.
Mark Smith: First thing is get your own instance of Dynamics setup so you can try stuff, either online or a VPC. Then do the Microsoft Applications course, and try out everything taught in it, once you feel you fully understand that move on to the customizations course and try out all the ideas again and do not progress until you understand it. Continue on thorough all the other official Dynamics CRM training the same way. At the same time you should be con summing blogs like there is no tomorrow, know what is going on out there and how is applies to your carrier. I also highly recommend doing SureStep no matter what role you will be in. Read the book on it and do the training and certification on it. Practice, practice, practice.
Curt Spanburgh: I would say, be interested in solving business problems. Technology changes and you have to know it. But you also have to see beyond what it and not let vendors or peers tell you that you cannot change things. I learned the hard way. Of the 60 people working at the consulting company I was at, only two of us took an interest in CRM 1.0 and Share Point 2003, back in 2003.
Ramon Tebar: I would recommend to start working for a Microsoft Dynamics CRM partner. Partners are constantly involved in different type of Dynamics CRM projects. They normally have access to great Dynamics CRM training material, events and contacts, which help a lot to speed up your learning curve.
Jerry Weinstock: If you are going to become a CRM Developer, you need to know .Net, Reporting Services, and jScript at the minimum. You also need to get some project management skills and learn how to talk to and work with customers.
Gustaf Westerlund: Commit to it. Go all in, learn the system and learn the business values of it.
Matt Wittemann: The first step would be to get to know the functionality that comes out-of-the-box with CRM - get to know how it was designed and intended to be used. Install it, uninstall it, sign up for Online trials, use it every day, look at how others are using it, break it and figure out how to fix it.
Julie Yack: Embrace change, if you can’t do that, find another technology.
Question #8: How important is to have advanced knowledge of other Microsoft Systems (I.E. Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SQL Server, etc.) to become a good Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional?
Neil Benson: I have a little knowledge of lots of other Microsoft software, and other vendors’ software, but nothing in-depth. I know just enough to explain the concepts and benefits to my customers.
David Berry: Emphatically “very important”, with a caveat. There are many supplements or alternatives to Microsoft products that function well with Dynamics CRM. Although some are required (e.g. SQL, Active Directory, etc.), others are optional (e.g. Exchange, SharePoint, etc.). Know where CRM fits in the total suite of business management software, and you’ll find the complementary solutions necessary to fill the gaps.
Chris Cognetta: Depends on the role. Many CRM admins do not get this exposure mainly because if separation of duties commonly in corporate IT. Working for a small Company can get you valuable exposure to these items.
Donna Edwards: As with most areas of technology, the more you know the easier it will be to work with the application and troubleshoot issues.
Gus Gonzalez: I think that it all depends on what is your focus as a professional. When I started as a technical lead, the knowledge regarding other systems was critical because I was responsible for making sure the new Microsoft Dynamics CRM server worked flawlessly with the existing systems they had, not only Microsoft but from any other vendor. If you want to go into the developer path, then having knowledge in other systems is not as critical.
David Jennaway: Knowledge of server technologies (like SQL Server or Exchange) is not necessarily important, though SQL Server knowledge is directly useful for data design, reporting and data migration.
Feridun Kadir: I don’t think advanced knowledge is essential but some awareness will go a long way to help resolve issues. I’ve found that my infrastructure background has been useful but depending on what type of role you pursue you may not need any knowledge. Microsoft Dynamics CRM covers so many different areas, you can easily specialize in particular niches perhaps as a report writer or a developer or customizer.
Larry Lentz: I think a solid foundation in the infrastructure of Microsoft networking would be valuable. However, with the emphasis on CRM Online, perhaps not as much as previously.
Joel Lindstrom: It really depends on where your interest and competence lie. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professionals have a wide range of skills, but none of them are great at all of it. Some are very technical, developer types; others are very good with CRM infrastructure, such as SQL and Exchange servers, while others are less technical and specialize in system configuration or business process design. Typically the people who are great at business process are not technical experts, and a good developer may not be a great trainer. A good CRM partner will have multiple people with different specialties.
Mitch Milam: It is very important, especially SQL Server. Everything is in the database so that is where most performance-related issues will be found.
Jamie Miley: It helps a lot. The "Better Together" strategy of Microsoft tends to meld a lot of different products in the Microsoft stack together. It's very helpful.
Gayan Perera: It helps a lot to have an infrastructure background but not necessary but you do need someone in your team that can help you when things don’t work as expected.
Scott Sewell: Important, but more important to know who does have it and be sure to align yourself with a team that understands exactly what is going on with those products.- SQL expertise is critical if you are working on-premise, but never piss off your DBA/network infrastructure team– make sure they are your BFF.
Mark Smith: If you want to become real good you need to know how this technology works, You do not need to become a system engineer but you should have a strong grasp of computer concepts like Networking and the Microsoft stack of technology and the parts they play.
Curt Spanburgh: It’s a requirement. I have watched people fail in the middle of a project. They were burning money without it. Even with online, there is a need to know about the “road that the solution runs on”.
Ramon Tebar: Although it is not a mandatory requisite (it depends on your role), I would say it is a huge advantage. Dynamics CRM is based on other Microsoft technologies, the better you know them, the easier you deliver a project. Especially for On-Premise deployments. Many times I have faced an error in Dynamics CRM and it was caused by other technology underneath.
Jerry Weinstock: To do any really heavy lifting on projects you will need to know the rest of the Microsoft stack because CRM isn’t an island by itself.
Gustaf Westerlund: That depends on which role you are looking at. There are certainly roles that do not require these skills that are closer to the business end of things but I believe that the best value comes from Architects that understand the whole eco-system from business process analysis and reengineering to SQL Optimizations and performance issues in SAN :s
Julie Yack: You need SOMETHING else, you can pick what other moving part you need to learn, but you have better long term employability if you have something else in your tool box.
Question #9: How important is to understand business processes (I.E. Management, Operational and Support) to become a good Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional?
Neil Benson: I have a lot of business experience, including having run my own company, so I enjoy helping customers understand how software can help solve their business challenges.
David Berry: Business processes are defined by each business, so while there are some broad strokes you can paint; I find that each company is different. Be a good listener and thinker. Be able to map workflows and responsibilities, in your mind and on paper. The rest will come naturally.
Chris Cognetta: SDLC is still the core of any technology being implemented at any business. The ability to understand the business needs, translating those requirements is critical to the success of your project.
The more types of projects you work on the better you can see and reuse techniques along with recommendations. It's important to help guide the business and try to implement change for the better vs. just building another system or how it used to work in CRM.
Donna Edwards: CRM is a customer relationship management solution. Understanding and perfecting customer relationship management skills is all about processes. The more you know and understand, the more value you will bring.
Gus Gonzalez: Depending on your path, this could be either the most important thing to be successful or something not as important. In my case, as a Solution Architect, understanding business processes is critical.
David Jennaway: Very Important. A few Dynamics CRM roles do not need good understanding of business processes, but most do.
Feridun Kadir: This I think is very important. The whole point of any CRM system, not just Microsoft Dynamics CRM, is to make the business more efficient. If you don’t understand how the business works then you cannot get the most value from CRM.
Larry Lentz: MS CRM is a business management tool. Basic knowledge of how businesses operate and are management is quite important to properly understanding how to implement a CRM.
Joel Lindstrom: I would say good business process knowledge is almost more important than application knowledge (at first). Application proficiency is easier to learn than business process skills and how to translate a customer’s business process to CRM requirements.
Mitch Milam: Also important. Technology doesn’t solve process issues and you have to understand when to ask for more information.
Jamie Miley: All of these things are useful along with any other particular vertical or horizontal knowledge that you have to bring to the table. Almost everything is relevant in this world.
Gayan Perera: Very important! This is the key to a great Dynamics CRM implementation. If you implement CRM with the wrong business process Dynamics CRM will only help accelerate the hatred from users.
Scott Sewell: Critical – and if you actually do demonstrate competence, you’ll be the one-eyed man in the land of the blind.
Mark Smith: I find this is the hardest part to teach others and it needs to be learned by experience. The more experience you have in all areas of business the better.
Curt Spanburgh: It would be best if you had actually done some work in business operations, order fulfillment, inventory, shipping, accounting. Etc. Otherwise you could be spending money
Ramon Tebar: It makes a difference. Implement business requirements is much easier and quicker when you understand the whole workflow and modus operandi of the organizations.
Jerry Weinstock: I don’t think you can code and work with clients in this business without having good business insight. If not you will just be a person stuck in a room and be fed specification documents.
Gustaf Westerlund: Depends on the role you are looking at. It never hurts, but if you are focusing on being a developer and the organization you are working in has other people that are really skilled in the business process end of things, you can probably manage quite good. Combining business process understanding with deep technical skills does however give you an edge on people only having one of these skills as you can more easily cut corners by discussing process redesigns to make a better fit to easier customizations. This can reduce costs up to 10-fold which many customers find very interesting.
Matt Wittemann: This is very important, and a very valuable skill that is always in demand. Once you've mastered the technology aspect of CRM, if you can't map the software side to effective business processes, then little value will be delivered to the end users.
Julie Yack: Very important, CRM software is all about the business.
Question #10: How important is to have good project and time management skills to become a good Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional?
Neil Benson: No idea but if I ever acquire good project and time management skills, I’ll let you know. Two of the best project managers I worked with knew nothing about CRM software.
David Berry: Is this a trick question? :) Project and time management skills are a result of experience and wisdom, but I don’t think they necessarily define one’s relative “goodness” as a Dynamics CRM Professional. Each project takes different dependencies and skills, some may be more mature than others—which ultimately can make projects difficult to gauge. I think it’s more important that you strive to be better at both, and broaden your horizons wherever possible.
Chris Cognetta: It helps when sizing efforts and delivery. Many CRM projects will have a dedicated PM. I can tell you being exposed to a PM role can only help you in your IT career.
Donna Edwards: In some roles like Project Manager, project and time management skills are more important that other roles. In general, these types of skills will either help you become more successful or make your work more challenging. My best suggestion is to work on this area of your skill set if there is room for improvement.
Gus Gonzalez: I think this is very important. One of the principles we follow here at Zero2Ten is ‘partnership’; this means that we all know what we are responsible for and we expect to manage our own time and capabilities accordingly. Knowing what you are capable of and managing to deliver your part of the puzzle on time is very important.
David Jennaway: It depends on the project size, but this is normally pretty important. Especially for smaller projects, it is very useful for the CRM consultant to take on some project management responsibility.
Feridun Kadir: This depends. For small projects perhaps not, for large projects, then absolutely. But you definitely need to be able to juggle many tasks at the same time.
Larry Lentz: In any business endeavor, proper discipline and time management is important. To what extent depends on the size of your organization. I am a one man shop so project management is just managing me.
Joel Lindstrom: Very important, especially if you are balancing multiple projects simultaneously.
Mitch Milam: If you are working for yourself or billing a customer, it is very important.
Jamie Miley: Some companies drop people into clients and expect them to do everything; some companies have very drawn out and segmented roles.
Gayan Perera: Very important! A good project management tool will help you stay on track and deliver projects on time and on budget which makes the client very happy.
Scott Sewell: Critical – for your own sanity.
Mark Smith: Once again go back to SureStep and learn it form a project management perspective, for time management I have lived GTD and Zero inbox for the past 3 years. You will not keep up unless you have a system for time management/life management.
Curt Spanburgh: It’s great to work a good PM. One that understands the project and the client. We had a saying at the development shop. “A weekend is an infinite amount of time”. It’s really important to be conservative with milestones and on a CRM project to have a means to control the customizations. But the technology changes and then so do the requirements, so a flexible person will be required.
Ramon Tebar: I think it is a recommended skill for any professional. However, if you role is project manager or/and consultant, it is definitely necessary.
Jerry Weinstock: It is going to be critical that you learn how to accurately estimate project requirements and work to those requirements. Your financial health and your company’s financial health will depend on it.
Gustaf Westerlund: If you are looking for a job as a consultant this is a matter of simple hygiene. Time management is of very important when the product you are selling is your time. The difference between good and bad time management can be 20-40% if not more and those are the last $. I once had a manager who told me that if just everyone in the Dynamics team could charge 1 hour per week more we would turn the our current negative result to a good positive result.
Matt Wittemann: This is an important part of doing CRM right, and it’s important to improve your own skills in these areas, even if you are part of a team that includes project managers.
Julie Yack: If you don’t have these skills, make enough money to hire someone that does.
Question #11: How important is to have programming knowledge to become a good Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional?
David Berry: Dynamics CRM Professionals are not relegated to development, so I would call such knowledge only extremely important when they are. What’s more important is the ability to translate business processes and operations into logic operations (e.g. if this, then this, else that). If you can successfully interpret these things as a diagram of sequential logic operations, then you’ll be aptly suited to implement the product as a professional with or without development. Know your role, and bring expertise in where necessary.
Chris Cognetta: There are many different roles in a CRM deployment. Processes once requiring programming become standard features of the app eventually.
Understanding system design and basic programming logic is great to have but not required for many roles in the CRM project.
Donna Edwards: See response to question 8.
Gus Gonzalez: I believe that having a little knowledge about development is important for all CRM Professionals; it is not critical and it is certainly something you will learn as you go, but I think is good to have some knowledge that will help you navigate around the system in an efficient manner. Of course, if you are going to work as a developer, expert knowledge is a must, but to be an expert you have to start somewhere. Don’t set out to become an expert programmer and then find a job as a CRM Professional.
David Jennaway: Not important. Definitely useful for some roles, but not necessary
Larry Lentz: MS CRM is a very powerful tool out of the box. It can be highly customized and molded to a business’ needs without any knowledge of programming.
Before I started my business in 1989 I was a developer. Since then my programming skills have not kept up with modern day techniques (though I am trying to get back into it). I have not found that to have impeded my CRM efforts.
Joel Lindstrom: It really depends on where your interests lie. The more you know how to do the more valuable you can be as a CRM Professional, but programming is not a requirement to be successful as a CRM professional.
Jamie Miley: If you are going to be a CRM developer, it is essential. Otherwise, not so much.
Gayan Perera: If you’re wanting to become a CRM Developer then programming is a must.
Scott Sewell: Moderate – depending on what path you are needing to take.
Mark Smith: This is one area I not do. However I know the fundamentals of programming, so I can communicate to others what is needed.
Curt Spanburgh: Very, but with CRM you must do it their way. If a developer is used to going around the software then it’s a problem in a Dynamics shop. Innovation is great, but most’ of us don’t work for the product team so it’s best to learn development the Dynamics way.
Jerry Weinstock: I can tell you from a personal standpoint that I am not a programmer but I manage programmers, manage programming projects, support and implement CRM without being a .net coder. I have been very successful in the business without being a programmer; however, you will need to have excellent Business Analyst and problem solving skills otherwise.
Gustaf Westerlund: Again, it comes down to what role you are looking for. As a project manager it is not an essential skill but as a CRM developer the bread-and-butter skill. It never hurts to have it and understand the difficulties with programming even when this is not your direct task.
Matt Wittemann: It really depends on what you want to do. There are a lot of different roles where it's not necessary to be a developer. You can specialize in designing solutions, implementation, administration, business processes, user training, etc., and find many ways to develop a career without coding.
Julie Yack: I do not write code at all and seem to be doing pretty well for myself.
Question #12: How does a career in Microsoft Dynamics CRM compares to any other careers you’ve had before? Do you enjoy it more or less?
Neil Benson: If I enjoyed my earlier career in sales more than CRM, I’d go back to it. The only reason I’m still a CRM professional is because I still suck as a surfer and racing driver.
David Berry: I enjoy working with Dynamics CRM inarguably more than any other product. It’s all about possibilities and flexibility, both of which are easy to obtain than in many other products. Having moved from IT, I understand the importance of automating business processes. CRM allows for that in sectors of business that were otherwise disparate and disconnected.
Chris Cognetta: CRM is in constant change. New projects bring exposure to new businesses and new people. The technology is constantly evolving and being an MVP we can help lead and drive product direction based on issues we see in the field. FlowUI is a good example of this.
Donna Edwards: I enjoy working with MS Dynamics CRM because it requires the use of several of my strong points, time management, business process analysis and re-engineering, communication across the organization, etc. and allows we to apply those talents to each implementation. I enjoy diversity in my daily work and this application allows me to play several different roles and keep my daily work interesting.
Gus Gonzalez: I love my job. I thought that being a trainer was the best job in the world because they paid me to talk about computers all day (it really was awesome), but the difference between a full time trainer and a Solution Architect is that as a trainer I get to follow official curriculum, in other words, I get to talk about things other people created (I.E. Let me show you how DHCP works). As a Solution Architect, I get to analyze a problem, develop/engineer a solution, gather resources to make my vision a reality and then I get to talk about how awesome the solution to the problem is! – It doesn’t get any better than that.
David Jennaway: I can’t really compare it well with my other careers (technical IT trainer, and IT consultant on a broader range of technologies), as my broader roles have also changed between these careers.
Feridun Kadir: Definitely more. It is very interesting to see the huge variety of businesses that all use CRM in different ways. I enjoy the mix of technical and business tasks.
Larry Lentz: All careers have their challenges and rewards. CRM offers an intellectual stimulation yet does not require as much of me physically. As I age this is important.
Joel Lindstrom: This is the best job I’ve had. I work with great people and each project is different.
Mitch Milam: Very enjoyable.
Jamie Miley: I like it more. It's a hot product right now and there is a lot of demand. It also pays better than straight .NET.
Gayan Perera: It’s definitely more enjoyable than the other roles I’ve had as a network admin and .net dev. The thing about Dynamics CRM is that you get to see businesses get a ROI very very quickly. To see their business grow with the help of Dynamics CRM is very enjoyable.
An example; we built a recruitment management system for a client about 6 years ago, once the recession hit he went from 25+ staff to 2! Luckily with Dynamics CRM everything was automated including invoicing and payroll so he was able to keep the company running. Without Dynamics CRM it wouldn’t be alive today.
Scott Sewell: I’m passionate about what I do – I enjoy it too much some days.
Mark Smith: I love it. I have built a company on it, I have grown a team over 20 dedicated to dynamics CRM so far, I like the variety and the community.
Curt Spanburgh: Companies are made up of people trying to make a living. And if you like helping people then it’s great. In my IT life it’s the best so far.
Ramon Tebar: It is very business oriented. Before Dynamics CRM, I was involved in HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) projects using mobile devices. Obviously, they are quite different fields, but I have enjoyed both of them a lot.
Jerry Weinstock: Over the last 30 years, I have transitioned through several careers and although it would look like there is no connection between them, there actually is a strong and definitive pattern. I really enjoy what I do and it gives me the opportunity to run a successful business. I wouldn’t want to go back to anything else I have done before.
Gustaf Westerlund: Not really had anything else. Worked a bit as a SharePoint consultant and I enjoy this a lot more. You are closer to the core business processes of your customers and the results you make are often very tangible.
Matt Wittemann: This is a great field to be working in - the technology is always changing and evolving, so it stays very interesting. I enjoy it more than previous work I've done because of the variety of challenges and the different businesses and teams that I get to interact with.
Julie Yack: It works for now, been full of great people and great opportunities.
Question #13: How often do you travel as a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional?
Neil Benson: The consultancy I work for has a local model so the consultants don’t have to spend time away from their families. But I enjoy occasional travel, especially if it means meeting other MVPs or I can take my family with me.
David Berry: Not much. As a developer, most of my work can be done within the confines of my home or office. Travelling to Dynamics CRM events, such as Convergence, eXtremeCRM, or CRMUG only require a few trips per year, but are satisfactory.
Chris Cognetta: 50% is a safe number or twice a month. You have to be willing to travel to the client site depending on your CRM role. Some roles like support or appdev have limited travel as onside is often not a requirement.
Donna Edwards: I have three dogs who love it when I am home so I generally try to work for companies where the travel is 50% or less. Some roles and companies require up to 80 or 90% travel. The good thing about this business is that you can be selective in finding the right fit for you.
Gus Gonzalez: I’m very happy about the fact that our company embraces virtual technologies and try to work this way with most of our customers; this enables me to stay local for most of the year. I get to travel once in a while; I believe that the days I was out of the office and on site at a customer was about 15-20 days in the year 2012. It can certainly change in 2013 where I could travel more (or less) but on average I get to travel once every couple of months for a couple of days. This is not true for all companies and all positions, in other words, if you are a Solution Architect or CRM Consultant you might have to travel more than a developer for example.
David Jennaway: Almost every week. An average week might involve 2 days on customer sites, one day in the office (which is 200 miles from home), and 2 days working from home. I probably average ~8 hours travel a week, and 1 or 2 nights away.
Feridun Kadir: Too often – but that is mostly to deliver on-site training. Most of my other work can be done remotely.
Larry Lentz: I used to travel quite a bit teaching. However, use of the Internet to conduct classes has become much more popular. I haven’t traveled to teach in about a year. Which is good as modern day travel is not as pleasant as in the past. I do travel to various conferences, etc. a couple of time a year. Most of my consulting I can do remotely, to include installation and administration of CRM systems.
Joel Lindstrom: Somewhat regularly, although much work can be done remotely (installations, report writing, integrations, etc.)
Mitch Milam: It varies. This year I’ve spent about two months on the road.
Jamie Miley: I don't travel much at all with Sogeti because we have a geographic focus. I concentrate on Sogeti's Twin Cities metro area clients. A lot of other companies want a lot of travel though. Some require up to 100%.
Gayan Perera: At least couple of times a month to different cities.
Scott Sewell: Usually weekly – but it depends on the project.
Mark Smith: International 5 times in the past year and nationally about 12 times per year.
Curt Spanburgh: I used to travel a good deal but I feel this is often a waste of precious time. In the world that we have now, not much travel should be expected. I really am glad we got past 1997. It’s 2012 and we have many ways work remotely.
Ramon Tebar: So far I haven’t traveled much, I normally stay in London.
Jerry Weinstock: I attend the MVP Summit and Convergence each year but otherwise don’t have to do any traveling for business. Most of our work is in the local area and the work that isn’t we can do by screen shares, Skype, etc. Although that is the somewhat the exception to the rule and I think that if you get into larger projects that you will have to plan for at least some travel at the beginning of every project. Most development work doesn’t have to be done onsite.
Gustaf Westerlund: Travelling outside the own office is very common for me. Maybe not every day but in average 3 days a week. We have most of our customers in the same city which does make travelling easier but it really depends on where you have your customers and if you are able to work remotely to their systems or not. I also try to visit my customers quite a lot, even if we are doing in-house work, since it gives better understanding of their situation and it generates more work for us.
Matt Wittemann: Over the course of my career with CRM I've traveled as little as 5-10% of the time, to as much as 90% of the time. Currently I travel about 25% of the time. Because of the specialized nature of the skillset that is required, working with CRM often means traveling to where the projects and clients are.
Julie Yack: Lots and lots, but I get to pick and choose and say no to whatever I want.
Question #14: How often do you have to work “after regular hours” to keep up with the work?
Neil Benson: I quite often go running during the day and work in the evening, or work a little during weekends to make up for a few hours off during the week. My hours are very flexible.
David Berry: My personal situation influences this answer more than anything, but when everything at home is calm, then the “regular hours” are sufficient. I think it all depends on how good you are with time and resource planning.
Chris Cognetta: Often but family work life balance is important. Go lives are usually on Fridays and do impact some weekends.
Donna Edwards: I frequently put in 10 hour days with some weekend work. The evening and weekend work is generally required to keep up with my community activity related to the annual MVP award and not necessarily directly work related.
Gus Gonzalez: It all depends on the project I am working on, sometimes I will work a few longer hours to make sure I exceed my customer’s expectations. Most of the time we are able to arrange our schedule in a way that we can deliver on time and manage to work on “regular hours”. This varies from organization to organization, I had longer days as a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Technical Lead because most of the projects I was involved in (I.E. Migrations, Installations, etc.) were performed off-hours.
David Jennaway: Frequently, though this might balance with other more flexible working. I probably work ~45 hours a week.
Feridun Kadir: Again, too often. Having clients in multiple time-zones also means that I have to work after “regular hours”.
Larry Lentz: Not as much as I used to as a networking professional. Since most of what I do is teaching, my need to work after hours is minimal, normally preparing for new classes.
Joel Lindstrom: I don’t have to work after regular hours, but I occasionally will—gives flexibility if I have work that can be done remotely and I have other things like children’s school activities that arise during normal business hours.
Mitch Milam: I own my own business(es) so that is a regular occurrence.
Jamie Miley: I train a good deal, but my community contribution also helps me stay up with trends and changes.
Gayan Perera: I enjoy CRM so it doesn’t feel like work.
Scott Sewell: Are you kidding? Absolutely.
Mark Smith: Hmmm its life… I am always working and always playing…
Curt Spanburgh: Always!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ramon Tebar: What I consider “working hours”, maybe 3-4 weeks a year, mainly during deadlines. However, I also spend additional extra hours trying or learning new things. For example, if there is a new CRM SDK coming, I like to read it and catch up with the latest changes. Sometimes I can do it during my normal hours, but other times I have to dedicate some extra time.
Jerry Weinstock: Since I own the company I never stop thinking about it. I usually work 50 hours during the week and a ½ day on the weekends. I am doing this survey on a Sunday evening!
Gustaf Westerlund: Not that much. I have kids and need to give them the time they deserve from me. When holding trainings or day-long workshops, I usually need to go through my emails in the evening.
Matt Wittemann: There's such a thing as "regular hours"?
Julie Yack: This is more due to the fact that I own my own business than my choice in technology.
Question #15: Have you ever regretted becoming a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional?
Neil Benson: Only when I discovered that most CRM MVPs have such a poor appreciation for good Scotch.
David Berry: Not once.
Chris Cognetta: Never.
Donna Edwards: I can honestly say, never. This is a good fit for me because working with the application aligns well with my skills and talents.
Gus Gonzalez: Not for a second. My only regret is that I did not get into it back in 2006 when I was introduced to Microsoft Dynamics CRM for the first time!
David Jennaway: There was a brief period when Microsoft decided not to release CRM 2.0, and instead go straight to CRM 3.0, when this didn’t seem a good technology choice.
Feridun Kadir: No.
Larry Lentz: Not at all.
Joel Lindstrom: No.
Mitch Milam: Never.
Jamie Miley: Never.
Gayan Perera: No, I think CRM is still very young, it’ll continue to grow and evolve over time.
Scott Sewell: No comment. :) – (not really- I have a blast doing this work.)
Mark Smith: NO!
Curt Spanburgh: No, it has helped my career and made me marketable.
Ramon Tebar: When I was a child, I wanted to be basketball player. Apart from that, never.
Jerry Weinstock: No.
Gustaf Westerlund: Never. It is a great passion of mine and I really enjoy working with both the system and processes.
Matt Wittemann: No. There are days that are stressful and projects that can be frustrating, but those are the exception and it's probably true of any profession.
Julie Yack: Nope.
Question #16: Are there any other areas of expertise you strongly exercise or are you focus solely on Microsoft Dynamics CRM?
Neil Benson: I mix up Microsoft CRM with lots of other stuff, but it’s a constant thread through all my work.
David Berry: Web development, server management, database administration, and integration are all tied to CRM in some way, but often extend well beyond the scope of CRM’s relative footprint. If you want an important skill that will apply to CRM and across many other industries, I find that server/service virtualization is essential.
Chris Cognetta: Infrastructure components - VMs, SQL, windows server and troubleshooting, outlook client, SSRS and SSIS.
Donna Edwards: Dynamics CRM keeps me very busy. There is no room in my life for anything more. It is challenging for me to find enough time in the day to keep up with this application.
Gus Gonzalez: I am focused solely on Microsoft Dynamics CRM but I like to learn about everything that relates to Microsoft Dynamics CRM (and other third party CRM systems). In my opinion, you cannot be an effective Solution Architect if you only work on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 24/7. My job is to find the best and most effective solution for my customer’s problem and sometimes Microsoft Dynamics CRM doesn’t provide the best solution out of the box. For example, imagine a CRM Consultant or Solution Architect trying to solve a problem regarding document management within Microsoft Dynamics CRM that doesn’t have any experience with Microsoft SharePoint or Office365. Venturing outside Microsoft Dynamics CRM will only make your knowledge and skills stronger.
David Jennaway: I spend maybe 25% of my technical time on SQL Server (mostly the database engine, SSRS and SSIS. Also a bit of SSAS), and .Net development, and 75% on CRM.
Feridun Kadir: All my work focuses on Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Larry Lentz: Up until this past year, I was also strongly focused on MS Small Business Server and networking.
Joel Lindstrom: I would recommend that anyone who wants to be a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional work on their communication skills. If you can communicate clearly and concisely, and listen more than you talk, you will set yourself apart from many of the other consultants in the field. Also, don’t just focus on your career, get involved in the community—share your knowledge on blogs, forums, wiki, and other community venues.
Mitch Milam: Understand cloud-based computing and when it is, or could be, right for a customer.
Jamie Miley: I do a lot of SQL since CRM uses SQL a lot. I also do a lot of .NET as it applies to CRM but not always just in the context of CRM. .NET is needed everywhere.
Gayan Perera: .NET / C# helps a lot when customers require complex integrations or complex requirements. To harness the full potential of CRM I believe you need to be able to take CRM beyond it’s simple customization capabilities and you can do that with .NET.
Scott Sewell: All of it is CRM Centric – but learning other tools in support of CRM is essential.
Mark Smith: Dynamics CRM only.
Curt Spanburgh: Yes, Microsoft Great Plains, SQL Server, AD and Share Point.
Ramon Tebar: Yes, there are. I carry on exercising and learning about .NET development, software architecture and best practices.
Jerry Weinstock: I often end up becoming the trusted advisor to a client and I get questions about online marketing – email marketing, search engine optimization, website development, SPAM, etc.
Gustaf Westerlund: Communication skills are essential to being a good consultant. You can be the best technician in the world but if you cannot communicate with your customers properly, they are still not going to fully appreciate your work. Expectation management is alpha and omega.
Matt Wittemann: My focus has been primarily Microsoft CRM, but because my company builds an email marketing solution on top of CRM, I also focus on our product.
Julie Yack: I do a bit of general biz consulting and other random software projects that don’t use CRM.
Question #17: If you were not a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional, what would your career be?
Neil Benson: See #12.
David Berry: I suspect that I would still remain in IT—servers, networking, virtualization, and software support.
Chris Cognetta: Application Arch / Infrastructure Arch.
Donna Edwards: I've been working with CRM for so long and it is such a good fit for me that I can't imagine working in another field. If I had to choose, I suspect Internet technology such as managing an Ecommerce site or working with a large Ecommerce provider such as Amazon.com, Google or one of the other major players.
Gus Gonzalez: I would probably be a Citrix Solution Architect or maybe an IT Security Solution Architect, my two other ‘strong’ areas.
David Jennaway: Probably go back to technical IT training on niche Microsoft products. A more radical departure could be to some form of environmental engineering.
Feridun Kadir: Interesting question, there is so much else to try. Perhaps a teacher, lawyer or professional tourist!
Larry Lentz: Guess I’d still be a networking guy.
Joel Lindstrom: I would probably still be in a sales career.
Mitch Milam: Fry cook at Denny’s.
Jamie Miley: I'd be doing .Net development somewhere.
Gayan Perera: Most likely a .NET developer building web apps.
Scott Sewell: Cat juggler.
Mark Smith: In digital marketing.
Curt Spanburgh: Share Point, SQL Server, Hyper-V.
Ramon Tebar: I really like R&D, devices and new technologies, so maybe that would be my career.
Jerry Weinstock: Well, if you are going to ask me that question it would be a professional waterskier.
Gustaf Westerlund: SharePoint ditto I suppose.
Matt Wittemann: I would probably be working with other web-based business applications, especially those used for marketing, since that's always been my passion.
Julie Yack: No idea.
Question #18: What is your favorite part about being a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional?
Neil Benson: When users become addicted to CRM software I’ve implemented.
David Berry: The active community, which stands out in a crowd of communities, is especially engaging and rewarding.
Chris Cognetta: Helping others succeed with the product and sharing my knowledge with others. Working with people all over the world and being only 1 of the 50 MVPs for CRM.
Donna Edwards: I am in demand and have the luxury of working on what I enjoy.
Gus Gonzalez: My favorite part comes when I show companies and especially users how easy their lives are going to be “now that they have Microsoft Dynamics CRM”. I normally compare with the time they made the change from a regular cellphone to a smart phone; it looks difficult at the beginning but “you are going to love this thing in a few months”.
David Jennaway: Variety.
Feridun Kadir: Meeting new people – especially other Microsoft Dynamics CRM professionals.
Larry Lentz: Dealing with the product and the people in the CRM community.
Joel Lindstrom: My favorite part is working with great customers, getting to work on exciting projects. It’s great to wrap up a project and see a client’s eyes light up because they finally have a system that fits the way they work, and have all the information at their fingertips that they need to do their job. I love the variety, and I really like helping others learn how to use CRM.
Mitch Milam: That I seldom run into an issue or requirement that can’t be solved one way or the other.
Jamie Miley: The vibrant community that has grown There are a lot of people who put in a lot of extra hours to help make your experience better.
Gayan Perera: Get to build applications that help other businesses grow. Every business is different so each new project becomes a challenge with unique requirements.
Scott Sewell: Solving problems / making my customer happy.
Mark Smith: The positive changes that can be made in an organization when Dynamics is implemented right.
Curt Spanburgh: I learn from smart people around me. And our MVP group is special. Truly a family.
Ramon Tebar: CRM. The concept of Customer Relationships Management still fascinates me.
Jerry Weinstock: I love it that about 30% of what we do every week is brand new. We are constantly doing real thinking to develop new solutions to challenges our client’s give us.
Gustaf Westerlund: The combination of all different parts of the work. The extraordinary system where I can generate huge amounts of value in very short time. When I spend one day at a customers and they give me standing ovations when leaving, that feeling makes me feel indestructible!
Matt Wittemann: My favorite part is the variety. I get to wear a lot of different hats every day.
Julie Yack: It’s always changing, the days are never boring and it keeps my brain engaged.
Question #19: Looking back at your career so far, is there anything you would do differently?
Neil Benson: Move to California and learn to surf before turning 36.
David Berry: “Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.” -George Orwell
Chris Cognetta: I might have stayed on the programming side SDK etc. as this is a high demand position.
Donna Edwards: I probably wouldn't have stayed at my first job for as long as I did. Changing jobs more frequently has certain benefits.
Gus Gonzalez: I think that besides becoming a CRM Professional in 2006 instead of 2009; I would’ve loved to become a Solution Architect from the start instead of spending two years as a technical lead, however, those 2 years gave me a lot of knowledge that otherwise I would’ve never learned so I’m thankful for that.
David Jennaway: Not really. Most of the decisions have been taken based on the information available at the time, and have not involved a very strong sense of direction, and I’m happy with how that’s worked out
Larry Lentz: Probably not. I started out as an Engineer Officer in the US Army and was an instructor at the US Army Engineer School. This gave me invaluable skills for life and for what I do now. Then I was in the financial world for a decade, first as a stock broker and then in banking. I left that to become an IT professional, joining Ross Perot’s EDS in 1982. That gave me a great background for what I do now.
Joel Lindstrom: I would have taken the leap.
Mitch Milam: You said you wanted short answers, so I’ll need to pass on this one.
Jamie Miley: No, I like the road has taken me down so far. Maybe fewer beers at Convergence would be helpful. :)
Gayan Perera: Yes, provide training to clients from very early on in the project so that they know how to effectively use CRM.
Scott Sewell: Learn C#.
Mark Smith: Spend more time learning.
Curt Spanburgh: I would rather do more “building” than “fixing”. So often, I have been sent out on assignments to fix a mess. I would like to experiment more with mash ups. I would like to code more.
Ramon Tebar: Honestly, there is nothing.
Jerry Weinstock: I would have started my own business 5 years sooner.
Gustaf Westerlund: I try not to be constructive and look forward instead of pondering in the past. You usually make the decisions you do with the data you had at the time. It is not fair to yourself revising all your decisions on a later date with new information.
Matt Wittemann: No.
Julie Yack: Nah, don’t live with regret.
Question #20: Do you have any hobbies outside Microsoft Dynamics CRM? If so, how often do you get to spend time doing it?
Neil Benson: I enjoy barefoot running, trail running and ultramarathons. My goal for 2012 was to run 6 miles a day which I hit it by running 3,661 km (2,196mi). This year will be less running and more new activities. And did I mention surfing?
David Berry: I’m one of the fortunate who turned a hobby of passion into a career, with software development. At the moment, one hobby is home improvement, and I can tell you this: it’s a lot harder than programming. Another hobby is writing—and that’s a lot easier.
Chris Cognetta: Yes, restoring classic cars. Again work and family balance must be accomplished in any job not just CRM. This hobby is therapeutic.
Donna Edwards: I enjoy time with my family, friends, dogs, playing golf, boating, and traveling. I make time to spend on all of them.
Gus Gonzalez: Yes! – I practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and I train 2-3 times a week. It’s a fun sport and you burn about 1,200 calories an hour. It works for any body type, any age, any gender. It’s awesome and I recommend you try it. Prior to Jiu-jitsu I played First Division Rugby here in USA and before Rugby I was a competitive swimmer and Water Polo player in my native country of Venezuela.
David Jennaway: The main one is cycling – I race in cyclocross races – which might be around 8-10 hours a week. Fitting training around travel is a continual challenge. I also spend a fair bit of time on other outdoor sports (skiing, sea kayaking, mountaineering), though this is mostly on weekends and holidays
Feridun Kadir: There are hobbies I’d like to take part in but with a young family I have very little spare time.
Larry Lentz: I am a long time ham radio operator. I have been inactive for the past many years, focusing on computers in general to scratch that itch. But recently I have gotten back into it.
My wife and I enjoy visiting wineries around the state, the country, and internationally.
Joel Lindstrom: Most of my time outside of work is spent with my family and children, but I try to read at least one book per month.
Mitch Milam: I have a woodworking hobby. My time varies depending on how much other work I have to do. Lately, I’ve been making more time for woodworking rather than just sitting in front of a computer all day.
Jamie Miley: Genealogy is a biggie for me. I also like to shoot pistol. I get out once in awhile to shoot. I usually spend at least an hour a day on genealogy. My 11th great grandfather was the governor of one of the 13 colonies.
Gayan Perera: Yup, I have a pilot’s license, try to go flying every weekend when the weather is good. Also got into snowboarding – not very good at it yet haha.
Scott Sewell: Travel – not nearly enough.
Mark Smith: I spend as much time as I need to keep me interested but not too much that I get bored.
Curt Spanburgh: I’ve been playing guitar for 40 years and blues harp. Some MVP put a video of me playing blues on YouTube from the summit. So I “nailed” as the musician of the MVP group.
Ramon Tebar: Yes, I do. Currently, my other technical hobby is Windows 8 Apps. However, I do love sports: basketball, squash, swim and tennis.
Jerry Weinstock: When I am not doing CRM I am thinking about going waterskiing or going waterskiing. From April to September it is the first thing that gets done on weekends.
Gustaf Westerlund: I love playing computer games and I am currently playing Battlefield 3, one of the best games ever made. Want to play with me? My nick is “Phleuthe”. Otherwise my family and house takes up a lot of my time. I am also engaged in some non-profit organizations. My general view on this is that your will never be given more time. It is a matter of priorities, cut down on watching TV and you will usually free a lot of time.
Matt Wittemann: I have a lot of hobbies that I spend very little time on.
Julie Yack: I travel a lot, work helps with that. I also volunteer a bunch in my community, both personal and professional. I spend time volunteering a few times a month.
I hope you found this article informational (or at least entertaining) if you are looking to make a move into the world of Microsoft Dynamics CRM; if you are already a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional, I want to hear your feedback, feel free to answer these questions on the comments section or let us know at least if you found this article entertaining.
All the Microsoft MVPs who participated in this article come from different backgrounds and took many different paths to become a full time Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional but we all have one thing in common, we are all very passionate about what we do and that is the most important thing to have if you decide to become a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Superstar!
“Champions aren't made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them -- a desire, a dream, a vision.” – Muhammad Ali.
Nice article... i consider 2 stuffs very important:
1. You to understand what CRM solutions means.
2. Love Microsoft Dynamics CRM or CRM tools... you can learn the other stuffs as your passion it's growing up.
Thanks Gus, for this wonderful collection of thoughts from these community favourites and yourself. It is a privilege to understand your thought process and the journey so far. Also we find it very helpful in reaffirming our beliefs in MS Dynamics CRM. Hope to share a dias with all of you someday. Regards, akhilesh
I hope you guys work towards that goal!
Awesome! I have been looking for this information and guidance. Thank you so much.
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