I recently attended my second AX User Group chapter meeting in London on June 21st. Much like the first time, I left with a broader network and a head full of ideas. I thought it would be nice to share them here, and hopefully encourage a few of you to attend in the future.
What is the AXUG UK Chapter Meeting?
Let’s start with what the AXUG UK Chapter meeting isn’t. It’s not a sales pitch. It’s not a day of boring presentations full of people talking at you. And it’s not a waste of time.
What is it then? In short, it’s a day of networking,
What I really like about the AX User Group is it’s a bunch of people who come together to really think about how they’re using Dynamics AX. There’s a lot of commitment from the people who attend and there’s also an open atmosphere where people are happy to share their experiences. They share issues they may have with Dynamics AX, and they talk about what’s working for them. There’s a very collaborative feel to the group, and that’s a really positive thing in my vision of what a community should be.
Who Attended the London AXUG Event?
There was a real mix of people in attendance. It was probably more IT than anything else, but there were also end-users, key partners, ISVs, people who had just gone live on Dynamics AX and were just beginning their journey, and people who had been using Dynamics AX for a long time and had already gone through upgrades. There were people who had moved from AX to 365 Enterprise edition, and people who were considering upgrading as well. This kind of mix kept the dialogue fresh and interesting, because we were all approaching the topics from a slightly different perspective and background.
Challenge: How to Get More out of Microsoft Dynamics AX
At the moment the group isn’t big enough to do a breakout, so everyone attends all sessions. This makes it a great way to network, actually. The ISVs hosted the sessions, and a lot of them spoke specifically about the ERP. During the feedback session at the end, one of the main points was that we want to have more sessions focused on getting more out of Dynamics AX.
Companies start these ERP projects and they have great ambitions, and then their scope narrows and narrows and narrows to get them live. They go live and have a period of quite high intensity, and then they tend to fall on the floor for a few months to recover. After that, they carry on and they don’t always exploit everything in the ERP that they probably envisioned they would at the start, because they go right back into business as usual. There was a strong feeling that everyone wanted to get more out of what they’ve got, because they’ve made such a significant investment in Dynamics AX. It was great that we were all in sync on this, and I’m looking forward to hearing more on this topic in future meetings.
Challenge: Staying Up To Date on Microsoft Roadmap
One person also touched on the fact that they want to see more of the roadmap from the Dynamics AX / 365 Enterprise edition point of view. They had actually done modifications that they turned out not to need in the end, because they were in the Dynamics AX roadmap but just hadn’t been announced.
Although this is an independent event, there are people from Microsoft there, and it’s of course hosted by Microsoft. So the benefit of bringing up a point like this at the AX User Group session is that there’s a Microsoft representative there to address it (Dave Hirst, in this case). Through this dialogue, we learned Microsoft is changing the way they publish the roadmap — which is of course very valuable information to have.
What Are the AX User Group Sessions Like?
I got to talk to the group about digital transformation, and I really wanted people to consider what they can do with their customers online. There’s always this perception that e-commerce is about going online, like a retail site, and buying something and checking out with PayPal or a credit card. But you can do so much more than that with a web store.
You can do sales orders and quotations, you can offer product information online, you can check all your financial transactions and you can send invoices. My goal was to really hit this home: you have to be online in order to survive. Your competitors are doing it, you have to do it, every customer expects it and demands it nowadays.
We did a live quiz at the start to ask how relevant e-commerce was for everyone’s business, and when we did it again at the end that number had increased. So it was good to see we’d made them think of the importance of digital transformation.
If you are interested in e-commerce built for Microsoft Dynamics AX, you can learn more here.
If You’re Not Serving Customers Online, Why Not?
E-commerce is very split now in the UK. We have a mature e-commerce market with lots of second and third generation web stores, but there still is a significant minority who think it’s not for them. They often have reasons like it’s too complex, we’ve got shipping issues, creating customer accounts is difficult, etc. We were able to address issues like this in Sana’s breakout session.
Customer Portal vs. Web Store
We often hear from people who think that a customer portal is not e-commerce, so it was really great when someone brought up this question during our session. I was able to explain that there is a lot of value in having an online portal, even if you’re not selling online. Customers can go into the My Account area and look at all of their interactions — invoices, shipments, returns, quotations, etc. They can find quotations that were maybe placed by a sales rep and converted into an order, for example, or they can access their old invoices and make a payment. Selling online is really only one facet of what Sana can provide, and the group was really happy with the idea that you don’t even need to do the e-commerce aspect of it, but can choose to just offer a highly functional portal.
The Added Value of Collaborating With Other Dynamics AX Users
In the end, the best part of the AX User Group for me was really just to be there with the users. This kind of collaborative knowledge and sharing is so important. AX is a highly configurable solution and it can do a lot. It’s functionally rich and so much of it is about how it’s configured, so I think sharing experiences between people about what they’ve done and haven’t done is really valuable.
Microsoft are also really keen to drive the group as well, because it’s a great way to get product feedback. It’s really the only channel they’ve got direct to the end-user. So you can have a voice by attending groups like this. If there are a significant amount of people in the UK having this issue with AX or with Microsoft, they can come together as one to push it with Microsoft, and Microsoft is really open to listening to them.
I think this group is perfect for anybody who’s implementing, thinking of implementing or has implemented AX. You can find other contacts and build your own network. If you’ve moved from smaller systems where you might have known other users because it’s a much smaller world, you kind of lose that when you go to AX, so this is the place to build up your own personal network again.
Overall, people were really open to sharing and trying to solve each other’s problems. I’ve been to a few of these meetings now, and it’s nice to come back and see people again and catch up. The experience was very positive. It’s a very welcoming group, and they’re all really involved. It’s definitely not a selling group, either. There are no business cards out or anything — it’s all about knowledge sharing. It’s great to network with key users as well as with key partners like HSO and eBECS.
How to Join the Next AX User Group Session
Go to the AX User Group website and register for free. You can also attend the events without being a member, and those are also free. A lot of partners don’t promote this to their customer base because they’re worried about other partners speaking to their customers. But it’s really not like that at all. It’s just about people trying to help others solve their issues. There’s none of that “my partner’s better than yours”, and it’s not a selling opportunity. If you want to find out what’s going on and build a network, this is the place to be!