I attended the Dynamics User Group Conference Summit in Nashville this October. While there I met with one of our Dynamics GP clients: Scott Alstrom from Home Care Products. I had an amazing time experiencing all that Summit had to offer, so I wanted to chat with Scott afterwards about his experience there and whether he found value in attending the conference (spoiler alert – he did!)
Tiffany: Hello Scott, thank you for joining me today! You and I attended Summit together this year with some of Encore’s other clients and staff. I was hoping to get your feedback and experience of the time that you had at Summit this year. First off, Scott, can you please share a little bit about yourself, who you are, your company, and your role within your company?
Scott: Sure, my name is Scott Alstrom. I have been an accountant for 15 years, and I’m currently with a company called Home Care Products, Inc. They’re a manufacturing company that makes accessibility products. When I say accessibility products, it’s items for ramps or ramps themselves, which can be anything from someone needing a wheelchair to people wanting to use ramps for four-wheelers. We also sell accessories, an example of this would be a cover for someone’s scooter, things such as that.
I was previously in the freight industry for over 13 years, and for the last year and a half I’ve been in with Home Care Products a manufacturing company. I am a user of Great Plains (GP) Dynamics.
Tiffany: Fantastic, thank you. So, some people may or may not be aware that Encore recently acquired Fine Solutions, who was your Microsoft partner. Being that you’re new to Encore, I was wondering what your expectations were going into having Encore as your new partner and attending Summit with us?
Scott: I wasn’t sure what expectations I had. The acquisition happened right after we had already made the decision for me to go to Summit. It was really only a couple of weeks that I knew that Encore had acquired Fine, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Encore reached out to me before Summit and said, “Hey, by the way, we’re going to be at the convention.” So I didn’t really have a whole lot of expectations, and also this was my first convention so I didn’t really know how everything would work.
Tiffany: So what made you want to attend Summit this year?
Scott: Well, actually what had happened is I went and talked to our CFO about me taking a Jet reporting class. I was actually looking to get some Jet training when he mentioned Summit and that there would be plenty of Jet training, that is when we just decided for me to go to Summit.
I went not only wanting to get training on Jet reporting, but also training on other items as well like SmartLists. We use SmartLists all the time and have eOne’s SmartList Builder. We also have other third-party products that I wanted to learn about.
Tiffany: Great. Did you get to attend many sessions that were about Jet reporting and SmartLists as you were looking for?
Scott: Yes, and that’s exactly what I did. One of my favorite things from Summit is the classes I was able to attend. By taking a class on Jet reporting, I learned about Jet Express. Which I have a meeting tomorrow with the CFO to discuss the things from Summit that I learned and what we can incorporate. The number one item is Jet Express. It’s something we can download right now, use it, and then upgrade it to the full professional if we want to. So it kind of gives us a nice little leeway into learning Jet reporting before having the full-blown Jet reporting. But we can do quite a bit with it and we can link to some of our third-party items that we have in GP. So that was kinda neat to learn that Jet Express could do something like that.
Some of the other things that I really liked with Summit was the ability to ask some of the experts some of the questions. You know, we use a third-party software, eOne; I was able to talk with the programmer who programmed this tool. I was able to ask him a couple of questions about a few of the issues we have been facing. I learned that we’re on an older version of it and all the issues we have are fixed in the newer releases.
Another big thing I enjoyed about Summit is the networking opportunities. Like I said, I met some third-party software companies and I also got to talk to other users of GP who tell you “Oh, hey, we solved this problem this way.” Since we are a manufacturing company I went to a couple of manufacturing classes. In one of them I asked a question and people around me in addition to the person presenting were able to tell me workarounds to try.
Tiffany: Yes, that is true, with new releases of software including GP and add-on solutions they do address and fix common problems or issues some clients might have on older versions. So those were your favorite things about Summit. What was your favorite thing that you did with the Encore team?
Scott: Of course going out was a fun time! I’d have to say going downtown Thursday night was one of the neat ones. For myself, if I didn’t meet up with the Encore team one of my worries going into it was I don’t know anyone. I ended up being able to go with a group of people and we walked down the strip in Nashville. They have what they call Broadway Street which is downtown and we walked all the way up and all the way down. We listened as we went to each of the different bars with live bands playing, and then made the decision to go back to the one we thought had the best band. I thought that was kinda neat, that’s something I wouldn’t have done on my own.
Tiffany: Well, that’s good to hear you enjoyed exploring Nashville with us. Do you feel like you benefitted from having your partner with you at Summit, then?
Scott: Definitely, other than the first day, at breakfast and lunch I just went to the Encore table. Which, at that time, we’d fill up the table and have two or three tables going because there was so many people and software partners that joined us. That gave me a chance to meet other GP users, Encore clients, the Encore team, and third party software providers.
I was also able to learn that you’re originally based in Canada but now have a presence all through North America. It was kind of neat to get the background of Encore’s company and even why they acquired Fine Solutions.
Tiffany: Yes before, Encore was mostly based in Canada, now that we’ve acquired Fine, we have Encore offices in Seattle and Portland as well. This is great for Encore and our clients. So, what did you think of Nashville itself?
Scott: Nashville itself was very neat. I mean, the best part for me was the hotel, the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Centre. The hotel was just gorgeous. Walking through it was an experience itself, they have a river in the hotel which you can go for a boat ride, and you even have a radio station going on inside your hotel. It’s also right by the Grand Ol’ Opry!
I mean, some people may not have even gone downtown or gone anywhere because the hotel is just absolutely beautiful. It had a great location with shops by it and restaurants you could walk to that had singing waiters, that was very interesting.
Tiffany: Yes, that was neat, we weren’t expecting that! So would you recommend Summit for others?
Scott: Yes, I definitely would recommend it for other people. One of the great things is the classes are designed for different people in the industry. So you have IT specific courses or since I really concentrate on reporting, which is a big portion of my job, I was looking at reporting courses but there was courses for an AP person, etc.
You can really tailor what you want in your classes or you can jump in and listen to a class in a field you might not be familiar with but are interested in. For example, everything is abbreviation in GP, right? And so sometimes there’s abbreviations you don’t know exactly what they are, you just start using them. It’s like, “Huh, I’ve always wondered what that meant.”
Tiffany: Yeah, exactly. Microsoft is known for their abbreviations!
Scott: Yes, yes, yes. I also went to a SQL Reporting class, I’ve been using Crystal Reports for several years which is a form of SSRS. I’ve always thought SQL reporting and SSRS were two different things but it turns out SSRS stands for SQL Server Reporting Services.
I went and sat in on a Budgeting Software session as well and then go and talk to Tracey Santos (from Encore) who has a lot of experience and say, “Hey, Tracey, this is something someone in our company has talked about. What other options are out there?” So, she gave me some other recommendations and suggested, “For the size of your company, and what you’re doing, these are probably the two best that will work for you.” It was great to get her recommendation and now I have some options for when we are ready for this type of project.
Tiffany: Great, yes. Tracey is extremely knowledgeable. Do you think you would attend Summit again?
Scott: I would. And I would kind of tailor my classes a little different this time. Because this time I really focused on third-party software that we already have, you know, that we might not be using to the full potential. Next time I might look at more AP and probably by that time we’ll be upgraded. I’ll also be looking at more on Power BI as this could be something we might be interested in. So I’d be able to completely tailor mine to something different next time.
I don’t think I’ll be going next year but I think what we will have someone else attend. We have already talked about doing the Early Bird registration for next year then we can decide who to send. If people can’t go then I’d be happy to go, and it’s in Phoenix next year!
Tiffany: That is great to hear! Lastly, what kind of value do you see in sending different types of resources to Summit?
Scott: The value I see is really, people can pick and choose their courses depending on where they work, or specialize in. I mean, you can send an AP person and there’s so many AP trainings. You can send your payroll person if you use GP Payroll. Or even if you do not use it, we do not use it here but I met a third party company that has a tool which attaches to GP.
Tiffany: Great, thank you very much Scott, for taking the time out of your day to speak with me and provide your feedback on this year’s Summit!
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