Coming up March 10-13 in New Orleans is Microsoft Convergence 2009. Convergence is Microsoft's premier customer event for the Dynamics line of business, and it's one of Microsoft's largest conventions each year. A few people recently asked me why they should attend, given the difficult economy, and I was surprised that I quickly rattled off ten reasons why they should go. I'm sure that there are more but here are the ten biggest ones I came up with:
1) Learn how to get more out of your existing Dynamics program. Plenty of sessions at Convergence provide you with tips and information for fully exploiting your version of Dynamics. This is important information for tough times and give you the chance to look like a hero when you return home with ideas for improving the efficiency of your current setup.
2) Learn about new features planned for upcoming releases.The economy will turn around. When it does, people are going to want to know how to get ahead of the competition. Convergence can give you a heads up on all of the great new features in upcoming Dynamics releases, so you can better position your firm to compete.
3) Get Continuing Professional Education.If you are a CPA or other professional who needs continuing professional education (CPE) credits, your company is probably going to pay for them anyway, poor economy or not. Why not get two -for-one by attending Convergence to learn about Dynamics and getting CPE at the same time?
4) Learn what works from other users.You are not alone. You also don't have to figure everything out by yourself. There are thousands of users at Convergence, many of whom have been experiencing the same challenges as you. Convergence is the perfect place to ask questions and learn what works in the real world from real users.
5) Interact with product and support team members.Many of Microsoft's product team support members make it to Convergence. Being able to ask them questions is a phenomenal opportunity. There is nothing like walking through a scenario, in front of the application with a support team member looking over your shoulder.
6) Attend parties.Team Members and Partners are often more relaxed after the event. The social events are a great place to pursue some relationships that pay big dividends down the road. Don't underestimate this opportunity for networking. It's not frivolous. I've gotten some great info from clients.
7) Try something new.Hands-on labs at Convergence provide an opportunity to try out a product or process without worrying about setup, licensing or breaking something. If you've been wondering if a particular module would meet your needs, this is a way to figure it out quickly in a semi-structured environment.
8) Learn about Add-on Solutions.One of the benefits of the Dynamics ecosystem is that it is rich in vendors with applications designed to enhance your solution. This is the perfect place to pull out a list of pain points and see if there is an add-on solution that meets your needs. It doesn't matter if your pain is related to compliance, tax, efficiency or something else entirely; there is probably a third-party solution for you.
9) Learn about related applications.Convergence doesn't just cover the Dynamics applications. Related applications like SQL Server and the Microsoft Office products are covered as well. These products are an integral part of a Dynamics solution, and obtaining more information helps you better leverage your implementation.
10) Quick return on investmentIf you learn one thing that saves you eight hours of consulting time, you've essentially paid for the entrance fee. If you learn how to save two hours a week, you've gained one day-month in productivity. What is that worth to you?