Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Monday, April 01, 2013

MVP’s Helping MVP’s

mvp_fullcolor_forscreen1I’ve had the honor for 6 years of being a member of a worldwide group sharing an award from Microsoft called “Most Valuable Professional”. MVP’s are described as “exceptional, independent community leaders who share their passion, technical expertise, and real-world knowledge of Microsoft products with others”. This sharing is typically done with other Microsoft customers but recently I needed expertise with a popular Microsoft product. I had the pleasure of experiencing an MVP at their best providing critical assistance for one of my community roles.

This is also my 6th year on the board of a local non-profit called the “Scotia-Glenville Children’s Museum”. We’re also known as the Traveling Museum since, instead of visitors coming to us, our teachers travel to schools and other events in the region providing hands-onmuseum programs that are fun and educational. 
This year the museum celebrates its 25th anniversary. I discovered our computer system worked like it was the same one they started with 25 years ago.

The organization recently invested in new computers and now runs quickly and securely on Windows 8. Unfortunately, problems were exposed in class scheduling which depended on an older version of a fantastic program called CRM.  We had just completed an exhausting search for an Executive Director and a broken computer system wasn't the best way to welcome her. Even though our two full-time staff members were ready to work hard manually emailing individual schedules to dozens of teachers every day wasn't an option.

I confess, I didn’t have a clue how CRM worked and only recently learned the amazing potential. While many in my small community think of me as a local computer wiz, my focus these days has been on security solutions. If you wanted help programming Windows or needed to reverse engineer a virus, I'm the guy.  In this case, we desperately needed someone with Server and CRM experience.

Just before traveling to this years annual MVP Summit I posted a call for help on a private forum shared by other MVP’s.  I suspect when other MVP’s heard we were still using CRM 3.0 they figured it was hopeless.  Not so with MVP Donna Edwards

Donna specializes in Dynamics CRM but her expertise includes Office365, SharePoint Server and SQL Server. She was the lead author on The CRM Field Guide. She had all the knowledge I lacked to assist the museum staff move ahead. There are kids in upstate NY getting a better education now thanks to a Microsoft MVP in North Carolina.

Donna went out of her way to advise the museum so we could find the least painful upgrade path. She connected to our system and fixed configuration errors created by previous computer firms. Like many non-profits, the Scotia-Glenville Children’s Museum could face extinction without volunteers and the support from folks like Donna. The new software licenses alone were not in this years budget so bringing in a local computer firm was risky and an expense we couldn’t have afforded. Donna even helped us find a required channel distributor willing to work with such a small organization.

Ironically, I never had an opportunity to meet Donna while we were both in Redmond, WA.  Microsoft kept us pretty busy so I’ll have to wait until next year to thank Donna in person. Until then I’m happy to let Microsoft and everyone associated with the MVP program know that it works, it really works!

* CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management.
You’ll now hear it referred to as Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

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