Author Archives: Joel

5 Tips For Improving Your Work From Home Video Calls

I’ve seen a lot of posts recently about turning on your video for calls, especially at a time when human connection is so important. I agree!

Below are five zero-expense tips for improving the call quality when you decide to switch on that video button, or the boss mandates it.

Bill Lumbergh Turn On Video

Tip #1: Light Your Face

Having sufficient, diffused light on your face will make you look more natural.

The typical home office available light sources, from best to worst, are:

  1. Face a window during the day. If the sun is shining directly in, draw the blinds or curtain.
  2. Use a desk lamp with a lampshade, or shine a lamp without a shade at the wall in front of you.
  3. Overhead lighting.
  4. Facing a dark wall with a window in the background.

Tip #2: Bathe and Dress

I’m a work from home veteran; my routine has been for the past few years:

  1. Wake up at 6:15
  2. Coffee
  3. Start calls at 6:30

Special times call for special measures, so I’m giving myself more time in the morning to do my hair. Work From Home official video dress code is “Casual But Not Pajamas”.

Tip #3: Raise Your Camera Position

Ideally the camera would be around eye level, but this can be difficult to achieve with most laptops. Some newer laptops put the camera below the screen, making the viewing angle even more harsh. (I’m pretty sure the Dell PC hardware engineers do not attend video calls.)

Some options to improve this are:

  1. The old stack of books under your PC.
  2. If you have an external keyboard and mouse, you have additional flexibility in positioning the PC’s camera.
  3. Sit back a bit further to increase the distance to the screen, which will help the angle of the picture.
  4. Many apps like Microsoft Teams allow you to join calls multiple times. You can join audio and video from a phone or iPad, and screen sharing via the PC. Mute the mic and speakers on the PC, and remember where the right unmute button is.

Tip #4: Give Us the Kid/Dog/Cat Tax

If someone unexpectedly shows up in the shot, they are allowed to join the video.

Tip #5: None of These Tips Matter

No one cares what you look like, they want to see you and have a shared experience. We’re not competing for a videographer or gaffer of the year award.

Try committing to one week of turning video on for most calls, and see what happens!

Choose Your Own Adventure

As a kid I read books from a series called Choose Your Own Adventure. In the books, you’d come to a decision point, and the book would offer you some relevant choices:

To fight the ninja, turn to page 48.

To scream and run away, turn to page 92.

With all the uncertainty, chaos, and change happening right now, I’ve been thinking a lot about which pages I’m going to pick.

“The Worst Day of Your Life”

To live with dark thoughts, turn to page 77.

To get better, turn to page 30.

In 2019, my mental health sucked.

Depression isn’t something I’m sure how to talk about. What I now know is there are a lot of virtual tools to get one-on-one therapy. (I don’t even have to leave the house!) Getting help helps.

“River of No Return”

To buy a house and continue living in Colorado, turn to page 54.

To throw out stable plans and wing it, turn to page 5.

My wife and I moved to Colorado from Indiana seven years ago. As much as we love our friends and family there, it was time for us to move on.

We both have virtual jobs where we can work from anywhere, so we decided to take our band on the road. We put our stuff into storage, and the plan for the next year is traveling across the United States, staying in cities for a week to a month. Right now we’re in Boise, Idaho. Next stop is Missoula, Montana.

It’s kind of a crazy plan that has already changed a hundred times, but we’re going to make it work for us.

“Trouble on Planet Earth”

To let zombies eat your face, turn to page 34.

To let vampires eat your face, turn to page 102.

There are too many times in life where the choices we are presented with are all terrible. Shouldn’t at least one of the choices be good? The Coronavirus pandemic is forcing a lot of “lesser of two evil” type choices, and all of us feel the stress related to those choices.

My goal is to not take out my own stress on others, and do my best to alleviate others’ stress if I can. It’s so easy for me to lose control of my emotions when I’m feeling uncertain; however, I know I can reign in negativity if I put the proper attention and focus on how I’m communicating.

“You Are a Superstar”

To have a good cry, turn to page 8.

To survive another day, turn to page 51.

To solve all the problems, turn to page 99.

Sometimes we need help. Sometimes we only have the capacity to take care of ourselves. Sometimes we are able to help others.

All of these adventures are different, not less.

I used to cheat at the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I would make sure I went through every permutation of storylines; I wanted to choose every adventure.

My hope for the next months is to choose all the adventures in front of me:

  • Have the capacity, energy, and empathy to help others navigate through crisis.
  • Take care of myself so that others don’t have to.
  • Continue to receive help through therapy.
  • And, of course, fight the ninja.

“Return of the Ninja”

To share your adventure, comment below.

To ask for help, email joelleichty@gmail.com.

Grand Theft User Group

My colleague Josh Knox (https://iamjoshknox.com/) and I attended the D365UG Summit event this week. On Friday afternoon, we showed up for a session called “How to Make Training a Success in Your D365FO Implementation.” Unfortunately, there was a scheduling snafu and no presenter.

We figured what the heck, let’s steal this thing and MC a discussion! Then a room full of smart end users gave us a lot of free great content. And since we’re in the spirit of stealing, we figured let’s take that content and make a blog post too!

Training Around Go-live

Probably the biggest issue raised by the group was how to support users during the go-live. It can be quite overwhelming for users to adopt a new system, and sometimes minor steps or deviations in the process can cause headaches.

Some of the ideas presented by the group for supporting the users included:

  • A dedicated triage room at go-live where users can meet with system experts and SMEs to immediately get help and have questions answered. Also, once they get answers, also provide documentation of the question and answer.
  • Ensure training scenarios include what to do when things go wrong.
  • Give end users visibility and training into how the system works beyond their individual scope by explaining other upstream and downstream processes.
  • Provide business context for the processes being done in Dynamics.
  • One idea was to not do that much training prior to go-live. Teach users some basics about Dynamics, but wait until they have actual business data to process and do the training then.

Avoid Burnout

Implementations are challenging as generally the people involved have extra work. Also, during a go-live users won’t be able to process things as fast as they could in their old system, creating work backlog and additional stress. It’s important to have strategies in place to mitigate this.

The user community came up with these strategies to help:

  • Have healthy lunch catered – eating poorly does not help stress levels.
  • Nominate one person as a captain to train others in their group; this person doesn’t necessarily need to be the group manager. Also, it may be beneficial to nominate this person based on their success learning Dynamics.
  • Prior to go-live, allow users to set aside a certain amount of time each day to learn.

Process Documentation

Everyone feels better about a new system with some reference materials, even if only for the most frequent processes.

Advice in this area was:

Keyboard Shortcuts

Teaching users keyboard shortcuts for high volume processes can greatly improve user efficiency.

Speed up your data entry by:

Validation (The Human Type)

Implementations are challenging! It’s so important to be supportive and understanding when going through this massive change, and to let people know some stress and frustration is a normal part of the process – and that you will all pitch in to get through it.

My first job was doing an implementation on Axapta 2.5 back in 2002. Never in my life have I had weirder dreams than during that six months. I had a dream where my friend and I were at a restaurant and he said, “I’ll have a Fanta with my waffles. Then I want to you kill me!” And then my brother wrote a song about it. And then he made a hiphop mix because my family is weird (https://soundcloud.com/matthewdean/fanta-hiphop-mix).

To reiterate, trust me when I say EVERYTHING you’re feeling is normal and you will make it through that go-live!

 

 

 

Will Joel Be Lazy Today? A PowerApps AI Exploration

In February I got an Apple Watch to hold myself accountable for staying active. After AI Builder was announced at the Business Applications Summit, I decided to use the watch data to see what factors influenced my activity.

Gathering Data

There are a couple ways to get data out of the iPhone’s Health app. I found the appropriate table that tracks data for the Apple Watch Movement ring and threw it in Excel.

The next step was to dream up some factors that might influence my activity on a daily basis. These are intuitions and guesses based on my own personal experience. The factors I came up with were:

  • Climate (weather high and low)
  • Day of the week
  • Goal streak – consecutive days of being active
  • Total hours of meetings

This data gathering and theorizing was by far the most time intensive part of this process – more on that later. Below is the first summary table by day. One field contains the binary class field of whether I hit my daily movement goal.

2019-07-28_13-15-27

Adding Data to PowerApps

Data needs to be stored in a CDS Entity for AI Builder to see it. Creating the Entity is fairly straight forward.

Surprisingly, importing data from an Excel file was a very frustrating processes. This seems a fairly basic requirement, especially for something like AI Builder where quickly iterating is key to success. Some of the issues I encountered include:

  • Cannot create the Entity fields based on the Excel file.
  • Had to create a new Excel file with only one tab.
  • Fields aren’t automatically mapped, even though the field names are identical.
  • Errors are common, and error handling information is complicated to view.
  • When the import is complete, or errors out, there’s no close or back button.
  • There’s no easy function to delete all the records when re-importing, which makes it hard when the data and fields keep evolving.

Once data is ready, building the AI model is dead simple. Next > Next > Finish type stuff.

Improving the AI Model

My initial models were kind of dumb. For example, I hadn’t designed my “Goal streak” data field correctly and it ended up predicting 100% of the time whether I hit my goal, because it was a circular reference.

I went back to Excel and started to investigate the data field by field via Pivot tables to see trends and improve the dataset. For example, below are the trends by day of the week against the binary classification.

Pivot

I found each data point to not be individually super helpful, but there were some minor trends that matched my intuitions – which I would assume AI would take and go do magic AI things.

I also tried to classify the data into more broad groupings – I assumed an AI model might struggle to understand a variety of temperature integers, for example. I’m not a Data Scientist and I was making educated guesses based on my intuitions and some data trends I saw to come up with the classifications and help simplify the predictions.

My intuition, and individual data points, suggested the following:

  • I’m more likely to be active when it’s warmer.
  • I’m more likely to be active when I don’t have a lot of meetings.
  • I’m more likely to be active when I’ve been consistently active prior days.

The counter intuitive data I found was:

  • I’m lazier on the weekend (including Friday). Probably because I’m writing long blogs instead of going outside.

Testing the AI Model

Let’s take Joel’s Laziness for a test drive.

Here’s what the model shows.

Power AI

I used the Excel add-in to put in my data points from yesterday that weren’t included in the training dataset. The predicted result of hitting my Saturday goal:

“No”

Exactly right!!! We’re all living in the future!

20190728_195448376_iOS

Wait…what???

I’m Gonna Need Some Detail Over Here

AI Builder is a preview version of a complicated subject, and I want to have realistic expectations. After all, the AI model did get it right.

The problem is – looking at raw data in Excel gave me actionable information, while AI Builder didn’t. Going forward, I need to know the reasons why the prediction is “Yes” or “No”, so I can change my behavior based on the prediction. Looking at the raw data in Excel informed me that I suck at exercise on the weekend.

It’s Sunday.

I’m going for a walk.

 

 

Salmon Fishing in the Dynamics

First of all – funny movie.

Second of all – WHAT ARE YOU “CW” FIELD?

2019-02-18_15-34-53

You’ve run across it. Sitting there on your Purchase order and Vendor invoice forms. Using up your precious grid real estate. Making you tell your boss to buy you a giant monitor (I recommend this one) so you can comfortably fit Dynamics on your screen.

D365FO Vendor Invoice - License Configurations On

With a big enough monitor, any form will fit!

Does Anyone Even Need a CW?

Probably.

Apparently when you go fishing for salmon, the “Catch Weight” (CW) used to inventory the salmon (Lbs or Kg) can be different than the weight used to sell the salmon (Boxes). There are special requirements for buying and selling meat that need additional weight based functionality.

Whatever – Make it Go Away

In F&O there’s a License configuration form available (System administration > Setup > License configuration). In this form you will find there are all kinds of functionalities that can be deactivated, including the famous Salmon Fishing configuration:

2019-02-18_16-13-42

To turn off functionality, F&O needs to be in Maintenance Mode, then it’s a matter of unchecking the Boxes to be deactivated. Almost all License Configurations are on by default.

Going back the Vendor invoice form, it’s looking much more manageable with Configurations deactivated!

D365FO Vendor Invoice - License Configurations Off

Begone, Salmon!

Most License configurations are fairly obvious whether they’re in use just from the title, but sometimes it does take some trial and error in a Test environment to get this perfected. It’s much easier to configure this prior to a full User Acceptance Test to ensure no features are negatively impacted.

A Warning About Production Environments

In some versions of Dynamics AX (and possibly Dynamics 365 F&O), modifying the License Configuration did a Database Synchronization that could result in data loss. My testing has shown in later versions of Dynamics 365 F&O a Database Synchronization no longer happens. As of publication time, I did not receive a response from Microsoft on when the behavior changed.

My recommendation is to update the License Configuration settings prior to going live.

OPEN A CASE WITH MICROSOFT BEFORE CHANGING LICENSE CONFIGURATION SETTINGS IN A PRODUCTION ENVIRONMENT.

I will update this article if Microsoft comments on the safety of changing this in Production. In other words, if a feature was inadvertently deactivated, can it be reactivated without any data loss?

Spring 2019 Release Notes Deep Dive

Spring is in the air with flowers and rain and 500 pages of Release Notes. I’d like to highlight some of the features I’m looking forward to.

Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations

Expense Client Usability

I’m a fan of any UI refreshes in the application, especially the forms I have to personally use on a regular basis. I can already feel myself getting reimbursed faster.

Simplified View – Templates and Saved Views

These are additional UI improvements for allowing different groups of users to have different Form views. Seems like this will improve productivity; I hope there will be options to deploy the correct query/view from a Workspace or Menu item so users can get the appropriate Default view. It’s also unclear what options will be available via the X++ Development tools.

Enhanced Grid Experiences

There are a lot of forms in the Project module dealing with the Work Breakdown Structure or Subprojects that could benefit from fancy grid controls. Also, there are some “light weight” reporting scenarios that could be lit up using these controls.

Updated Navigation Bar that Aligns With Office Header

I have mixed feelings. I liked the menu path for screenshots and documentation. Hopefully the menu search being obvious is worth the trade off.

Developer Tools and Application Lifecycle Management

Lots of fantastic concepts in this article for developers, especially partners. Developer VMs can become a significant costs for developing for Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, so reducing this cost is a plus. Also, having a Microsoft managed version of a Tier 1 environment could standardize some disparate processes.

Event-driven Architecture for Integrations

There are so many possibilities when adding Event driven architecture (think Microsoft Flow); the challenge sometimes is imagining and defining good business scenarios.

Finance and Operations, Entities in CDS for Apps

Since CDS was released in the April 2018, F&O has needed a more native integration. This is a welcome addition to the stack.

However, the release notes don’t specify if this kind of CDS integration can be customized using the development tools. I hope that’s part of the experience so we can light up scenarios outside those listed in the article.

One Version Experience

The Embedded Power BI tool looks interesting.

Business Intelligence (Power BI)

New Filter Experience

This is in regards to the Filter bar on the right side. I would guess most report consumers don’t even know this exists. Having a way to have it expanded and formatted will turn those types of filters into viable options.

Drill Between PBIX Reports

It’s been possible in the past to do a version of this using URL formulas and URL filtering. Will be good to have more built in options.

Performance Analyzer for Reports

Excellent idea, especially for DirectQuery based data connections or complicated DAX expressions.

Azure Machine Learning Integration

Nice to get options other than web services to consume Machine Learning models.

« Older Entries