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Exploring Machine Learning, AI, and Data Science

Chris Gherardini on the role of data in ERP and CRM Systems

In this episode Frank and Andy have a chat with Chris Gherardini on the role of data in ERP and CRM Systems.


00:00:00 BAILey 

Hello and welcome to data driven, the podcast where we explore the emerging fields of data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence. In this episode, Frank and Andy speak to Chris Gardini about the role data plays in ERP and CRM systems. 

00:00:17 Frank 

Hello and welcome back to data driven. The podcast where we explore the emerging fields of data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence. If you like to think of data as the new oil, then you can think of us like Car Talk because we focus on where the rubber meets the road. Although there’s not much of a road trip usually on this virtual road trip. 

00:00:37 Frank 

Is Andy Leonard? How’s it going, Andy? 

00:00:40 Andy 

Hey Frank, it’s going really well. How are you doing? 

00:00:43 Frank 

I’m doing alright, you know, with the exception I might have to buy a new desktop computer. 

00:00:48 Andy 

Ah, I have not. 

00:00:49 Frank 

Possibly, or power supply. Literally. We were on this call and all of a sudden everything froze and I was like Oh well, blue screen. Big deal. 

00:00:59 Frank 

And then when I went to power it back on. 

00:01:03 Frank 

It just kept keeps beeping so I’m like oh, fee something something hard so I’m going to have to do some search engine work and possibly get a new power supply or something. 

00:01:06 Andy 


00:01:13 Frank 

Fortunately, micro center. 

00:01:14 Andy 

Everything is. 

00:01:17 Andy 

Go ahead. 

00:01:17 Andy 


00:01:17 Andy 

I’ve gotta say Frank, everything is figure out able right? 

00:01:21 Frank 

Everything is figure out able because of my experience with clear DB and all sorts of other drama. I have multiple backups of just about everything it if if you know so it’s it’s. It’ll be an inconvenience, not a tragedy. 

00:01:32 Andy 


00:01:37 Frank 

But every opportunity to come back from a complete backup failure is an opportunity to learn. 

00:01:47 Frank 

And, uhm, Speaking of opportunity, it’s really good timing that this guest is here because I as folks know I work at the Microsoft Technology Center in Reston and recently. 

00:02:00 Frank 

There was a, uh, someone we were on this engagement and it was very heavy into dynamics and uh, dynamics is one of those things. I haven’t really looked into Andy and I have been experimenting with power apps and power platform, mostly to kind of help automate a lot of our content. 

00:02:21 Frank 


00:02:22 Chris 

This is crucial as we. 

00:02:24 Frank 

Continue to put the final touches on our secret project, but this guest here is an expert in dynamics as well as various ERP solutions. 

00:02:36 Frank 

And he’s from Saint Louis, and his name is Christian. I’m really blowing this intro here. His name is Cristiano Gardeny. Did I pronounce that right? 

00:02:48 Chris 

Cristiano Guardian yeah, he pulled our sounded out there so. 

00:02:48 Frank 

OK good good. 

00:02:51 Frank 

He did fine, got it. Sorry about that. He’s the president and owner of Turnkey Technologies and they are a Microsoft partner. I did looking around on their website and they are basically they provide development, analytics, training and support services for Microsoft Dynamics. 

00:03:09 Frank 

If you don’t know what Microsoft Dynamics is, a lot of people don’t. In the data world tend to just know it tangentially. It’s basically Microsoft CRM system, so welcome to the show, Cristiano. 

00:03:21 Chris 

Thank you very much. Thanks for having me. 

00:03:25 Frank 

It’s good to have you here, and so what’s the weather like in Saint Louis right now? 

00:03:30 Chris 

Ah, it’s beautiful and sunny. Today it’s about 64 degrees Sun index is just right around A5, so it’s actually it’s actually nice and better than the the ice. We had a couple weeks ago so. 

00:03:38 Frank 


00:03:42 Andy 

Yeah, it got bitterly cold out there for about a week, didn’t it? 

00:03:47 Chris 

That’s right, I happen to be in Florida that entire week. Everybody couldn’t believe I missed all the fun. So with the IT was good, it was a good week to be gone. We left Saturday. We came back Sunday was 52 when we got back and the 9 inches of snow had melted and. 

00:03:51 Chris 


00:03:51 Chris 


00:04:00 Chris 

So yeah, perfect timing. 

00:04:02 Frank 

Nice, now you have excellent timing Sir. Not only in just the fact that dynamics is kind of coming up, coming up on my personal radar, but also in terms of avoiding bad weather. My first question is and I’m calm. Still a new bit dynamics. I learned a lot just by working on this. 

00:04:23 Frank 

One engagement we had DMTC. 

00:04:27 Frank 

Is Dinah. 

00:04:28 BAILey 


00:04:29 Chris 

So Dynamics Dynamics is the biz apps. I mean, you said CRM. It’s more than CRM. But today dynamics represents a family of products. You know, the legacy on Prem products, Dynamics AX Dynamics, Navy Dynamics, GP, Dynamics, SL and then the current dynamics 365, which encompasses both you know financing. 

00:04:49 Chris 

Operations, which was the dynamics AX and then Dynamics 365 business Central which was the Navy? So those are both ERP products. 

00:04:57 Chris 

And then Dynamics customer engagement, which is the CRM platform so so dynamics is a collection of biz apps. It’s a family of products and you know today we we focus on the two dynamics 365 ERP products and the CRM. The customer engagement product. So great solution, but it’s a platform also it. 

00:05:15 Frank 

That’s what I noticed, and folks that are listening. They’re like this is a data science kind of data engineering show. Why the heck are you talking about? 

00:05:25 Frank 

Dynamics but dataverse the data models, which are one of the things that blew me away, was on this one demo is that there’s a. There’s a button where you just basically can dump out all your cream data. 

00:05:38 Frank 

Or all your data and dynamics out to a data Lake. 

00:05:42 Chris 

That’s absolutely right, Azure. So if you think about the challenges where you move from a legacy system to the cloud, maybe all the data doesn’t move and you need to combine it in an Azure data like a data warehouse, and certainly all those tools and all the analytics are all part of the platform. That’s just it touches dynamics out of the box, so it’s quite a quite a degree of efficiency. 

00:06:02 Chris 


00:06:03 Frank 


00:06:05 Frank 

So one question I have about dynamics is it’s history now. You mentioned Dynamics AX and a couple of other letters next to the word dynamics. 

00:06:17 Frank 

Once Upon a time when I worked when I lived in Richmond, there was a guy who used to do a lot of work with that technology. 

00:06:24 Frank 

Back and it was Solomon in Great Plains is that is that the same thing is that the lineages from it. 

00:06:30 Chris 

That’s correct, that’s correct, that’s correct. And so the US based products was Great Plains software out of Fargo ND, and a gentleman named Doug Burgum owned that company privately and then his family. They bought the the Salomon product line as well and then in 2001 is when Microsoft bought Great Plains. 



00:06:46 Chris 

Software, so that’s kind of how they consume the North American products and then a year later Microsoft went to Europe and bought Dynamics AX and Dynamics Navy. It was called Exapta in division so and that became a second big purchase and instantly at 2002 they had four ERP products and they’re in the biz apps space like they’ve never been. 

00:06:48 Chris 

OK, so. 

00:06:48 Chris 


00:07:06 Chris 

Before so. 

00:07:09 Frank 

Ah OK, that’s interesting. ’cause I I now I know why. There’s a huge Microsoft campus in Fargo. 

00:07:16 Chris 

Yes, yes. 

00:07:18 Chris 

It’s beautiful campus. 

00:07:19 Frank 


00:07:21 Frank 

Yeah, I haven’t been there, but I definitely maybe one day I’ll end up going but the the other question I have for you. You keep saying biz apps when you say biz apps? What exactly do you mean like what? 

00:07:32 Chris 

Sure, so I’m. I’m a technical guy. I’m engineering comp SCI math and there’s two directions you go and even those curriculums you go **** **** or you or business applications and so business applications in our context is, you know, we’re we’re business process automation again, whether it starts in an ERP from a quote to cash or a procure to pay those. 

00:07:33 Frank 

What what comic sub is that like? 

00:07:52 Chris 

For business processes and the business applications support. 

00:07:56 Chris 

Work, transactional processing or even non transactional if you think about context of a lead to opportunity to customer type of flow where you start even earlier in the process, but it is it’s process automation and exception management and workflow and approvals and can go to the NTH degree of complexity. But but it’s biz apps in that categorization. 

00:08:16 Chris 

So as opposed to scientific apps or development tools or games, for example, right, we’re focused on businesses, not on residential applications. 

00:08:26 Chris 

That makes sense. 

00:08:27 Andy 

It does, yeah. 

00:08:28 Frank 

Do you have any questions Andy? 

00:08:30 Frank 

This is so awkward being on on this recording, but not being live. So for those that are watching or listening or maybe watching. 

00:08:35 Andy 

Yeah, I don’t work. 

00:08:40 Frank 

Go ahead. 

00:08:42 Andy 

Yeah, I’d like to apologize to Chris, especially thank you for coming on here, but we’re a little off because of the video. I I I never shaved but. 

00:08:50 Chris 

No worries. 

00:08:55 Andy 

I would have I. I have a face for radio. I think in audio, so that’s what’s throwing us just a bit. Although Frank and I do live streaming and stuff, can you tell us a little bit more about about what your company does, how how your team implements these biz apps? 

00:09:14 Chris 

Sure, so so turnkey is a is a direct Microsoft distributor, so we distribute dynamics licensing and then we provide 100% of the professional services to to plan to implement, to convert, to customize, to integrate. So really, if you think about there’s two parts of business, there’s the licensing side and and then the services side, which we’ve got about 60 team members. 

00:09:35 Chris 

These days, and as you think about, you know, delivering an implementation once the solutions been kind of articulated as project management methodology, really drive the success of the project, and so there’s an intimate, detailed plan. 

00:09:48 Chris 

Where we use Microsoft project and and we plan in very very low levels of detail for project execution. Everything from you know, the initial phases of analyzing and requirements and then through design and then through development and through deployment. And then we take people live, but it’s a very predictable methodology that’s used for project delivery. 

00:10:08 Chris 

Around the ERP products, so that’s that’s the first spot, so. 

00:10:12 Andy 

You know that sounds an awful lot like what what we do when we’re doing data warehousing as well and and similar work I I would say. 

00:10:22 Chris 

Absolutely the disciplines or you know, are kind of agnostic when you think about project methodology. 

00:10:27 Andy 

So just curious, what is a typical engagement about how long does a typical engagement last? 

00:10:34 Chris 

So and again, we sell 2 flavors Dynamics, 365 business Central. We talk about small, medium and those projects could. 

00:10:41 Chris 

Maybe three months for somebody small coming off of a QuickBooks. It’s just financials, but it could be six months for somebody that’s implementing distribution and manufacturing, for example. So depending on complexity, three months is normally the least amount of time, and in 6 plus months for the business, central on the finance and supply chain, which was acts as a much larger applications targeted at, you know. 

00:11:01 Chris 

Mid market enterprise organizations. Those projects are typically not being delivered in less than six months. Frankly, and I’ve got some that we see them take 12 to 18 months for example so. 

00:11:13 Chris 

No, it’s gonna save us the the project management requirement. Because of that duration and scope and girth. You really people get lost right? Anyway, I’m sorry please. 

00:11:23 Frank 

Oh no no no no no so. 

00:11:26 Frank 

The the, the ERM or the ERP systems like Dave require. So Once Upon a time I was working for a large German chemical company, right? And of course it’s a German company, so they used SAP and they hired a bunch of consultants and consulting firms to build out the system. But when they. 

00:11:46 Frank 

Rolled out SA P R2. I think it was. 

00:11:49 Frank 


00:11:50 Frank 

Apparently there was not. 

00:11:52 Frank 

A lot of project discipline now I’ll just. I’ll just leave it there. 

00:11:57 Frank 

And it basically shut down some of their plants because there were just things were not coming in the way they were supposed to. So So what? 

00:12:06 Frank 


00:12:07 Frank 

How does ERP systems? How do our ERP systems? Kind of you know if they’re done wrong? It sounds like they can create a big mess if they’re done right, they could really optimize operations. 

00:12:19 Frank 


00:12:21 Frank 

I mean is that, is that true? ’cause I I kind of saw, I mean. 

00:12:23 Frank 

That was just a Horror Story. It’s true. 

00:12:24 Chris 

It’s true, it’s true. It’s like me giving you lousy directions to drive from Florida to Washington, and it takes you six months and it should have taken you three days. There’s a great example. I poor guidance and poor methodology, is it stretches it out. Things are missed, costs are out of control, but again, if it’s done correctly through a thorough analysis. 

00:12:34 Frank 


00:12:45 Chris 

Then you really define scope. 

00:12:46 Chris 

And you know you have good business process visualization. Then you drive to deliver those processes to that point and and it’s. And again, if you do a good job and my team does a great job of of really articulating business process, you gain great efficiency and Moreover you get capacity to turn up the juice again, you can take more volume and you’ve you’ve articulated. 

00:13:05 Andy 


00:13:06 Chris 

And really gotten the inefficiency out of the process, and Even so, you don’t touch every transaction you touch the exceptions so you get a lot of leverage. But then you’re correct if it’s done right, if it’s done. 

00:13:16 Chris 

Wrong, right? It maybe it’s broken, maybe it falls off the table and somebody has to pick it up and has a manual step because they didn’t think through it thoroughly. And and now you’ve got a bigger problem, right? And sometimes companies don’t retire the old systems and they’re working in two places, so there is a lot of negative that can come for people that don’t manage and plan and and deliver these systems. And and again, we’ve been doing this. 

00:13:37 Chris 

For 27 years, so we’re pretty pretty good at it so. 

00:13:38 Andy 

Will you? 

00:13:40 Andy 


00:13:42 Andy 

Well, you you mentioned Chris that you know when you were giving examples of the typical projects links that customers are are often migrating from other platforms. Other ERP ish. Perhaps they do some of the ERP work and then you’re moving them into dynamics. And as you say. 

00:14:02 Andy 

Once they get in there, they’re going to be able to scale. It sounds like horizontally and and cover more territory than the system that they were using and also scale vertically. Like you said, turn up the juice and and just grow is that. Is that an accurate characterization? 

00:14:19 Chris 

It’s it’s true, and if you think about why people change their business systems, as normally there’s a, you know. Maybe they’re old. Maybe they’re not supported, and maybe even most often they’re limiting, meaning they don’t have the functions they need. They can’t integrate the solution. You know, if they’re coming off of a QuickBooks, they don’t have inventory. Wow, they don’t have manufacturing, so they are doing a lot of manual processes. 

00:14:40 Chris 

So your point, sometimes we’re replacing five things they do with seven. Sometimes they only have 3, but we move to 8, meaning we’re adding production rating distribution. 

00:14:48 Chris 

And you know, sometimes it’s land and expand where they have incremental objectives. But you’re correct. Normally you try to manage scope on that first phase, but you’ve got a vision of where we want to end up, and so the owner knows that at the end of two years I’m going to turn on these things incrementally, where you kind of push plateau, push plateau to realize those benefits, and there’s prioritization to that scope as well. What’s going to add the most? 

00:15:09 Chris 

Impact to the business. Sometimes the business. I had a cuss. 

00:15:12 Chris 

For that couldn’t add any EDI partners, and because he couldn’t do that, he was denied a retail contract with a big box shop. Well, that’s millions of dollars that were at stake here, and so just by switching to Dynamics 365 and a new VDI solution, now he’s adding he’s able to open up all these Commerce channels. So he had a a significant revenue. 

00:15:21 Andy 

Oh wow. 

00:15:24 Chris 


00:15:24 Chris 


00:15:32 Chris 

Obstacle with his legacy technology. There’s a great example. 

00:15:37 Frank 

Is Eddie the, uh, electronic data interchange that old format that was basically flat files? Wow. 

00:15:41 Chris 

That’s correct, that’s that. 

00:15:43 Chris 

Old format, yeah. Well, you know it is not. It’s like cobol. Everybody thinks Cobol is dead, and there’s probably a lot of COBOL out there still. But at that point EDI is still platform that’s used to exchange between the big the big retailers I mean. 

00:15:50 Frank 


00:15:56 Chris 

I’ve got people all day long, and some of it’s going multi channel through ecommerce. But there are these electronic mechanisms to move orders back and forth even to third party distributors. It’s very orchestrated and it’s not paper that people are touching. So and again as you connect more and more channels. 

00:16:12 Chris 

You’ve got more people to buy from and sell to, and again it even goes into the warehouse where as you scan labels and produce labels to put things in boxes. The labeling is all totally integrated through that process, so then it tells you oh, advance ship, notice right? So all these communications and anyway it is quite in place. 

00:16:32 Chris 

Till today I don’t see it going anywhere soon. 

00:16:35 Frank 

This fascinates me because you’re right. It’s not just scream right. So when I hear dynamics I hear scream. Part of that is my experience with dynamics. When I was in the Microsoft sales team. 

00:16:46 Frank 

We have a giant implementation of dynamics. 

00:16:51 Frank 

Called Meks, which I don’t know if that’s secret sauce, the name of it or whatever, but. 

00:16:56 Frank 

That is my only up until this week that was kind of my only touch on on dynamics and it’s just fascinating that it’s this whole. Is this whole thing behind it, right? 

00:17:08 Frank 

In your bio you talked about business operating solutions. What is that kind of the overarching umbrella to these things like? What’s the? What’s that universe look like? Obviously there’s ERP, there’s cream. 

00:17:23 Frank 

What, what other things are kind of living that well? 



00:17:26 Chris 

Sure, and there’s subcomponents so in the in the model and in our world, the tip of the spear is ERP, and behind the tip of the spear is CRM ’cause everybody needs CRM, and in the dynamics 365 cloud you buy what you need, meaning there’s dynamics, human resources now. Oh, I’m going to add that, oh, I need asset management. Oh I need project operations. Oh I need field service. 

00:17:43 Chris 

So again, you can. 

00:17:44 Chris 

Alicart build out from that component model essentially, but you know ERP is is the big animal in the room and we like to. We like to own that and then extend into every aspect of the organization. And again even Microsoft Office modern workplace. That’s a fronted experience that with it just flows right into these business systems. I got an email, customer wants to buy something. It’s smart enough to say hey it’s a customer. 

00:18:05 Chris 

I’m going to create an order for you. Is that OK? And so even that automation through the Microsoft Office stack into the ERP or into the CRM and then and so all these flows can be orchestrated based on the businesses processes. 

00:18:18 Chris 


00:18:19 Chris 

But it’s big. It can get very big. 

00:18:21 Andy 

That’s very interesting. 

00:18:22 Chris 

Beyond that core Microsoft capability in the dynamics, you know the Microsoft Cloud is. There’s people that have built add on components, so there’s a whole collection of additional plug-in components, and even whether that’s power apps or they’ve done power BI. But if you think about just accessorising right, you got the core, you know, yeah? 

00:18:40 Chris 

Gonna keep going right, even integration so it’s just it just it doesn’t really end as you look at orchestrating. You know your connected systems and that’s the best way to describe it fully connected. 

00:18:51 Andy 

That is very interesting. We we have some questions we like to run through with our guests. We’re going to have to adapt them just a little, but from what we typically ask so I will start with our with our first one and just ask how did you get into these biz apps? This whole market? 

00:19:11 Andy 

Of these apps, did you find biz apps or did biz apps find you? 

00:19:16 Chris 

You know it’s an interesting. I think it was a survival instinct because when I was a young lad and I was an electrical engineering student and I started writing code when I was in high school. But I studied engineering and when I switched from electrical engineering to computer science, my mom and Dad said I should get a job and I kind of laughed. I said seriously. So I I went and found a found an ad in the University. 

00:19:37 Chris 

Then I showed up at a company and guess what they needed. They needed accounting soft. 

00:19:40 Chris 

And I ended up looking around and I bought Great Plains software from a guy and I was a comp SCI student. I didn’t have any accounting classes, but that’s that’s how it started back in the mid 80s and and I bought Great Plains for this company and the controller taught me debits and credits and next thing you know, this guy pulled me into the CPA firm that he worked with. 

00:19:46 Frank 


00:20:00 Chris 

And then I lived in that CPA environment doing what I did for that little company. But now. 

00:20:06 Chris 

In a professional service capacity, so I I joked today I still have relationship with those folks. They would have never hired me, but I got in and I thrived so. But that was how it started. So it was kind of a as I said, a survival instinct. I needed work to pay tuition and found Great Plains software and the story goes from there. 

00:20:23 Chris 

It’s been a good journey. It’s been a really good journey so. 

00:20:27 Frank 

Yeah, I mean shrink wrap software and the questioning of having your parents question whether or not computer science was a viable career path. Yeah, those are all relics of the 90s or four or the 1900s I suppose. Let’s say. 

00:20:37 Chris 

So funny, isn’t it 80s yeah. 

00:20:40 Chris 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s play. 

00:20:40 Chris 

Yeah, yeah, yeah play. 

00:20:45 Frank 


00:20:48 Frank 

Let’s see my next question. What’s your favorite part of your current gig? 

00:20:54 Frank 

You’ve been doing. You’ve been in this current gig for a while, so you must have lots of favorite parts. But if you had to pick. 

00:20:54 Chris 

You know? 



00:20:58 Chris 

One, maybe two? What would they make you know if if and I looked at your questions and so I get to be a solution are still and I get to meet people and I get to crawl inside the business and I get to see what they do and how they do it and how they make their money. And and then I get to come in and solution and watch them. 

00:21:13 Chris 

Thrive because of that project. That’s really the fun right now. I mean, we’re very successful, but I think that the people, the exposure to different business. 

00:21:21 Chris 

And and we’ve got a lot of clients to do, just amazing things. The stuff that I see people do and and that’s that’s the the the secret sauce. I mean, I, I wish I could stay involved with some of these customers, but my practice teams kind of go find the next one and but, but that’s it. It’s the you know. And I’ve learned so much about business over the years. And and I still enjoy it today because the innovation. 

00:21:40 Chris 

It’s just it’s just going crazy right now so anyway, I could share stories, but you know. 

00:21:49 Andy 

Yeah, I hear you. We have a three complete this sentence and you did read our notes. I can tell that’s great. Not everybody does, by the way, so you get you get points for that, Chris. Our first one is when I’m not working. I enjoy a blank. 

00:22:06 Chris 

Yeah, and so when I’m not working I enjoy being out in this land that I have. It’s about 35 minutes West of Saint Louis so I’m out in the Woods I’m hiking. I’m playing farmer. I bought a tractor and I’m, you know, just just relaxing and enjoying nature and it’s quiet and there’s no covid and you know, but that’s it, that’s the hobby. 

00:22:25 Chris 

You know? 

00:22:27 Chris 


00:22:29 Frank 

Very cool, nice. 

00:22:31 Frank 

Next question is another complete this sentence. I think the coolest thing in technology technology today is. 

00:22:38 Chris 

You might like the answer. I didn’t write this thing. 

00:22:43 Frank 


00:22:44 Chris 

You know it and it’s really introspective. Is the the the cool thing is AI crawling through your ERP. 

00:22:50 Chris 

Yeah, in creating actionable insights and proactive recommendations. I mean it’s like that is, you know if I could jump 12 feet to the left and and I I play with a I. I mean I’m uh, I coded and I don’t get the code anymore, but that is a that is an area that just as fascinating and his Microsoft is. AI is connected to our ERP systems and it’s looking in there and saying. 

00:23:10 Chris 

Hey, you should do this proactively so that evolution is moving quickly and a lot of people haven’t taken advantage of it, but it is just it is this neat and it learns and so anyway, that’s that’s the hot topic right now. 

00:23:24 Andy 

Yeah, it really is. It is fascinating. You know how all of that works. And like you said, it’s gotten even more and more proactive. Which kind of leads into the next question. Fill in the blank. I look forward to the day when I can use technology to blank. 

00:23:42 Chris 

That’s another one of those. 

00:23:44 Chris 

What did I say when I could use technology to automate people? It’s an interesting concept, and even as you look at the ERP system that put in to run my business, and people say really, I said yeah, I put it in there to micromanage people, and it’s a facetious ISM, but as you think about project detail and tasks and a worker and a due date, and hey, how do I get this thing to? 



00:24:04 Chris 

To more autonomously interact with people, and so it’s it’s a facetious ISM, but at the same time there’s there’s evolution that’s coming, whereas you think about just people management. And again, we can’t. It doesn’t always work, people aren’t machines, and again, but there’s kind of a haha. There is a technologist and. 

00:24:19 Chris 

Even I envisioned an app for your phone and says, hey where are you going? You’re supposed to be going to this customers. You’re going the wrong way. And and having a little AI bot? That’s a personal assistant on your phone that completes your timesheet tells you where to go. Remind you that hey, you need to get going just again. I see these things evolving and I kind of vision those and some of my developers have said, oh, we could build that for you and we’re. 

00:24:39 Chris 

Creeping towards that, but that’s but part of it is just that is, as technology supports even more human efficiency, I think is the way to describe it. We’re getting there people. People are resistant. 

00:24:49 Andy 

Yeah, yeah. 

00:24:49 Andy 


00:24:50 Frank 

Yeah, yeah, I suppose. I mean, I suppose so. I mean, there’s just. 

00:24:54 Frank 

There was an interesting. It’s a quote by Warren Buffett, or at least it’s attributed to Warren Buffett. Is that he invests in companies that can be run by idiots because sooner or later they will be. 

00:25:04 Chris 

Yeah, interesting. 

00:25:04 Chris 

Yeah, interesting. 

00:25:04 Chris 


00:25:07 Frank 

So and and. And that whole automation aspect, I mean that makes a lot of sense because there’s a certain amount of and and there was a. It might have been Jordan Belford, it might have been one of the other books I was listening to where they talk about what makes McDonald’s successful isn’t that they sell, but. 

00:25:24 Frank 

Workers, what makes them successful is that there’s a system in place that they could take a 16 year old kid who has no experience and have them make burgers like it’s just interesting, like the process kind of makes the company, or it makes the company run better. 

00:25:38 Frank 

I, I think that. 

00:25:40 Chris 

It’s it speaks to automation, right? It speaks to making these processes more efficient and even interacting with humans as part of that as well. You know, as you think about bio biometric, type of attachments and people having wearable technology, again you see a lot more coming in terms of people. Automation, especially health care 1st. 

00:25:59 Chris 

Right health care is going to happen first, so as you think about that, so neat stuff. 

00:26:05 Frank 

Interesting, our next question. Weird. I think we’re done with the fill in the blanks, but the next question is share a different fact about yourself. You you know, kind of a random thing, but do remember. 

00:26:17 Frank 

This is a family show and we like we like our iTunes Clean rating. 

00:26:21 Chris 

Yeah, so so I grew up. I grew up in Saint Louis and I was an Eagle Scout, so a lot of people don’t know that and I had somebody asked me just recently says, how does that impact your business? Being an Eagle Scout? Well, it’s it’s accountability and it’s a lot of things. And if you know you remember the Boy Scout motto, if you were Boy Scouts. But I share that with people just because it’s it was a leadership program I experienced at a very young age. 



00:26:41 Chris 

I’m not doing a promo for the Boy Scouts Ness. 

00:26:43 Chris 

Early, but it was impactful for me and so if you look at how I drive myself through life principles, right principles, Eagle Scout, it was a good thing and most people don’t know that they see some people see that in the bio, but it has been really something that was good for me and I’ve I’ve tried to do that for my children as well as you set those examples and give early leadership, but leadership is important so here I am. 

00:27:03 Chris 

Right so. 

00:27:06 Andy 

Totally concur, yeah, so where can people learn more about you, Chris? 

00:27:12 Chris 

Sure website is the best place to hit its turnkey techcom two URNKY We’ve got live chat on there anybody can get to me again. I don’t charge for my time to talk Solutioning for customers that have needs that want to want to ask how cake on ERP help me make more money or drive my business or make my workers happier. I mean those are all things but. 

00:27:32 Chris 

Yeah, go to the website and you know if you fill out a form, asks Alan talk to Chris and I’d love to have a conversation with you and see how we can help your business. 

00:27:43 Frank 


00:27:43 Andy 


00:27:45 Frank 

Do you have any book recommendations? Audio audio books are my favorite. You know, inaudible as a sponsor, so any any books you recommend audio otherwise. 

00:27:59 Chris 

I am unfortunately I read so much, but I don’t. I don’t pick up books per say. I mean I so I can’t really point you to anything, even the audiobooks. It’s it’s funny. The last couple I is the Angels and demons and I read those and when I picked up the book I was antisocial all of a sudden because I work so much and there’s. 

00:28:15 Chris 

So to switch over here and pick up a book and just and I can turn everything off. It’s like OK anyway. So so not books, but lots of online content. So sorry I don’t have anything great to share. 

00:28:24 Frank 

Wow, cool, I mean I mean. 

00:28:24 Chris 

Lots of content on Microsoft site so. 

00:28:29 Frank 

Yeah, I mean, I mean, what’s fascinating to me is that there is this whole world and I don’t I? I mean, I, I don’t want to speak for Andy, but you know, this whole dynamics World, the whole going back to when I was at at that consulting company in Richmond. 

00:28:38 Andy 


00:28:45 Frank 


00:28:47 Frank 

You know the dynamics folks. There were like three or four of them. They kind of not. Dynamics was still Great Plains and Solomon at the time. They kind of stuck to themselves. 

00:28:56 Frank 

You know, and I don’t. I don’t know why that is. I mean it. It it it? It wasn’t so much. It wasn’t an adversarial relationship like you had with developers and AI people, right? I mean, not developers and data people. Sorry I got a on the brain. 

00:29:10 Frank 

But it was more like, you know. 

00:29:14 Frank 

I don’t know. It was more like we don’t even know what they do like it was like. 

00:29:18 Frank 

Like you know for. 

00:29:18 Frank 

You know, for. 

00:29:18 Frank 

You know? 

00:29:19 Chris 

It is. 

00:29:21 Frank 

From a developer’s point of view, the data people always said no to us, right? 

00:29:26 Frank 

And so from. 

00:29:26 Andy 

Hey John. 

00:29:28 Frank 

But exactly it’s their job, but but with the with the dynamics and kind of ER people they you know they. 

00:29:37 Frank 

They just didn’t even talk to us and it was the same when I was at that big German chemical company, right where you know there was kind of the web development teams. There was the application development teams kind of enterprise development stuff and then there was the essay people and the essay People kind of had their own like Wing of the building and rarely did we interact. So that’s just that. 

00:29:57 Frank 

I just for me it’s it’s this. It’s this parallel world that is like just right next to me and I’ve always kind of interact. I never interacted with it, but I’ve always been next to it, but I never went into it. It’s kind of like you know you. You live. It’s like that restaurant that’s near your house, but you’ve never been there so. 

00:30:15 Frank 

It’s just kind of like it’s weird like and weird in a good way. It’s just like and I I only been exposed to it over the last, maybe 2-3 weeks. 

00:30:23 Frank 

Have I really kind of uncovered the power of the power platform right? The whole low code no code thing right? ’cause I was being that snobby. I used to be I was a software engineer for the longest time. Now I do AI and data engineering, so for me it was like I want to write code and then as I realize you know there’s a lot of little projects I want to do. I just don’t have the time to write the code. 

00:30:44 Frank 

If I had the time to write code, I would have written him years ago, so slowly I’ve been doing today. I’ve been kind of doing some little experiments where I can. 

00:30:51 Frank 

Kind of I when I do a live stream, for instance, I actually have it a power app flow. I think that’s what it’s called. Power, automate, whatever it is, it goes, and it basically pulls the video from YouTube and creates A blog post on my site. 

00:31:05 Frank 

And so I’ve been kind of doing little things like that, but after seeing this demonstration of what dynamics kind of all up can do, it’s just fascinating. It’s this whole world. It’s like right next to me. 

00:31:17 Frank 

Uh, that I never really worked with. 

00:31:19 BAILey 


00:31:20 Chris 

And you know one comment I’d make it’s you know the buy versus build. So we come back in the 80s. We had to build a lot of stuff and in the 90s were sold to build a lot of stuff and today we start with such a application and governance and security and even on the CRM side, the extensibility and powerless extensibility in the comments I make is it’s all under the same governance so, but you’re right, it’s a big palette. 

00:31:41 Chris 

And there’s a lot to start with, and I think you know as we talk about data and we didn’t really talk about, but the data models. 

00:31:46 Chris 

And these applications are extensible. They’re dynamically extensible. I go add fields, I can add entities, and it just grows, and so the ERP systems they grow. So to your point, extensibility, huge massive data model. Do we have to build a data warehouse? Again, we’re starting with a different premise. We have so much of it already that where’s the net? Where’s the gaps? And a lot of times we’ll bring all the data into dynamics. 

00:32:06 Chris 

So it’s all in the same data model ’cause we can extend the entities without any pain. 

00:32:09 Chris 

There, why do we go to Azure Data Lake? Well, maybe we’ve got a ton of on Prem data that will never put that in the ERP. Great, we need to marry him up so they get composite views, but data data is a big part of the world, especially as we deprecate legacy systems and we look at thoughtfully. How do I move all of this data in here so I light up all the analytics? All the by, and that the AI can find everything that it needs to make. 

00:32:30 Chris 

Decision points so, but it is. I tell people it’s very complex, my my stuff not simple. If I showed you some of the solution models you’d be like OK, yeah, and that’s why they did it. But like I said, there’s lots of challenge there and for you to be able to do low code apps absolutely your hands are untied and they’ve. 

00:32:47 Chris 

They’ve come so far in helping people be creative and actually create tools that they need. 

00:32:52 Chris 

Even in my org as we upgrade our latest product, we were Dynamics AX. We’re moving it up to the 365 cloud. I can step back and my team can innovate. They’re going to build power apps. They’re going to. They’re going to take the business my business to a new place as they innovate through their teams. I’m so excited about that as an owner, imagine people that choose that platform have no idea. 

00:33:12 Chris 

How they’re untying hands of individuals to take things further? That’s a big. That’s a big, compelling story right there, so. 

00:33:21 Andy 

That was going to be my one of my questions is it sounds like there’s an awful lot of work you’re doing solutions you’re delivering in the cloud. Are you still doing stuff on premises? 

00:33:34 Chris 

We service a book of about 350 on premise customers, Dynamics, GP, Dynamics, AX, Dynamics, Navy and cell, and again the goal is. 

00:33:43 Chris 

Removing them all up to the cloud. Uhm, you know, if they don’t want to leave GP, they can move into a data center. So we we have partners for hosting. But yes, all the projects are all everything. Everything new is dynamics 365. 85% of it is ERP, about 15% for us as CRM. So a lot of ERP have got a lot of accounts, a lot of CPA so accounting and that’s the work we did mention there’s. 

00:34:03 Chris 

A lot of people they don’t want to do those projects, so CRM they’ll do them internally. ERP and accounting they they want to use an external firm to get the accountability in the certification. 

00:34:12 Chris 

So it’s very interesting as well to your point about all either their accounts, right? They speak a different language. There is some some haha. There it’s just like infrastructure, people versus apps. I Maps. I’m not infrastructure, we’re two different animals. You know, rate of change is dramatically different on the infrastructure side. We’ve got good rate of change on the on. The biz apps is. 

00:34:28 Andy 


00:34:33 Chris 

This Microsoft innovating but again some some big differentiators in that space so. 

00:34:38 Chris 

But the data and AI guys you’re on our team. You’re busy apps guys. You may say data, but it’s not like working with hardware. So you get to be on our side. 

00:34:41 Chris 

May say data, but. 

00:34:41 Chris 


00:34:48 Frank 

So, So what? What language is is dynamics. Well, I have two questions. One, is it possible to have a hybrid system where people do have on Prem kind of dynamics implementations and 365 is there because Azure data Factory has Andino? 

00:35:04 Frank 

This has something called the integration runtime, where you can kind of share data between them is that it? Is that an option in the Dynamics world? Is that a bad idea in their dynamics world? 

00:35:14 Chris 

So a great question. So yes, you can have hybrid and there’s some organizations that run 7 by 24 and multiple shifts and they have an on Prem and they have a cloud and there’s a replication synchronization. 

00:35:14 Chris 


00:35:14 Chris 


00:35:24 Chris 

It happens in case the cloud is down, they can continue to run operations. Some hybrid is a great word in the in the GC in the government, cloud space or in the government contractor space that need to be in GCC high you actually have to deploy 365 like an on premise application in the GCC Azure High Cloud and so. 

00:35:41 Chris 

Words more cost. It goes with that because guess what you’re outside of Microsoft maintenance umbrella when you’re in D365 cloud you get all the maintenance you get all the updates so you move over here in on Prem you own it, you lose your sock compliance right? Because Microsoft can’t attest that no one can get into the SQL Server. So yeah, there’s there’s tradeoffs. There’s feature loss when you go into an on Prem model. 

00:36:02 Chris 

But absolutely you can. You can hybrid out those situations and people put critical functions that have to run all the time local, and there’s just you’re saying there’s a there’s a service loop to replicate data wherever needed, so. 

00:36:16 Frank 

Interesting. What programming language is used in in dynamics? 

00:36:22 Chris 

I believe to modify the 365 F node or using X plus plus, which is an evolution CC sharp. You get it so they call it X + +. I think it’s a C ish type of language. I don’t code in that one. I I stopped at C back in the day so. 

00:36:39 Chris 

But there’s a lot of other augments, a lot of other tools. 

00:36:39 Frank 

Yeah, he would scare people off. 

00:36:44 Frank 


00:36:45 Frank 

Yeah, and and and like ’cause it’s just fascinating like there’s this whole product that is there and it’s just like it’s it’s I never looked into it and I’m I’m definitely fascinated ’cause it. Ultimately it becomes a way to like you said. I mean it becomes a data collection mechanism or a data management mechanism. You know, I I would never have thought of. 

00:37:00 Chris 


00:37:02 Chris 


00:37:06 Frank 

Using EDI, I used to do so. Fun fact when I was at Barnes and Noble, one of my first things I wrote there was an 8 EDI parser for Informix Four GL. 

00:37:17 Frank 

So I have fond memory. I went when I was shocked in EDI it wasn’t like mocking it. It was a little bit of nostalgia. 

00:37:17 Chris 

Could you write your? 

00:37:25 Frank 

But I. 

00:37:28 Frank 

I, I mean, it’s just it’s just it’s it’s a. It’s an interesting take at it because in some ways data engineers data folks are solving very much the same problems. But you have a framework. I mean, is it fair to say that there’s a framework around this, just space that you’re in? Not that we don’t have frameworks, but like it just seems. 

00:37:45 Frank 

It’s like there’s a a a more defined kind of purpose and and framework to building an ERP. 

00:37:53 Chris 

And there’s different approaches, meaning the developers they want to build it. Guys like me even though I was a developer. It’s like let’s buy this and just do the gap and so there’s different mindset. But a lot of developers and data warehouse. So we’re gonna build a data warehouse. It’s like you don’t need to. I’ve got 98% of it here. Let’s just add the missing dimensions and elements and it’s right here and we can put by on it. You know why do we need an Azure data but? 

00:37:55 BAILey 


00:38:01 Frank 


00:38:13 Chris 

Just different approaches to solving the problem and. 

00:38:17 Chris 

To your point, you know a lot of times they don’t think about. Oh wow, I could get this app and almost everything there and I don’t have to figure out security and all that great. So again a lot of people build one off apps. So what did you build your parser in? I have to ask? 

00:38:31 Frank 

The Informix Four GL language. 

00:38:33 Chris 

They all used Informix. OK, I wrote I wrote an EDI parser as well. 

00:38:34 Frank 

I forget what it’s called. 

00:38:36 Frank 

Yeah, as a former. 

00:38:38 Chris 

Years ago, I think I wrote mine in Turbo Pascal, so I Turbo Pascal was in my room back in the day. Yeah, small world. 

00:38:39 Frank 


00:38:42 Frank 


00:38:44 Chris 

Small world. 

00:38:44 Chris 


00:38:45 Frank 

I I wrote it on a. I think it would have been Windows Three 311 using the XY 8X terminal software to our Unix box and I remember I hate it and was in VI and the first two weeks of VI despised VI, but then afterwards I realized. 

00:38:51 Chris 

Just work with, yeah. 

00:39:04 Frank 

That I could create my own macros in VI by basically firing up notepad. 

00:39:09 Frank 

And kind of taking. 

00:39:11 Frank 

Different tasks like basically sending doing send keys basically, so I copy paste and I had like these. All these macros that would fire off. Yeah, that was a wow is back in the day. 

00:39:24 BAILey 

Let me tell you a story. 

00:39:24 Andy 

This is sounding a lot like your. Your powerapps live stream recently Frank. Yes, you’re still on send keys. Sorry, go ahead Chris. 

00:39:33 Frank 

I’m still on sankeys. 

00:39:35 Chris 

So funny funny story. So my first I started turnkey in 94 and my first project. I had a guy bring me was. 

00:39:41 Chris 

Gotta bring me. 

00:39:41 Chris 


00:39:42 Chris 

Uh, it was with Burger King Corporation. Believe it or not, so I’m a young guy and they they needed to integrate with FedEx because they were shipping materials to 5500 stores globally. So it’s changed now. It’s all electronic, but back then and So what did Burger King have? They run in a mainframe and so they would give you a file with the 5500 records in it. Guess what? No, no delimiter. 

00:40:02 Chris 

No carriage return, no linefeed. So you’d open up a notepad. It’s like, oh, it’s it’s, and so you think. 

00:40:06 Chris 

About how do. 

00:40:07 Chris 

You how do you? What do you do so I I had written a macro assembler so I took assembly language. I was low level bit head and I had a macro assembler that I took a project from school and it took that Burger King file and chopped it up and just put the little hex carriage returns online. 

00:40:21 Chris 

Feeds and I integrated FedEx with Burger King Corporation back in 80 late late 80s. So magical back then, but you’re thinking about those little techniques you learned about parsing data and so. But it’s amazing how how far things have come. It really is so. 

00:40:37 Chris 

But that was an early success. 

00:40:41 Frank 

Well, that’s awesome. Where can people learn a learn how to to get started in dynamics like what’s a good resource for learning ’cause? 

00:40:52 Frank 

Sure, a lot of folks were like me that are like I don’t know if I ever want to touch that, but now that we kind of lit a fire under the bed, no, there’s data in there. 

00:41:00 Frank 

Like where can people learn what’s a good resource book or video or otherwise sure? 

00:41:06 Chris 

Sure, sure, yeah. So certainly I. I’ll promote our website We’ve got a ton out there, but more more. This Microsoft I mean so you go out there and search and you get to the Microsoft Documentation site. There’s everything. There’s the books you can drill down. You could get into the entities you can learn about API’s, read about API’s. There’s a whole set of learning libraries, so as you think about people. 

00:41:27 Chris 

Getting started on this and trying to evaluate. 

00:41:29 Chris 

Whether it’s a ERP or CRM, all those resources are really profound. On Microsoft website, they’ve done such a good job and thoughtfully so, and there’s a lot of people that will jump in and try to help so, but that’s what I would say. 

00:41:42 Chris 

Watch what’s out there. 

00:41:42 Andy 


00:41:43 Frank 


00:41:46 Frank 


00:41:48 Frank is that what it is? 

00:41:50 Andy 

Trying to keep track. 

00:41:51 Chris 

Kvno H on that guy so but turnkey 

00:41:52 Frank 

Turkey tank sorry. 

00:41:57 Andy 


00:41:59 Frank 

Awesome, well thanks for joining us. It’s been an enlightening UM kind of talk about. 

00:42:06 Frank 

The whole notion of ERP, ERP and CRM, which is stuff that I just never really. 

00:42:14 Frank 

You know, I never really thought about as as a data platform, but you know, after seeing kind of the presentation that I saw at work and it was just like wow like and then what got me excited? Perhaps it’s rather unusual and weird is the whole ability to just dump all the data from CRM or from dynamics into a data Lake. 

00:42:22 Frank 

Look at. 

00:42:22 Frank 


00:42:34 Frank 

Once it’s in the data, Lake data lakes are kind of my jam, so I’m cool with that but but I mean the ability to kind of pull that out. You know, wholesale was just fascinating and and and. 

00:42:43 Frank 

And and you know, again, I work for Microsoft. I’m not trying to make this a sales pitch, but I mean there is something to be said for what you said that all of this is under one governance model. 

00:42:52 Frank 

Which no one gets excited about governing, so I’m sure somebody does. But like governance, is one of the things that you have to do. It’s the cost of doing business, but. 

00:43:01 Frank 

You know the fact you kind of have it all in one house is just amazing. 



00:43:06 Chris 


00:43:07 Frank 

So I definitely have some reading to do, that’s for sure. Andy, do you have any parting thoughts? 

00:43:12 Andy 

Now I love the show. Thank you Chris for joining us. Really appreciate you taking your time. I learned a bunch about the capabilities and I think I I’ve keyed mostly off of your enthusiasm for it. I love to talk with people who I exude confidence and and passion about what they do. 

00:43:32 Andy 

And you’ve inspired me as well to go dig a little bit more at at at your website and at 

00:43:41 Chris 

I can be of service in the future. Don’t hesitate to reach out. 

00:43:44 Andy 

Thank you awesome. 

00:43:44 Andy 

Thank you. 

00:43:44 Frank 

Awesome, thanks for joining and we’ll let the nice British lady finish the show. 

00:43:49 BAILey 

Thanks for listening to data driven. 

00:43:52 BAILey 

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00:44:05 BAILey 

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00:44:24 BAILey 

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About the author, Frank

Frank La Vigne is a software engineer and UX geek who saw the light about Data Science at an internal Microsoft Data Science Summit in 2016. Now, he wants to share his passion for the Data Arts with the world.

He blogs regularly at and has a YouTube channel called Frank's World TV. (www.FranksWorld.TV). Frank has extensive experience in web and application development. He is also an expert in mobile and tablet engineering. You can find him on Twitter at @tableteer.

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