Legendary Podcast: Crystal Ahrens Shares Valuable Lessons on ERP Implementations

Welcome to the “Legendary Podcast,” hosted by Dynamics Communities Editor Cam Sessinger. The “Legendary Podcast” is a video podcast series featuring Community Summit North America Legends, highlighting their career expertise, community involvement, and Community Summit experiences.

In episode 7, Cam interviews Crystal Ahrens, Microsoft MCT, Community Summit NA Legend, UG Expert, and Director of Systems Architecture, Heico Companies. The two discuss Crystal’s professional career, and she shares advice for D365 implementations. Additionally, Crystal reflects on Community Summit North America and the benefits of having a close-knit community of end-users.

This episode is sponsored by Community Summit North America, the largest independent gathering of the Microsoft Business Applications ecosystem, taking place Oct. 13-17, 2024, in San Antonio, Texas. Register today to connect with thousands of users across the Microsoft business applications ecosystem at the for user, by user event.


01:39 — Crystal explains how she fell into the world of Dynamics 365 — she began as a developer, before becoming a project manager in a manufacturing-centric sector.

02:57 — She began attending Convergence conferences early on in her career, which was “one of the best experiences to quickly get trained on what the products are.” She explains that this event was like “drinking from a firehose — but drinking reality. It wasn’t marketing fluff.”

04:48Community Summit North America 2023 was the “best event ever,” notes Crystal, especially as attendee numbers increased post-COVID. She notes the experiences and themes that stood out to her throughout the week:

  • MVP-specific events
  • Education sessions on master planning
  • Microsoft-led sessions
  • Networking opportunities at lunch

07:49 — Crystal describes the value of community, especially within the context of the Dynamics 365 ecosystem. Users can get first-hand experience from other users throughout all phases of a D365 implementation, for example. She compares it to raising a child — it takes a village — which speaks to the value of community.

09:40 — Crystal notes that her contributions — through content creation, leading sessions at Summit, and beyond — are based on the principle of “paying it forward.” When she needed support, she turned to her community to receive it, and believes in sharing the knowledge with other members of the community.

“We are always continuously improving and learning, but we need some fresh eyes and some fresh ideas that come in and tell us ‘hey, what have you learned?'”

12:02 — In her current role, Crystal oversees nearly all of the phases of a D365 implementation — from early implementation to go-live, to post-go-live support. Implementations, overall, are her expertise — currently, she is overseeing three implementations in different phases. She emphasizes three crucial things in this process:

  • Selecting the right partner
  • Understanding system definitions
  • Pre-mobilization aspects of projects

15:04 — She shares some advice for other users in a similar role:

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of Organizational Change Management (OCM)
  • Ensure data accuracy before training/testing systems

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