As a longtime Microsoft-observer with a perspective geared toward Microsoft Dynamics, I'd like to share some of my impressions of the important trends from this year's Directions EMEA 2017 in Madrid.
The Microsoft Dynamics SMB partner community has never been awaited a Directions EMEA event as it did this year's edition. There were two main reasons for that. First, they recognize the growing importance of the Dynamics 365 concept for both the Dynamics NAV and the Dynamics CRM channels. Second, they are facing confusion around the go-to-market models around Dynamics 365 that was created by Microsoft at the US edition a few weeks before.
Microsoft succeeded in clarifying the product strategies and go-to-market initiatives for Dynamics 365 in the SMB markets. Marko Perisic, general manager Dynamics 365 for SMB markets, explained to the audience why some of the initiatives as communicated at DIRECTIONS US were not that smart after all. And together with his team he delivered some fantastic product demonstrations.
So Microsoft's overall performance at this event took away most of the confusion and was instrumental in building trust in the companies' future product directions. Here are some of the core values and beliefs that Microsoft shared about their future direction.
- Microsoft explained why they decided to no longer use the split between the SMB variant (Business Edition) and its bigger brother (Enterprise Edition) based on the somewhat artificial 250 employees border. The new approach will allow Microsoft and its partners to start the product discussion based on the customer's needs. Of course this is a starting point that makes sense!
- With the introduction of Dynamics 365 codename ‘Tenerife', Microsoft will bring the Dynamics NAV brand under the overall Dynamics 365 umbrella. That's good news for the partner community, since it helps NAV to leverage the large investments Microsoft is making in the Dynamics 365 brand.
- Microsoft is going to make a big step forward by making Dynamics 365 ‘Tenerife' available in Spring 2018 in 14 countries based on localised versions.
- The event made clear that the cloud is here and it's here to stay. The important message to the partner community is that cloud is not just an option anymore, but a ‘must have' in the proposition of any successful Dynamics partner business!
- Like in previous events, Microsoft repeated her messages around the importance of the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. Many Dynamics partners have not prepared themselves for this program so far. But it will be the only way to order Dynamics 365 licenses going forward. Microsoft also announced new rules that makes it more difficult to become a CSP Direct partner.
- Another important topic at this event was partner certification. The current competencies for ‘ERP' and ‘cloud CRM' will disappear shortly. They will be replaced by the new ‘Business Application cloud' competency. After 3 years without exams, partners can expect the re-introduction of product-oriented exams on top of revenue thresholds.
- Even the most traditional Dynamics NAV partner at the event had to admit: the days of the Dynamics NAV partner are over. All partners understand that their future is in the Microsoft stack, thus in being a Microsoft partner rather than a Microsoft Dynamics partner!
- Standard ERP and standard CRM implementations have turned into commodities. Just like Office 365 implementations some years ago. This means that Dynamics partners must differentiate themselves even more than in the past to stay out of the pricing downward spiral. The real value is in specialisation/verticalisation and in adding new technologies like the ‘Power Suite', artificial intelligence, and IoT.
The overall message to partners was the importance of change! The successful Dynamics partners of the future have an open mindset, have no fear of experimentation, and are willing to invest time, money and energy in new ideas, concepts and go-to-markets. The near future will tell us which partners are able and willing to do so.
The organizing committee of Directions EMEA had many reasons to be proud. They reported over 2,150 attendees representing 600 partners from 60 countries from all over the world. An all-time record! The 2018 edition of Directions EMEA will take place on October 31st to November 2nd in The Hague, The Netherlands.