For many years, Directions was the annual event for Microsoft Dynamics NAV partners. Driven by partners – organized for partners. This year however, the event makes a shift from ‘NAV only’ towards embracing the full Microsoft stack. DIRECTIONS is now open for all Dynamics SMB partners and focuses on attracting the Dynamics CRM partner community as well. Being a Dynamics SMB partner in todays’ market is like dancing on a volcano. And the various Microsoft announcements that partners can expect at these events will make the dancing effect even stronger!
The Directions conferences bring together developers, implementers, technical experts, marketeers, sales and executive/owner representatives from Dynamics SMB partners, ISV’s, service providers and Microsoft. At present, there are three editions of Directions. The 13th US edition will take place on September 17th till 20th in Orlando, Florida. According to the website, both the venue for the event and the Orlando international airport have survived hurricane Irma, so everything is good to go. The EMEA edition picked Madrid as the 2017 location for their tenth anniversary that will be organized from October 4th till 6th. And finally, in March 2017 the first edition ever of Directions ASIA was organized in Bangkok, Thailand.
The EMEA edition is expected to book another all-time high partner registration. Last years’ edition in Prague counted some 1.750 attendees, which by that time was a record. This year, the organization committee expects even (far) over 2.000 registrations, mainly due to the additional CRM attendees!
This article aims to give you an overview of what Dynamics NAV and Dynamics CRM partners can expect of these events. And where they should put their focus regarding the sessions.
- The position of Dynamics NAV is under pressure. The announcement of the Dynamics 365 concept at WPC 2016, combined with today’s limited geographic availability of the D365 Finance and Operations Business edition (D365FOB) SMB solution has put Dynamics NAV in an uncomfortable position. Competitors have successfully sowed confusion in the market about NAV’s future determination. Microsoft now has the challenge, together with her partners, to recover the positioning of Dynamics NAV as her flagship ERP solution for SMBs. Partner can expect messages on this in the keynote presentations!
- Many Dynamics SMB partners are eager to make a real start with Dynamics 365. However, this is of course directly related to the availability of the Dynamics 365 Business Edition. That includes both the ERP domain (‘Finance and Operations’) and the CRM domain (‘Sales’ and ‘Marketing’). In the interview we’ve had with Marko Perisic for our Inspire 2017 business report, he stated: “At DIRECTIONS, we will communicate our localization plans in detail. It means that every single Dynamics SMB partner in the world – be it NAV, GP, SL or Dynamics 365 – of every partner type in the channel – be it VAR, SI, or ISV – in all geographies of the world will get clear guidance on what they need to do to participate in Dynamics 365.” So every partner should look for news, guidance and a clear roadmap of their path to the Dynamics 365 platform.
- Microsoft will officially launch Dynamics NAV 2018 – formerly known under the code name “Tenerife”. The agenda offers all kind of functional and technical sessions for this new version.
- Over the past 12 months, Microsoft has managed to maintain the same code base between D365FOB and Dynamics NAV. Although this is a more technical statement, it is also a very important and strong strategic statement that should put partners at ease, since it means that any investment made in D365 Finance and Operations, Business Edition is a 100 percent investment in NAV, and vice-versa. At this season’s events, all Dynamics SMB partners should find further evidence for this statement, including the motivation and confidence for their ongoing investments.
- All Dynamics NAV partners need to transform their businesses to stay relevant in a cloud-first world. However, many partners still have not started this process at all! Paul White, the former worldwide general manager for NAV, predicted during DIRECTIONS 2016 that only 20 percent of the NAV partner community will eventually make this transition. So partners who have not started yet should really focus on the sessions that can help them to transform as soon as possible. Partners can expect many sessions on this important topic.
- To be successful with Dynamics 365, SMB partners must walk on two legs. For Dynamics NAV partners this means that they have to add the CRM domain to their solutions portfolio. And the Dynamics CRM partners have to find a way to expand their offering into the ERP domain. Failing to do so will, over time, limit their chances to win new deals and at the same time will put their customer bases at risk. Of course, there are several paths partners might follow to get there like building a new practice, cooperating with other partners, or acquiring the missing part. Partners should watch for sessions that give them guidance in this process.
- The prospects for business success with “stand-alone” Dynamics NAV and/or CRM are expected to decrease over time. Separate from their attention to Dynamics 365, all partners should prepare to expand their current portfolio with solutions like Office 365, Power BI, Flow, Cortana Intelligence, and Azure. Most partners will probably not be able to take all at once, so they must make choices. What workloads are most important for your target markets? How much can you afford to invest? And what employee capacity do you have available? At the two events, there will be many functional and technical sessions that will give guidance on how to plan for these opportunities.
- With the channel converging on Dynamics 365 solutions, the competition between partners will become much more intense. A Google search on ‘Dynamics 365’ results in tens of millions of results. So it’s far from easy to be found just based on the standard solution. More than ever before, Dynamics SMB partners need to differentiate their offerings by specializing on specific workloads and/or markets. Again, partners might want to select those sessions that help them prepare for this process.
- Furthermore, success in the Dynamics 365 arena demands for modern marketing, sales, delivery and support processes. The reality is that most Dynamics SMB partners are still far away from that ideal situation. So it makes sense to attend the specific sessions on these topics as well. Digital transformation is the overall umbrella that Microsoft is using in her marketing and branding. Dynamics SMB partners should adapt the positioning and branding of their propositions to take advantage of this. And at the same time consider what digital transformation means for their internal IT processes.
- What business model do you need to make a financial success out of Dynamics 365? Probably even more important than all the product aspects – no matter how interesting they are – is the business side. Marketing, selling, implementing, and supporting Dynamics 365 demands a different approach compared with the traditional Dynamics projects. In order to be successful, most partners will need to see Dynamics 365 as a whole new chapter in their businesses – one that involves less license margin, smaller services revenues, and cheaper delivery people who work with a different mindset.
- Partners much figure out Microsoft’s One Commercial Partner model. OCP is the biggest change in the Microsoft sales organisation of the last 10 years. It’s important for any Dynamics partner to understand this model and the impact it will have on their relationship with Microsoft. Are you still a managed partner in FY18? If so, will you be managed by a Microsoft Dynamics contact person or a more generic Microsoft contact person? And if you’re an unmanaged partner – where can you go for business support, especially for the more traditional NAV and CRM business issues?
- What’s the future of Dynamics partner events? Now that Microsoft decided to finally integrate her different workloads into the new Dynamics 365 offering, the question arises of what this all means for events that were traditionally single-product focused but now are compelled to evolve, like DIRECTIONS (traditionally NAV-focused) and eXtreme365 (traditionally CRM-focused). Should they integrate as well? Partners can expect some indications on the future of these two events.
I will not be in Orlando, but I do hope to see you all in Madrid!