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An Open Letter To Steve Ballmer

August 26, 2013 2 comments

Dear Steve:

I was saddened to hear about your departure from Microsoft.  Inevitably discussion will turn to your legacy at Microsoft and what meaning you played in the role of the company.   What I think may get overlooked is the impact you and Bill had on the individual.  To make certain that discussion doesn’t get lost in the void, I offer this:

The story arc of Microsoft is the story of my adult life.  Founded in 1975 when I was 11, I was 16 when you joined the company in 1980; I started writing BASIC a year later.  My first IBM machine running DOS came not long after.  Windows 1 was released and improved during my high school and college years, but I could never get a machine running it because I was too broke.   MS-DOS, dBase and Wordstar had to do.  Windows 2.0 arrived right after I left college and was still hacking out my living as an accountant, working for a mortgage company that was systematically defrauding its parents.  The spreadsheets I did using an IBM PC running MS-DOS showed up during the investigation. 

Between 1987 and 1993, you released Windows Windows 3, Windows for Workgroups, Windows NT (32 Bit!), bought SQL Server and release SQLNT.  I moved from accounting to IT and eventually to IT consulting, finally leaving my home town and moving to a new city for new opportunities and new friends.   Since the new friends thing was a little slow in coming, I spent gobs of time with SQLNT.

1995 was the banner year.  Windows 95, Office 95, SQL 6.0, and Great Plains Software ported Dynamics CS+ to SQL 6.0 under beta.  I started my own consulting company helping mid-market businesses convert from DOS and Novell to Windows and NT, using SQL server as a robust data storage platform.   And, I started into the ERP market, a place I remain today having worked with Windows 98, XP (I skipped ME), tons of SQL server versions, Windows 2000, Server, and god knows how many versions of Office, each one getting better.  And, as each one got better my career and life matured in lockstep.

Listen to the press if you wish.  Debate your own inner doubts about whether you left a beneficial legacy.  Have lengthy, late night, wine-fueled discussions with your wife about whether it was worth it.    That behavior is now your privilege – just remember that one guy (and I can tell you from experience I am not alone here) appreciates, without reservation, everything you did, everything you made happen, and everything you built.

Good luck, Steve.  Call me if you want to go fly-fishing.

Dwight

Categories: Leadership Tags:

#WPC13 Microsoft Enterprise Services/Dynamics Partner Roundtable

On Thursday, Microsoft was kind enough to invite the some key partners to attend a briefing on how Microsoft Consulting services will approach CRM and AX in FY2014 and how MCS will work with Partners in the same year.

As expected, MCS is going to continue its focus (at least in the Dynamics space) to large, global AX deals and large CRM deals in order to provide an enterprise presence.  I’ve been pretty vocal about my dislike of MCS coming into our space so let me go on record as saying “I may have been a little wrong”.

The sales and services mgt teams made some commitments to the partner channel last year about how they would behave and how they would not encroach on partner businesses.  A year later, I can tell you that they held to their word and are approaching the channel with a very partner friendly face.  HOWEVER, they are also being pretty clear – they’ll work with us in deals and protect us if they are brought in, but we have to be operationally tight and good at what we do.  I think that’s fair.

I am fortunate to work for a company that has global mindshare in a vertical, so I am exposed to these guys a little more than most.  I am excited to deepen that relationship over the next year.

#wpc13 Massive Microsoft Reorg Announced

Read the following:  http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/Press/2013/Jul13/07-11OneMicrosoft.aspx

This is really big news. 

In addition to this, MS announced a major staff layoff of PAM and Existing Customer staff so as to focus more attention on the growth and revenue generating partners.  Essentially, they will nationalize and centralize the PAM roles and focus on fewer partners.  The lower tier will be managed by national TSEM’s (telephone based sales reps).  The lifestyle firms will be managed via a call center.

Both of these announcement are VERY good for Dynamics partners investing in customer add or revenue growth (assuming that growth ties to software revenue for MS).  They are not so good for partners that a solely growing revenue through VAR changes or are running a lifestyle business.

This is a continuation of MS aligning itself internally to match the exterrnal #oneMicrosoft message we’ve been hearing  about.

#wpc13 US Dynamics: Where is MS Going in 2014?

July 11, 2013 1 comment

MS pulled together a select group of top Dynamics partners in a sweltering hot conference room (at least it wasn’t humid…wait, it was) to discuss their strategic priorities and direction for MS Fiscal Year 2014.  David Willis, VP US Dynamics, led the discussion.  Here’s the major points with some of my comments following.

US Dynamics FY14 Strategic Priorities:
  • Industry Solutions
  • Win the Enterprise
  • Win the BDM’s (Business Decision Makers):  Not just CIO, but CMO, VP of Sales, CFO, CEO
  • Lead with the Cloud
  • Volume Business
Supported by:
  • Power of One Microsoft:  Including Dynamics in more messaging and making certain that products have integration across the stack
  • Enterprise Social Campaign:  Lead by Yammer, but very much involving Outlook, Lync, Sharepoint and CRM.
  • Awareness/Lead Gen Investment:  Increasing advertising to $18mm US for Dynamics including a greater web presence
  • Orion:  This is the fall release for Dynamics CRM 2014
  • V-ITU v2:  Vertical focus program with partners
  • SSP/TS Investments:  Add Solutions Specialists and Technical Specialists for enterprise sales support
Setting up for success:
  • Majority of growth is from large deals:MS will invest in more sales/technical resources to fuel growth
  • Customers Buy Vertical:  Continue huge focus on priority industries
  • Partner base has evolved:  rationalize partner management model to enable our success.  Focus on partners who are staged and investing for growth
  • Volume ERP has evolved:  This needs to become a finely tuned machine.  Focus will be on partners how are dedicating to cloud and volume adds.  PAM’s will end up focusing on either volume or vertical. 

In essence, MS needs to align resources to how the business and partners have evolved.

From an Organizational standpoint, the US Dynamics management organization is going to remain largely unchanged.  Jeremy Thies, Senior Director, US Partners and Industry, took over to discuss other changes.

US Dynamics Changes:
  • Managed Partner:  AX and CRM partners will move to a centralized national structure led by Mandy Ledford.  Mandy’s team will be sales focused and greatly expanded.  The direct partner managers will be aligned by vertical.
  • Volume Partners:  National and centralized as well.  Resources will be cross functional and dedicated.  Will focus on Volume license, Adds, BREP.  Will report to a senior leader that is ONLY focused on GP, SL, NAV in volume.  No specific assignment on the senior leader but hope to have them hired in next couple of weeks.  Will report to Jeremy.
  • Sales:  Will take additional resources after above changes and focus on selling large deals in CRM and ERP.  The Public Sector and Retail team will end up here with Retail reporting to Noman Akhtar.

Apparently this will impact some existing people who will have to either find new jobs or leave MS.  On Friday, MS will do a call to discuss these changes in more detail.

In terms of growth in FY14, they are looking for partner lead CRM growth of 31% and ERP growth of 38%.

Now, my comments:

  • I edited the content above very heavily since I think some of the stuff we were told has advantage to competitive ERP companies.  Especially, the detail about last year’s results (which were pretty good) and the details about this year’s plan.
  • MS has become really tight and very clear about AX/CRM being the vertical,large deal products and GP/NAV/SL being the volume products.  This clarity is very good and makes our jobs a bit easier.
  • MS is taking volume very seriously.  Room exists for GP\NAV\SL partners to create thriving  business models, but its cloud, remote and volume not lifestyle.  You have to grow your business.
  • The big change effecting partners is how MS plans to deploy resources.  In case its not obvious from the above, the partner support layer (traditionally PAM’s) is all going central and nationalized.  They will focus on selling, not admin.  And they will be assigned to manage partners that are investing in growth and/or already showing results.  All administration is going through MPN.  And, if you don’t make investment or don’t show results, frankly I don’t think they’ll pay attention to you.
  • The growth goals for next year are strong, but in my opinion, easily obtainable.

The message hear is clear:  if you want to be a lifestyle business, good on ya.  But MS is going to deal with partners that want to grow.   I think that’s pretty fair from their standpoint and is certainly consistent with the messaging they’ve been giving us for the last 5 years.

Categories: General Comments

#wpc13 IBIS becomes Global ISV

July 11, 2013 1 comment

(Full disclosure:  I work for IBIS/Andy signs my paychecks).

I can’t tell you how proud I am to post this article http://www.accountingtoday.com/accounting-technology/news/IBIS-Added-to-Microsoft-Dynamics-Global-ISV-Program67382-1.html.

After nearly two years and millions in investment to make I.B.I.S. Advanced Distribution Software the leading AX Distribution solution, Microsoft adopted IBIS into the GISV program.  By doing so, IBIS will become the go to ISV for global industrial distribution deals.  This is something of a big thing for IBIS and certainly the payoff of lots of hard work by the CEO and IP team.

Now, my comments (as always).  One of the problems with large cross partner and ISV deals is that ISV’s / Partners and Partner/Partner interaction often don’t work.  Reselling ISV’s (like IBIS) often are not trusted in deals as they are suspected of “stealing” deals from the selling partner.  IBIS, fortunately, brings a very long history of partner focused culture to the table and should be unique in its ability to both sell the entire AX stack and play the role of high quality ISV in deals where just Advanced Distribution Software is being sold.

Categories: General Comments

#wpc13 Dynamics AX Roadmap

Christian Pederson, GM Dynamics AX, presented the future of Dynamics AX.  But first, some cool facts:  Nestle, Chobani, Nissan Motor Company and, for your sailors out there, Beneteau all are running AX.  Nestle is complimenting its SAP enterprise deployment with AX in new business units. 

Nico Tuissink of Pulse was interviewed.  He had two comments I found really interesting:  1) He was encouraged to go to the enterprise by MS  but it distracted them.  They did best focusing on the upper middle market in key industries, 2) he focused recruiting at people that know the verticals and then trained them on the software.

Wayne Morris, Corporate VP Dynamics Marketing and Seth Patton, Sr. Director Industry Solutions, talked how “Devices and Services” tie into business systems.  Frankly, I thought most of the commentary was little thin, maybe because Wayne hasn’t been in role long.  The big example was Delta using AX2012 Retail on hand held devices so flight attendants can take food and drink orders on flights.  Seth discussed the key verticals:  Manufacturing (Process and Discrete), Specialty Retail, Wholesale Distribution, Services (Accounting, AEC and IT), Financial Services (Banking, Insurance, Wealth Management), and Public Sector (Government).  Seth then showed a new Windows 8 retail POS app that allowed for easier multi-channel retail complete with dashboard for the sales person and access to BOTH customer purchase history AND web browsing history off the store website.  Frankly, very high on the cool factor and definitely something that seems very useful in the retail space since it takes you from that information directly into checkout.  This will be available later this year.

For future releases:

  • Major release every year (I hope I heard that right)
  • R3 comes out Q4.
  • Rainier comes out Q4 2014
  • CU’s will hit every single quarter.  That’s really nice, especially combined with a planned investment in cloud based lifecycle services that is available “today”.  Not certain what “available” means but a session is on tomorrow to discuss it in more detail.  From the demo Pepjin Richter did, it appears to be a combination of Rapid Start and Rapid Value injected with a shot of metro-steroid coolness.
  • New task recorder is out that allows capture of the meta data as you record to more easily put the business process diagram into the Lifecycle services
  • R3 will include, Windows 8 apps include Windows 8 Expenses, Approvals and Timesheets – all are in the store today BUT are only demo apps; Expense Management for Windows Phone 8, Warehouse and Transportation (that’s the Blue Horseshoe stuff they bought), Demand Planning, Budget Planning and eProcurement.
  • Rainier will included Next Gen UX, Cloud Optimized and better Application Lifecycle Management.  I hear (from private sources) that this is a substantial rewrite comparable to 2012.  Further, they are going to very much focus on business process oriented apps.

Cool stuff.  The challenge for us is this:  in order to do this well, the Dynamics partners are REALLY going to have to step up their knowledge of Azure and Tier 1 application deployment and management techniques, including having better trained and deeper platform technologists.

#WPC13: Update on GP and SL Roadmap

For Dynamics GP:

Product Development Themes:

  • Features:  MS Connect tool is the primary way MS decides on new features.
  • Technology:  Focused almost entirely on ease of hosting
  • Companion Apps:  Windows 8 apps that allow you to access GP data.  Very role centric and incorporate all form factors for devices.  Will go beyond windows phone to other device platforms.
    Release schedule: Full client available via browser by end of year.  Every half year after that, doing new features with a  major release every 24 to 30 months.  Business Analyzer rewrite in Q4 2013 including complete rewrite in HTML5 and JS and ability to include MR reports in the Analyzer.  With next service pack, can go off domain. 

Rapid Start gets a big upgrade with the ability to extract setups from an installation then redeploy the same setting elsewhere.  That actually makes the tool useful provided the other bugs are fixed.

For Dynamics SL: 

Same product development themes as GP, but very focused on projects, as one would expect, and therefore oriented to mobile.  SL will also have a Windows 8 Analyzer style product.  They’ll stay on a 2 year release cycle with a mid-cycle Feature Pack release.  BA is coming in Q4 2013.  UI for mobile (time entry, expense, approvals) in 2013 with web services (Approvals, delegations, resource assignments) in same time frame.  CRM Project Connection, Project Multi-Company and Multi-Currency coming in H12014 with SL9 along with Resource Management.

 

Overall, the roadmap is a bit of a yawner.  Not MS’s fault – the products are very mature, very stable and don’t need tons of new stuff. But, after seeing the keynote, these roadmaps seem quaintly retro.

#wpc13: Monday Vision Keynote

July 8, 2013 1 comment

Doing things a little differently this year, MS packed three days of keynotes into a single multi-hour marathon of product announcements and demos.  It was TOTALLY effin cool!

Here’s some interesting points I picked out:

  • MS has 750K partners worldwide doing a total of $650 billion revenue which they grew by 6.5% in the last 12 mos
  • They are dividing the world into Devices and Services (software that you can use from your device, cloud or otherwise).  They will use this to differentiate themselves in 4 key areas:  cloud (think Azure), Big Data (SQL and Azure), Social (Yammer, Sharepoint, Lync/Skype as a converged services, Outlook) and mobility (Windows 8.1 and Azure)
  • Azure is the key consolidation point for EVERYTHING in their toolkit.  Everything.  Really, everything.
  • Partners led 3 out of 4 Office 365 deployments
  • A complete new Dynamics CRM Windows 8 client is coming in the 2014 release.  The previews were pretty awesome.
  • SQL Database Premium is coming to Azure in preview later this year.
  • PowerBI:  This was coolest demo I’ve seen.  Coming to Office3 365 later this year.

Overall, Dynamics was mentioned only with respect a LOB app or as CRM – nothing specifically related to ERP.  Ballmer did have an interesting comment – “Dynamics is a billion dollar business that gets less PR than a business that size deserves”.

One last thing:  If I had to guess about what the pending reorg looks like, and based solely on who was presenting what, I’d have to say its going to be Satya owning Dynamics.

Microsoft #WPC 2013: State of the Dynamics Business

#WPC2013:  30,000 ft above the southeastern US heading to WPC 2013, I find myself pondering the state of the Dynamics partner channel ahead of drinking the Kool-Aid of keynotes and executive briefings.  Here are my areas of concerns and my thoughts on same:

Subject Good Bad
Cloud ERP GP and NAV are (allegedly) released in Azure as partner sold product offerings.  Both have had substantial enhancements to produce better cloud deployment. Although MS made a big announcement on this in mid-June, it really is marketing spin since this is just installing the same software onto a persistent Azure virtual machine.  This is really about the same approach as going to Watserv or DataResolutions and buying virtual server space on which to host ERP.  In essence, this is just a deployment option, no different than installing in a hosting center – it is not a true cloud based, multi-tenant ERP product.
Direct Sales MS seems to finally have got the AX and CRM EA pricing model refined and well thought out. MS continues to encroach on high end CRM and AX deals with a stealth direct sales model.  Yeah, I know they say a partner is always involved, but that comments is like one of Justin Bieber’s bed sheet’s – tired, stained and well used.  Between EA sales, Microsoft Consulting involvement in key deals, and comp plan changes rewarding field staff for integrating MS Consulting into a deal, we continue to see MS controlling key large deals.To compound the problem, MS does not have a very good sales force.  So these deals are often being lost to SAP and Oracle because they a) have read the playbook and are becoming more effective at competing against the TCO message and b) they are just better at high level enterprise selling.
Margins MS provided EA margins equivalent to, or close to, on premise margins for a period of time to encourage EA sales.  In addition, they comp’d the local MS sales teams without regard the sale being on-prem or EA.  This removes a big hurdle of AX on the EA. Overall pricing declines and continued pressure on membership costs for MPN are continuing to squeeze partner margins.  Although this doesn’t impact the larger partners, the continued escalation of CRM and AX salaries hits them in a completely different and more drastic way.
Competitive Hiring MS is providing an unprecedented level of assistance to partners in recruiting new professionals (college hires) through Sara Gjerdivig’s FastTrax program for Dynamics AX Many partners still need qualified GP and NAV staff – very few good ones exist on the market.  Everyone competes for the same small pool of senior AX talent continuing a salary escalation war that started immediately post recession.  Microsoft Consulting makes this problem more acute as they competitively recruit the same candidate pools and hire staff away from partners.Before anyone from MS calls bullshit on that, I have two examples from the last 6 months.
Support More resources are available in open forums AX 2012 (RTM and R2) was very bug ridden and overwhelmed the technical support team.  This problem was so massive that MS constantly missed Partner Advantage SLA’s for support response.  Further, the overall changes to support we saw two years ago continue to percolate into crappy systems and bad answers.The move to partner support through MPN remains a cluster fuck of offshore and outsourced crap that delivers no value to the partner.  I’ve had two really awful experiences with that team over certification tracking data being damaged at an organizational level.  They just suck.
Devices and Services What the fuck does this mean? I have no idea what this means to the channel.  My fear is a “app”-ization of Dynamics with a web services interconnected framework so that discrete pieces of the product can be sold independently.  For example, taking AX requisitions and making that Dynamics Requisition Workload on Azure.  I can see where some boundary services (EDI, Reqs, Recruiting, CC Processing, eCommerce) can all be developed this way, but core processes (Revenue Cycle, MRP, Fulfillment) are going to be much more difficult.  ERP is inherently interconnected, highly available and not batch driven in its inter-modular updates – moving to discrete apps with web services would put that at risk.  Further, the continued “Devices and Services” message doesn’t really resonate with ERP and CRM customers so it creates market uncertainty in the CIO and CFO buyers we hold dear.
Partner Concentration The Top 100 partners are still going strong According to Bob Scott’s Insights, Dynamics partners stratify as follows:
Top 6:  Above $40mm
Next 13:  From $20mm to $40mm
Next 22:  From $10mm to $20mm
Remaining 59:  Between $3.9mm and $9.5mm.The majority of the top 19 partners (full disclosure:  I work for number 19) have AX as their primary focus.  The majority of everyone else is NAV, GP and SL.  2 of the Top 5 are accounting firms with a long tradition of technology consulting.

I have to pull the old numbers, but it seems like the Top20 are getting bigger and everyone else is a bit static.

Categories: Microsoft Conventions Tags:

Resolving SSIS Error code 0x80004005

I’ve been geeking out with SSIS for the last week or so and posted a blog over at DynamicsCare.com with some hard won knowledge.

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