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#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:

#Conv13: Nahwlins. Nuff Said

March 17, 2013 4 comments

I arrived last night in New Orleans to attend that perennial crowd favorite, Microsoft Convergence (Not to be confused, of course, with Convergence 2013 the chubby chasers convention put on by Girth and Mirth of South Texas). As soon as the cab dropped me off at the Marriott Convention Center, I knew I was back in the Big Easy based solely on the stench of gumbo, stale beer and that particular sent of desperation given off by middle aged men who insist on “bringing it” whenever they go to NOLA.

Day one is really all about three things:

  • Booth setup: Check out the pictures on the @ibisinc twitter feed. IBIS will have both a DynamicsCare and Advanced Distribution Software booth.
  • Partner Community meetings: These are the pre-meetings that purport to help partners do better running their business that Microsoft seems intent on destroying through lower software margins, EA sales and direct sales and consulting competition. Yawn. Skipped. Apparently a ton of partners feel the same way – have yet to talk to anyone that wanted to go.
  • The Randy and Andy Party: Always a crowd favorite, I’ll be doing my usual show up, say hi to Andy, then getting out before some drunk tries to cop a feel off me thinking, in the beer goggled glory, that I’m actually Marissa Tomei.

If you happen to be at the convention, text or tweet me or stop by booth 2522.

Out ya’ll.

#SPC12 SharePoint 2012 Conference Wrap Up

November 16, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m comfortably ensconced in my home office, space heater going, ears ringing with Vegas din, and sipping an AlkaSeltzer laden water to relieve my cold symptoms picked up from too many hours in too many packed conference rooms.

Wow, what a show.

Looking back over all my other previous postings, you may develop an impression of me as an unrestrained fan of SharePoint and its related, integrated technologies.  You’d be right.  I love the product and especially what I’ve seen in this new release.  But, to be objective, let me run through the major items as I see them:

Social

The Yammer acquisition is “terrifically exciting” (could that phrase become any more overused by MS staff?) but is a bit awkward right now. SP 2013 already had a bunch of great activity, newsfeed and micro-blog social components that look very nice.  On the surface, Yammer doesn’t add much to that and, in fact, muddies the water a bit since no one at MS is completely certain exactly how they are going to fit in.  In the long run, I think it will become the social messaging bus for all the business products (SP, Dynamics) and this will be a good thing.  As a Yammer Enterprise user, I see the value of social and am a big believer in what this can do when used right.

Search

If it wasn’t social being talked about, it was search.  Combining Enterprise and FAST in this release is a good thing – the two products were unnecessary.  Also, as anyone dealing with corporate content governance can tell you, creating stuff is easy – finding stuff is hard.  What MS has done is create a search-driven system from structured meta-data and user managed tags that allows users to favorite, like, and share documents and see document previews in the search results.  I think this goes a long way to making SharePoint ever MORE useable for content storage and, I believe, will kill file shares in the mid-term.

BI

As with many things in this release, MS didn’t go for hot, new sexy features.  They just vastly improved what was already there.  PPS, Excel Services, Power Pivot and PowerView all basically function the same but have significant improvements in security model and usability that will make them much more useful to end users.  That’s a hard pitch to make to your corporate masters driven by earning releases, splashy news press and units moved but they pulled on their big-boy pants and did it – and they did it across everything, not just BI.  By doing so, they are showing a commitment to making this a real integrated platform not just a platform that can be demo’d but doesn’t really work.

Cloud

Clearly, MS is staking EVERYTING on cloud.  From O365 to ERP to CRM to AZURE, you are seeing MS move its entire business model out of your data center and into its own.  But, while doing that, they are being realistic in understanding that no-one is going for a full cloud IT model.  The ability to federate to Azure ADS and O365 for single-sign-on was very nice, as were the cross-platform development tools to bind all this stuff together and the cross-browser support message that was consistently and repeatedly delivered in every session.  With that said, I still think MS is missing the boat on its Azure costing model.  All hosting partners charge for a machine of a specific size and for blocks of storage; Azure, instead, charges by proc, storage AND bandwidth making cost management for app deployment in Azure a bit tough to manage costs.  I will write more on this in a separate post.  They addressed this a bit by allowing SP apps to be hosted in O365 at no charge, so that’s a big plus, but I still think more changes will have to come.

In Closing

Yeah, I’m a fan-boy of Sharepoint but I’m not an idiot.  I’ve seen MS screw up too many times with me being on the receiving end of it to unreservedly admire what they’ve done.  The next two or three months, as the product is released and we start using it, will tell the real truth.  But, IF they just do what they said they will AND IF they just keeping hitting the flywheel like they did with this release they WILL have a great product for us to use.

#SPC12 Sharepoint Conference 2012–Advanced Dashboards

November 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Great presentation Kevin Donovan (Program Manager Office BI)!

The BI team at IBIS has been preaching the benefits of SQL, Excel, Sharepoint and PPS for years.  Kevin started out his presentation with a simple statement:  BI is SQL, Excel and Sharepoint.

Damn, are we good or what?

In 2013, Office and Sharepoint get some really nice enhancements without truly breaking any new ground.  That’s good for a lot of reasons.  The primary one is that what was working before is TONS better and they haven’t wasted a lot of time on new flash but, instead, really hit hard on good things.

Here’s my top list of what I liked:

  1. Effective Username in PPS and Excel Services:  Kerberos is dead!  You can now pass through the user name from the client WITHOUT having to deploy kerberos provide you only need access the SSAS cube. 
  2. Server Side Migration for PPS:  You can now migrated ANY part or all of a PPS dashboard server side without using Dashboard Designer.  It automatically detects dependencies AND, on the new server, allows mapping to new datasources before you migrate in the new objects.  Very slick.
  3. BI Server:  In SP2013, you can designate a BI Target Server for BISM model calculations rather than having them done in the SP instance of Excel Services.  Much faster response time.
  4. Named Object View: In Excel Services, you could always import just a named object (like a chart) rather than a whole workbook.  The object appeared in a sparse looking drop down list.  Now you get a cool visual graphic nav panel on the right side of the page.
  5. Field Well and List Exposed in Excel Services:  By doing so, you can add and remove fields and columns from pivot tables allowing almost full interaction inside the embedded object rather than opening it from the client.

There’s tons of stuff more, like cooler PowerView functionality (including embedded maps) and better user experience in the interface.  The only shortcoming, as noted in a previous post, is lack of true mobile.  However, that’s why ISVs exist.

#SPC12 Sharepoint 2012 Conference–Mobile BI in Sharepoint 2013

November 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Jen Underwood from MS did an AWESOME job going through what mobility options exist for BI in Sharepoint 2013.  Despite partially functional wireless and an alarm system glitch that drove screaming sirens, flashing lights and robotic, loud instructions, Jen was composed and cheerful.

The mobile BI capabilities were a bit light however.

Essentially, the near term strategy is to make certain SP 2010 and SP2013 are completely cross browser compatible.  With SP2010 CU December 2011, iOS is fully supported.  Android, iOS and almost everything else is supported out of the box in 2013.   SSRS SQL 2012 SP1 (which I think releases this week) is fully supported in iOS (although it works well today even in older versions).

Here’s what you can do with mobile:

  • Performance Point Services:  In 2013, almost everything works completely cross-browser except for the Decomp Tree (its Silverlight so it doesn’t work on anything but IE).
  • Excel Services:  Everything works just fine.
  • SSRS:  Everything works with some limitations on calendar controls.
  • PowerPivot:  Works fine, but you can display the Gallery (that’s silverlight).  Use a list view instead.
    So, that covers browser compatibility for larger scale screen dimensions (like a large tablet or desktop).
    For true mobile, you start running into problems.  First, you have to do some CSS and Master Page work on SP to get it to respond reactively to screen size differences.  Second, most mobile phone screens are too small to take standard Excel Services, PPS, and SSRS dashboard data and scale it down or use it.  Therefore, for true mobile, you’ll need to go with a trusted ISV like Mobile Entrée, Infragistics, Extended Results, etc.  RoamBI is also very good, but is only iOS focused so it limits you to single device platform.
    In essence, not much for Windows 8 native Metro out of the box for Mobile BI but much promise for the future.

#SPC12 Sharepoint 2012 Conference–Sharepoint 2013 Extranets

November 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Coming up on a full day with no internet access at a cloud technology conference.  Oh, MS, do you not see the irony?

Dr. Ian Goodman conducted this session.  Ian is brilliant but he somehow took the most exciting subject and made it intensely boring.

Sharepoint 2013 is a perfect extranet tool.  It’s a mature collaboration tool, it has a powerful social engine with Yammer, does great LOB application integration via Business Connectivity Services, allows integrated BI/Reporting it a ton of different ways AND, on top of all that, you can federate to your customer’s domain so you get single sign-on.

What more can you ask for?  How about native mobile support via HTML5 and audience targeting for personalization?

I think the one thing I like best, though, is the idea of deploying an extranet on Office365 to simplify the security model.  In O365 you can have External Users (called Partner Access Licenses).  P level licensees get 500 licenses and E level get 10,000. Pretty much enough to cover most folks.

#SPC12 Sharepoint Conference 2012: Social CRM

November 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Okay, I spoke too soon.  The wireless is down –again- forcing Reuben Krippner and David Pennington from MS to depend on Powerpoint slides rather than being able to do a live demo.

(As an aside, the folks at Mandalay Bay or whoever was in charge of getting the wireless operational should apologize then issue a massive refund to MS which they should then pass through to the attendees)

As you can take from the post title, this session was an overall discussion on integrating social data into CRM.  Although Reuben had tons of great discussion points about the benefits of integrating social to CRM (including some hilariously acerbic side comments about Ashton Kuecher), I’ll stick with product oriented information:

  • Reuben hammered away at how important Yammer was.  To quote: “Yammer has a huge future.  It’s a big bet.”
  • Yammer is going to be a social “messaging” bus integrated to CRM (coming in December), all the Dynamics products (no timeline specified), Office365, and Sharepoint (no time line specified but the products already have great integration) as an eventual replacement of the Newsfeed. 
  • The Yammer inclusion in CRM should bear some interesting fruit.  For instance, most companies put out Win-Wire emails to advertise sale success. Imagine instead a closed opportunity generating a Yammer activity notice that automatically builds the winwire from the opportunity data.
  • In Q2 Calendar 2013 they will release the Business Hub for CRM, a native Windows 8 metro application, that exposes and allows the user to interact with all CRM data including pipeline reports, activities, opportunities, etc. 
    One last comment:  Reuben used the word “incentivize”.  For this, he must die.
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