Goodbye to the Dynamics Channel

September 27, 2014 Leave a comment

After almost 20 years in the Dynamics channel (counting Great Plains software as part of that), I am taking a new step in my career and leaving both IBIS and the Dynamics channel.

The build up to this decision has taken a few years, deep soul searching and a basketful of reasons.  Boiling it down to just a few, I’d have to list the following:

  • Frustration:   Microsoft’s unwieldy structure and work tax on the Dynamics channel just occupied too much of my attention, taking it away from our people and clients.
  • Risk:  The constantly high level of risk in ERP implementation concurrent with decreasing operating margins.  The risk reward relationship is to skewed to risk.
  • Boredom:  I’ve done ERP for 20 years and keep seeing, and solving, the same problems.
  • Focus:   Those of you that have worked closely with me over the last 10 years have seen the level of effort I’ve brought to BI in the Microsoft ERP and CRM space.  I’d like to continue that focus without other operational distractions.
  • Love:  I love being directly involved with clients – working cooperatively to forge strong relationships, develop creating solutions to business problems, watching those solutions help their lives and business. In my role at IBIS, and as a member of the channel, my career path was taking me further away from that love.
  • Joy:  After looking at what brought me career joy for the last 10 years, it was being in service to the client, developing business with them, and watching a great team deliver to them. I wanted more of that.
  • Leadership:  Finally, I wanted to find an extraordinary group of leaders that felt, acted and worked in a culture that supported the love I have for clients, the joy I find in the work and the care I have for the people with whom I work. 

I informed IBIS in June I intended to depart and left on August 15th.  IBIS is a company populated with great folks who I will remember for the rest of my life and I wish the company and its team members the greatest levels of success and happiness.

On September 29, I start with North Highland Worldwide Consulting ( as Vice President, Market Leader for the Data and Analytics division.  North Highland was founded in 1992 by David Peterson with the premise that consulting could be better, that client’s come first, that the team must be of the highest caliber and that caring must be a core part of the culture.  It is now an employee stock owned company with offices throughout the US and UK.  NH provides management, strategy, technology, and digital marketing consulting services to some of the greatest firms in the world, such services including, obviously, BI, data and analytics to bring insight and clarity to complex, data rich customer problems.

This will also be my final Death of Reason post.  I’ll be moving everything over to LinkedIn to provide a consolidation of my social activities to a single location.

Lastly, I want to make certain everyone knows that out of the channel is not about leaving behind my close friends and business relationships.  I have been, and will continue, reaching out to my network to check in, say hi, and make certain we all continue growing ourselves and our careers.

My best to you all…



Categories: General Comments

If Not Microsoft – Then Who? Choices for the ERP and CRM Partner

According to Gartner (as reported by Forbes), ERP in 2013 was a $25B market with a 3.8% growth rate over 2012.  In the same time period, CRM was a $20B market with a 13.7% growth rate over 2012.  

Here’s where the fun really starts for us:  MS owns 7% of the CRM market and grew 22.8%, second behind Salesforce SFDC).  For ERP, MS owns 5% of the market and didn’t make it in to the top 5 growing ERP players (all of whom were SAAS).

If you are a Dynamics partner today (and therefore interested in the above), you are one of three companies:

1. Dynamics Legacy (GP, SL, NAV, Small CRM):  You are outdated already and riding a cash flow business. You need to watch salaries, opex and delivery cost really closely.  Sure, you can grow, but to do that, someone else is contracting.  The market share growth didn’t come from you.

2. Dynamics AX:  Damn, I hope by now you got the vertical message and have already gone in that direction.  If not, you are probably running a pure body shopping operation via a dis-intermediated sales channel driven by partners who sell software into vertical markets.  The market share growth is largely anemic and is causing you to think “really, all this work and that’s what I get?”.

3.  Dynamics CRM Systems Integrator:  You bet early on xRM and see CRM as either a vertical platform for the enterprise or do large scale system integration.  Chances are you do a ton of dev work (and did before you picked up CRM) and most likely are healthy with Sharepoint.  You’re probably too busy to worry about market share growth, except as a reminder that its nice to be a second seat player to SFDC and, frankly, not that far behind.

(Yeah, I know you are thinking about ISVs – they fit into the above.)

With all that written, what are your options as an existing or new partner?  If its my money, I’d look for a disruptive technology platform (okay, that really means SAAS) who is partner friendly.

Based on that criteria, you don’t have a good choice for ERP.  You can look at Netsuite, Intaact, Accumatica, SAP Business One.  NetSuite sells competitively against its partners and has a 10 year track record of being partner unfriendly.  They seem to be changing, but if you are in a major economic zone, you’ll be competing head to head.  Intaact is pretty low end as a solution, sells direct, but is VERY partner friendly.  Accumatica…well, who knows.  They really aren’t SAAS but they kind of are via IAAS in Azure and they have on premise, but I don’t see any good vertical focus or sufficient differentiation from the other two.  SAP BOne is just pure play on prem – nothing new.  Epicor?  Hates partners.  Sage?  Portfolio maintenance play despite X3 – and X3 is like AX 2.5, a toolkit not a product. 

What about Workday, Workforce and Cornerstone?  These three round out the top 5 fastest growing ERP solutions.  But, they aren’t ERP.  Their roots are in HCM and Workforce Management with Workday having a basic (sorry guys, but it really is basic) financials package.  They show great promise, but unless you already focus on HCM, its a tough switch.

For CRM, the news is great and easy:  SFDC.  Great product, great company, and the FORCE platform creates a great ecosystem for you but they will sell against you.  The opportunity with SFDC is system integration, custom dev or FORCE ISV … EXACTLY THE SAME AS MS!  And MS is a little cheaper and is a known quantity for you.  All the big SI’s (Cap, PWC, Accenture) are already in place – the smaller consulting companies are mostly dev and ISV.  Again, exactly like the MS channel.

My advice?

1. If you are legacy partner, pick up Intaact and love up your current client base while you watch costs.

2.  If you are AX, double down and sell more.  Nothing is better out there.

3.  If you are CRM, double down and sell more.  Partnering with the #2 in a market is a good place to be especially when the company that is #2 is dominant in these accounts on the server and OS side.

4.  If you are starting a business?  Get a good idea and build a SFDC product (checkout – totally rocking product).  Its too costly to get into AX organically today and the FORCE platform gives you access to a whole ecosystem.

5.  Do you know HCM really well?  Then check out opportunities as Workday/Workforce SI but be clear that you need to be pure play consulting and forget software.  Definitely not my first choice.

In the meantime, watch out for SAP.  Some rumors are flying about a whole new, mid-market SAAS based product going through a partner channel that will NOT be an upgrade of BOne.

Love to hear your thoughts,


PS:  Tim S – thanks for the note.

An Open Letter To Steve Ballmer

August 26, 2013 Leave a comment

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.


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:

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?

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

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

I can’t tell you how proud I am to post this article

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
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