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 (http://www.northhighland.com) 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…
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
- 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.
(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.
Once again, its time for the Dynamics World Top 100 Survey and, once again, I’ve been nominated to the voting list. I assume this is on the basis of my good looks, charm, and Tarantino like writing skills as opposed to any real merit – but, as I say, take ‘em when you get ‘em.
Or something like that. Here’s the link:
Vote early! Vote Often! Vote for me, get a free beer!
I recently attended an ERP cloud strategy update from MS in which they outlined their next few years of ERP activity vis-à-vis the cloud. Here’s what I heard:
SL: No comments. No surprises there.
NAV2013 is in a TAP program on Azure with several partners and will be the first cloud ERP delivery expected to release in Q1CY2013. This will run on Azure, but the IAAS portion of Azure (in other words, it will be using virtual SQL Servers and Application Servers). It is NOT running on SQL Azure. They will also be releasing the web client which will work either with the Azure release OR with an on-premise release. They are also releasing a Rapid Start tool that uses QA interfaces to do initial configuration – clearly this is a method for making the provisioning as fast as possible. Any customer, regardless of licensing, can move to Azure but would have to pay the cost of the hosting (proc time and storage).
GP 2013 releases Dec 2012 and will be deployed on Azure exactly the same way that NAV is. However, they have done two things to make managing the environment a little easier. First, they have allowed the Dynamics system database to be named anything – this will allow a partner to host multiple versions of GP on a single SQL server. Also, they have developed a web based management console for GP that they say allows easier multi-tenant management. They did not show it but said it was available with the general release. I’ve looked at the Beta release of both the Web Client and the Management console. Rough and not ready for a high volume shop just yet. However, I’ve seen lots of cycle releases on the web client before BETA so I think it will improve fast.
AX is the biggest release change for the cloud. v.next AX moves to the cloud 2014/2015 and will release on Azure BEFORE it releases on-premise. They intend v.next to be delivered exactly like CRM Online (a true multi-tenant app I guess is what they mean by this) and will also offer a Windows 8 native interface. The entire client will be rewritten under HTML5 and JScript so it is platform independent, but will have an app wrapper so it can be delivered in the various app store marketplaces. They also intend to take advantage of tablet features (like camera and GPS).
For lifecycle management, they intend to deliver tools that will allow easier movement of code and data between TEST and PROD. Such will be workflow based so that approval events move data and code rather than people having to do it manually. In addition, they plan to manage data moves (like copying live to test) so that less manual involvement is needed (copy prod to test and eliminate any private data while, at the same time, stop any automatic emails, as an example).
They also intend for upgrades to be far more automatic with customer selecting the timing of the upgrade and allowing customer to automatically upgrade a test environment so they can do their own testing. In addition, they will do upgrades to reduce or eliminate downtime by upgrading snapshots and looking at production differential which, in turn, gets upgraded.
Convergence will be where most of this is announced in more detail and they may try to find early adopter customers at Convergence.
Apparently we will be hearing more Dynamics related messages integrated to the classic Microsoft stack as we go forward. Below is their vision of how this works followed by a stack slide showing where everything fits.
I love the above two messages. I think they are will thought out and definitely position the entire stack more cleanly.
One last note: during QA some people asked questions about ISV support in NAV and GP. The answer was very unclear and was something like “Azure is more vanilla so, if they need lots of ISV’s, they may want to go to a hosting partner”. I can’t interpret that at all, so I’ll keep my ears open.
I’m a pretty technical guy. I’ve been working with SQL since the release just before MS bought it. I’m pretty deep in data warehousing and BI. I’m really familiar with Sharepoint. And yet, I was lost within the first 30 seconds of this session.
My fault, completely. This was a developer session run by Andrew Connell and Ben Robb. They warned us it was pretty technical. In my overarching arrogance I thought “Nah, I can deal” and so I stayed.