The annual Microsoft Convergence customer event kicked off on March 4th, 2014. Far from the days of the Stampede in Fargo, North Dakota, the event shows how far the Microsoft Dynamics customers, partners, and products have progressed. Over 12,000 attendees including customers, partners, staff, and prospects gathered in Atlanta, GA for the largest Microsoft Enterprise Applications conference. The sold out event featured a volunteer program on Day 0 and a good number of partner meetings the weekend before. Analysis from four key announcements on Day 1 include:
- Microsoft Dynamics gaining momentum on the large enterprise and divisions of large enterprises. Key customers presenting in the opening keynote include Chobani, City Harvest Inc, Delta Airlines, Lotus F1 Team, New Belgium Brewery, and Weight Watchers. These presenting customers share a key theme of customer centricity and a Microsoft enterprise backbone. Moreover, many showcase the devices and services theme set by former CEO Steve Ballmer.
Point of View (POV): Constellation sees a growing trend where organizations and brands move to Dynamics for both CRM and ERP. The ability to integrate back to other Microsoft technologies such as SharePoint, Office 365, and Azure Services provides both a pull and a push. As organizations think about consolidating vendors and moving to the cloud, the Microsoft Dynamics team provides some compelling options in manufacturing, retail, distribution, public sector, professional services, and travel and entertainment. The launch of a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Enterprise License at $200 per user per month show cases the move upmarket.
- Dynamics CRM users gain key marketing and social capabilities. Microsoft announces the next release of Dynamics CRM in Q2 of 2014. Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, which was formed from the Marketing Pilot acquisition , debuts to assist with campaign management. The service and support offering gains new features such as Unified Service Desk along with closer integration to recently acquired Parature. Newly launched Microsoft Social Listening launches at no additional charge for Dynamics CRM Online professional license holders.
(POV): The rewrite of acquired entity Marketing Pilot provides some improvement to the original product. Parity at the Exact Target and Hubspot level will take at least two to three more releases. Release of unified service desk paired with Parature, provides a powerful combination in customer service and support. Microsoft Social Listening finally provides customers with a social tool that has been sorely missing in the line up. More importantly, in CRM and customer experience, the mobile access options have not forced customers onto Windows Phone and instead have provided native support of iOS and Android..
- Dynamics ERP users prepare for new releases. Dynamics GP gets a release for Q1 2014 that includes identity management, workflow, and self service companion apps. Dynamics NAV shoudl receive an update in Q4 2014. More importantly, the team announced the availability of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 for May 1st 2014. Key themes include mobile enablement, support for deployment on Windows Azure in the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) layer, and an end to end apps and services framework. . The cross offering with the Windows Azure team is the Microsoft Dynamics Lifecycle Services which improve implementation times and enable agile updates.
(POV): Microsoft has kept its promise to update the Dynamics ERP product lines, despite the flagship product investment in Dynamics AX. The support of Dynamics AX at the IaaS layer provides enterprise class capabilities in high availability, data and disaster recovery, and rapid deployments of pre-configured environments. However, the inability of the SQL Azure team to meet performance requirements for not only the Dynamics team, but also other ISV OEM’s continues to keep major enterprise apps from full deployment of database at the PaaS layer. The good news for customers, Microsoft has continued to improve the product lines and keep a steady cadence of upgrades and updates beyond traditional maintenance releases.
- Partnerships with major SI’s and ISV’s continue to grow . IBM, Avanade, Capgemini and Hitachi lead the list of highlighted Dynamics practices. A partnership with Dominion expands the global ISV alliance in the dealer management vertical.
(POV): The Microsoft Dynamics team is taking a dual prong strategy on partnerships. On one end, investment in global system integrators expands reach and vertical delivery. On the other end, GISV partnerships provide a great base of platform usage and micro-vertical offerings. Some examples include Angila Business Solutions (Food Supply Chain), Escher Group (Retail Automation), Ferranti Computer Systems (Utilities), I.B.I.S. (Manufacturing and Distribution), and Incadea (Auto Software), and Tyler Technologies (Public Sector).
The Bottom Line: Microsoft Dynamics Matures Into A Short List Option For Enterprises and Brands
Microsoft is now seen as a neutral and trusted player in the enterprise. Prospects and customers seeking both standardization and innovation now turn to Microsoft Dynamics in their short lists. Most customers and prospects are in an ERP and CRM replacement cycle and the mainstream adoption of social, cloud, mobile, and analytics tilt the favor to many of Microsoft’s offerings. Many customers and prospects begin by modernizing divisions using two Tier ERP and deploying enterprise wide cloud based CRM. Meanwhile, global system integrators and global ISV’s see an opportunity to partner instead of compete.
In general, the shift to devices and services at the corporate level will help create synergies for the Microsoft Dynamics team. Further, leadership changes with Satya Nadella as CEO should help the Microsoft Dynamics team given his rotation through the division. However, any reduction of marketing and development resources will hurt growth as these competitive markets require proper investment to compete with well-funded and high profile Silicon Valley based start-ups. Overall, the future looks bright for customers, prospects, and partners in the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem. Customers and prospects should keep Microsoft Dynamics in the short lists.
Are you looking at ERP and CRM replacement? Do you need specialized requirements for your industry? How are you doing this today? Add your comments to the blog or reach me via email: R (at) ConstellationR (dot) com or R (at) SoftwareInsider (dot) com.
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