By: Guus Krabbenborg
Microsoft expects more than 15,000 participants from over 150 countries at this year’s Worldwide Partner Conference. This event will be held from July 10th to 14th in Toronto. For the first time in the history of the event, the Worldwide Partner Conference is sold out. That is a pretty remarkable shift, since last years’ WPC in Orlando had moderate attendance.
The Dynamics eco-system is traditionally well represented in this event, but what can the Dynamics partner community expect from this new WPC edition? This year, it’s neither the various Dynamics products, nor the cloud delivery model that will take all the partner’s attention. Instead, it’s probably the direction and the speed in the business transformation, both for Microsoft and for the partner organizations themselves, that will be one of the central Dynamics themes.
First of all, we see some interesting changes at the corporate level.
Many partners look forward to hearing CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote presentation, most likely scheduled for day 1. Since taking on his new role some two years ago, Nadella has changed Microsoft from a company that was perceived as defensive, always too late, and lacking vision, into a sexy company that operates in the front line of the ICT industry.
Nadella recently succeeded in executing the acquisition of LinkedIn – the largest business network in the world. It reflected a strategy that was in line with the failed attempt to buy Salesforce.com last year. In the meantime, Nadella had to deal with the negative (financial!) consequences of Ballmer’s failed Nokia acquisition just before he resigned.
The second eye catcher is the upcoming departure Chief Operations Officer Kevin Turner, who was often named as an important candidate to succeed Steve Ballmer as CEO. His departure was actually expected two years ago, since Turner was perceived as part of the Ballmer camp. However, he managed to survive.
An interesting question is what the impact will be of the foreseen decentralization of this COO task over 5 different people going forward. Most partners will miss Turner’s provocative keynote speeches that, over the last 10 WPCs, often were perceived as one of the highlights.
The third Microsoft corporate topic is the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) partner program. Microsoft announced that it will present a completely new version of this program, that will be in line with today’s Cloud first, Mobile first world. The question here is: how will these changes will impact the Dynamics partner communities?
But of course there are some interesting issues specific for the Dynamics area.
The first one is the move from isolated solutions towards full stack solutions. This is a topic that has been discussed for many years, dating back to the Ballmer regime. However, over the last two years under Nadella we’ve seen more tangible progress in this domain than in the 10 years before.
This move has a huge impact on the Microsoft organization, which has been seen through the recent development plans, but also on product plans and release policies, on the local teams in the subsidiaries, and on the PSE role as a point of contact to the partners – just to name a few. Dynamics partners should expect to get answers on their many questions in this domain at WPC.
Another important topic is product positioning. As the ‘stand-alone’ ERP and CRM solutions are expected to disappear over time, there will be a need for a modernized positioning of the Microsoft solutions. We’ve already seen various initiatives around the domains ‘Customer Engagement’ (formal CRM) and ‘Intelligent Back-office (formal ERP). This all will have a great impact on Microsoft’s efforts in their marketing. Hence, it will of course also mean additional work for the partners. How will they position themselves and their solutions effectively? What is the impact on their marketing? And more specific on their websites?
Another important question is what the next phase of Microsoft’s Cloud first, Mobile first mantra will be. There have been rumors that, starting in FY17, Microsoft will exclusively support cloud partners over the ones that still offer on premise variants. Even despite the risk of losing the opportunity! It’s interesting to see if this idea will be confirmed during WPC 2016. If it comes to be, then many partners who are in the re-active mode today will feel themselves forced to transform their business as soon as possible.
In the last week Microsoft announced its new solution set called Dynamics 365 – a cloud service for delivering business apps. Also introduced was Microsoft AppSource, an app store to support it. Based on what we’ve heard and seen so far, this is a combined solution based on Office 365, Dynamics CRM and Dynamics ERP combined with Azure. The ERP part even has two flavors: “Business” for SMB customers and “Enterprise” for larger deployments.
Dynamics 365 has led to many questions. Does it fully cover the ‘Project Madeira’ initiative that was launched earlier this year? What is the impact on the on premise solutions for CRM, AX, GP, NAV and SL? Where will Microsoft focus its energy and R&D money moving forward? And which of the various options should partner companies dive into? These are just some of the questions partners will look forward to find answers on the WPC event
(Editor’s Note: For a post-WPC analysis and review, Guus will be hosting a free webinar on July 19th at 4 pm CEST.)