By: Linda Rosencrance
The committee of Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM partners that organizes the Directions EMEA conference series is gearing up for Directions EMEA 2017, and they expect it to remain the biggest independent conference for the Dynamics partner channel.
The mission and goal of the conference is to support Dynamics partners serving SMBs in the transition to cloud as well as enhance collaboration between partners.
“This is our tenth year – it started in Paris,” says Christian Sega, chairman of Directions EMEA 2017 and CEO at agiles Group. “We see a lot of spirit within this conference. For most people in the community, this is the one event that they plan to go to every year to get the latest news. We offer workshops and hands-on labs so they can get familiarized with the latest product versions. And the community aspect is also important to them.”
More than 2,000 attendees representing over 600 Dynamics partners and ISV companies from 53 countries are expected to attend this year’s event, which is being held in Madrid, Spain from October 4-6.
Knowledge Sharing and Networking
The conference provides the Dynamics community with a forum for knowledge sharing, networking and discovering new opportunities for future growth and collaboration. Additionally, partners can enhance and build their networks to reach a broader SMB market, learn about the latest product developments and tools, as well as enrich their operational and technical knowledge, according to the organizers.
As in past years, Microsoft will be the top (“Diamond”) sponsor of the 2017 event. And Sega says the company’s sponsorship is more than financial; it translates into a high level of support for attendees. This year some 150 Microsoft employees from around the world will take part in Directions EMEA, including top-level management such as Paul White, general manager, Microsoft Business Solutions and Marko Persic, general manager for Dynamics SMB solutions.
“This is the real commitment,” he says. “It’s not the sponsor money. It’s a commitment of people and a commitment of [energy] and resources. And they will share at least 50 percent of the overall content with us, which is why partners might see this as a really big value, but not the only one. The other piece is the networking.”
Covering the broader Dynamics 365 suite
This year, Directions EMEA is expanding from a purely Microsoft Dynamics NAV event to one that includes Dynamics 365 apps, including customer experience (sales, service, etc.). As the conference owner, Directions EMEA has to synchronize its value proposition with the Microsoft storyline, Sega says.
“This conference formerly had been a purely Dynamics NAV event, but now following Microsoft’s new strategy, meaning Dynamics 365 Business Edition, we also have to expand our footprint into the traditional CRM channel,” he says. “And then [we are] following the whole concept of Business Edition, meaning [SMBs] transitioning into cloud mode, which has already been a big piece of the content in the past three or four years. With Dynamics 365, it is a completely new story.”
Because of this shift in focus, organizers are expecting about 400 new attendees from the former CRM channel – now the Dynamics 365 channel, Sega says.
“So both the CRM channel and the NAV channel are in a very strong transition mode,” he says. “And they have to work with each other and I think this conference is a good platform for them to get knowledge from each other. This is a big shift, but it’s also an experiment because we haven’t done this before and we really don’t know how well it will be perceived and accepted.”
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Keynotes, Workshops, Roundtables
In the past, Directions EMEA keynotes have focused on the latest product news related to Dynamics NAV as well as go-to market strategies. This year, however, Sega says Microsoft is planning a completely different subset of strategic keynotes. But the conference committee members aren’t yet sure how Microsoft plan to integrate CRM and NAV messages into a cohesive story.
“After the keynotes, we typically have breakouts for salespeople, marketing, consultants, developers, and conceptual designers,” Sega says. “So we have several tracks for everybody and within that we have deep-dive content delivered by people who have established best practices. The other big piece is workshops where partners can pre-register and then bring their own device into the workshop and get an Azure-based learning environment with everything they need.”
Attendees at these hands-on, immersive workshops, which are hosted by Dynamics NAV engineers, learn the latest about Dynamics NAV 2017 and have the opportunity to provide feedback, according to the organizers.
“We’re also offering roundtables, which are open discussions, where people sit together and talk about a specific topic,” Sega says. “And we have the exhibition area where partners have their booths and people can go to get the latest insight about the ISV products, share knowledge and network.”
Although Sega didn’t want to spoil the surprise and divulge too much information about this year’s Theme Dinner, a big party and networking event, he did say that it’s being held at a Spanish hacienda outside the conference area.
“We are shuttling 2,000 people in 60 buses from the hotel to the hacienda and we’ll have a nice evening program with a lot of fun and food and beverages,” Sega says.
More information about the specific content at the October event, including details for the CRM channel, will be announced after Microsoft’s Inspire event in July.