Does Microsoft really care about the SME business market?

posted in: Cloud/SAAS, Microsoft Dynamics | 0

By:  James Crowter

Over the last few months I’ve really started to wonder if Microsoft executives understand the small to medium business applications space. Is their attention and focus completely enterprise-focused? Is their obsession with matching up against the only competitor they think matters, Salesforce, skewing the thinking too much? Is it dominating their thoughts to the extent that they have become blind to the real competitive threats and priorities of SME-level decision makers?

I’m a Microsoft advocate to a level where I get frequent accusations that I’m an obsessive. Having built a business over twenty-five years that is totally focused on the Microsoft technology stack, it has been a fantastic company with which to be allied. For the first time I can remember, I’m now wondering if that’s the best call for the future.

My growing doubt is not about the products or technology, its about the strategy and focus. The technology previews of Dynamics NAV and the Dynamics 365 customer experience apps (formally known as Dynamics CRM) are just stunning, and when we get in front of the customer with them we don’t lose.

No, my doubts come from the market strategy Microsoft seems to be acting on, which leads me to believe they just don’t get it. I have a horrible suspicion that the enterprise market matters more to them. Do they doubt  SMEs have the time or funds to properly adopt the cloud services and digital transformation that Microsoft believes is key to its future growth? Has their failure to get CRM Online to stick in enough SMBs scarred them too badly?  Have they written this market off?

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Look where top Microsoft executives choose to show up and spend their time. Which SME events have Satya, Scott, James Phillips, who heads Dynamics from a product perspective, or Alysa Taylor from Dynamics product marketing attended?  Marko Perisic was left alone to try to deliver and then defend the abortive strategy at Directions US last week to traditional Dynamics SMB partners.

Both James and Alysa, along with Ron Huddleston, who heads the One Commercial Partner initiative, and even Mike Ehrenberg (CTO of Business Applications) are going to present at Extreme365 in November. But the 3000+ partners at last week’s Directions US and next week’s Directions EMEA don’t warrant a flight from any of them. To me it seems the difference is that Directions doesn’t have enterprise products on the agenda.

Last week, while Directions NA was on, Microsoft also hosted the Inner Circle meetup, to which James and Alysa did travel. Perhaps it is no surprise that forty-odd of the top Dynamics partners count more than the twenty times that number down in Florida. But then how many of the Inner Circle are SMB-focused?

Sorry guys, but not to fly down for even a single day really sucked. Next week is Directions EMEA in Madrid, and from what I understand it’s the same story there for the over 2,000 attendees. Seems that with SMB as the focus, it’s just not worth flying over, despite extensive requests from the Directions team. The impression it leaves with SMB partners is that you’ve left the NAV product team to take the heat, despite the fact that they have delivered their part. It’s the no-shows who have failed to deliver.

I sat this evening and watched the recording of James Phillips’s presentation at Ignite. It’s an enterprise-focused conference, the same as Convergence became. SMEs don’t take the time to go to events like that, the time and expense doesn’t warrant it. James said that he meets lots of people who go to the executive briefing centres, up to ten a day. Again, they will be enterprise organizations; SMBs don’t have the time or budget to travel unless they happen to be in the same town.

Do Phillips and the rest of the Dynamics senior team only ever meet enterprise customers and enterprise-focused partners? They don’t attend the conferences we do; do they ever spend time with the SMB customers? Aren’t any of the SMB partners big enough (despite doing massively more turnover collectively) to spend time with? How do they get feedback about this market at all?

Dynamics NAV is the most widely adopted and, for Microsoft, most profitable product in the Dynamics portfolio. It has the best customer satisfaction scores and the lowest churn rate. It has the largest partner community and the biggest range of ISV solutions.

But unless it gets a seriously higher mindshare within senior Microsoft management, it will not achieve its true potential. Microsoft have a suite of products in what was called Dynamics 365 Business Edition ready to go, and it can truly trounce their market equivalents from Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, Sage, and anyone else. The only thing stopping it is now is Redmond’s hesitation in getting behind it.

Sort it out Microsoft, please. At least convince us you care.

About James Crowter

I’m passionate about how businesses can improve their efficiency by getting process optimal more of the time. For the last twenty five years I’ve worked to help organisations of all sizes and types implement the ERP & CRM software that typically they decide they need when things are going wrong. I’ve seen that work unbelievably well and enabled those organisations to rapidly grow but I’ve also had some hard projects over that time where it’s felt more like warfare at times.