AppSource – 19th time’s the Charm


I am fresh back from the Microsoft Dynamics Partner Advisory Council meetings last week. AppSource, and the whole ISV strategy was a central topic. Unfortunately I cannot share too much because of NDA handcuffs, but I can share some public themes, and my opinions.

You have said this before

Yes, I am aware that I have written much about AppSource in the past, in fact, exactly 18 posts. In many of those posts I said something along the lines of “Now is the time to get onboard with AppSource“, and I am about to say it again. I am familiar with the story of the “Boy who cried Wolf“. So how is this time any different?

AppSource has come up short

I am keenly aware that when it comes to Business Applications, AppSource, and the larger OCP “Sell-With” motion, have not lived up to our expectations… okay, it’s been a shit show. ISVs, some possibly at my encouragement, have gone down the path and invested a lot of time and money, for little or no result. So why would I have the balls to even suggest you look at it again?

Are ISVs Important?

Looking at the primary competition in the business applications space, Salesforce.com, it is hard to argue that ISVs are not key. AppExchange is a major driver for Salesforce’s success, just like Google Play is a major driver for Android and the Apple Store is a major drive for iPhones. If your goal is to be a platform company, then ISVs are the only way to ever get there. Microsoft telegraphed their recognition of this not long ago, with the hiring of the now late Ron Huddleston, the purported “architect” of AppExchange.

Birth of OCP

Ron skipped right over the low-hanging fruit, and instead aimed straight for the top of the tree with the One Commercial Partner program (OCP). Ron was not a guy who wanted to fix things, he wanted to re-invent them. He put all of these vaguely defined, not fully bought into plans, for OCP in motion towards a big fuzzy goal, and then left the company long before the goal was achieved. When Ron departed, the reins of all of those motions were let go, and the meandering began. It’s not like ISVs had a clear understanding of what Ron was doing in the first place, he was one of those “Trust me, it will all make sense in the end” kind of guys.

Is AppSource and OCP a Failure?

If you are a Business Applications ISV, I think it clearly has not been a success yet. But we are not the only players in AppSource or OCP. Azure partners are in there also,  on the other side of the wall. I am not sure who picked up the dropped reins on the Azure team, but they are blowing the lid off of it. Azure ISVs via AppSource or OCP Co-Sell are seeing every bit of the success we had hoped for. So… it is working… just not for us. Why not?

Leaderless

Up until now, AppSource and OCP efforts for Business Applications have been driven by a smattering of people on the team, each with a very narrow slice of responsibility, and little or no authority to do very much. There was a lot of shoulder shrugging going on. Many of the dropped reigns were laying on the floor. Some of the people on this team have responsibility for recruiting new ISVs to this dysfunctional platform. I assume James Phillips is the one we can credit for reaching out and asking for a “Fixer”… and his wish was granted.

Meet “Guggs”

Steven Guggenheimer (Guggs), is a 25 year Microsoft veteran, and has been a Corporate Vice President for at least the last 10 of those. For us, he is a “Fixer” who has been brought into the Business Applications group to fix the ISV business for James. I have certainly heard his voice echoed before over the years, like hearing a battle cry from the leader of another group, down the hall from ours, but he was never engaged with our teams. Where I was previously betting on a concept I believed in, now I am shifting my bets to the man who might finally make it happen.

Step One

As content is being throw at you rapid-fire at these PAC meetings, there is an assumption of NDA. Occasionally, someone will ask if some particular item can be publicly shared. It becomes hard to remember which items were green-lighted for sharing, so I seldom share anything. But one item was clear, and that was around a new high-level taxonomy for ISVs. Up until now, we were all just ISVs, which meant you had to level-set with everyone at MS where you played. We now have three high-level buckets, “Build”, “Extend”, and “Connect”. You may have solutions in more than one, but each solution should mostly fit into one of these 3 buckets. Saying “I am an ISV on the Build track”, should shorten your conversations in the near future. So what exactly are these buckets?

Build

“Build” refers to a new type of ISV, one who builds on the CDS platform, without using any first-party apps. Our RapidStart CRM was the first end-to-end solution built on the “Build” track. Needless to say, I am a big believer that this new motion will be huge for Microsoft and ISVs.

Extend

This is probably one of the largest tracks, and includes ISV solutions that were built to run on top of one or more of the first-party applications. I think we will see some of these “Extend” solutions, transition over to the “Build” track over time.

Connect

Connect is for ISVs who have external IP that “connects” with either Build, Extend or first-party solutions, for example:  DocuSign or InsideView.

What’s coming for ISVs?

Like I said, I lost track of what we could and could not share, but there is a lot. Guggs has been given a mission, he has the track record, he has the authority, he has the support, he knows how to navigate Microsoft, and he is in-charge. He seems like a “no-nonsense” kind of guy, who already is grabbing up the loose reins.

So is now finally the “real” time to jump in? At the risk of crying wolf again, I say Yes… again.

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