Let’s be real, Microsoft has a spotty track record with their Dynamics related acquisitions. Many seemed like a good idea at the time, and just did not work out for some reason. Others had us all scratching our heads wondering what they were thinking. But there have been some winners in the pile, and parts of them are in Dynamics 365.
You should wear a sign
Wouldn’t it be nice if every acquisition target had a sign hanging on it that said either, “This will take you to new heights”, or “This will be a total distraction, waste of money and you will ultimately dump it, take a stock hit and move on”. Sadly, you just can’t know for sure in advance. I think, if you never had an acquisition fail, then you are not trying hard enough to advance. I want to talk about the significant ones in recent history, starting with the first significant one since the online launch of Dynamics CRM, and working though to the most recent.
Ugh, You are such a Loser
This is something my step-daughter says whenever I bust out my Whip and Nae Nae moves in front of her friends. Interestingly, it is not a critique of my technique, but rather the idea that I am doing it at all. Some of the past acquisitions that Microsoft has made, made me wonder why they were doing it at all. Obviously the biggest loser so far has to have been Marketing Pilot acquired back in October of 2012. I remember thinking at the time that, similar to when we started with CRMOL, there were not many partners in that game, and Marketing Pilot, which became Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, similarly only had a few players engaged. I dove in, thinking this could be another possible differentiator for us. It did not take long (about a week) to realize this was a loser and we quickly backed away. BTW, MDM drops off product list on November 1st. Bailing on MDM, before spending a dime, was one of my better decisions. How was it that I was able to figure this out so quickly, and Microsoft could not? Desperation maybe? If you remember back to October of 2012, Bob Stutz was in charge and no doubt had a mandate to “make something happen with CRM”. He was also given a big bag of money to go buy stuff. I can also assume that it would not have gone well for Bob, if he came back later with most of the money unspent. It’s not hard to imagine how this can lead to buying almost anything that smells like it has a chance.
When Microsoft acquired NetBreeze in March of 2013, it looked like another possible head-scratcher. But it has chugged along. One of the challenges, for what was renamed “Social Engagement”, a challenge that also plagued MDM, was that it was not integrated natively. It had its own platform that you had to go to. Social Engagement kind of failed in the “engagement” department with users. Another challenge for a product that connects to the social media world is that most users don’t really understand social media. It would be like asking my wife to change her own oil, she knows oil is important, and her car needs it, but would have no clue how to even pop the hood. On the SMB side, most smaller companies did not have much of a social presence to even engage with. I understand that the product has other uses, but that was a big one denied. I’m pretty sure Microsoft knows these things, and they seem committed still to Social Engagement, so I think we will see more integration, bringing those insights to the users, instead of the users having to go find them. I won’t call this one a loser, but I can’t call it a winner yet either.
In January of 2014, Microsoft bought Parature. An enterprise customer self-service platform. I remember thinking, because I was told by Microsoft, that Parature would ultimately replace the Service capabilities of CRM. I looked at it and thought, well that’s just great, there’s something else we will have to learn. Instead, it was sold as a standalone product… heavily cross-promoted to CRM users, but not integrated. Personally, I let out a sigh of relief, awesome, now I don’t have to learn it… or sell it. I guess too many other partners let out the same sigh. This product seemed to bounce around inside of Microsoft trying to find a good place to land, but never did. It may have also suffered for attention as a result of the next acquisition sucking up all the air. Microsoft will mercifully pull the plug on Parature on November 1st also.
Stutz finally Fields a Winner
In July of 2015, Microsoft bought FieldOne, a Field Service CRM application (think plumbing repair, or pest control). For the first time, Bob actually buys a product that is already integrated with CRM. And a great product at that, for the companies that need that sort of thing. This ultimately turned in a twofer, as the core resource scheduler of Field Service was forked by Microsoft to create Project Service, their PSA solution. This also seemed to wake Microsoft up to the idea that maybe they should be looking at products that were already integrated with CRM, instead of disconnected solutions that still needed to be integrated. The customer interest for these products was high almost immediately, and has remained so, and I can imagine Bob walking around the office going “uhuh, look at me now”.
Shall we Play a Game? (say it in a computer voice)
Fresh off the high of a clear winner, Bob, one month later, in August of 2015, acquires Incent Games for their Fantasy Sales Teams solution. But lightning did not strike twice. True, it was an integrated solution, but a little too nichy. I had voiced similar opinions in other media at the time. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big believer in the concept of gamification, but since we have focused on the small and midsized business space, there have not been enough players to matter. Like Social Engagement, Microsoft has not given up on gamification, and in fact is reinvigorating it with Dynamics 365. While I don’t expect our customer segment to get too jazzed about it, I think it will have some legs in the enterprise space. So, similarly, I won’t call this one a loser, but I can’t call it a winner yet either.
Back to the Future
In Stutz’ last acquisition move before he hit the door, in September 2015, Microsoft acquires ADX Studio, speeds up to 88 Miles Per Hour, and launches a portal. Another “already integrated” solution, are you seeing a pattern here? When you think about it, you have to wonder why Microsoft buys anything related to CRM, that is not already integrated, I mean, I’m sure they can see exactly how these solution are performing with their customer base. I am also sure that was the case with ADX. There are only a handful of portal solutions out there, Peak Portals, which is run by my friend Matt, and The Portal Connector, which is run by another friend, Ian. Neither of them would argue that ADX was the 800 pound portal gorilla, particularly in the enterprise space. Frankly, their niche was, and still is, the customer who is looking for a portal solution that that is not as “heavy” as ADX’s 800 pounds. I am sure they are watching to see what Microsoft does with portals as they move forward, both on the cost and weightiness fronts. I think the ADX acquisition has to go up on the board as a win for Microsoft, even if enterprise is the only ones who ever buy it.
In November of 2015, Bob Stutz lets us all know, that it is with heavy heart, that he has decided to leave Microsoft and relax for a while. You know, just gonna take some time to reflect on what he wants to do next, no plans really. No sooner does he clear the threshold, he pops up over at the Salesforce evil empire. I suspect a big bag of money was involved, so you can’t blame him for that. In the meantime, Jujhar Singh, Bob’s right-hand man, takes over the reins.
Developers, Developers, Developers!
While not exclusively for the benefit of Dynamics, in February of 2016 Microsoft Acquires Xamarin, a mobile app building platform. Like many of you, I am sure, I followed Microsoft down the rabbit-hole of their mobile ambitions with Windows Phone (talk about an acquisition gone bad). Microsoft has fought valiantly to plant a flag in the mobile space, but they were simply too late to the party. Xamarin was a piece of the overall shift to provide their mobile applications across devices. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Xamarin is also the mobile platform behind the new Dynamics 365 mobile apps. See there, I circled it back to Dynamics 365. I am assuming that it is also behind the Powerapps engine, but don’t know for sure. So Xamarin, is definitely a winner, even though it is not a product that customers ever heard of, or know they are even getting.
You have 72 unanswered InMails
In June of 2016 Microsoft rocks the tech industry and announces their acquisition of LinkedIn. Their track record with non-integrated application acquisitions remember, is not so good, and this is a big one. Yes, I know that LinkedIn had some crappy, half-baked CRM solution. Obviously, a key motivation for this purchase, in addition to all of the good things that “could” come from it, was keeping it out of Benioff’s grasp. It’s funny how he is making a fuss over possible future anti-competitive actions that he imagines Microsoft taking.. because he knows that’s what he would have done if he got it. This was a big acquisition, the largest in tech history, it is therefore… too big to fail. Microsoft took a lot of heat for the $9bn write-down of Nokia, and I am sure they will avoid another $26Bn write-down at all costs. We have not seen any of the fruit of this yet, no mention of it in any of the Dynamics 365 information or sessions. Only suggestions that CRM will be a huge, no doubt the biggest, beneficiary of the acquisition. I sense that they are taking their time, they have to get this one right for sure. So obviously, it is way too early to mark this one as a winner yet. Many would say just keeping it away from Salesforce was a huge win, but I am hoping for a lot more than that.
Let me know if you think any of my losers were actually winners or vice versa… or if you have any to add to the list.