I was inspired by a tweet today from an analyst who messaged me “Overall, Dynamics still has less than what I would think was its rightful share of the market. Given the state of the market, $ needs to keep doubling down.” I have had my hands tied by NDAs from being able to write what I would like to recently, but this compelled me to write around the rope.
To be honest, I have not yet read Satya’s book, but it is on my list. I have read a lot of posts and comments about though, and of course there is the title “Hit Refresh”. So without reading it, I will go ahead and make the assumption that a lot of what he says is applicable to the Business Solutions space (AKA Dynamics 365 family of solutions). By comparison to many partners, we are newcomers, having only been engaged with Dynamics 365 since 2011, and we also only worked with the online products. We were formerly a very small cog in the Salesforce.com machine. In comparison, the Dynamics Machine was light years behind the Salesforce.com Machine. Shortly after Satya’s book launched, the Dynamics Machine also Hit Refresh.
Some unnecessary Re-hashing
For those of us who have been on the ride since Dynamics CRM Online was first introduced, a Refresh was long overdue. Until recently, Dynamics 365 was a meandering mess, with lots of vision and no leadership. It is not surprising to hear an analyst say “Dynamics still has less than what I would think was its rightful share of the market“. There is an implied assumption in that statement that this is “Freaking Microsoft”, should they not “own” the market in anything they want? Of course, up until recently, Dynamics has been a footnote on the Microsoft balance sheet, and to be fair, it still is.
Leveraging a Footnote
So what would you do if you were in control of a huge company that was itself transitioning to cloud? Step one, let’s convert all of our existing assets to cloud… check! Step two, take at look at who is succeeding in the cloud and why. Gmail is king of cloud email, mainly due to lack of viable alternatives, Office 365 solved that. Amazon is killing it in the cloud, let’s build Azure so we can play in their sandbox. Who else is cashing in on cloud? Salesforce. Awesome, we have some CRM stuff, let’s “cloudify” it! In hindsight, it is clear that Salesforce was not going to be so easily disrupted. Unlike Google, whose main business is advertising, and Amazon, whose main business is online commerce. Salesforce’s only business is Cloud CRM. They had no intention of adjusting to make room for Dynamics in the market. No, this was going to require much scrappier leadership than the succession of buffoons at the helm prior to the Refresh.
I can’t say for sure, but I think in some of the earlier desperate efforts to chink Salesforce’s armor, some LSD may have been distributed to the team. I could be wrong, but suddenly every crazy idea was on the table, and then… in development. I also think I remember seeing a banner in the Advanta building that said “Go Big, or Go Home”… that might have been a dream I had… or LSD fumes. It is very hard for any company, including Microsoft, to simultaneously “Go Big” in 20 different directions. Yet this footnote division tried to do just that. To succeed, this would have required a world-class leadership team. That was not the leadership that was in place. A conspiracy theorist might think that the two current Salesforce employees, who previously took turns at the helm of Dynamics, intentionally put Dynamics on a unwinnable path… but that would be paranoid. I want to be clear that I think the Dynamics Team is awesome, I know and respect a bunch of them, but you can only succeed to the level that your leader allows.
The overdue Refresh Hitting
I am not sure what the trigger was with the SLT. Maybe the fact that everything else they were touching was turning to gold, and Dynamics was this mish-mosh of pot metal. Clearly the potential was there, and thanks largely to Salesforce, the market opportunity is huge. And Dynamics simply had way too many advantages to not be soaring. They’re competing with a company that is generally disliked, who is selling a product at too high a price for what it does, that is being used by customers who are almost all Microsoft customers… seems like an easy checkmate to me. Unless you don’t know how to play chess.
A Championship Chess Team
Whatever the reason, the SLT decided the era of buffoons needed to end. A Championship Chess team was installed, headed by James Phillips, who strikes me as a cunning player. I could be wrong, time will tell. JP inherited a chessboard that looked like a 4-year-old had jumped on it. In addition to scattered chess pieces, I think there were some checkers in the mix, and I am pretty sure the Monopoly shoe was involved. While JP has made a few missteps as he got his bearings, you don’t get the feeling that buffoonery was a factor. Now, several months into his role, partners seem to be generally impressed with his helmsman-ship. He is keen to make bold proclamations like “Shipping like a #GermanTrain”, but you actually get the sense that it is more likely to happen than not. He inherited a development pipeline of 50 levers, some of which he has pushed to full stop, others he has pushed to full ahead. Getting these levers right, is critical, but at least I feel that he is not pushing them willy-nilly.
Analyst: “Given the state of the market, $ needs to keep doubling down.” The good news is that I think this is happening. In fact, I think Microsoft is actually “All-in”, including the SLT… for real this time. Everything and everyone is more responsive, and products are actually getting finished, even if I still think they are spinning more plates than they should be. There is this huge convergence towards April, with an urgency to get it right that is palpable. Frankly, they were lucky to get as much rope from the community as they have, and JP grabbed the last foot of it. Spring needs to be a turning of the corner… wait… I think I hear the horn of a German Train…