Dynamics 365 – My Hopes for Business Edition

Unless you’ve had your head in the sand, you know that Microsoft is developing versions of their Dynamics 365 business applications, that are geared for smaller businesses. Across the Dynamics Partner community, you are either very excited about this, or ambivalent, depending on the customer base you cater to. So, if your interest is in EPG, you can safely skip this post.

It’s Been a Good Week

On Tuesday, I had a great meeting with a large Salesforce.com ISV about bringing their solution to the Dynamics ecosystem. On Wednesday, Microsoft presented me the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award for Dynamics (maybe you want to re-read some of my posts now that I am a confirmed smarty-pants). Later that same day, I recorded my second guest appearance on MS Dynamics World podcast with Jason Gumbert. On Thursday, I met with one of Microsoft’s largest cloud partners about on-boarding our RapidStart CRM solution to their customer offering. The week wrapped up Friday, with another meeting with a different Salesforce ISV, looking for our help with getting their I.P. into AppSource. Whew! But all the while… behind the scenes… the SMB Apps continued their formation.

What’s Wrong With What We Had?

The application, formerly known as Dynamics CRM Online, was sold and deployed by partners to SMB customers for several years now. Sure, the first step in most of our deployments was to dumb it down… a lot… so the SMB customer could even get their arms around it; our RapidStart solution was entirely about doing just that one thing. But too many SMBs still struggled. As a partner, it was nice knowing that we could answer “Yes” to just about any SMB requirement request, but in reality, they seldom knew what to even ask. Unused power is not only useless, it actually gets in the way, making even basic things more complicated than they need to be. In most SMB deployments, 90% of the power was unused. This actually creates an additional step… hiding all that unused power.

SMB is Just as Guilty

A while ago I had a call with an SMB prospect. He had some pretty big eyes. His list of wants included Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, Gamification, integration with his “ERP”, and some XrM work around a Shopping Cart. I happily said “Yes… all of that can be accomplished, how many Sales users will you have?”… “We have 3″… “3 Sales Users?”… “No, 3 employees”. Ugh. The odds of this SMB customer succeeding… 0%.

The expectation of SMB is out of sync with the reality of business solutions… what they can do, and what it will take, in time and money, to make them do it. One of the biggest challenges partners have with SMB, and deployment of Business Solutions, is that they are start off great. But over time, as reality sets in, the projects stall as the customer realizes what they got themselves into. I have no doubt that if they knew at the beginning, what they knew at this stage, they never would have gone down the path. But, at this stage, money has been spent, promises have been made, and all patience has been depleted. Whose fault is this? Is it the partner? Who, even if you are as open and transparent as possible, still want to close the deal; or is it the customer, who only wants to hear the good things and minimizes the challenges you convey, or is it Microsoft, making these things seem simpler than they are?

Anybody still think we don’t need SMB versions?

Business Solutions that Fit

The over-arching goal of this entire “SMB” effort by Microsoft, is to make Apps that fit the SMB customer’s needs. But this entire concept has struck fear in the hearts of many partners that focus on SMB. What are they doing? What are they taking out? What are they putting in? What opportunity will be left for us? Unfortunately, I can’t share what I know about these questions because of a darned NDA. But I can tell you, that we both know, that what we were all doing before, was clearly not good… not for us, not for Microsoft, and not for the customer.

Let’s imagine a worst-case paranoid partner scenario, where the level of partner assistance required by SMB with the new apps is significantly reduced. Let’s further feed that paranoid picture, that it is only 10% of what we do for SMB today… eek. Before you slit your wrists, you should take into account the other side of that equation. 97% (I made that up) of SMB customers do not have any Business Solutions. Of that 97%, only 10% (I made that up also) have even considered them. Of that 10%, only 2% (yup, made that up as well) actually went down the unpleasant path that I described previously.

Umm, So What’s the Good News?

Based on my made up math above, (If you took Statistics in school, you know my made up math is just as good as real statistics), then that means there are a ton more SMBs that would move forward with SMB focused Apps… if SMB Apps existed. So, if the required partner assistance is only 10%, but you have 20 times the number of customers, then you would actually make twice as much money as you do today. Granted, this might require a reconfiguration of your staff, and marketing tactics.

What if you don’t want to make any changes? Then you are in the wrong business. In the new cloud world, as a Microsoft partner, you really have little choice but to make changes, ready or not.

How about a Best Case Scenario?

Let’s say instead of only 10% assistance, even with the new SMB Apps, the typical SMB is still going to need some help… more like 50% of what they needed before. Face it, if they still need the exact same amount of help with the SMB Apps, than they do today, then Microsoft will have failed miserably. Remember, whatever Microsoft launches, they are not telling SMB “This is all you get”, if an SMB needs more, they can still opt for Enterprise, so no doors are being shut here. This is really about offering a set of capabilities that are on par with other SMB options in the market, most of which, unlike Dynamics 365, have no path upward. Even when you look at a product like Office 365 Business, an “SMB Friendly” product, most SMBs still need help.

My Hopes for SMB Apps

I am looking forward to working with an SMB customer, who never reaches the point of regret. Who, while not completely dependent on us for everything, will still want our help occasionally. I look forward to the majority of SMB customers evangelizing Dynamics 365, on their own, as opposed to a select few Microsoft may have subsidized, or we lost our shirts on. I look forward to more selling and helping, and less developing and coding.

My goal in these SMB App focused posts is not to scare you. From what I am aware of, there really is not cause for alarm. I am really just trying to get your mind in the right place, with all of my not-so-subtle hints, so that you can be ridiculously successful in the SMB Market with these new tools, once we all have them in our hands.




  1. Pingback: Dynamics 365 – My Hopes for Business Edition - Microsoft Dynamics CRM Community

  2. Erik P. Ernst

    Another great post. Thanks you. This is pretty much the same picture that we see from the old Dynamics NAV side of the business. You better consider what you have to do, to reshape your business in time. Even if NAV (on-premise) will stick around for some time, then I think that if you do not get “on the wagon” now, then we may just as well retire when that happens.

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