Dynamics 365 – How hard can you punch a Customer, and keep them?

I can certainly look back at many decisions that I made, that did not work out. I like to convince myself that, at the time, it made total sense, and I would do the same thing again. Sometimes that is even correct. But most of the time, I just wonder “What the hell was I thinking?“.

Do No Harm

If I suggested to a customer that a checkbox would solve a problem, and then later it turns out that much more is needed… no harm done. But, if I suggested to a customer that an elaborate customization was needed to solve a problem, and then later it turns out that a checkbox would have sufficed… harm has been done. The customer is harmed in lost time and money, and I am harmed in lost confidence of the customer and personal reputation. What if I suggested to a customer that an elaborate customization was needed to solve a problem, and then later it turns out that an entirely different elaborate customization was needed to solve the problem. Clearly I am starting to look like a complete moron, with good reason, and the likelihood of my keeping this customer is…

Sniffed and Passed

When Microsoft launched Dynamics Marketing and Parature, I remember being pretty excited. I would like to say I had the foresight to see where they were going to end up, but actually we simply did not have the bandwidth to explore them at the time. I now feel sorry for both the Partners and the Customers who did have the bandwidth. Neither of these were simple solutions, both required a significant amount of effort to learn, sell and deploy. But the plug has been pulled on both of them. As a partner, or a customer, you have to place your bets carefully, but I am sure they thought they had. [PUNCH]

Resiliency

The degree to which a Partner or a Customer will “write off” their efforts on a path they were sold on, and remain loyal, varies significantly. Microsoft gets more of a pass than Partners. As the front-line, Partners are usually to blame in the customer’s eyes, for not knowing that we were leading them down a dead-end road. They may stick with Microsoft, but dump their partner. This can certainly make a partner a little gun-shy when it comes to new product launches. Microsoft’s recent announcement that the poor customers who doubled-down on Dynamics Marketing, will not have to pay anything while it winds down, simply removes the added insult from the injury. The fact is, some Customers will be lost as a result.

How does this Happen?

I am convinced, that no one at Microsoft ever said: “Hey, let’s buy this piece of crap, promote it heavily, and once it’s deployed by a few suckers, let’s pull the plug on it… this will be hilarious!“. But clearly, homework was not done in some of these instances. There is a race going on in the cloud space, and in an effort to “win” it, sometimes bad, and in hindsight bordering on reckless, decisions are made in the moment. To be fair, most of these bad choices were made under the previous regime.

No Pain, No Gain

In spite of past missteps, Microsoft is fortunate to be gaining two new customers, for every one they lose right now. Obviously, they would be growing even faster if they did not lose any. But Satya Nadella is playing a long game. The list of inherited initiatives that he is pulling the plug on is long. In the same way I describe the migration process to a customer as “a short walk through fire“, he is betting that once the crap is scraped off, customers will ultimately be happier. While there has been no let up in the new product and feature releases, you get the sense that more homework is being done today. Mistakes will still be made, but I am not aware of anything being killed off, that Satya’s fingerprints are on.

What is Safe?

The Dynamics 365 Business Solutions space is the wildest of the Wild West at Microsoft. Under Jujhar Singh, and Bob Stutz before him, many liberties were taken with the customer base. Way too many customers were unwitting guinea pigs. “Gotta win the Race”. All of this has now been pulled under James Phillips, who I have only met once briefly, but I hear great things about his leadership style. Have we seen the last of the product exterminations? Well, if you’re not failing, you’re not trying, so I would say “no”. Hopefully Microsoft adopts a “Fail Fast” approach, to save Partners and Customers a lot of grief. Will “Financials”, “Business Edition”, “Project Services”, “AppSource”, etc. make the cut? The market will decide that soon enough, provided that “Fool me Once” partners are willing to take the risk. Another unnamed MVP recently said to me, “Business Edition is DOA“, to be fair, this MVP does not play in the space BE is targeting, but it indicates a partner apprehensiveness that Microsoft needs to overcome… quickly.

 

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