One of the things Microsoft would probably love to be able to do, is to reduce the number of versions of its products that are in use today. It has to be a complete support nightmare for them, as well as a huge internal cost. Of course Microsoft created this problem by being too accommodating.
Everyone wants happy customers, and for Microsoft, at least happy Enterprise customers. Whenever Microsoft attempts to deprecate anything, a version of a product, or an entire product, all it seems to take is one enterprise customer to complain, and Microsoft accommodates. It’s one thing to end support for an old on-premise product; that customer is free to continue to use that product until the wheels literally fall off of it. It is sitting on their own, or hosted servers that they control. They can also probably find some partner to support it. Goodbye, and good riddance. But in the cloud world we live in today, customers do not own or control the servers… but Microsoft still accommodates. This is probably a leftover mindset, ingrained from their pre-cloud days. But it has a heavy cost.
Why do I Care?
As a Partner, why do I care what drives costs for Microsoft? Because those costs have to be offset by revenues that can lead to higher prices than necessary for the masses, to cover the costs of a few. Of course, if Microsoft were to lower their costs, that does not automatically translate to lower prices… they could instead increase their margins. It is from their margins that Microsoft funds R&D efforts, and continued product development on the products we offer. As long as prices don’t get crazy, I am fine with having even better products. But right now, Microsoft is dragging a big bag of cost over their shoulder. It was not good in the on-premise days, but it is untenable in the cloud world.
I heard a rumor that for Enterprise Finance and Operations there are like over 25 cloud versions in the wild. Can you imagine the support debt that Microsoft has for each one of these versions. I seem to recall from our Salesforce.com days, that there were up to 3 versions of the product floating around at one time. Some of that is simply a factor of the time it takes to upgrade many organizations in an orderly fashion, but you certainly don’t need 25 to do that. No, this is a result of Microsoft trying to keep too many customers happy.
Let’s face it, most Enterprise customers move very slowly, since they are bloated by bureaucracy. Maybe they would like to “get with the times”, but they simply cannot get out of their own way. However they do seem to move pretty quickly in cases of a credit card database breach. So we know they can move faster, when they have to, but move veerryy slloowwlly, when they don’t. Microsoft is an “Enabler” of this bad behavior. There is no way that any of these customers can actually be happy on the old versions, obliviously content.. maybe. The amount of money that would immediately fall to Microsoft ‘s bottom line if they simply stopped trying to accommodate everyone, would more that make up for the few who got mad and left. Besides, where are they going to go? Who else is this accommodating? No one.
So here’s a new word I learned recently. It means: For a ton of very good reasons, we decided to end a product’s life, but after a couple of complaints, we changed our mind. This feels uniquely Microsoft. I have seen this happen too many times. I remember a while back, when they announced the end of Exchange Folders, and reversed that pretty quick. We also saw it more recently, in the Dynamics 365 space, with the announced deprecation of the Outlook Connector. Sure the product caused more issues for Microsoft, Partners and Customers than anything else on our shelf, but a lesson was learned in their attempt to pull it. People will happily give something up, if there is an equal or better replacement. For many, the Outlook App was better, but it was not equal. While new users all love the App, existing connector users, didn’t like it…yet. But I cringe at the thought, of even one hour of development time, being taken away from the advancement of the App, to go plug holes in the Connector. It seems like there should be a better way to know where customers stand, than announcing a deprecation and have them fly out of the woodwork. I dunno, maybe a Customer survey?
Shoveling Money on the Fire
I wish I could afford to put out fires by smothering them in $100 bills. Since I can’t, I have to take a hard line sometimes… as most businesses do. Microsoft is going to have to start taking a harder line also. Actually the best thing they can do for themselves, their partners and their customers.. is to learn how to just say no. No to the past. No to accommodating the few.