Dynamics 365 – A Path through Shiny Objects

The UG Summit in Tampa last week has seemed like it had been a very long conference. Granted, Microsoft bolted their Dynamics 365 Public Launch onto the front of it… but still. Scott Guthrie took the first shot on Tuesday, and Jujhar Singh followed up with the Wednesday Keynote, and neither succeeded in clarifying the Dynamics 365 confusion to the masses, in fact, they may have added to it.

How much can you pour into a 5 gallon bucket?

It looks like about 20 gallons so far. Scott and Jujhar were showing us some new features, and then some more new features, and each ran out of time before they could get to even more new features, many of which were covered in multiple breakout sessions later. Writing this now, I am hard pressed to even remember all of the features. It felt like a July 4th Fireworks display… you start oohing and ahhing, but after a while you start wondering when it is going to end. On top of a complex to understand, much less explain to a customers, licensing model, the Microsoft Team piled two years’ worth of features on top of the crowd within a 24 hour span. Clearly, Microsoft has been very busy. It seems like every single idea that was brought into Jujhar’s office in the last year, got an enthusiastic, “Yes, Yes, absolutely, gotta have that too!”. There is a fine line between “Embracing Change” and “Change Addiction”.

Sifting through the Feature Pile

I get that this was a User Group Summit, and most of the crowd was end users who don’t need to make a living selling and supporting all of this stuff. And for the target audience, Microsoft played it exactly right, building up a lot of excitement around Dynamics 365… mission accomplished. But among the crowd, there were quite a few partners like us, who will have to find a path through the shiny object minefield quickly. Looking at all the features through a partner’s eye, you are going to need to narrow Microsoft’s list, and focus on the things you feel you can get your arms around, as well as convey to your customers. With the exception of the risky “Fake it Till you Make it” approach, you will need to go deep enough to be able to understand and demonstrate a true value proposition of any particular feature(s) you hang your hat on. The feature that drew the most applause, Editable Grids, is also the simplest to grasp… but some of these “Features” are platforms unto themselves. Let’s talk about a few…

The Easy Shiny

Obviously, Editable Grids appears that it will be one of the easiest things, and I assume it will come by default. But, a new customer is going to see an editable grid, with no prior knowledge of what was before it. They may even look at you funny if you start gushing over this seemingly obvious UI element. I would not suggest creating a huge marketing campaign aimed a new customers around this particular feature… we know it is an awesome capability, that was a long time coming, but they will look at it like you are announcing the addition of a fourth leg for a chair.

The Shinys to discuss in the future

Even before Dynamics 365, demos could have a tendency to overload prospective customers. Most of us learned how to focus on some critical items that would be relevant to the particular customer, and maybe briefly mention some other items for future exploration… or not mention them at all for now. This is one reason why partners do better demos than Microsoft, Microsoft can’t help themselves but to show every single thing. For a typical demo, most partners focus an a few things that the customer will not only grasp, but hopefully will get excited about. In the past for us, one of those features was the InsideView Insights piece, particularly if it was a sales oriented audience. You could actually close deals on that feature alone. But I don’t ever recall diving into the workflow editor on a demo for example, or showing Social Engagement or MDM. One of the things my father taught me at an early sales age was that when the customer says “Yes”, stop talking. In a demo, the goal should be to select and show the least amount of things to get to a Yes. The more you show, the farther away that Yes gets. You will have plenty of time to introduce things later as the customer absorbs, and hopefully adopts, a minimum viable feature set.

Features are the enemy of Adoption

As partners, we get excited about completely different things than our customers do. They reach out to us for a very specific set of reasons. It is tempting to gloss over those reasons as “basic stuff” and try to “expand their horizons” by introducing all sorts of other things we can do. They don’t care… at least not at this stage. The annoying part of getting your car washed, is when the attendant presses you with a list of other things they can do for you while you are there. I just want my damn car washed, I don’t care about your super-duper leather treatment. This is one reason that I don’t get my car washed more often. It would be different if, the first thing I said was that my tires are dull, then by all means, discuss your tire shining service, but I still don’t care about your super-duper leather treatment. Maybe, if we grow a great tire-shining relationship over time, I would consider it.

So what is the Killer feature Short-list?

The first one that you need to master is the Team Member license. I realize that this may not be considered a true feature, but it actually is. You will be approaching customers in the coming days who have decided, based on their limited understanding from the competiton, that the cost of Dynamics 365 is a lot higher than before. A thorough explanation of the Team Member license will turn those frowns upside-down.

I mentioned InsideView Insights, which we will still have available, and has been revamped recently. But now we have this new Versium product, which will also be included at no charge, subsidized by Microsoft. Versium has some overlapping capabilities to Insights. The team demoing Versium looked at me funny when I asked about that, and it seemed obvious they did not know what Insights was. Both products will do lead “enrichment”… Insights does that better in my opinion as you can click to sync what it found directly, where in Versium there is an import operation required. Other than Lead enrichment, the products start to diverge significantly.


The short story on Versium is that you can create say, three marketing lists: Leads that we did not close, Leads that we did close, and Leads that we have yet to act on. Load these up into Versium, and off they go into the Versium black-box (Proprietary analytics model). Based on leads you won or lost, Versium will create a model of “why” (using magic). You can then apply this model to your “Leads not acted on yet” list, and it will tell you which ones are most likely to convert, with a ridiculously high degree of claimed accuracy. Not only that, but you can build a customer list from Versium’s database of zillions of customers that fit your model to import into Dynamics 365 (so much for all those companies trying to sell you lead lists). If I got all of this right, prospective customers are going to go bananas over this. The only thing better would be merging Insights and Versium into a single pane offering the best of both! For demo purposes, you are going to have to pick which one to show, or the customer will get confused immediately.

I could go on, but this post is already getting too long, so I will save it for another day. Let me know what you felt were the Killer features in the comments below.


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