Dynamics 365 – The Price of Currentcy

Yes, I know, I made up a new term, “Currentcy”. I am sure there is a better word for what I am thinking, but I have already typed this one, and changing it at this stage of the game, would simply require too much effort. But probably not as much effort as writing this whole paragraph to justify it, but now I’ve gone and done that, so there is really no going back now. So let’s talk about Currentcy.

The other side of the Mirror

I have been spouting off quite a bit lately, about the evolution of Microsoft Business Applications, and partners needing to get up-to-speed. No small topic to be sure, and one that will be crucial to Microsoft’s success with growing our mutual customer base. What I have not spoken about as much, is the view of all of this massive “change”, from the existing customers standpoint. It seems they are not nearly as excited as we are.

Congratulations! You’ve been force upgraded from Hamburger to Lobster!

But I’m allergic to shellfish! The concept of keeping instances current, and ultimately everyone on the same version, has clear value to Microsoft and its Partners. With the rapid advancement of the platform, supporting old versions is just not an area where any of us wants to invest our precious time and resources. I mean, we’re in a damn race here… against… well… everybody. For new customers, the “story” looks pretty amazing, for existing customers… not so much.

I feel the earth move under my feet

When Microsoft launched Dynamics CRM Online back in 2011, a fair number of customers jumped on the bandwagon. The growth trajectory has been pretty steady since. Customers paid us, and other partners, a lot of money to customize their instances to fit their needs over the years. But I don’t know that enough of them grasped the difference between on-premise vs. SaaS, beyond the subscription vs. perpetual cost aspects. I don’t think they fully appreciated what “out of their control” means. Many customers invested large sums of money, building mission critical applications, on top of a tectonic plate. This is not a Microsoft issue, it is a SaaS issue, and the entire world is racing to SaaS as fast as they can. Businesses today, will need to have flexible knees.

Buyer’s Remorse

You know that feeling you get, when you see the new model of your 3 year-old car, at a stoplight? Wow! They completely redesigned it! It looks so modern; faster and more powerful, yet with better gas mileage, and the new tech they added is incredible. Suddenly looking back at your car, it seems like a piece of shit, even though you were perfectly happy with it…. yesterday! That’s it, I’m trading it in on a new one. But wait a minute, I am upside-down on mine… damn, I’m stuck. Maybe in a year or two… This is where a segment of on-premise customers are sitting today. They are envious of the features, but have not yet recovered their prior investments. It takes a pretty confident person to march into their bosses office and ask for more money, when they said “This is all we will ever need” the last time they asked.

Just Stay On-Premise?

That is certainly an option, and one that many are electing apparently. You already own the software, it’s functioning adequately for your business, and you spent a buttload of money getting it the way you want… so why are Microsoft and your partner hammering you to move to the cloud all the time? Is there really a compelling reason? A reason that is compelling enough to jump from the static world of on-premise, to the continuous motion word of SaaS? It depends. Don’t you hate when people say that? You just want a black and white, yes or no answer, but instead you get an “It Depends”. Maybe we should review the pros of each, which also are mostly the cons of the other.

Pro On-Premise

  • You own the software, unless you also purchased Software Assurance, your ongoing cost to Microsoft is zippo.
  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. After all the pain and expense of getting it exactly “right” for your organization, the system is finally running like a well-oiled machine, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
  • There is a person, or persons, who are being paid to keep that system humming, and they have job security.
  • If something goes haywire, you have direct access to the database as an option to fix it.
  • You can write SSRS reports using SQL, since you can access it directly
  • You finally got all of your finicky integrations working.
  • You can utilize a large amount of cheap additional storage.
  • Its works fast, even with lousy, or no internet connection.
  • You can continue to use the “Classic UI” indefinitely.
  • Some third-party solutions you depend on don’t have a SaaS version.
  • Plus 50 more reasons that are unique to you.

Pro SaaS

  • All future development of any consequence by Microsoft, will be on the SaaS products. You are not “Frozen in Time”.
  • Scale up and down as needed without buying infrastructure that sits idle.
  • Servers will always be patched as soon as possible, meaning the security will be at least as good as on-premise and probably a lot better.
  • Disaster Recovery is baked in.
  • Create Customer, Partner or Community facing web portals.
  • Consistent and known back-end, to simplify partner development and support.
  • Advanced AI capabilities and Relationship Insights
  • Dynamics 365 for Marketing, Field Service and Project Service Automation capabilities.
  • Access to the full suite of Citizen Developer “Power Platform” tools, so you are not completely hostage to your partner, or the one person on your staff who built everything.
  • Never have to Upgrade again… Period.
  • Microsoft support has full telemetry on your SaaS instances allowing then to more quickly fix your issues.
  • The same telemetry allows Microsoft to fix issues before you are even aware of them.
  • Depending on your size, Microsoft will foot the bill to move your ass over.
  • Plus 50 more reasons that are unique to you.

I have to give credit to several MVPs who helped me flesh out the above lists, Nick Doelman, Mike Ochs, Aiden Kaskela, Joel Lindstrom and Andrew Butenko.

The Price of Currentcy

Back to the topic of this post, as I think about it, there is obviously a cost to keeping current, but there is also a cost to not keeping current. Some of these costs have nothing to do with Microsoft, but rather are specific to your own industry, competition or customer expectations. For example, let’s say that you and your primary competitor, are both using Dynamics on-premise. You hear through the grapevine, that your competitor is moving to the SaaS version. Would that concern you? I would venture to guess that your on-premise system aligns to the description often provided by the leader of the Dynamics Engineering team, James Phillips, as a “Forms over Data, reporting system”. As long as your competition was limited to the same capabilities, no problem. But what if they add everything under the Pro SaaS column above to their arsenal? Uhoh! Maybe you want to explore doing this first!

Let’s assume you are on the SaaS version… and for those that aren’t, this will be a peek at what they get to deal with. Updates every six months. That sounds scary as hell! It is scary, and it is bumpy, but getting less so with each update. Updates bring new capabilities, and if you are on-premise you might not know what those are, but you don’t necessarily have to activate them immediately. In theory, new “potentially disruptive” features and capabilities are off by default, so you should not have to worry about your users running around like the house is on fire every six months. I say “in theory”, because some things will not be off by default, or they won’t stay off indefinitely. Updates are probably the biggest issue that we all need to worry about. They will add some angst to your life every six months, even if they go perfectly smoothly. If they don’t, then you will find yourself scrambling for a little while grabbing the loose wires and reconnecting them. You should also prepare to be frustrated, when Microsoft makes available a robust new feature in an update, that you just paid dearly to have custom developed. Maybe you can ask your developer for a refund.

The real price of currentcy, is “Change Management”, a term that seems to have risen in prominence with the SaaS revolution. In the on-premise world, it reared its head every several years, or for some customers, once a decade. In the SaaS world it is now a minimum every six months, and maybe more often than that. “Change Management” is a bitch. The biggest appeal to moving to SaaS, are the promised gains in productivity, efficiency, engagement, analytics, etc., but none of those are automatically “realized”, they are just made “available”. In fact, Change Management is such a big topic, I think I’ll save it for another post.


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