Dynamics 365 – A few things Partners need to know better

I just returned from Extreme365 in Long Beach, which is one of my favorite events of the year. It is my “tribe”. As the largest global market, I am surprised that the US version of this event is not bigger than the European one, but actually it is about a quarter of the size. This just adds to my concern that too many Partners are content with oblivion.

Ignorance is Bliss

I get it… I really do. You pop your head up, and a hundred new feature arrows whiz by. You know from your past experience, that many of those will never see the light of day. You can clearly remember spending time and energy to get up-to-speed on something, that then got cancelled… like Business Edition for example. Maybe it is just easier to ignore the noise, keep doing what your doing, and circle back later when the winners have emerged. Right now it is just a bunch of acronyms anyway. Many Partners have been with you on that line of thinking… do you remember them?

Well this Sucks

Let’s say instead, you are one of those maniacs that goes to every event, jumps onto to every product group call, and reads every product Yammer feed… trying to absorb everything. Each “thing” leads to links for “more information”, with links for “more information”. Three days later, having not bathed, with your family cowering in the corner lest they interrupt your train of thought, you finally emerge, with a pretty good handle on… one thing. Then Microsoft decides to pull the plug on that “thing”. Well, that sucked. Maybe it is better just to ignore all of the noise.. until later.

Ass Bitten

There are no doubt a whole bunch of arrows you could probably safely ignore, and catch up on later. Some feature, that once it makes the cut, you can get up-to-speed on in a few days. But there will be some things that you simply cannot wait to absorb later. Things that could actually cause you to go out of business, or at the very least, put you at a significant disadvantage. If you have ever found yourself wondering why certain other partners just seem to be more successful than you, it is not “luck”. It is also not because they spend thousands of hours learning about every single thing; it is because they recognize, in the sea of noise, those certain things that will fundamentally change their very business model. There are some things that, like it or not, you must invest time into understanding, so let’s explore a couple of these.

One Commercial Partner (OCP)

Over this past week I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of partners. Not just your average partners, but some of the leaders in our space. Too many of them seemed to be thinking this OCP, PCO, POC, or whatever it is, does not really pertain to them. Like it’s just another side-project that Microsoft is trying to distract them with. Hear this loud and clear, OCP is not to be ignored. It is also not something you could bone up on in a day. You have a lot of preparation to do, and yes, a whole bunch of new MS people and motions to engage with. It will be a huge pain in your ass, that will take a bunch of your time. But, it is not just another go-to-market vehicle, it is the go-to-market vehicle moving forward. I have seen Ron Huddleston give the OCP pitch several times now in the last year at various public as well as NDA forums. Each time it gets “crisper”. At Extreme365, Ron had Casey Mcgee, Gretchen O’Hara and Karen Del Vescovo on stage to discuss OCP. Basically this was the entire US leadership team. That Microsoft felt it was important enough to bring this team together, all on one stage at once to talk about this, should be a strong clue to you. Ignore OCP at your peril.

Cloud Solution Provider (CSP)

Partners are not as oblivious to CSP as they seem to be with OCP, but the level of understanding and engagement is still not where it needs to be. This seems particularly acute with the SM&C focused partners. SM&C is Small, Midsized and Corporate Accounts, basically everything smaller than Enterprise. Microsoft is continuing to reduce and remove incentives that are paid through any other cloud licensing motion. I still talk to partners who are setting their customers up on Direct. Again, thinking that CSP is for some “other” partner segment. While I am sure Microsoft thanks you for using a model that they don’t have to pay you for, you have put yourself in the Salesforce.com model where the only revenue you get, is from your project services. I would think that most of the leading partners have set themselves up as direct CSPs by now, and Microsoft is raising the bar to become one. Everybody else needs to be exploring the Indirect CSP path. I suggest you reach out to either TechData, Sherweb or Stratos to learn more about that.

Key Features

While it is of critical importance to understand some of the business model changes, like OCP and CSP, it is also important to understand certain platform changes. Again, at an event like Extreme365, where there were tons of sessions on all kinds of things, you need to be able to discern the “cool” ones, from the critical ones. So let’s talk about a few of those.

  • The New UI, aka UUI or UCI depending on who you talk to. For many of you who have seen, or started to deploy, Dynamics 365 V9. You may have noticed that the UI looks a little different. This would be the “Web UI”. This is not the New UI, this is a bridge UI. Currently the New UI, is in the background, with this interim UI taking front stage. In the next release, these positions will change and the New UI will be front and center, with the interim UI in the background. By V10, the interim UI will be gone. So don’t spend a ton of time building for the interim UI. Instead, make sure you are understanding the New UI. Sorry if that explanation blew your mind. I’ll wait while you re-read it five times. The main reason for this is that Microsoft needs these steps to connect up all of their own wiring, but this is also the time for you to prepare. If you have seen the UI formerly known as “Business Edition” Sales, or Marketing, then you have seen the New UI. Also the entire Talent solution is built using it. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to these, so to see the New UI right now, you will need to make your own Apps. This is not something you will want to wait for V10 to launch to start looking at, especially if you are an ISV. You will no doubt have to make some changes, at the very least to your demos and screenshots. How much time do you have? TBD
  • Solution Architecture. One of the interesting things about Microsoft’s extraction of core capabilities, like Sales, etc. into apps, is that they are now building all of their first-party apps the same way we have always had to build our stuff. They no longer have the ability to go tweak the core to make something work for themselves. As a result, we will probably see some new tooling that we would have liked to have had, now that their own teams need it also. I can imagine Param saying “Oh, I see what the partners meant now, yeah, that is a pain in the ass”. Matt Barbour showed us the Solution layering, which he has been showing us for a little while now. I am not sure if this is actually new or not, but apparently what will be new for sure, is enforcing some things around it. For example, did you know that if your solution required say an Account ID that was 50 characters long, and a subsequent solution was installed that changed that to 35. What do you think the current Account ID field length is? 35. Will that break your solution? Maybe. Also, a few versions back we got the ability to add only what we needed when we brought in a existing entity. Apparently many partners are still clicking the “Add All” button, you know, just in case. This is creating an incredible amount of bloat, that is never necessary. You should try and get Matt’s deck to get a better understanding of this, there is a lot more to the V9 update than UI, it is almost a whole new platform underneath.

Shiny Objects to Watch

All fun and no play makes Jack a dull boy. So for fun stuff, that will be huge, let’s discuss a couple of things that, while you may be able to get by without, will make your practice really stand out if you understand and master.

  • Virtual Entities: So this is really cool. Think of it as integration without integration. It is not for everything, but it will be handy for a lot of things. Imagine creating a custom entity that is connected to an external data source, maybe an eCommerce site. Then on an Account record, to be able to display a grid of the related transaction data from the eCommerce app on an Account record. The data does not actually reside in CRM, but it is fully available, almost like it was actually there. Think: Ghost data that you can touch. Obviously, there will be scenarios where you will need the actual data to reside in CRM, and in those cases you are still looking at integration. But for many of those past scenarios, Virtual Entities are going to be awesome!
  • Custom Control Framework (CCF) I won’t go into details here, as Paul Mare asked us to keep the sausage-making close to the vest in his presentation, but I don’t think he will mind, if I hit it at a high level. Sliders, Dials and Grids, oh my. In my opinion, CCF is going to take the New UI to a whole new level, and New UI is already taking the UI to a whole new level. It like adding a handstand to the end of your cartwheel… just because you can! Custom Controls will bring CRM to life, and become more engaging, by adding power and simplicity simultaneously. You would have already seen some of this in action on the mobile forms, things like sliders, where values can be adjusted with your thumb, but that’s child’s play compared to what we will see when this is fully rolled out.  While there will eventually be all sorts of Visuals that can be easily configured, it is also going to be open enough to allow developers to create their own visuals and elements. I expect that a lot of crap will be made that will have us scratching our heads thinking “why”, but there will be some incredible stuff also, stuff that is beyond what even the Microsoft team is imagining we will do with it. Andrii Butenko, for example, is almost peeing in his pants to get his hands on it… in fact, I think he might have actually peed himself a little bit in the presentation, but I pretended not to notice.

 

So that is my quick update on what I saw and understood that seemed important. Let me know if this was helpful, and maybe I will do a follow-up on the next tier of importance.

 

 

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