How I spent my holidays… for you!

I have been prepared to start a pet project many times but never had a long enough block of uninterrupted quiet time to get started. Then, along came the holidays!

The Old Days

When I joined Microsoft as a Business Applications partner in 2011, they had four products. Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV, Dynamics AX, and Dynamics CRM, the latter in two flavors, on-premise and the just-launched cloud version “Dynamics CRM Online”. Conversations with customers were pretty simple:

Me: “What are you looking for?”

Customer: “A CRM.”

Me: “For on-premise or cloud?”

Customer: “Cloud”

Me: “We have a product for that called Dynamics CRM Online”

Customer: “How much?”

Me: “$44 per user per month”

Customer: “Okay, let’s do that.”

As I was there in person, I remember the announcement when Microsoft came up on stage to let us know that they would be splitting Sales and Service from CRM to become two separate apps. Oh, and dropping the name CRM. Little did I know then that this was the beginning of a molecule-splitting disease that would infect the Business Applications group and had no cure.

Today, that same conversion goes something like:

Me: “What are you looking for?”

Customer: “A CRM.”

Me: “For Sales or Service”

Customer: “Sales”

Me: “Are you large or small”

Customer: “Mid-Sized”

Me: “Microsoft has four options for D365 Sales: Pro, Enterprise, Premium, or Relationship Sales”

Customer: “How much?”

Me: “$65, $95, $135, and $162 per user per month, respectively”

Customer: “What about AI?”

Me: “Included in all but Pro, otherwise $40”

Customer: “So Pro plus AI costs more than Enterprise that includes it?”

Me: “That is correct”

Customer: “I’ll get back to you”

The Challenge

I have written often about the necessity for partners to keep their ears to the ground for new product announcements so they know what is available at any given time to solve customer problems. Today, we are at a point where the solution stack from the Microsoft Business Applications group resembles a huge amorphous blob to most partners. Which begs the question, what must it look like to potential customers?

Math Component #1: A customer may ultimately mean an organization, but it will start with an individual. That person is working for some company within some industry. That company is large, medium, or small in size. That individual has a specific role in that company, and they have a specific goal they are seeking to accomplish. Their available funds to solve this goal range from significant to non-existent. These five facts add up to thousands of combinations of unique individuals.

Math Component #2: Microsoft has a buttload of solutions (a technical term for a lot) within just the Business Applications group, literally dozens, and many of those come in multiple flavors.

What happens when an unstoppable force, like a customer needing to solve a problem, meets an immovable object, like Microsoft’s massive, unfiltered list of options?

LinkedIn user Bill Kirst had the perfect description: “It can feel like a house of mirrors sometimes navigating the Microsoft Solutions offerings. You appear bigger in front of that one, smaller in front of that one, disoriented at the end of the ride…expected to make a major investment decision. It has to get better.

I have to assume there is a lot of frustration, leading to a lot of wasted time exploring solutions that are irrelevant to the circumstances.

So I Fixed It

Okay, back to my holiday break and the project I worked on that annoyed the hell out of my wife for ten days. I decided that the problem described above was worth creating a solution for. I was also looking for a good excuse to avoid family events.

I am calling it the “Solution Finder”. You answer five questions related to Math Component #1 (push five buttons), then I utilize some technology… okay, it’s magic… to give you a curated list of Math Component #2. Let’s call it a “short list” of solutions specific to you that you should explore. Basically, I’m painting a few of the mirrors for you.

It’s free, and you can try it out here.

You’re welcome!

Any feedback is appreciated!

PS: I had planned to post this simultaneously with the announcement on LinkedIn two days ago, but I forgot. 🙁

Since then, well over a thousand people have used this Solution Finder, so I guess I was right about the need. 🙂

Add your thoughts below, just don’t pimp your stuff on my blog 🙂

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