The Evolution of an ISV

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ISV Connect ED!, also our Apps are now Free

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Steve has a Chat with Toby Bowers

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Suggestions for Toby Bowers on ISV Connect

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Microsoft continues inching into ISV Turf

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CRM is not just about Sales

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Power Apps – The truth about $10

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Walking the Talk

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Steve has another chat with Alysa Taylor

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Steve has a third chat with Guggs

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Tried Dynamics 365? Take another look at Power Apps.

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Steve has a third chat with Charles Lamanna

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The Cost of Hemorrhaging Money

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The Last Nail in the On-Premise Coffin

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Dynamics 365 Team Member gets Locked

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Power Apps Potholes

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Power Platform – ISV Ready

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Business Models Continued

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Shining a Light on Shadow IT

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Dynamics 365 – ISV Protection?

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Power Apps – Licenses vs. Passes

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Power begets Power

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Steve has another chat with Guggs

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Steve has another chat with Charles Lamanna

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Power Platform – Architecting 101

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Steve has a Chat with Vahe Torossian

by | Sep 13, 2022 | Dynamics 365, Dynamics 365 General Community, Power Platform, Steve has a chat | 0 comments


I had a chance to sneak up on Vahe Torossian, a Microsoft Corporate Vice President and the man in charge of Sales for Microsoft Business Applications. While Vahe has been with Microsoft for 30 years, many of you may not know him, so I wanted to fix that. Vahe is no ordinary Seller; he’s the “Top” guy who sets the sales strategy and motions for the entire global team. Vahe is also the guy who runs the really big enterprise customer meetings, and he’s super-friendly, as you would expect for the Chief Rainmaker. We covered a lot of ground in this one, so enjoy!

Transcript Below:

Vahe:
Hey, Vahe Torossian speaking.

Steve:
Vahe, Steve Mordue, how are you?

Vahe:
Hey Steve. In fairness let’s say Charles mentioned that somehow you were going to call me. I didn’t know when, but it’s great to talk to you.

Steve:
After I interviewed him, I asked him who would be a good person to talk to? And he dropped your name. So it doesn’t surprise me that he gave you a little heads up. Have you got a few minutes to chat?

Vahe:
Yeah, of course. Thanks Steve.

Steve:
Oh, perfect, perfect. So before we get into it, maybe we can tell the listeners a little bit about what your role is. I know you’ve been at Microsoft forever, I think like 30 years or something like that, and you’ve held a lot of different positions. But now you’re in the business application space and that’s been fairly recent. So there’s probably a lot of folks that might not be familiar with you, who should be.

Vahe:
Oh yeah, thanks Steve. You’re right. I’ve been celebrating my 30 years anniversary at Microsoft in April in 2022. I actually took the helm of the Biz Apps sales organization globally in late 2020. So basically I took my one way ticket to Redmond in December 2020. And the plane was almost empty, it was during the pandemic. And it was kind of a strange feeling for someone who has been traveling so much in the past. And of course, let’s say I came with the lens of the business application, of course. Having led let’s say Western Europe in my past role, having all the businesses of Microsoft. And I think Western Europe was quite successful on Biz Apps, our trajectory growth. And I guess that was also in fact the good match to some degree to try to take it at the global level.

Steve:
So is it a little easier to think about a smaller segment of the product mix, now really being able to focus like a business application? So I think before you were looking over all sorts of different things, weren’t you?

Vahe:
Yeah, actually it’s a great question. Because I think it’s very different way of looking at the business. When you are, let’s say almost you are the CEO of Microsoft in the countries that you are, let’s say leading. You have all the levers to engage customers, partners, government, in different circumstances. And you try to leverage as much as you can the portfolio that you have to maximize the value. In the context of let’s say the business application. I think it was, the interesting bet to some degree Steve, was to say, Hey, this has been a portfolio at Microsoft, whether you call it Dynamics 365 or Dynamics only as a brand in the past. And if you go back 20 years, let’s say almost, with the Navision and Axapta, and Solomon Software and Great Plains. All these stories, all these product came together. And 20 years later, I think it has been part of a portfolio somewhere.

Vahe:
And you had almost what I will call the strong, let’s say, portfolio of Microsoft, the platform, the modern workplace and environment. And I felt the work that James Phillips in the past, and with Alyssa, and Charles, and Amy here now on the marketing side. Have been a strong inflection point to bring together both the technology in the cloud environment. But at the same time, a market environment that requires very different, let’s say tools to make the most of this transformation. And I felt that there’s one piece at Microsoft that requires a huge catalyst leveraging the innovation. But responding as much as we can to what the customer need or even don’t know yet what they need. And I think that’s what I think to me was almost a bet. It’s almost like all of a sudden you move to the little dog, if I may say. But with a huge potential of transforming something with great asset for Microsoft, and the customers and partners.

Steve:
Well I have to say, having been involved with Microsoft for a while, we have a phrase over here called redheaded stepchild, which is kind of what Dynamics was for many, many years. It was off campus, it was just this thing out there and under Satya, when Satya came in, he’s the first one that I think came into the position that recognized this should be another leg on the stool, not some remote thing out there. And I think that’s made a huge. Difference because I was involved in the years before Satya with business applications and they were not just something over here on the back shelf, and now they’re right front and center. I think that between Dynamics and what’s happened with the power platform, cloud in general. Microsoft’s ability to get into and help customers is massively different than it used to be. And in your role now, you’re dealing with a lot different type of customer. You’re talking about Office 365 or Azure, you’re dealing with IT. And now you’re mostly dealing with business users. It’s a completely different audience you’re having to work with today, isn’t it?

Vahe:
Absolutely. I think also you’re right since Satya took the helm of the company, to some degree you of course we have seen how we tackle the cloud computing hyper-scale environment. But at the same time, in fact what happened with the Covid in the last two years, have seen an acceleration of what we call in the past, the productivity tools to become more and more collaboration environment. And from almost an application or a set of application, it became more and more a platform on its own. And so it’s almost like when you think about where we are today and we were talking about the Covid, I don’t think the Covid is yet over fully everywhere. But now everybody’s talking about recession, right? And there’s no one headline that you look, you say, oh my goodness, what’s going to happen? Which just means in terms of planning for 22, 23.

Vahe:
So I think the assets that is now quite unique to some degree, or differentiated as you said, between the Dynamics 365 platform components and the Power Platform, it’s almost bringing together. But I think, I don’t remember Steve, in a few years back, I think Satya was talking about the mobility of the experience. And that was more from a device perspective initially. But actually what you see now is that with Teams as a platform, the system of productivity almost connect with the system of record more and more. And it’s re-transforming the way you are thinking. It’s almost like, you think about, you don’t have to go to a CRM environment or ERP environment to get access to the data. It’s almost like wherever you work, if you use an Excel or if you use Teams or whatever, you get access naturally, almost intuitively to your data set. And the data set are that’s almost fulfilled naturally. And so we have no additional task.

Vahe:
And so I think that’s the transformation world in which we are. Which connects cheaper well. We almost do more with less, right? And that’s going to be almost the conversation we’re going to have in the coming month. And it started already with many customers and partners. How we can optimize the assets that they have, how they can let’s say increase the deep provisioning of some assets that they have. They are paying too much to concentrate a bit more, to get more agility. And I think this is where also, from a partner perspective, Steve, I see a lot of potential. You are referring to Power Platform, it’s fascinating to see what it was in the very beginning, this notion of citizens developer, what does it mean?

Vahe:
People didn’t know exactly what it is, we’re quite afraid to touch it. But now when you see the shortage of developers in the market in general. And how you can make the most of some absolutely topnotch people who are not developer, touching the last mile execution challenges. Have been facing crazy environment and situation that they say, I can’t believe how my IT guide doesn’t solve these things. I’ve been telling them the customer pain point for so many years. And now with some, let’s say [inaudible 00:08:45] place, let’s say available for them, along with some let’s say technical assets, you can really make the magic in the very, very, very time.

Steve:
Charles came up with a term on the fly, ambient CRM. Kind of where we’re heading here when you talk about things like Viva Sales and some of these pieces that are really wiring all these components together. Covid was a terrible thing, but it certainly was a perfect storm for pushing the technology forward into a place that it’s been fighting to get to, it’s really been fighting to get to that point. And Teams was a great product. But certainly Covid created the perfect environment where Teams made insane sense for companies that were maybe just thinking about it or dabbling with it, and suddenly they’re all diving into it. And you guys of course poured the investment on top of that. And I think that the silver lining of Covid, for technology, is how far it really allowed it to advance in that period of time. Maybe we just need a pandemic every five years to push a technology forward. I don’t know.

Vahe:
No, but I have to say that even in my previous role when I was running Western Europe. Even the most skeptical people in regard to the cloud or the transition to a cloud environment. Having the one that rushed in the first, almost to a cloud environment, once the pandemic has been a bit of a real situation to face, and to drive the economy or the public services let’s say on. So I think you’re right, so you don’t want to wish for another pandemic or whatever, but it has been absolutely a forcing function in many domains. And that’s true.

Steve:
I think the challenge we have is particularly in the business application space. You guys have launched so many things in such a short period of time. And as you mentioned before, Power Apps, people picking it with a stick, they don’t even know what it is. And there’s also this first mover fear, I think. Microsoft has been, in my mind, kind of famous for coming to the game late and then just taking over the game. We were very late to the cloud, but once we got there we just took over the cloud, and it seems to be a pattern. But when you look back at the early days of cloud before you guys stepped into it, it was wild west. And all sorts of challenges with cloud. And I think that that gave a lot of people fear about, I remember I moved into cloud early and we got destroyed.

Steve:
And so I think there’s a lot of folks out there, just from a technology standpoint, that have gotten their hands burnt by moving too quickly. And we’re at that point with the platform and dynamics, where these are not new anymore. Relatively in history, they’re new. But they’re not new products and they’re not built by some garage shop somewhere with a couple of developers. This is what 15,000 people building this stuff back there. This is professionally built, well built stuff, that is ready for prime time. So the first movers have already come through and they all survived. So I really feel like we’re at that point where it should just take off now, it should just absolutely take off. And I’m sure you guys are seeing this.

Vahe:
Yeah. And Steve, I think one thing also is that you’re right, there’s a usual thing about let’s say the first mover advantage. At the same time from a customer perspective, you don’t want to be the Guinea pig, right? On any situation, especially from the technology standpoint. I think that increasingly what I see in the conversation is that there’s almost now, because of the quality of the native integration of the several different applications. Whether you are in the customer experience environment, on the service side, on the supply chain, on the finance or the local no code or app. All these components are absolutely connected to each other. And basically whether you have Teams as a platform in your company, or Azure in environment, all these component are connected very, very easily to each other.

Vahe:
And so I would say that the beauty of it now is that you have all almost the notion of marginal cost. If you really want to leverage many of the assets that we can bring, and you don’t have to take all of them at once, of course it has to be matching what you need now. But the right is that, let’s say there’s an almost fully integrated benefit all the connectors with the rest of the world outside of Microsoft environment, which is a great value for the partners, ISV and [inaudible 00:13:58], and at the same time to the customers. Who think now, hey I should do more with less. How should I think about my investments for the next, let’s say five years? Most of the customers now are really thinking about the longer term relationship. And defining what’s the value SLA almost that you’re expecting both from the partner of the vendor and the vendor itself.

Vahe:
And so it’s almost like, you remember when we transition from a world of build revenue and licensing, to now more consumption and usage. It’s almost the user and consumption discussion is a forcing function about the customer success, how we align on the same definition of the customer success. And what’s the time to value that you committed? What are the key milestones, in full transparency, that you need to bring in? And I think that’s where we are now. And because Microsoft, I think overall as a company, have been increasing tremendously the level of trust. From the security standpoint, the compliance components, and so on, and the scalability.

Vahe:
I think that’s the great leverage for us now in terms of the conversation and making sure that the customers are getting the value that we have been selling to them. How we show how much skin in the game we have to make them successful. And then it’s a flying wheel. It’s almost like the innovation will help you to bring new things, respond, anticipate, take the feedback of the customer to the engineering, develop new stuff quickly to the market. So I think it’s what we are heading to now, Steve. And I think from a partner perspective you might even see and feel it, right, more and more.

Steve:
Oh yeah, I mean I think the sales motion has changed completely. Only a few years ago we go into a customer and try and convince them to replace Salesforce with Dynamics. And they’d say no, and we were done. We’d say okay, well we’ll come back in a couple years and ask again. We had nothing else to sell them. And now today, I mean if they have Salesforce, fine that’s great, keep Salesforce, let’s add some things around it. Salesforce will work with Viva Sales, Salesforce will work with Power Platform.

Steve:
There’s so many doors now, I think, for a seller to be able to get into a customer and solve problems for that customer without having to do the one big yank and replace. Which is very difficult to do, it’s difficult to do on opposite as well. I mean once a customer gets a big solution like Salesforce or Dynamics 365 installed, those are very difficult to uproot, it takes a very long time. And you guys have created now, this product mix, where we don’t have to uproot something to sell that customer and to get engaged with that customer. We can go all over that business without having to uproot something. And I think that’s huge.

Vahe:
I agree Steve. And I think that it’s almost this notion of rip and replace type of strategy, right? In some cases it works because this is what the customer wants. They are fed up about let’s say competitive environment that didn’t deliver on the expectation. And we should be ready to cope with that and respond, and we have a lot of this. But at the same time as you said, what we call the strategy of having a hub and spoke, let’s say, almost environment, gives us for every line of business. That we decided as a company to go and have a significant acceleration of growth and market share, is very much to give that option to say, Hey, you know what, Mr. Customer, Mrs. Customer, you decide to be on that type of environment, who we are to ask you to change?

Vahe:
If you are happy that’s fine. But what we can bring you is almost to enhance what you have with some component that absolutely will be transparently integrated to what you’re using. And it’s a great circuit, an additional circuit for the partner, it’s a great value for the customer. We don’t feel harassed to change something because we know the cost of transitioning from one to another one. And then it’s up to us to demonstrate the value we can bring and eventually we can take from there to the next level in the future.

Steve:
It’s got to put some pressure on the competitors also. I if think of, I might just use Salesforce because they’ve always been the big competitor. I’m sure that they were confident sitting there at their large customer when all we had was trying to replace their instance that was going to be difficult to do and then we’d go away and they didn’t have to worry about us. Now we’re coming in and we’re circling around, and we’re solving problems in this department, and we’re building apps in this department, and we’re literally bolting into Salesforce. And one potential outcome is that the customer decides over time that wow, all of this Microsoft stuff that we’ve brought in works really, really well.

Steve:
That’s gotta put some pressure on the incumbent big application in there that hey, you’re surrounded by a bunch of stuff the customer is very happy with, you better make sure they’re happy with your stuff and they don’t reach that point. Cause like you say, oftentimes when you see those rip and replace, it’s because the product, or the company, or something hasn’t met the expectation. And to be fair, that could actually happen with any of us, right? It has a lot to do with implementation, design, how thing was put together. Less to do with the application itself, that could happen to any vendor. But certainly raises the bar to some of these competitors when they’re surrounded by well performing Microsoft products that are satisfying customers. Would you think?

Vahe:
Yes. Absolutely. And that’s why there’s a continuity between what we sell, how we sell, to who we sell, and how we drive the implementation. It’s an ongoing wheel that is a very different mindset that we all learn in the transition to the cloud, let’s say, environment. But absolutely. I think it’s a good forcing function to raise the bar to some degree, raise the bar for the benefit of the customer. You mentioned the competitiveness of what this type of hub and spoke strategy can create. You’re right. But in the end, the biggest, let’s say winner, will be the customer, right? Which I think is always and should always be the north star for us and our partners.

Vahe:
And I would say the relevance of the innovation should be in fact the pressure that we put to each other to make sure that say we listen carefully to what the customer is facing as a challenge, but potentially to translate their current challenge into the future challenge, to push them also to think differently. Because I think the notion of rip and replace [inaudible 00:21:06] One of the thing was, I don’t know if you remember that the initial issue and worry was that people were saying Oh, we are moving to the cloud, therefore we are transforming. Well it was not that tried and true. People were just keeping the same processes in the cloud and the one that they had on premise. Which was not benefiting at all of the scalability and the agility of the cloud environment. Yeah, you remember that right? Yeah.

Steve:
They just changed the way they were paying for it.

Vahe:
Absolutely. Absolutely. So I think that’s what we have seen on this application modernization, on some of the enterprise wide innovation also opportunities that we had discussed, is how much you can really say, in this new world of competitiveness, of un-expected challenges. How you can, let’s say, keep your applications fitting always in fact proactively the challenges that you’re going to have too. As opposed to keep going with a quite heavy code to maintain, with people who leave that cost you a fortune to maintain. So I think this agility that the power apps, [inaudible 00:22:22] to made, have been bringing I think is the reason why we have seen this huge acceleration of growth, which is today is six, seven times faster than the market growth of local no code.

Vahe:
So I think it’s a great, let’s say indication, of what people start to realize. And I think in the conversation that you had with Charles when he was referring to, hey some of the AI capability have been slower to be picked up by the vast majority of customers. And it’s true because there’s a level of, let’s say, can I trust this thing? Am I going to lose completely ground and control of what I’m doing? All these natural thing. I think as we bring more and more, let’s say tools, are manageable. The Power Platform environment, or let’s say the device sales capability on top of the teams or Salesforce environment. That people will start to test this.

Vahe:
And I think we’re going to be more and more advocate about Hey, what are the benefits of the organization that are using this technology and how we can trust them lean forward. And I think Charles was referring to our digital sellers. Their daily life is very much, let’s say, using all these AI lead capabilities in terms of reporting, in terms of let’s say incident management, in terms of even coaching for themselves to do a better call next time, is just fascinating to see. Maybe we should even do a kind of, let’s say talk on this, once we have a bit more, let’s say after the GA, maybe a few months after, we should have, let’s say what the key learnings and [inaudible 00:24:00] from a customer standpoint.

Steve:
Yeah, it always makes a customer confident when they know that the vendor is using the product that they’re trying to sell them. It’s interesting, everything moving to a subscription has changed kind of the mindset, not just of you guys obviously, where there’s no big sale. There’s a sale of a big subscription, the revenue of which will come over a long period of time. But the customer has this option every month to say, you know what, I’m not happy, you’re not solving my problem. In the old days they were kind of stuck, they bought all this stuff and they had to make it work. Now they don’t have to make it work, we have to make it work, we have to keep them happy enough.

Steve:
We recently launched a professional services on a subscription, which is an interesting model, that I lay awake at night thinking about that same thing. That before a customer would pay you a bunch of money to a bunch of stuff and now they’re paying you a little bit of money every month for as long as you keep them happy. And this bar of, I mean we’ve always wanted to keep customers happy. But it’s never had the impact or importance that it does when you’re on a subscription with that customer who can just any time say, “I’m not happy, goodbye.” It raises the bar I think for you guys to have to continuously innovate, what do you done for me lately? You got to continuously innovate and bring new things. And you’ve got more motivation probably than the company’s ever had in history because of the subscription model. Do you feel that internally?

Vahe:
Yes, yes. As I said, it has been a great enabler to raise the bar. And it’s almost like you know can have a beautiful slide deck and saying the right things, but the execution doesn’t match what you are saying somehow, that you don’t walk the talk. I think you could have been in that situation in a kind of on-premise environment. I think the cloud has been a forcing function to say, hey you know what, you can claim you are customer success, or you are customer first, or you are customer obsessed. But the reality is that if you don’t deliver the service properly, if you are not as responsive timely, if you’re not proactive, customer will say enough is enough, I can stop my subscription.

Steve:
I have options.

Vahe:
I have options. So I think it’s a good hygiene, how it makes you having an embracing habits, that I would say are the natural thing when you engage with customer. But I think it’s almost, let’s say, for the one who might have forgotten that basics, it has been a great, let’s say, opportunity to bring back the roots of what is it to satisfy a customer, right? And I think that’s what the cloud licensing model helped put together. And I think there are still always room for improvement.

Vahe:
And similarly I would say, what you have seen on the collaborative applications, what we have seen on the low-code, no-code, you are going to see it now, also I would say on the supply chain environment, which is shipper, shipper at stress because of what we have seen on the Covid, but also in fact on the geopolitical aspect and some of the recession discussion. And also, on the overall, what I would say the contact center in our environment at large. How this world is going to change is going to be led a lot by the capability that technology can bring, and the ability to listen carefully to the strategies and the challenges of the corporation that are involved in. So it’s quite exciting actually.

Steve:
I don’t get involved a lot with the call center operations. But I picture the old call center is this massive building full of cubicles and people with headphones. And I picture that now that most of those people are probably working remote. A call center now could operate at my desk, just about, and have thousands of people all working from their home. So, that whole industry feels like it’s changed significantly. And yes, I’m sure they’re starving for the technology that fits the model that they’re being pushed to adopt.

Vahe:
Yeah, yeah absolutely. I mean it’s interesting, if you summarize some of the business challenges or the things that are coming from multiple conversation. We had the nuanced [inaudible 00:29:04] a few months back. And so it’s almost the first fiscal year where we’re going to be able to strategize, operate together as one organization. And it’s great because somehow you take their own experience in terms of conversational AI and what they have been leading in for many years. And at the same time you hear both, let’s say, the customer feedback when it comes to, as you said, the traditional contact center or call center evolution. How to translate this into a modern service experience, right?

Vahe:
And how AI can contribute to that on the seamless integrated way. How to think about customer retention in this world where people are a bit more struggling with their bottom line. How to protect the customer privacy as well. Because you talk about voice capability and recording, but how you cope with the privacy and the security during this service journey. So all these are absolutely great opportunities for us to combine what we’re hearing, the technology and the acquisition that we did a few months back, to put that into a great component. And I would say the data analytics that the power Platform Power BI gives us on the back end, is going to be a great platform for us again to differentiate from the rest of the world.

Steve:
Well and it’ll also help kind offset the fact that these people are all remote now, right? They used all be sitting in this big room. And people were standing up there looking over a rail at them making sure they were doing what they were doing and available. And you can’t lose any of the customer service quality just because you’ve moved everybody out of the building and nobody can physically see them anymore. AI is the only way to plug that hole really of being able to know what’s going on in this organization with all those people remote. In your day-to-day activities, I’m assuming that since you’re head of sales that you get engaged with all of the big opportunities that come to Microsoft. And you’re in there leading the charge to get them to make a decision for the services. What are the areas that you’re seeing among those larger customers that they’re really excited about? Is it the low-code stuff, is that very exciting to them? Or are they still wrapping their arms around that?

Vahe:
No, no. I would say that the notion of, let’s say, application modernization, which doesn’t mean I do the same thing I was doing before in the cloud. Really thinking about, what do I want to fix? And how much I can include some perspective about what could happen in some, let’s say options or scenario? That capability that Power Apps has been giving them. And now we see that the corporations who are the most successful are the one who are almost creating a center of excellence within their own organization, that let’s say help the IT to monitor someone, in fact the usage rate. But also to amplify the user experience and to spread it across the organization. And the ability to almost measure the positive impact.

Vahe:
The second thing I’ve seen is on the low-code, no-code, is the time to value. It’s almost like you can almost now, and when I say “we,” it’s almost we with the partners. We can almost say for this type of let’s say expectation, or application, or challenge, it will take three month to be ready, not three years, two years. Or we have a heavy development environment. And so this center of excellence, let’s say mindset or framework, is a very powerful one. Because it helps to almost create a concentration of hey, what are the most critical things to fix and how long it’s going to take?

Vahe:
And people are almost, let’s say very impressed, about how quickly you can have great quality because you bring both the expertise of, as I said, almost the person who is facing the challenge every single day. Being non-technical guy, we have in fact the support of IT. And I think that’s the business decision makers along with the IT. I think to me, that’s why we have been on this six, seven times faster than the market rate. We have huge ambition there. And be aware that we have also 20 million of users of Power Apps today that came from the city campaigns. So people are actively using it, not yet paying it. So that means that it’s great, it’s the future almost by, for us to go after. Because people are starting to use in fact at least the basic functions to get adjusted customers to and so on.

Vahe:
The second thing I would say is that people have realized how easy it is, and recognizing that Teams became a platform close to 300 million users. It started at 25 or 30 million almost pre-pandemic. And so that became, almost as you said, you are at home, or you are wherever you are and that’s the interaction that you have with your customers, partners, ecosystem and employees. And so now it’s a marginal component to say hey, can I have one tab that is going to do that type of task? My forecasting, my thing. So this is again the connection between what you use every single day at scale, and the marginal cost of bringing a component of Dynamics 365, a component of the application that you create quickly for Power Apps or Power Automate from the process, implementation, and automation. So I think that’s what I see the two biggest part of the customer reaction, and I would say feedback for us. And encouragement to be fair, to keep going in that direction.

Steve:
We’ve got lots of examples that you guys have got out on the case studies of large companies that have really got in head first. And just thousands of apps in the organization solving thousands of problems. And just excellent, I mean you just have to almost grin when you look and hear about these things. But for every one of those there’s still a bunch of them out there where, I don’t know, IT maybe is still an obstacle. I mean IT has been, it’s interesting because IT’s been a friend of Microsoft for a long time because a lot of the products that they have engaged with were Microsoft products, servers, et cetera. They’ve had to make this transition to cloud, which was scary for them. But they ultimately did it for the most part, not all of them, did it. And now here comes low-code, no-code that’s got to scare the bejesus out of a lot of IT folks. And how are you at that company size? Because frankly, we struggle with the same thing in the mid-market. How, at that big company size, do you deal with that occasional obstinance from it?

Vahe:
Yeah, it’s a great point. You’re right. I think Microsoft in general, I don’t want to generalize, but in general have been for the last four years, very, very close to the IT decision makers. And rightfully so, because there were so many and still so many things to achieve in partnership with the IT and CIO environment. At the same time, when it comes to business applications or business process, I would say that you need to find the balance between the business decision makers, who are the ultimate decision makers when it comes to what is going to affect their business, or the way they work from a Salesforce perspective, or the way the marketing leaders wants to automate some of the processes that they believe is important.

Vahe:
And so that we probably are in a unique business case at Microsoft, where you have to talk to both. And the learning is that in the very beginning where you were only talking to IT, for example in the low-code, no-code, you could have signed a deal with IT, but then you know almost had to start to sell it again internally. Because you had to knock to all the doors of the business decision makers to say, Hey, do you know that you have this thing in your corporation, and anyway this is the thing that you can do, do you mind starting over there?

Vahe:
And so that was basically almost a waste of cycle. And so we said we have to do these two things together. We need to be able to articulate what is the value of low-code, no-code, maybe in FSI, financial service, or manufacturing, or in retail. And of course there’s a strong common denominator. But there are some specifics that may resonate more for some industries more than others, and therefore the decision makers. And we have seen that when we do these things well together in parallel, when you sign the contract, or the deal, or the agreement, the time to move to usage or the business case implementation is much faster. Basically you bring more value both to IT and the business, and for Microsoft. And so I think that’s the piece where I think it evolved on low-code, no-code, from being afraid in the beginning or skeptical, to a place where they are increasingly embracing this center of excellence environment. Where they own it as [inaudible 00:38:55]. It is connected to the business decision makers, therefore it brings value.

Vahe:
And so IT brings value to the business decisions or the business unit and the line of business. And then what was missing so far was, how can we give them the monitoring environment, almost the control board to manage the budget, to manage let’s say, or having warning to say, hey, business A, you know are over consuming. Should we lower the investment or should we accelerate because of what you are doing? So I think that the kind of tools that we are bringing now to the IT, so that they are absolutely part of the success of the company and they are connected to the business decision makers. I think that’s the best way for us to demonstrate value and keep it completely aligned with the business directions.

Steve:
And the opposite would be true also if you’re going in trying to sell the line of business owner without talking to IT. And you convince the, now you got to go sell IT. So it’s two cycles.

Vahe:
Absolutely.

Steve:
You have to somehow get them both in the same room and do it at once. So we’ve got so many products coming, we’ve got so many products here. And if you imagine a generic customer of a large size that you’re going to be going to talk to next week about all the Microsoft has to offer. What are a couple of the key products that you’re going to want to make sure you land in their head, that you feel across all companies are extremely high value or differentiators? The thing you don’t want to walk out of that room without mentioning?

Vahe:
Yeah, I would say, and somehow you touch on it Steve, earlier on. As part of the transition that we are driving, one of the thing is also to simplify. To simplify the portfolio, to simplify the go-to market, to simplify the strategy. We discussed the hub and spoke, let’s say strategy. And so I would say at the very beginning, what we said is that instead of saying, hey, there’s a proliferation of products. And every year we add more and more and more. And at some point you confuse your own sellers, you confuse the customer, you confuse the product, it’s super tough to digest everything, and even understanding what’s the hierarchy across all these things?

Steve:
For licensing

Vahe:
And licensing on top all this complexity, right? I mean we have gone through it, and it’s still not perfect. But at the same time I think what we said is that there are the categories, or the line of business, that we want to go in. We want to have a fair shot to take a leadership position in the next let’s say years. And what it takes to get to that point, from an innovation perspective, from a go-to market perspective, from a part program perspective, from a sales and seller investment capacity perspective. And so on. And so I would say that’s more the starting point Steve, where we say we define five categories, a fine line of business, where we believe we have a shot to become a leader. And these categories we need to be able to be clear on where the value that we bring.

Vahe:
For example, if you take the customer experience, let’s say OLAP, which is more the connected sales and marketing, if I may summarize at the high level. It’s going to be all the conversation about the collaborative apps, the customer experience transformation. You have already Teams for the vast batch of you, hey that’s what you want to achieve. The Dynamic 65 sales is going to give you that capability, or the LinkedIn Sales Navigator on top of it is going to give you that type of insight. You know are not touching about AI, you think about almost sales automation, Salesforce automation. Let’s show you how the AI infused capability within Dynamics 365 sales and marketing, give you that asset absolutely naturally integrated on your team’s environment.

Vahe:
And same thing on Viva Sales, the sales productivity, we can measure it the way you want, and you’re on control of that. And by the way, if it works on the environment that you are working, could be Microsoft, could not be as we discussed, that’s more the conversation that we want to have. And of course on the back end you are going to have Dynamics 365 sales, and marketing, and Viva sales, most of the time for that line of business. If you think about let’s say low-code no-code, I would say you will have probably three type of conversations. You know will have a conversation about hey, you’re a large enterprise, multi-deals coverage. And basically the benefit of having an enterprise wide, let’s say engagement, what does it mean? What’s the framework for you to make the most of it? And how we commit with our partners to deliver you the value.

Vahe:
And so you can commit on five years maybe with Microsoft and how much value we can bring already to you. Or it’s purely an application modernization. You move to a hyper-scale environment, but you have all these old fashioned applications. So basically, you are a platform that is modern but all your application are still old fashioned. How low-code, no-code is going to help you to accelerate that transition. And let’s start with one company, one app. Pick one and let’s do it right, and then replicate from there. And then potentially, in fact, the last one which I think is going to be the biggest one potentially, is the business process automation. Think about the forecasting process. I have to say that when I was running my business in Western Europe, we have been doing this traditional forecasting process, which in every company when we talk with business leaders or CFOs, that’s the same thing. You ask the forecast at the lowest level of the organization, then the manager of that organization, do a judgment. That judgment moves to the next level of management. The management do another judgment.

Vahe:
So all the way up to the top level, who does a judgment anyway on top of it. Or they find, depending on who is doing the forecast, almost let’s say a coefficient of let’s say correction based on who is doing the forecast. When you start to do that thing into AI and you say what, we know the behavior of people [inaudible 00:45:26] potentially, you come after 18 months or one year to a trend of forecast that is so close to in fact what you were getting before. That you say how many hours, thousands and thousands of hours of productivity saving I’m going to have just because of this AI forecasting capability? That’s the kind of example of it, for say an application for low-code, no-code, that is just checking in fact the behavior or the intelligence so far to help you to drive your business.

Vahe:
And so we have been running that internally as well and it’s quite impressive. And so that’s the kind of conversation that you want to have both with the IT, but you see this perfect example of hey, having that conversation with the CFO, or the sales leader, is a great one. Because it’s a marginal cost again, to what you are using already. And the same thing happened on finance, and supply chain, and service when it comes to, all right so where you, what are you using? Are you still on-prem? The vast majority of ERP, the vast majority of contact center and call center are still on-prem. So you can think about hey, what does it take to move to a cloud and more agile environment? What are the best that you want to do? Which is the strategic partner or vendor, who are going to take this? Because you’re not going to change this environment every two years. It’s a 5 year, 10 year bets, right?

Steve:
The marriage.

Vahe:
It’s a marriage. Yeah, absolutely. So I mean does it help Steve?

Steve:
Yeah. And I think interesting, one of the things I think about AI in forecasting, is it doesn’t have any personal bias. And obviously in larger companies I’m sure there’s a lot of checking and cross checking. In the middle market it’s a bunch of optimistic sales people coming up with optimistic projections that have no basis in history or anything else that’s going on, of what’s going on. And I’ve been in meetings where we’ve been displaying some AI facts, or figures, or forecasts, or projections. And listen to senior people just adamantly disagree. That number is absolutely not correct. And I’ve had them tell me I’ve been doing this for 30 years, I know, I know. And then here comes next month and guess what was right? The AI model was right and the guy who’s been doing it for 30 years is making up some excuses.

Steve:
So I think that the world right now is fraught with bad projections on everything. Cost projections, sales projections, there’s too much personal bias involved in the process of creating those things. And as leadership of a company, you’re relying on these things. They’re going to drive you right over a cliff potentially, if you’re not careful, if you don’t have good information, if you can’t get the bias out of it. And I think that’s one of the big things that AI brings that I’ve found resonates with leadership sometimes, is kind of remove all the bias. I mean it’s just removing all the bias. You don’t want to hear smoke, you know want to hear reality so you can act accordingly. You’re surrounded by a bunch of people who want to make you feel good, but AI doesn’t care how you feel. It’s going to tell you the truth, doesn’t care if you get mad.

Vahe:
Steve also, it’s interesting because sometime, you point to this that sometime when you are too early on the innovation, some people might be again scared or skeptical as we said. But I remember we were looking at let’s say some numbers when it comes to, are we operating consistency, for example, in the world? Or there are some that say practices that are bringing more growth or more relevant than other places. And so, one thing was interesting was in the services line of business or category, you think of case management. And it’s one of the opportunities. And you might say well case management is not super innovative. Well, it’s something that is quite well known. But case management was one of the fastest growth in majors. And that was because it was responding to the fact that vast majority of the case management processes are still on-prem today.

Vahe:
And the one we’re moving to the cloud, especially in public sector, to make sure that the queuing system is working, you have a full up, let’s say email to tell you and tracing where you are on the request that you put in place. All these things we believe is generic everywhere, but it’s not, it’s by far not. And across mid-market, and large corporation, and private sector, and public sector. So it’s not always innovation that drives in fact the next generation of work. It’s also in fact the basics that are not fulfilled today and that create a bad customer experience. And that’s interesting, in a way, to keep very humble about let’s say what we still have on our plate.

Steve:
I can remember not that long ago, when you talk about customer service, the goal of many companies was to provide as bad as service as possible so they didn’t have to do it. I mean it was a cost center for them. They hadn’t come to the realization yet, this is decades, but hadn’t come to realization yet that customer service is what drives future revenue. They just looked at as a cost center and figured the worst it is, the less people will use it and it’ll cost us less, so that mindset has changed. You talk about fears that people have of technology. And so a lot of this is people self preservation fears. They see something coming, we saw it even in the partner channel, uh-oh here comes low-code, no-code, customers are going to be doing all the work themselves, they’re not going to need us partners anymore. And it’s like this first reaction that people have about anything new, is how’s that going to affect me? And generally they’re going to assume negatively.

Steve:
Our business is busier than we’ve ever been as a result of low-code. So it’s actually been the opposite. But partners, and just like people, you know need to be prepared to pivot into that wind. If you’re just going to stand there with your arms crossed and not move, yeah low-code’s going to hurt you. You know need to lean into that. And the same thing with individuals that are looking at new technology. It’s coming and you can either stand there with your arms crossed and let it knock you down, which is a foregone conclusion. Or you can bend with it. And to be honest, the younger folks are more flexible than us older folks. So they’re not having any trouble with this technology at all. We recently signed a new customer, it’s all young people and man they just get it. I mean there’s no explaining anything. They understand every single thing you’re talking about, why and what. And I mean they’re born with a cell phone in their hand. None of this is foreign, but we still got to get rid of all of us old guys.

Vahe:
I agree, I agree. And time flies. And it’s almost like, often, let’s say, you need read to embrace that. Always a zero regret strategy in this type of, let’s say, evolving environment. Anything that you postpone, to some degree, is almost let say a loss. And that has been proven in the technology run. And when I look at, we always have to be humble. It’s a highly competitive market, and people are smart, and that’s great. Cause as we discussed, it’s all good for the customer. But I think that when I look back to the commitment of the company, the investment that we put in place last year with the support of Satya, Amy Hood, [inaudible 00:53:27]. With more than 1000 sellers injected in the marketplace, we keep going on the investment on the local no-code, even more so to drive the acceleration of the growth in addition to the Dynamic 365.

Vahe:
When I look at every category that we are in now, and I think it’s a good confidence level that we on the path here. That first of all, we are between two times and three times the growth of the market for each of these category, that’s a good indication. And I think that also raise the confidence level of the product sellers at Microsoft. To bring these different components together and add more value to the customer. So look, it’s a journey Steve, and it’s quite exciting to be on this. And people like yourself because we have been there also for a long time, and you know what it takes to transition. And you never fail, you learn always. And everything that you learn and that works, it’s almost to think how we can scale and bring that to the mass as quick as we can so that people can benefit from it.

Steve:
Well success breeds success. And you know guys have got it going right now. I’ve taken up enough of your time. Anything that you want to get out there that I didn’t ask or we didn’t talk about?

Vahe:
No, I think, Steve, you did a good overview of let’s say where we are, how we think. Again, I think that the simplification, the portfolio, the much more focused approach, the category, and more consistent execution on the go-to market is really the next level for us. And the hub and spoke strategy across all these categories gives much more room to increase the business opportunity for us and the partners.

Steve:
Yep, I think so, I think so. All right, listen, it was great talking to you, I’m glad you made the time. And I definitely hope to able to talk to you again in the future, get something new to talk about. Any time you want to reach out, and jump on, and talk about some stuff, let me know. We’re happy to get you on.

Vahe:
We are all, let’s say reading all these, let’s say headlines on the recession. In a few months from now, between now and then of calendar year, we’re to see a bit more clarity on how the planning is happening for the mid-market, large corporation, how the public sector is evolving in this dimension. And also, we’ll have a few, let’s say product launched that we talked about, Viva Sales, any learning from that, let’s say maybe the first two, three months, would be interesting to see how people react. And maybe that could be a great opportunity for us to chat. Also what’s going on the [inaudible 00:56:17]

Steve:
Yeah, yeah.

Vahe:
Plenty of things to talk, I guess.

Steve:
Sounds good. All right, well hey, thanks again for your time.

Vahe:
Thank you. Take care Steve, have a great day.

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Vahe Torossian
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