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Microsoft Directions ASIA 2019: A Retrospective

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Directions Asia has proven to be one of my favorite and beneficial events in the Microsoft Dynamics community over the past several years. Last year, Business Central (BC) was introduced, and this year, many other “wow” bombs were dropped. But this year was even better I think because of the quality of the delivery in the nearly four hours of keynote speakers from Microsoft. I was a bit nervous going in that the absence of Marko would make the keynote flat…quite the contrary.

With 40 Microsoft employees in attendance and/or speaking, this was the largest Directions Asia ever, with 450 total attendees, 8 of which were from ArcherPoint. ArcherPoint’s Directions Asia team was strategic in the sessions we allocated our resources to attend. Everyone has created a reflection presentation of their own learnings; mine is focused on the keynote messages and largely Sales and Marketing sessions. Following is a summary of two of the most compelling messages.

Harness Data to Drive Efficiency, Drive Innovation, Stay Ahead of Your Competitors, and Conquer Industries

One of the main messages from the keynote as well as the other sessions was that our ERP world is exponentially expanding towards data super nova, and companies that can best harness that data will rule the world.

One of the great things about Navision/NAV was its easy way to enter data. Every user had hot keys, function keys, and shortcuts to enter their data and navigate like some sort of super spreadsheet. The RTC made it less pleasurable. Now, we have the Modern Client of Business Central. Regardless of the rumors of inconsequential glitches (that Microsoft fixes eventually), Business Central is built for a much more powerful purpose than making it easy for a clerk to enter data all day long. Although important, the future is not about faster key strokes, easier navigation, or fewer mouse clicks; it’s about automation, decoupling, componentizing, repeatability, and interfacing.

Business Central is built with the future in mind, and that future will enable companies to harness data in ways they never imagined before. This will make it possible for them to make important work easier and important decisions smarter.

The latest release of Business Central contains 100 improvements, which were rolled out in the last six months. You can now create sandbox environments that include all of your production data, including any add-on data. You can also create a sandbox of a future version with all of your production data.

Upgrading and the Cloud

There are 10K+ customers in the Dynamics Cloud, a fraction of which are actually Business Central customers. Microsoft stated there are more than 1,000 customers on BC, but then again, it’s only been a year. And we’re talking SaaS, not on-premises. In fact, Microsoft says to assume SaaS unless specified otherwise.

Microsoft says it’s been humbling getting into the cloud business with customers, and they feel they are closer to the customer than ever. This is a good thing! They also say that BC customers are saying of BC that “It’s an amazing place to be. The upgrade experience is truly utopia, specifically the upgrade experience being cheap, instantaneous, and hardly disruptive.” I learned much more about how to move the seemingly immovable momentum of the upgrade pipeline, and I’m looking forward to applying these learnings to our strategies at ArcherPoint.

For Partners: Emphasize Change and Momentum

Here are some general notes from the sessions I attended, most of which are directed towards Dynamics partners (some can be applied to any business):

  • Invest in marketing
  • Make decisions driven by data (80/20)
  • Be offensive (or you will be forced to be defensive later)
  • Take risks; don’t be conservative
  • Protect and control your current customer base, or your competitors will
  • Automate EVERYTHING; your competition is
  • Most BC customers are not coming from NAV but from other ERPs, like Great Plains
  • Treat your BC business separately from perpetual and let your BC business eventually cannibalize your perpetual business
  • The billable hour model is dead, as is the billable day
  • Convoluted pricing structures are old school and repel customers
  • Know what your customers need: Don’t guess, don’t assume
  • About IP:
  • It does not have to be limited to full verticals; it can be focused on Services, Subscriptions, Support, or anything repeatable...nothing is too small to consider
  • Customers pay for fewer mouse clicks
  • Services can be part of subscription
  • Don't ignore IP that layers on top of ISVs
  • The heart of the IP model is compound return
  • We now live in a subscription-model industry with smaller revenue per and higher volume of projects. If you don’t generate 20% or your revenue as recurring subscription based by year’s end, your competition is beating you. If you don’t triple your customer adds per year, your competition is beating you.
  • Jet Global mentioned stats that I can’t remember specifically but were stunning. Average adds for a Dynamics partner were very small, like 18 per year, but very few are not measuring by the year, but by the day. I’d be interested to know the true numbers.

You can agree or disagree with any of the above, but that’s what others, including our competitors, are thinking. Obviously, we need to think for ourselves, but it’s worth noting.

One Final Fun Note

ArcherPoint’s Saurav Dhyani was treated like a celebrity. People would line up to take pictures with him. He was even asked to and joined a session with other MVPs and Microsoft employee, Freddy Kristiansen (check out Freddy’s blog), in a Q&A session! Also, everyone we talked to was impressed that so many ArcherPoint employees were representing our company (we were very visible with our ArcherPoint shirts). We were also mentioned in the keynote introduction as the only company with attendees from more than one country. We probably should allocate some of the expense of this event to our Marketing budget. smiley

The ArcherPoint Directions Asia 2019 Attendees
ArcherPoint Directions Asia 2019 Attendees

We trust you’ve found this Directions Asia recap informative, interesting, and entertaining.

We’d love to hear your takeaways from Directions Asia and your thoughts on the above post.

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