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Thoughts on Dynamics 365 and its impact on the User Groups

By Andrew Hafer posted Nov 22, 2016 04:04 PM

  

Uncertainty of the future. Cautious optimism. Feeling disenfranchised. Oh wait…Did you think I was talking about the U.S. Presidential election? No. I am sharing the emotions that I hear from individuals in the Dynamic Communities’ User Groups. Microsoft Dynamics 365 is officially out on the street now but there seems to be just as much confusion and concern than answers in the marketplace. And, your perspective has everything to do with where you are coming from.

I’ve had the privilege of sitting among all the product user groups in Dynamics – AXUG, CRMUG, GPUG, NAVUG, and PBIUG. I can tell you, the emotions are all over the place. But those diverse emotions and opinions have helped me form a few opinions. This blog entry is not meant to provide facts or recommendations about Dynamics 365 itself. I just want to share my observations and provide some insight to the necessary empathy in a diverse set of communities around Dynamics.

Personally, I think it is an awesome strategy that Microsoft has set forth. It ultimately harnesses the power of being a Microsoft customer and leverages their technology of the future. I’ve always been a fan of the cloud. I would gladly outsource the IT issues that come with hosting systems and don’t have some of the business constraints like data location, regulatory, or agility that traditionally bring concern over cloud. I like being on the leading edge and will be given the opportunity to adopt new ancillary capabilities to my ERP and CRM as I want to. That’s my perspective. However, my fellow members in the User Groups have other opinions.

In AXUG (going alphabetically), the advent of Dynamics 365 has major ramifications for AX customers. In fact, the product they invested in (Dynamics AX or Axapta, depending on your timeline) is completely going away as we know it. A re-bundled set of functionality takes its place. That means significant change no matter how you look at it. The biggest argument is over cloud or on-prem. In the beginning of the Dynamics 365 story, there was no talk of allowing the former AX to be implemented in an on-prem model. To a great deal of AXUG members, this is cause for great concern. Not just due to the traditional issues debated over cloud, but for intrinsic company practices as well. The CIO of one prominent member company based in The Netherlands lamented to me that the required mindset shift in the board room was going to make the technical migration pale in comparison. We are starting to learn what “hybrid-cloud” means. I suspect, as the product evolves, people can make decisions that keep them happy in any situation.

In CRMUG, Dynamics 365 is not that big of a deal. If you are on Dynamics CRM Online, you have almost no change. In fact, you will soon be on Dynamics 365 whether you like it or not. Most will like it, however – That’s the reason they went to CRM Online in the first place. If you are an on-prem CRM customer, you have some of the same on-prem vs cloud/hybrid-cloud issues felt by those in AXUG. In the end, however, it’s an exciting time for CRMUG.

GPUG members are a bit more concerned. There is tremendous paranoia that the grand trumpeting around Dynamics 365 signals an end of GP. The product managers in GP have said time and time again that “GP will go on” (Errol even made us raise our right hand to vow to admit that we heard it this time), but many don’t believe it. After all, Microsoft’s announcements have used words like “migration” making it easy to move from GP to Dynamics 365. In my opinion, this is OK and nothing to be paranoid of. Let’s face it, customers of GP (Dynamic Communities, included) have been paranoid of Microsoft ending GP for quite some time now. I’ve seen Microsoft build other SMB products and I’ve watched them highlight other ERPs at every opportunity over the past few years. But every time, they come through with great GP releases. Having the commitment from Microsoft that GP will go on, coupled with Microsoft providing a migration to their flagship products is why I think it’s a great thing.

The partner community for GP doesn’t share the customer’s sentiment about the advent of Dynamics 365. GPUG has many amazing partner members who support the user membership implicitly. For yet another new product to enter the mix means another competitor that they must overcome to grow their businesses. I heard loudly from this segment of our community that having Microsoft spend time talking to GPUG members about Dynamics 365 was out of order. Maybe they are right, but ultimately it’s better to be informed than in the dark. Remind me to write another blog entry about how this issue impacted my observations around GPUG Summit 2016.

For NAVUG, the response has largely been a wait and see approach. Dynamics 365 Business is written from a codebase derived from Dynamics NAV. There may be some comfort in that a transition from NAV to Dynamics 365 may be easy. I’m not so sure I would come to that conclusion yet. I think the NAV customers are mostly happy with their current product and advancing their optimization of it in their businesses. Like GPUG, members are happy that Microsoft has stated that NAV will go on.

PBIUG is the new kid on the block. Users across all the Dynamics products flock to PBIUG to learn about that fabulous reporting tool Power BI. Of course, the sentiments from PBIUG are gleeful about Dynamics 365. Having Power BI as an essential part of Dynamics 365 means more people to join them in community as the product’s popularity grows.

At the end of the day, I applaud Microsoft for staying innovative and making sure we don’t become stagnant with the investments we’ve chosen to make in Dynamics. Yes, the world is changing. Yes, there will be hurt feelings along the way. (…Still not talking about the election). But as long as Microsoft keeps listening to their communities of customers, I believe we will all be better off.

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