Directions 2021 – Day 3
If you haven’t read relation from day one here you can find it. The second day I covered in the previous post. Let’s summarize the last day of Directions 2021 in Milan.
For those who didn’t attend Directions before you need to know that this is always a shortened day – the last session is around 2:00 PM. Also, you can feel that it is very quiet in the corridors. Why? All because of the big community party that is always handled on Thursday night. And trust me our community knows how to party.
Anveo (not the) presentation of the product
Every keynote reserve some time for the gold sponsors. Normally I am trying not to write about that. However, Anveo’s presentation was not about them and their products. They hosted a short panel with their partners on why the ISV role has changed.
First of all, ISVs in their opinion, should focus on handling contacts with VARs (as it was for years) but now when every customer can also download the app directly from AppSource, ISVs need to have a closer relationship to customers – help them in the onboarding process, sometimes also train the end-users.
This can be achieved with close collaboration with VARs. In the end, there was a question if we then still need VARs? The answer is yes and ISVs need to create a close collaboration with partners. I fully agree with that – in the big sea of Apps choosing the right one is a challenge and VARs can help with that.
I need to say this kind of sponsors’ presentation I like the most – not focusing on own products but trying to approach the problem and send the message to the community – in this case, an important one. I will have this in mind in my daily work.
The Directions EMEA community award committee has prepared this year two categories – commercial and technical. Over 25 partners have sent nominations.
In the first category, the winner is usedynamics.com by Abakion. This portal allows customers, consultants, and developers to learn more about Business Central from videos. The uniqueness of this project is that you will nowhere see the company name – this is all about community sharing knowledge. In the future, we would be able to see there even more awesome videos.
When I saw nominated companies in the second category I already had a feeling who won. The winner in fact could be only one – Cosmo Consult with their solution for partners who handle all things related to the management of docker and environments. The first time I used that solution was during Hackathon that I handled and I must say I am a big fan of it. This solution, even if paid, allows developers and consultants to focus on those things which they are good at – development, implementation, or demos, not wasting time on problems with docker and preparing environments.
It is always nice to listen to the experts who have interesting things to say. I will mention two topics that have been introduced in the panel.
The average age of people working in the Business Central area is very high. One of the most important topics for all of us is how to attract more people to the space. It turned out that we do not have much young blood. On Twitter there was some discussion about it – AJ Kauffmann asked why the age of trainers is one of the lowest since those should be the most experienced people. Someone also commented that those averages do not count in India – in that country for sure the average is much lower.
The cloud project lifecycle is different from what we get used to. That is due to customers who expect something different. This must be a more agile approach that also includes ISVs solutions. Again approach – better find and configure than develop for scratch just for one customer.
After the introduction, everyone could vote in the interactive poll. One of the questions was how many percent of your current customers use the cloud Business Central. A huge number of people answer that less than 5%. To be honest I would rephrase that question – How many of your new customers are cloud customers? I think the answers could be then totally different since most of us still have many customers on-prem because we have been creating that base for over 20 years and it is not an easy task to migrate them to the newest approach.
Another question was about the biggest constraints on the partners’ growth. The results are in the order:
- Transformation costs
- Business Central Price
I think that order was easy to guess. Many partners still struggle to find new people and train them properly. Also, one of the biggest challenges is to invent your product from scratch again. I think one of the issues that partners have is that they want to move the NAV solution to Business Central almost 1:1 without refactoring. That, in my opinion, cannot give anything good. Second thing is that it is hard to maintain your legacy product base and at the same time develop the new solution ready for the cloud.
The last question, which makes me happy, is if we feel positive about the product and direction in which Business Central is going. Most of the people are 80% positive. Mike Morton commented that it is good to still feel hunger for more – that gives power to the Microsoft team to not stop in improving the product. I can agree with that.
Changes in the Directions and next plans
For many years Christian Sega has been chairman of the Directions community board. It was his last Directions in that role – from this week James Crowter will take over. Thanks and congratulation to both of them! Also big thanks for making the event such a success to Daya Keur who announce that it was his last Directions.
What next? In April Directions ASIA will take place in Thailand – after 3 years the in-person conference will come back to Asia. During spring there will be two more local events – Days of Knowledge in Denmark and the UK.
For now, the next venue for Directions EMEA has not been announced but Steve Endow found out that on the Vienna conference center website there is information about Directions EMEA 2022 – is it true no info from the board yet.
Top 20 things to do (or not to do) in implementing BC
Shannon Mullins and Kristen Hosman who are both MVP from the US shared their 20 tips on what to do or not during the implementation. The session was for the consultants but also for salespeople who should know what to promise to the customer. Few of the tips which in my opinion should be in your mind:
- Always have a clear statement of work written
- Understand customers’ needs
- Do not skip the design phase and sign-off from the customer
- Clean the data before migration – don’t put to the new system the same mess that is in the old one
- Try the apps before importing them to the production environment
- Use AppSource Apps if possible
One observation for all is that the room was full – it does not often see on Friday. And if you would also count that this session was at the same time as Strategic Questions with Mike Morton you can imagine how important this topic is for all people at Directions.
It is hard to summarize the roundtable discussions however I would like to stress at this point how important is to be part of such sessions. This is one of those, not so many times when together with Microsoft Product Managers and engineers you can talk and ask all questions about the topic. I cannot imagine a better type of session – it is like 45 minutes q&a for which never is time just after the presentation.
I know it was the last session during the whole conference but remember such a chance does not often happen. And back to the topic of the session, it turns out that one of the things which would be great to improve is the onboarding that needs to be done by ISVs not only for entire new customers.
I hope you enjoy the sessions and also my small summary. There have been a few more things going on during the Dictions that I would like to put in the separate blog post so expect more.
So a couple of points – on the question about the percentage of new business that’s SaaS, that is known from Microsoft figures although they don’t publish it publically so I won’t. We wanted to highlight just what legacy hangover partners have to cope with and how it holds them back.
Second, it’s not Vienna next year, we had an option but we have not taken it up, contracts are not signed yet so I can’t say where but we will soon.