Directions NA 2017 Recap

It’s been quite a week at Directions in Orlando. I’ve written about the confusion in the halls of the JW Marriott Grande Lakes resort, and I wanted to follow up about the closing keynote, and share an article by Microsoft’s General Manager for Business Apps & Strategy.

First the closing keynote, which was a very impressive thing to behold. This week has given me even more respect for Marko Perisic than I already had, because of the way that he owned what he said during the opening keynote, the way he listened to the event attendees during a few Q&A sessions, and how he has taken responsibility to do something with the feedback that he’s received this week. I already knew how much he cares and how much his team cares. Over the past decade I’ve gotten to know many of them quite closely, and they are really a great group of people that have their hearts in the right place. We are in good hands with them.

So, there are 4 items on the todo list:

  1. The ‘white label thing’ is not going to work. We are Microsoft partners, and we need the Microsoft brand.
    • I think the white label thing got taken out of context a little bit. I know someone said “once you change 1 line of code you own the product” but of course it’s more complex than that.
    • The point is that this is a Microsoft product, and we create things to extend it. We add to it, but it is still a Microsoft ecosystem, and we need to be able to leverage that
  2. Delaying the release until spring is creating confusion, and the delay in decision is going to cost many partners a LOT of money. Marko has committed to see if he can fix that
  3. Non-NAV Partners have nothing to sell at the moment. Microsoft needs to be more clear about how non-NAV partners can move into Dynamics 365
  4. Microsoft needs to be crystal clear toward the user group, and there is a firm commitment to be more involved with the user groups

Now toward the end, Marko shared a picture of a word cloud. This was the result of an internal survey, where everyone in the NAV team expressed their feelings toward the product and the greater community. I don’t know about you, but this gets me going every time. If I may speak for myself: the feeling is mutual.

One other thing that was posted a couple of days after Directions was this:

I think that the whole “NAV is dead” thing was totally misunderstood. Maybe someone was talking about the name NAV, but I really don’t think it actually is dead, or even that there are plans to kill it. I do think Microsoft at the corporate level doesn’t always have a clue (which is a polite way of saying that it seems like sometimes they have no clue whatsoever), and I also think that one way or another there is going to be just one “ERP” in Dynamics 365.

Personally I think that the NAV flavor has a really good chance of being that one flavor. For sure we are NOT dead, and there is a LOT of really good and exciting stuff ahead of us.

 

Directions EMEA 2017 – Madrid

For Directions EMEA, we are going back to Madrid. I am really looking forward to this one, because I have some business to take care of on Mallorca. While I am there I will spend some quality time with some great friends there, and in the planning stages my wife and I decided that it is of utmost importance for her to come with me. So my business trip now has a personal flavor as well.

My company Cloud Ready Software is going to host a record number of sessions (13) and workshops (10), of which I will be hosting 3 workshops and 3 sessions. We also have a booth, but I am worried that we will not have much time to actually BE at the booth since we are all very busy with sessions. My contributions are:

  • Build your 1st extension in VSCode – This is a 2 hour workshop in which we will introduce you to Visual Studio Code, and you will build your first real extension using this development tool. This is the same workshop that we did in Orlando at Directions NA this year.
  • Migrate your IP to VSCode – in this 2 hour workshop I will present what you need to look at when you want to move your IP into Dynamics 365, we’ll take a look at how you can assess your current IP and do a feasibility study. In addition, you will get your hands on some PowerShell scripts to convert your C/AL objects into AL objects.
  • SCM Simplified – this session covers an introduction to Source Code Management, and why it is important for you to start using it today
  • ISV Development Center (session) – At the Inspire conference in Washington DC, my company Cloud Ready Software was announced as one of only a handful of ISV Development Centers. At Directions we will host a session to explain what this means and what we can do for you.
  • Technical partner panel (Q&A session) – a bunch of Microsoft people and some MVP’s will answer any technical and non-technical questions you may have about the upcoming version of NAV and the new technologies that are used to develop extensions and apps for Dynamics 365.

Some of these sessions are a repeat of the ones that we did in Orlando, and some of them will be converted from mere sessions to workshops, since we had gotten some feedback that it would be great to get some hands on material in addition to the presentations. We are always happy to oblige such requests.

Come look us up at our booth, and leave us a message if we are not there, we really want to talk to you!

What’s Going On Out There?

In case you missed it, there were some unexpected announcement this week at Directions North America in Orlando, and as a result there’s some growing trepidation among my people of the NAV partner channel.

Over the past few years, Directions North America has become the time when Microsoft announces the new version of Dynamics NAV. All year long, the partner channel goes out and tries to time sales around this time, and they make promises like “just wait for Directions, the new version will come out, and we can get your project started right away”. Usually, partners go to the conference, attend all the sessions they can catch, and on their way back home, they put in their license orders.

This year, however, the announcement was that there would be NO new version right at Directions. Microsoft is working on the next greatest cloud product, and they have not yet decided what to call it, how licensing will work. We are told that the code is ready to go, but they’re not yet ready to pull the trigger, mostly because of marketing reasons. Since Microsoft wants to go big bang with this new product (identical “full NAV” on premise as well as in the cloud).

This announcement was made by Marko Perisic during the opening keynote, and that afternoon there was a Q&A session that got quite heated. I was not present at the first one, but because it was so “popular” they decided to do a repeat, and of course I did go to the repeat.

At the same time, some event was taking place with some big shots from Microsoft and some inner circle partners, where someone said that someone else high up in Microsoft said that “NAV is dead”. When I heard this, I was immediately skeptical about the accuracy of the quote, and even if it was accurate, that it was probably (likely) taken out of context.

I listened to Marko do some damage control, and to a number of people put forward their points of view, which were made with varying degrees of validity. My takeaways of this session were these:

  • In My Humble Opinion – Marko made a big mistake by using the product codename in the official announcement. Granted, it was in quotation marks, but still, that was not a good thing. Now we have ‘NAV’, and we have “Tenerife” and we also have this unknown product name. Lots of lobbying by the way for ‘Dynamics 365 Navision’ which I actually like, but is probably too retro.
  • No new NAV version is a BAD BAD BAD thing. Postponing the release until spring 2018 is an even worse thing. Many people have been postponing sales for the new version, and not having this new product will defer revenue until spring of next year, and that is going to cost a LOT of people a LOT of money.
  • What I thought was an excellent suggestion was for Microsoft to release the product as it is today (after all, they DID say the code was ready to go), only for on premise, and use current licensing. That way we can start implementing the new product, and we can just call it NAV 2018 as everyone was expecting anyway
  • This rumor that “NAV is dead” must be dispelled at once. Nuff said.

This Q&A session was brutal, there was a LOT of anger in the room. But one thing that I also took away from that session is that we are SUPER lucky to have someone like Marko at the helm of this great team at Microsoft. I observed this guy talk to everybody at Directions, and he always had a smile while he was being chewed out. He’s a very direct person (which I actually appreciate a lot) and that can sometimes be misunderstood. I’m in a fortunate position to be one of the MVP’s, and we had a private meeting with Marko this evening. Because of NDA I can’t share what we discussed, but I can assure you that this guy cares deeply for this community of ours. I for one have gained a TON of respect for how he stood up and listened to everyone that wanted to talk to him. He has heard everyone, and has taken everything to heart.

It’s still the middle of the conference. I have lots of session/workshop stuff to work on, so I gotta get going. Can’t wait for the closing keynote.

Directions NA 2017 – Orlando, Florida

This year’s Directions North America conference will be held in Orlando, Florida at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes resort. There will be product anouncements, and lots of really good sessions and workshops. My company Cloud Ready Software will be hosting a total of 8 sessions and 5 workshops (at the time that I am writing this post).

My contribution will be:

  • Migrate your IP to extensions (session) – in this session we’ll go over the things you need to look at when you want to move your IP into an app for Dynamics 365. We’ll cover assessing your current IP and doing a feasibility study. We will also go over SaaSified Techniques that are used to execute on the customer journey.
  • Build your 1st VSCode extension (workshop) – in this two hour workshop Waldo and I will introduce you to Visual Studio Code, and you will build your first extension yourself.
  • Technical partner panel (Q&A session) – a bunch of Microsoft people and some MVP’s will answer any technical and non-technical questions you may have about the upcoming version of NAV and the new technologies that are used to develop extensions and apps for Dynamics 365.
  • ISV Development Center (session) – At the Inspire conference in Washington DC, my company Cloud Ready Software was announced as one of only a handful of ISV Development Centers. At Directions we will host a session to explain what this means and what we can do for you.

It is going to be a very busy conference for us, because CRS is also sponsoring the conference. We hope to see you in Orlando, and talk about how we can work together.

Inspire 2017 DC Recap

This week I went to the Microsoft Inspire conference that was held in Washington DC. It was my first time at this particular conference, and I have to say it was a bit overwhelming. I am used to conferences that have maybe upward of 1,000 attendees, with a single Expo hall. This conference had well over 10,000 attendees, and the expo area seemed like it occupied an entire conference center.

Security was super tight, so it took for ever to get through, and we were waiting for long periods of time in the sweltering DC heat. We had accounted for an extra hour to find a good seat, and we were too late getting in, the keynote had already started.

Our main reason for being there with Cloud Ready Software was to attend the announcement for the ISV Development Center program, because we are one of the 7 initial companies that were selected by Microsoft to be part of this program.

Some things that I took away form the conference is that Satya Nadella is a really captivating speaker. It was a pleasure listening to his keynote and learn about the new initiatives out of Microsoft. Two of the most important ones that stood out for me is Microsoft 365 and the one commercial partner program.

Seeing Microsoft’s corporate leaders present their vision was inspiring to me. Connecting things together in ways that you just don’t think about is just mind boggling. There was a demo of a drone that does a physical inventory and picking. There was an example of how you can subscribe to a store’s discount program, and it can track your movements and know when you are near one of the stores, and invite you in for a good deal. The last one is kind of creepy, but at the same time it would be awfully convenient to walk past my local music store and get a reminder that it’s been 2 months since I last purchased guitar strings, and to come in for a good deal on something related.

I have to say I was woefully unprepared to be at Inspire. We booked our tickets just a couple of days in advance so we did not have any time to really prepare. We were there mainly for the ISV Development Center program. We will definitely go to next year’s event in Las Vegas though, and I will try to pay more attention, and to be more elaborate when I write about it.