Microsoft published their new Shopify connector today. It’s great to see them invest resources into what is hopefully the gold standard of integrating with these external services. However, I have serious doubts about whether this is such a good idea.
ISV Partner Channel
In the runup to having BC in the cloud, the story was that the partner channel should refocus their efforts into becoming ISV’s. Rather than one-time bespoke systems for individual customers, they want the partner channel to create extensions that could be used by the masses.
This was (is?) a logical continuation of their story of verticalization that we had heard throughout the past two decades. In itself nothing that I don’t agree with. I too think that having re-usable extensions in a marketplace is a solid way to go. Microsoft’s argument was that they need to focus on the base product, a core set of functionalities. The partner channel would then be free to add functionality, to extend the base product.
There’s Just a Tiny Thing…
One thing that caught my ear was a statement that said that Microsoft does not want to provide specific, industry focused expertise. They said they have no interest to build integrations with external systems. Rather than having Microsoft provide integrations or other specialized functionalities, they would leave this up to the partner channel. There could be an ACME Rockets integration created and supported by an ISV, or even by ACME themselves.
Great soundbite showing great potential, and it sold well. Many partners listened to Microsoft and started creating lists of functionalities that they have know-how for. Many VARs dove right into their inventory of “add-ons” with the intent to turn those around into the next AppSource apps.
I know personally of three separate partners that have invested a lot of time and money into developing Shopify integrations. All three of those partners are LIVID with Microsoft today. The promise was that Microsoft would stay out of this type of functionality, and today’s release is one of an unknown number of apps that we will see come out of Microsoft.
Besides the fact that Microsoft is now on the hook for maintaining this app, they have effectively cut off the potential from the ISV channel. Their work in progress as essentially turned into a big fat tax write-off.
Two out of those three partners had already been looking at alternatives to their NAV/BC practice, and I can’t say that I blame them. Licenses are no longer capital investments. Margins are going down with lower subscription fees, so you can no longer afford to focus on smaller businesses as clients. Having to go through a primary CSP means that you have to share what little margin remains. The stack has become much more complex, so you have to hire experts for everything.
One of the last things that are left is to develop your own IP and publish on AppSource. Would you decide to invest in new products if there is a real chance that Microsoft is working on the same thing?
Personally, I think Microsoft is making a huge mistake by creating this type of app. I am not sure if they are capable of taking on the support, and that they will be maintained properly. I am also doubtful about the cooling effect this will have on the partner channel’s willingness to invest in new products.
Most important though is that I am just flabbergasted that they prioritized something like this, when there are SO MANY things still left to improve in the base product.
As I am writing this I am struggling to find a good way to finish this post, I’m clearly not done thinking about this. Let me know in the comments what you think.