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Podcast: Demystifying Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Cloud Strategy

Introducing the Cloud Services Series

In this inaugural three-part podcast series, the team at Catapult takes over the MSDW Podcast to talk about and clarify the confusion, interest, and excitement that surrounds Microsoft’s cloud services. CEO Elliot Fishman leads the discussion with colleagues Jeff Bacon, Blair Hurlbut, and Dan Ditomaso to break down the following topics:

In Part 1: Demystifying Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Cloud Strategy, Elliot, Jeff, and Blair start the series off by exploring Microsoft’s vision for the cloud. They cover how the cloud has changed delivery of enterprise software capabilities, its impact on both customers and partners, and the reasoning behind changes to the Dynamics brand. Read a glimpse of the conversation below.

  • 9:05 – What is Microsoft’s current vision in delivering enterprise software capabilities?
  • 12:30 – Are these changes in technology just hype or a legitimate impact to customers?
  • 15:00 – Will larger ERP and CRM solutions fade away in favor of smaller point apps?
  • 16:15 – Can Microsoft tame the confusion in the Dynamics brand?
  • 19:45 – How does Azure tie into Dynamics software today? How do partners use it?
  • 22:00 – How well can Dynamics customers move from on-prem to Azure?
  • 24:00 – How mature is the cloud enterprise software adoption cycle today?
  • 30:50 – Can PowerApps replace some ISV point solutions?
  • 32:00 – The role of the Microsoft partner in today’s market.
  • 35:15 – What is the value equation that customers are applying in the cloud?

Microsoft’s Vision for Enterprise Software Capabilities

Blair Hurlbut

Microsoft has basically been pitching cloud or hosted infrastructure since 2010, when they started to look at putting some business apps onto the cloud. Now with the release of additional functionality within the Dynamics 365 environment like Financials and all the other offerings around Power BI, Flow, and some of the other companion applications, their whole vision has been that infrastructure will no longer be hosted by organizations and that Microsoft will do all of the hosting.

They’ve also introduced the common data platform, which will now give users the ability to link their enterprise applications through Power BI, Flow, or Power Apps, if they need a third-party sort of application that can be used internally. That’s what’s starting to pull together all of these enterprise applications, is the common data model.

Jeff Bacon

Maybe I’ll take a stab at it too. I have a slightly different perspective. First and foremost, I think Microsoft’s investment started about five years ago. Data centres were a pretty massive point in changing their perspective in moving from a more traditional office and a mobile and devices type company into what they would call enterprise cloud. They launched Office 365, which has been getting tons of traction. Now along with Office 365, which you can buy in various different versions, you can also buy what they call apps. These apps are business-focused applications and like apps that you would typically see on your phone that are available for consumption.

But really, I think what’s going on is a huge commoditization of the software model that they used to have and they’re now basically making business applications available to everybody in a relatively inexpensive way. So what Blair was saying with the addition of Dynamics 365 Finance, Sales, and Field Service, you can now buy business process for tens of dollars a month instead of having to invest tens of thousands of dollars to buy this type of capability. My sense is that’s Microsoft’s vision. They’re making business apps available just like Outlook or Hotmail was available for everybody in a very inexpensive and easy-to-get way through their data centres. Then they’re loading on their apps onto their data centres and making them publicly available.

How Technological Changes Provide a Legitimate Impact

Jeff Bacon

You asked if it was hype. I think, maybe five years ago, it was a bit of “marketecture”. Microsoft’s typically good that way, they’re a very good marketing company and they market before they actually have mature products. But where we’re at today is not that. It’s the way people are looking to consume and buy. In addition to that, the ability to actually get something instant is what humans are used to these days. Through iTunes and the app economy being able to download something and have it work kind of instantaneously is really the fundamental shift from these massive projects that used to occur.

So my sense is it used to be a little hype. Being partners in implementation, we were told something would work one way and either the capability didn’t exist or it just didn’t work that way. But nowadays, it’s pretty much out of the box and things are working, from a deployment perspective at least, relatively well. I think it’s not only here to stay but I think you’re going to see lots of evolution in the way that cloud services are not only deployed but purchased from a customer standpoint.

Blair Hurlbut

It definitely seems the direction Microsoft is heading is to be able to have all of these “best of breed” sort of applications and have them work together. You might not realize that you’re going to be in a CRM and moving into an ERP in the future. It’ll be just one platform that you, as an end-user, start to utilize and then what they’re doing for a project implementation is being able to adopt these technologies or processes and making the setup of these applications incredibly easy. So it’s more wizard-based type setup versus having a 3, 6, or 12-month implementation to get some of these applications up and running.

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Catapult Team

Talk to as many internal stakeholders as you possibly can, because the more input you have about what you really need, the better chance you have of a successful implementation.

Blair Hurlbut, VP - ERP Solutions