The 2016 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, which recently took place in Toronto, Canada, presented the perfect opportunity for companies from around the world to learn more about how they can further grow their business with Microsoft.
CEO Satya Nadella’s ‘mobile-first, cloud-first’ vision is at the heart of what Microsoft is doing currently, as is the company’s commitment to enabling companies to undergo a digital transformation to help revolutionise their business.
At the event, Nadella said: “Digital transformation requires systems of intelligence that are tailored to each industry, each company, each micro-task performed by each person. Systems that can learn, expand and evolve with agility as the world and business changes.”
To help support and enable this, the company has announced Dynamics 365 and AppSource.
“We’ve come to the realisation that with the digital transformation we are seeing, especially in manufacturing, we needed to reinvent productivity and business processes,” says Colin Masson, global industry director of manufacturing solutions for Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise division.
“We took the decision to mainstream Dynamics by moving it into the cloud and enterprise division. Now we are bringing together the benefits of Dynamics ERP and CRM business capabilities, with the Azure Trusted Cloud, and our leadership in Industrial IoT, self-service business intelligence, big data, and data science.”
The first step to modern intelligent enterprise-¬ready apps is being taken with Dynamics 365 and AppSource.
With Dynamics 365, Microsoft has embedded intelligence into all the apps that can be delivered on a common and extensible business platform, and using a common data model shared with Office 365. Tech-savvy business users can easily reconfigure and extend those apps with PowerApps, Power BI and Microsoft Flow.
“Say you just need sales, or service, or need to address production or supply chain operations – these can be delivered as individual software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps with Dynamics 365,” says Masson. “Users get the best of Dynamics ERP and Dynamics CRM capabilities, with embedded intelligence from Power BI. Internet of things data can be leveraged, as can the Cortana Intelligence Suite for intelligent solutions that leverage smart connected products, advanced analytics and cognitive services.”
AppSource is a way for business users to discover this new generation of SaaS apps, try them, and then engage with partners to help configure and deploy them.
“This is a whole new system of intelligence that allows our partners and customers to innovate, and break the traditional model of buying big monolithic apps,” says Masson. “They can now buy what they need as and when it is required, and can try it before they buy it, while still having the benefit of a common data model. This means even if a customer buys just a sales solution or wants a field service solution to support new digital services, they can move forward with the comfort that these SaaS apps are designed to work together, and have the option of growing as they need due to the common data model.”
Rather than having to download a massive file, take the partner integration solutions and modifications, and embed those in an on-premise environment, users can now simply go online and access the same solutions.
“Previously, it was all very difficult and monolithic from an administration perspective,” says Bill Moffett, Microsoft’s global industry senior product marketing manager for manufacturing. “But this is a major change for our partners’ go-to-market strategy, and they’re really embracing that.”
With AppSource, customers can go through a trial process, and then get all the information necessary before deciding on whether or not to invest. Moffett believes that the modern consumer is much more educated than in the past, and that by the time they reach AppSource, they’re already 80% decided on what they want.
“A customer might need field service but not remote monitoring for example,” he says. “Each is now delivered as an individual app that can be subscribed to separately. But you can be sure that if you did want to get a full blown Connected Field Service down the line, that would integrate with field service thanks to the common data model.”
According to Moffett, these two launches reflect an internal shift towards digital within Microsoft itself.
“It would not make sense to evangelise the idea of digital transformation for our customers, partners and prospects if we didn’t internally change how we ourselves go to market,” he says. “I see AppSource and Dynamics 365 as two vehicles for us to get our products in a different, more effective, and digital way to our partners and customers.”