Burgum Looks Back and Forward

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Doug Burgum Reflects on Ten Years of Convergence

These remarks from Doug Burgum's keynote at Convergence have been edited for length and style.

He described his views about the purpose of the conference.

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"I think that part of that is what we're trying to achieve in the community is that people are smart, people can understand authenticity. Companies that have tried to create sort of what I will call a corporate blog, where they use [a conference] just as an extension of a canned marketing message, have been appropriately, as the young people would say, dissed. Dissed in the sense that people discount it; they disrespect it."

I think the original vision of Convergence was for us to come together and share ideas. And if it meant for you to be critical of us, that was part of it. I want to make sure that we don't lose touch with our roots as a conference, and that we don't become something that's too corporate. I want to make sure that we connect with an element of authenticity, where I as a leader take some risks. You've taken some risks by risking your time to be here. So in the sense of community, and the sense of values, I'm going to talk to you as businessperson to businessperson, not as a senior VP at Microsoft.

When someone was interviewing me and said, 'Hey, Doug, what were some of the secrets?' I think one of the things [is] that I'm not trying to say, oh, it was a brilliant vision. I think some of this was just the good fortune of my upbringing that brought me a set of values where I thought it was really important to focus on the people that were there, to create a culture that was deeply embedded around respect for individuals, respect for diversity, respect for other people's lives, and with that, a focus on the team members."

Convergence 2006 was the tenth gathering of users of the Microsoft Dynamics line. The conference was begun by Great Plains before its acquisition by Microsoft. Doug Burgum, who has headed the organization for 23 years, will move into a new role as chairman, where he will focus on evangelism, thought leadership, and coaching, after a selection is made of an executive to run the unit. Burgum gave a highly personal speech at the gathering, and also made comments on key issues in one-on-one interviews. Selections from both follow.

Throughout this show, Microsoft executives have frequently mentioned the Business Portals and Outlook working together with business applications. Is the combination of the portal and Outlook emerging as a new technology platform?

I think that they are side-by-side platforms. You are going to have an operating system layer and you are going to have a database layer. They need to reside side by side and react, operate, work, and play together.

There has long been talk about having financial applications that look and work the same from the low end to the high end of the market. But that hasn't happened. Can this combination of other platforms make that irrelevant?

The spread of software tools with a familiar look-and-feel will help users adapt to applications of all kinds. For example, SQL Server was a mid-market product, but it was never called that. You take a look at SQL Server and it has made great inroads in very large businesses and it has been successful as part of Small Business Server with smaller ones. You get scalability across all size businesses.

Will this contribute to further consolidation among financial software companies?

How many code bases will there be? You are heading toward a dual choice at the enterprise level. Among smaller businesses, you've got a lot of choices in each country. The accounting and ERP side, you have local tax regulations that mean they will always have a strong local component that databases won't. There are different leaders in different geographies. We will not be able to displace these in the short term. But I think we can make progress.

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