[IMGCAP(1)]This week I've decided to give my take on the mega-con that is Microsoft Convergence 2013 as well as the company's views on being more cloudy and mobile.
After spending what I deemed to be an appropriate amount of time in and among the masses (between 11,000 and 12,000 attendees, depending who's counting), I think I've formed a pretty good idea of the main takeways from the conference. Granted, the Microsoft Dynamics group may not have garnered as much attention from the accounting profession(sans those with actual technology consulting/reseller divisions) as some of its competitors, but there are still things worth noting about the company's direction. This is especially the case for those non-Dynamics partners, or even resellers, and CPA firms who are finding themselves more in the role of technology advisor and recommender to their clients rather than system implementer.
Overall, Dynamics isn't entirely breaking any new ground; they are bullish on anything cloud, mobile and social but only just now taking steps in those directions...as some of their competitors are as well.
As it relates to cloud, to be fair, Microsoft does have a true cloud product in its Azure platform; enough of one anyway that it is not only placing all of its ERP line on it, but competitors such as Sage and Acumatica are as well. Cloud purists -- you know the companies that built their entire product or line of applications entirely on and for the Web -- may guffaw at this particular iteration of cloud but, like it or not, for many people it's still cloud or enough of it for their liking.
Which brings me to another point, the debate on how anyone really wants or cares what their cloud is as long as they can get the data and information they want from outside their four walls. At some point they may, and others still will, demand multi-tenancy and a full browser-based experience and are secure enough that the data they are accessing is safe behind some walls somewhere.
Companies like Microsoft, however, seem content that the cloud they are delivering -- at least when it comes to the Dynamics line of business applications -- is cloud enough for its user base. In short, the "cloudification" of products is well underway, that being a vendor will take some or all aspects of a product and place it into the cloud or make it "cloud ready."
The mobile process is similar, however, a bit more restricted in that we're not likely to see every fucntion of its entire ERP line on an iPad...sorry, a Surface Pro...or Windows 8 phone or any mobile device any time soon. What you will see from Microsoft Dynamics, and likely others, is pieces of functionality in an accounting or ERP product that can be accessed via such devices. The most recent example of this activity came during Convergence, when the company announced its plans to make Dynamics AX more mobile. Specifically, AX features such as expense management, time entry, and approvals will be optimized for mobile device use (though the company stressed they will work "first and best" on Windows Phones and Windows 8 platforms.
Then there's the partner perspective on where Microsoft Dynamics (which, by the way counts for less than 10 percent of Microsoft Corp.'s overall revenue). Overall, they've come to terms with their future with the mega vendor. The firm has, for several years now, made it clear what their requirements are to be a part of the Dynamics "ecosystem." As such, many are opting to carry other product lines (namely those of the cloud variety), diversify their services, or simply join up with one of the three Master VARs. For those unaware, you have Socius, who is just starting to actively recruit members; Tribridge, and SBS Group, which according to president Jim Bowman, will likely add another 15 to 20 firms to its ranks by the end of this year (more on SBS Group's thinking and strategy in an upcoming article).
In short, expect Dynamics to remain a notable player in the accounting, ERP and overall business application space -- just don't expect any talk of an accountant network or massive marketing to the profession as they once did with Great Plains. This isn't to say they're not relevant enough for the CPA world to recommend to their growing clients - far from it - I just don't see much in the way of game-changing products in this regard.
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