With Repeatability being the big “buzzword” in the NAV community for 2014 I thought it would be nice to close the year with a blog around this topic.
There is no doubt in my mind that after a decade, Microsoft is still searching for positioning with its dynamics products, but it seems to me that we are getting closer to an answer. Or maybe not.
Funny thing is that (part of) the positioning of the answer is actually repeated too.
Microsoft Marketing is trying to position Dynamics NAV in a “highly” repeatable volume market, preferably in a cloud environment.
Here, only the last part is new. The rest is not.
Software has always been repeatable, also before the cloud. When I went to school we exchanged games using floppy disks. This was highly repeatable software.
Until very recently it was very common to buy boxed software at retail stores, also bookkeeping software. This was also highly repeatable software.
Some Dynamics NAV partners have been selling their vertical product to hundreds of customers for many, many years. Even before Microsoft acquired Navision. This was (highly) repeatable software.
So why is it such a buzzword all of the sudden?
Even though Microsoft, and Navision before them, have always pushed their partners to go vertical and high volume, the software is and was extremely suitable as a customisable erp package for the upper segment of the SMB market.
This is a very lucrative market for resellers. It includes selling a huge amount of consultancy hours and many years or even decades of after care and upgrades or reimplementation.
Regardless of arguments that this is successful for some partners and customers or not, consultancy does not bring any money on the table for Microsoft, since they only sell licenses. (In the early days, Navision also charged a percentage of the consultancy).
The Cloud as Accelerator
So Microsoft have been trying this model for years, but only few partners picked it up. So now with the cloud they are giving it a “second try”.
Using private and public clouds allow partners to distribute software much faster than the traditional boxing and shipping. It also allows them to adapt to changes much quicker.
Although Marketing people want us to believe otherwise, there are more challenges than we can count going to a repeatable cloud model. Partners that have been selling consultancy services for two decades do not have the business model required to be repeatable. For these partners it is easier to start a new business with new people rather than changing their existing companies.
And why would they? The fact that Microsoft asks partners to go cloud and repeatable does not mean that there is no business in the upper SMB market. NAV is still as suitable for this market as it has ever been and there is still a lot of money to be made there.
Another big challenge that we face with Dynamics NAV going to the cloud being repeatable is the completeness and user friendliness of the product.
Being targeted at larger companies for many years, NAV has never been a very user-friendly product out of the box. Nor is the base product complete for any market, not even small businesses.
This means that the initial investment to build a cloud product is relatively high. And although NAV is very customisable, the User Interface is not. There are a lot of limitations in the UI, especially the web variant, that partners cannot work their way around. To be highly repeatable you need a Facebook like or app-like interface.
Together with the fact that cloud products pop-up like crazy at the moment, one even more user-friendly than the other, it’s going to be hard for NAV to enter that market.
Next year(s) will be very important for Microsoft to see how succesful they can be in the highly repeatable cloud.
My personal opinion, keys are in making the user interface more intuitive and changeable for partners and make the base product more feature rich.
That off course and moving to Visual Studio and TFS. But that’s a no-brainer. The current development environment is completely unuseful for building repeatable software.