We have to change

The fall update for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central has now been released. I have just given a presentation yesterday at Directions NA and have been thinking about this topic during my presentation preparations, but also while talking to a lot of the participants. So, I figured, it would be a good idea to write this down and share my point of view with you.

More and more people understand that Microsoft has spent a lot of effort on the new development environment “ModernDev” using AL – a derivative of our good old C/AL, we are all so used to. More and more people realize that there will be something after “C/AL” – whether they like it or not.

You might say that you have so many customers on old versions that you are good for the next 10 years and then hopefully can retire – isn’t that how it work(ed) with the COBOL developers? You are probably correct to some extend. You will have customers on old versions of Microsoft Dynamics NAV for quite some time, especially when people stopped paying maintenance or “it just runs”. But Microsoft did not just create a new tool, it also created the marketing engine with it – and Microsoft will make it very easy for customers to move to Business Central, or what the ultimate goal is, to Business Central in the cloud.

Even, if you personally do not think that you will be affected by this change, you – or most of you – will be affected. And rather sooner than later. You have more and more customers moving to Business Central from other products and also from Dynamics NAV. You have customers that have modifications and that want their modifications to work in the new environment as well. Your company has some Intellectual property that they want to continue using or selling.

So, what else can you than adapt? Well, you can hope that you made enough money to retire now. So, you, your team, your company, and your NAV channel will have to change, will have to adapt to and embrace the new technology, the new look and feel, the simplified UI.

And – in my eyes – this is a good thing. Look at the time when we all had to make the switch from the DOS version to Windows, from the good old “attain menu” to the “outlook look and fee”, from the classic client to Role Tailored. We have gone through several changes and we always complained about it, we always needed a while to adapt, but we did. And we found that customers are liking the new changes and that they wanted them. Why should it be different now?

So, who has to change? Everyone in your organization. The developers obviously have to learn a new language (although it is not really that different) and they also have to learn how to develop extensions rather than slamming some spaghetti code in codeunit 80 (which, btw. has been cleaned up and redesigned).

Consultants have to learn how to implement the new functionality, how to train customers in the web client (we won’t have the Windows client forever), and – most importantly – they have to learn how to say “No.” A consultant cannot say anymore “yes, we can” to any request the customer throws at them. Not only, because the request doesn’t always make sense (at that point, you always should have said no), but also, because it is not possible anymore to make that change. Consultants rather have to start looking for existing apps that fulfill the need or (in working with a developer possibly) to find a way to solve the issue through an extension or (even better) don’t make any changes, but solve it through process.

Support team members have to change. Support typically answered questions for customers that they have been working with for a long time. If there was training to be done or some modifications, someone created a work order or similar document and made the customer pay for the time and then have someone scheduled. In the future, customers can switch partners a lot easier and it also might happen more often. So, as a support team member, you are the front of the line “customer retention specialist”. You have to strive to provide excellency, you have to find solutions for your customers, you might have to train someone or solve a problem of a customer you have never talked to before, and you might have to start looking into “upselling opportunities”. For instance, you are talking to a new customer, but see that they are struggling with basic navigation – you might want to sell them a few hours “refresher training”. Or you see that they have a gap that you could close with an app.

Salespeople will have to change – if you will have a majority of subscription based licenses in the future – and I do think that a lot of customers will welcome that they do not have to invest a lot of capital upfront – you cannot spend the same amount of time in the sales cycle anymore. You need to produce more volume (user seats) and keep your customers over a 3+ year period to make the same license revenue as before. So, Salespeople and account managers (and consultants, developers, CxOs, and Janitors) have to put customer satisfaction and customer retention on the top of their list.

So, while it is not easy, we all do have to change and modernize ourselves and remember that our customers want to be on modern environments (at least a lot of them) and, most importantly, we need to remember that customers are paying our paychecks and that they can switch very easily and start paying someone else’s paycheck.

Thanks for listening – drop me a comment, even if you disagree.

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