Microsoft has a rich history as a platform company that focuses on the creation of healthy ecosystems based on partnering with hardware and software companies in ways that provide for mutual success. Having spent close to 10 years leading our efforts across our hardware (OEM) and software (ISV) ecosystems, I know first-hand how hard we work to make partners successful leveraging Windows, Azure, and the other Microsoft products and how this work continues today through both our OEM and One Commercial Partner (OCP) organizations.
As we look forward, we want to build on the work we’ve done over the last 5+ years working with the software as a service (SaaS) and line of business (LOB) ISV ecosystem around Azure and Office 365 to extend this work to do more with Dynamics 365 and the Power platform. As we transition the older Dynamics offerings from a series of monolithic applications to a set of SaaS offerings built on a uniform application platform, it presents a new opportunity for us to partner with the ISV community both on the product/platform capabilities and on our go to market (GTM) efforts.
First some background. Office, Dynamics and Windows went through multi-year journeys to transition from on-premises offerings to SaaS offerings. James Phillips recently wrote about the digital feedback loop from the Power platform and how that has empowered people to change their organization with software that would not have previously been possible for them. The insights derived from Power BI are made actionable by applications created by PowerApps and then Flow simplifies robotic process automation (RPA) driving feedback to Power BI and continuing the digital feedback loop. At the core of these platform assets is data. To maintain a consistent data model, the Power platform supports the common data model (CDM) where you can leverage or define a consistent data scheme for entities. By defining it early you can then create producers and consumers of data and have them work together on the same data set making the whole more valuable than the individual applications. For LOB ISVs this creates an opportunity for building on top of this data asset, connecting additional data sources or embedding it in other applications. Furthermore, Microsoft products historically had their own extensibility model so that someone wanting to extend Office would have to work with a different extensibility model than someone extending Dynamics 365. Satya Nadella recently talked to the press about how the Power platform is the extensibility model for Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365 along with being able to integrate with 3rd party tools. Looking through the April 2019 release notes shows what we are working on for our next release. I recommend that ISVs look at the notes to see the upcoming updates to identify new opportunities for their business.
As an example of how ISVs are starting to leverage the Power platform and Dynamics 365 we can look at Indegene a partner that develops solutions for healthcare and pharmaceutical enterprises globally. They combined Dynamics 365, Power platform and Azure to bring a new customer engagement solution to the life sciences/healthcare industry by extending the CDM for life sciences sales, marketing and account management; added numerous commonly used business processes including a mobility component; and embedded descriptive as well as prescriptive intelligence capabilities that a life sciences manufacturer would typically not have as a part of their core solution. Taking advantage of the broader Azure platform they have included services for AI (natural language understanding, speech, graph database and more) which work with the data model and business logic in Dynamics 365 and the Power platform. With minimal development Indegene was able to create intelligent assistants and customer level personalization in life sciences. Without these Microsoft capabilities, this type of enterprise solution would have taken Indegene many years to develop. As Sanjay Virmani, EVP at Indegene recently said, “as customer engagement with healthcare providers and patients is moving towards becoming more intelligent than merely transactional, we saw a significant opportunity to disrupt the space and having a full toolbox between Dynamics 365 + Power platform + Azure has been the key to our substantive progress.”
We recognize that technology is only part of what makes ISVs successful, it is important that the business side is equally as robust. In support of this we are complementing the ongoing engineering work with an additional focus on alignment with our OCP, Azure and field teams to create the right GTM motions necessary for ISVs. Changes in the underlying technology often leads to taking a first principles approach to creating new software and we are doing the same exercise for our tools and resources for ISVs. I think of this in terms of key focus areas that include:
Developer Tools – The revamping of our self-service tools for developers to learn about and leverage the Dynamics 365 solutions and the Power platform. We have a lot of work to do here in conjunction with our April release cycle, but know we are focusing on it. This also includes our work on accelerators, development centers, certification and all the other support tools/services we can provided ISVs.
AppSource – We will align all our marketplace efforts with the work the Azure team is doing on Azure Marketplace and our joint work on a modern commercial marketplace for the benefit of both our AppSource customers and for ISVs. This includes both the technical and marketing benefits for both AppSource and Azure Marketplace. Being able to publish once to merchandize across storefronts to all Microsoft’s customers, sellers and partners will open new growth opportunities to most ISVs.
GTM Alignment – We have the opportunity to work with the OCP team on the GTM work we’ve been doing with Azure across both marketing tools and co-sell motions. Aligning our efforts in this area will bring the Dynamics 365/LOB ecosystem support in line with our Azure GTM efforts.
New Offerings – Along with alignment with the company’s current GTM efforts, are there things we can learn from other companies in the industry and bring them forward to our partners. Given all the changes we are working on, we are using this time to look at what we can learn from others that could be applied to our ecosystem.
So, as we look toward to the April release and our new fiscal year, know that the teams are focused on ISV support for the evolution of Dynamics 365 and the Power platform, alignment with the Azure AppSource efforts, coordinating with other Microsoft GTM motions and considering new best practices. We are taking feedback from ISVs to make sure that the marketplace has the benefits and GTM strategies that they need to maximize success in addition to looking at the platform to make sure there is enough surface area for them to be successful. You can hear some more of my thoughts on supporting ISVs as part of a broader conversation on the Steve Mordue podcast. In February I will be attending Business Forward in Paris and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona if you would like to meet about your ISV.