Someone asked me recently why I’ve been tweeting about Microsoft Dynamics 365. Actually, their question was, “Why all the love for Dynamics all of a sudden?”
Click here for the tweets that they were referring to. Actually, I’m behind on reading my RSS feed, so things have been quiet, but I will be picking up again in February.
I thought that I would share my response publicly in this blog post. See below for my response to the question.
Overall, I like Acumatica better for three reasons:
- Dynamics 365 is still very new and very confusing, especially from a pricing perspective.
- Once the dust settles in 1-2 years, this will likely become a David vs. Goliath affair and I like being on the “scrappy David” side of that battle.
- Amazon recently added Acumatica to AWS (click here). Also, Acumatica likes to highlight their partnership with Amazon (click here and click here). I think there is a good chance that we could see this develop into a major partnership sometime in the next 1-2 years. If Dynamics 365 is “Microsoft ERP”, then there is a good chance that Acumatica could become “Amazon ERP”.
Why I like Dynamics 365
- Common Data Model: This looks cool because of the ability to add an “Address” entity, a “Contact” entity, etc. and have a similar look/feel throughout the application without having to reinvent the wheel every time. Also, I think that the Common Data Model has potential to allow “live reporting” in the future with Power BI which would be really slick.
- PowerApps: A nice end user tool which I think could replace Access in a lot of situations. At my last job I found it very useful to throw Access front-ends at simple problems that stored data in our Sage 500 backend database. This is basically the same idea, but better because you it’s web/mobile enabled, the data gets stored in the Common Data Model backend, and you can leverage lookups for Customers, Vendors, Items, etc. I wonder though how much PowerApps is really integrated with Dynamics 365 or how much Dynamics 365 is just another data source. More on that in #4 below.
- App Designer: I’m not really sure what it is, but it seems like something in between PowerApps and Visual Studio. This might be what originally excited me about Acumatica: a way to build screens as a power user without having to go through a monstrous learning curve.
- Flow: My impression is that this is like Workflows in SharePoint Designer. If it is, then I think it’s very cool. Just this week I had a customer who wanted to dynamically determine the Ship Via on a shipment based on their own business rules of package weight, shipping destination, etc. With Flow you might be able to accomplish this without involving a developer. I think that there are a lot of situations like this where Flow could be useful. A graphical way to drive business logic that can fire off on a save, update, manual, etc.? Very compelling. Note: I pinged an Acumatica developer about this and he was able to get Flow working with Acumatica Web Services in about 15 minutes using a simple business scenario (click here for a post about it). I haven’t taken it any further, but my current impression is that Flow is a standalone thing, not a part of Dynamics 365, that can be utilized by both Dynamics 365 and Acumatica.
- The Power BI philosophy: My favorite thing to date about Power BI is something I learned from the Data Insights Summit this past March. In the hallways of the Power BI office, they have TV monitors which constantly display the most popular feature requests. They saturate their work environment with these priorities and they literally let the market drive the product without all of the closed door we-know-better-than-you meetings that Engineers are famous for. And Microsoft has a large enough customer base to be successful with this approach. As far as I know, Power BI is the first major project that Satya Nadella has been able to build from the ground up and the community-driven approach is my favorite thing about it. Dynamics 365 seems to be taking the same approach and, if it’s successful, I think this will be the biggest reason why.
- The Stack: Always a strength for Microsoft, but a pain to implement in the past from a technology perspective. Azure makes “The Stack” more compelling because most of the technical details become Microsoft’s headache. Although “The Stack” is still a headache when it comes to pricing, especially with Dynamics 365 right now.
- Duct Tape: I personally like duct tape solutions. That’s why I like Access, Excel, and Power BI. You can easily put duct tape on a problem as a power user. 80% of the time it will hold and they are still using the duct tape solution 10 years from now. 20% of the time you need a more solid solution, but the duct tape provides a working prototype for developers to use when crafting a more solid solution. It’s a win/win. Dynamics 365 appears to be taking the Office 365 approach to ERP, just like Power BI took the Office 365 approach with BI. It might be duct tape, but I think it’s good enough 80% of the time and becomes your working prototype the other 20% of the time.
Why I don’t like Dynamics 365
- Microsoft is out to commoditize ERP and turn professionals like ourselves into copier repairmen. I HATE that. They will drive down the price of the software and customers will expect the services to be priced accordingly. Because of this, I hope they fail: some massive Azure outage, a huge security breach, tons of infighting between the various teams at Microsoft, etc. That’s what I’m rooting for.
- As far as I understand it, you now have to be a CSP to sell Dynamics 365 which makes the sales approach more adapted to a Best Buy and less adapted to an implementation firm. This might get a lot of customers in the front door, but will likely lead to a very crowded back door since ERP implementations have always been more about understanding company politics, project management, and business processes than they are about technology.
- I don’t think that Microsoft can do a better job of talking to Accountants than Sage Live or Intacct. And you need to be able to do this to get all of those existing small Dynamics CRM customers to start using Dynamics 365 Financials. But maybe the jump from Dynamics CRM to Dynamics 365 or Office 365 to Dynamics 365 is easier than I think (but I’m skeptical)? Or maybe things will change as the more tech-savvy Millennial accountants who can see passed the marketing fluff begin to dominate the workforce ?
- Why would ISVs trust Microsoft by putting their code into Azure when Satya Nadella has started to acquire a reputation of stealing IP from other software companies?
- Why would VARs trust Microsoft after watching what they did to the price of other Dynamics products? See point #1 under this section.
- Dynamics 365 is priced per user. Much has been written about this, including this article by Sean Chatterjee. I really like Acumatica’s pricing approach here.
- Dynamics 365 is cloud only, but Acumatica allows both. I like having that kind of peace of mind (click here for more thoughts).
- Partners. We both know that successful Midmarket ERP implementations rely heavily on partners like you, but Microsoft really only wants to deal with a few very large partners. That’s why they did the Master VAR program to encourage their channel to consolidate. I just don’t see things working that way in the US Midmarket. It seems to be dominated by smaller firms. And then there’s the nature of consultants. They are opinionated, obstinate, demanding individuals who need a not of latitude and “fresh air” to work. They just don’t do well in large firms. The large firms are more tailored to Tier 1 software and consultants who love red tape, busy work, and living out of a hotel room (did I offend enough people with those sentences?). Seriously though, I don’t think anyone can contest Acumatica’s dedication to the partner channel. The dedication has been pretty steady and consistent since day 1.
Why I’m tweeting about Dynamics 365
- What’s more likely? Someone sees one of my #MsDyn365 tweets and learns that Dynamics 365 exists or someone sees one of my #Acumatica tweets and learns that Acumatica exists? I think that Scenario #2 is far more likely. Besides, does anyone actually read anything on Twitter anymore or is it just a place for marketing people to dump links?
- I use my Twitter feed to help me find things that I have read. It’s like a public notebook for me.
- There is so much public information about Dynamics 365 and it’s so easy to put in my RSS feed, it’s hard to resist tweeting about it.