Upward Expectations Of Microsoft Dynamics Customers
Microsoft is relatively unique amongst ERP providers in that they rely heavily on partners for sales and marketing. In fact, they are the most mature company that does so. Resellers of Microsoft Dynamics regularly find themselves "in the trenches," meeting customer demands and structuring their businesses to best reflect those ever-changing needs. The truth is many VARs do not like to call themselves "VARs" at all. To them, being a VAR means that they simply sell the Microsoft product as a third-party. In reality, many of these companies are consultancies first and foremost, offering Microsoft Dynamics solutions because they are able to address their customers' concerns better than other solutions.
That being said, it is impossible to extricate the Dynamics focus from these VARs, particularly due to the ubiquitous and varied nature of Microsoft products. Further, directives from Microsoft affect these businesses both directly and indirectly. The Master VAR program, which enables smaller Dynamics partners to latch on to larger ones, serves as an example of a directive from on high. In addition, Microsoft can influence customers to purchase one flavor of Dynamics over another through their current expenditure of marketing and R&D dollars. Andrew Snook, President of FastPath Solutions, a provider of audit, compliance and security solutions for Dynamics, has noted a push for Dynamics AX based on such activity.
"The AX-side has grown faster than we expected," said Snook. "We've had more than a few people engage us in request-for-proposals against SAP and Oracle. We've seen more people take AX into consideration. We're busy because of the effort Microsoft is putting into the growth of AX, so it's been great for us."
The customer is responsible for the activities of VARs and consultancies. So, what does the modern customer want in light of Microsoft's push for a flagship product in the form of Dynamics AX (and, to a slightly lesser extent, Dynamics CRM)? It seems that customers have responded relatively well to their efforts. While it is certainly the case that Dynamics AX does not necessarily fit all companies, more and more businesses have expressed an interest in the enterprise-level software, whether they will use all of its functionality or not.
Tony DiBenedetto is CEO of Tribridge, one of the largest VARs in the Dynamics space and one of three US-based Master VARs. According to DiBenedetto, "I don't believe the old VAR model works with what customers want now, and customers have gone up-market demanding higher-level consulting with expertise." Customers are not necessarily looking for enterprise-level functionality, but enterprise-level expertise.
Of course, it is not necessary to purchase Dynamics AX to receive top-of-the-line implementation and service expertise. Microsoft is trending towards the verticality of the Master VAR so that prospective customers only need to turn to one expert source before being directed to the product that will solve their needs.
Businesses require a solution that matches a specific business problem, and they also want to know that their software will remain supported and relevant moving forward. Because of this, I believe that Microsoft is making the correct move in their transition to a select few larger resellers made up of sub-VARs. Businesses need assurance of personal consideration and expertise before gambling on software that is unnecessarily complex or, even worse, unable to address all their business concerns.