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My Dynamics 365 Business Central priorities for Microsoft in 2021

by James Crowter
Managing Director, Clever Dynamics

I am late, I know. 2021 is a third gone already, but after reviewing progress against my 2020 list recently, so many items have been cleared off that a new list seemed a must do. After all, we do not want Microsoft to think that they can slacken off, do we? Not when we are on the cusp of the type of dominance that Microsoft enjoy in so many other sectors.

So, what are my strategic imperatives for Dynamics 365 Business Central? What do they still need to do? I hope my list this time starts as much of a debate as last time. I’m not arrogant enough to believe it is totally right. Everyone has an opinion, but if this gets it expressed AND Microsoft are listening, then we will all win.

1. Improve Business Central's marketing and positioning

OK, it’s been bad for years, I wouldn’t argue if you said it was decades.  If you don’t know what I mean, then just go to and try to find any reference to Business Central at all. Sure, if you get to the Business Central page, it’s there. 

Although I often wonder what my friend Sharka Stuyt at Inspiro Services would say to them in private.  Have Microsoft taken on board the recommendations she’s been making to partners on their behalf for years now? If my dream came true and she got Alysa Taylor’s role at MS, I suspect we would see change very quickly.

Clearly, the pages that the Business Central / Small Medium Business teams control are massively better than the treatment by the rest of Microsoft, where Business Central is relegated to a sort of "we're not sure what to do with this" position, if it is referenced at all. While Microsoft express intensions to increasing their SME focus as they realise the potential, they continually miss the jewel in their crown.

It needs a complete revamp, selling ‘technology’ the way they successfully have in the enterprise will not bring success even in the mid-market. They have an unparalleled business portfolio but fail to explain why and how to the non-techie decision makers in smaller businesses. Subscription has packaged solutions so that this level can afford it, all they must do is communicate why they should want it.

It is just disappointing that Microsoft do not compete. Try a google search for any term that might be used for ERP; NAV and Navision still come out higher that Business Central once you get past the paid partner or, worse, competitor entries.

2. Skills Development

Despite the lack of backing by Microsoft Corp., the product succeeds thanks to end users loving it and partners filling the gaps. That growth in Business Central wins has led to a chronic shortage of skilled people. The pandemic reduced demand for three months in 2020 but it’s back now and more extreme than ever, with every candidate having multiple offers, some without interview.

I know some at Microsoft have seen the ‘templated implementation methodology’ as a way to sign up more subscriptions without solving this issue and I have no doubt that it has a place in the ecosystem. I believe, though, that it’s starting to make the demand for expertise higher.  That is because a lot of the organisations that used this approach to get started now want to go further having reached the limits of the templates.

As this approach scales to more geographies, the templates get more sophisticated and verticalized. Then mix in more standard add-ons from AppSource etc., and these organisations really start to get the benefits and aspire to become the totally digital trailblazers. That is when they become willing to pay experts keep that progress rolling, meaning that limited talent pool of experts get stretched even further.

Full marks for MS Learn: 274 online course is massive effort. Credit for reintroducing a Business Central MCP exam with MB-800. Removing the licence requirements for development with the obsolescence of the solution developer granule and free custom objects for SaaS customers are also great moves.  

Trouble is that too many Microsoft subsidiaries still focus on infrastructure training when SaaS applications are making that need shrink. SMEs will not invest unless they are sure of the return, and that means showing them how those applications apply to their business. Compare the amount of Dynamics training delivered, to everything else, it’s still tiny. They need to be ahead of this demand curve, not behind it.    

The training available right now does not explain why, just how, and that gap is wide for most end users to have the time to bridge. They want the results, so they look for business consultants who can discuss the multitude of fabulous options Business Central is capable of and guide them to their nirvana. Without that advice, they just do not have the confidence or patience to invest.

Microsoft need to lead the community in investing in a long-term mass skills programme in every region. It will take commitment from partners, end-users, as well as MS. Even governments should be roped in due to the implications for regional and national productivity. That means it will  the approach will need to be different in every country but those that succeed will have higher GBP growth as a reward.

If we can accelerate closing that skill gap, then I believe we will see more than 100 percent growth in a single year. Just my company turns down many more prospective clients than we take on due to limited capacity, and I know most other partners here are doing the same. We need massive mutual investment in time and money to solve this issue. The chance at market domination is there if we do.

3. Reward long-term performance

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About James Crowter

I'm passionate about how businesses can improve their efficiency by getting process optimal more of the time. For the last twenty five years I've worked to help organisations of all sizes and types implement the ERP & CRM software that typically they decide they need when things are going wrong. I've seen that work unbelievably well and enabled those organisations to rapidly grow but I've also had some hard projects over that time where it's felt more like warfare at times.

Since 1996 (and version 1.01) I've been working with a small Danish product called Navision that's now become Microsoft's Dynamics NAV and I've also been using and consulting around Microsoft CRM since 2005. As managing Director of one of the longest established first Navision and now Microsoft Dynamics partners I've been involved in the complete history including numerous product councils and system design reviews. It's my privilege to know many of the key Microsoft executives and product designers and have insight into both where the products are now and their future direction.

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