Small Partners and the new MPN Requirements

The New Hope:
The new requirement for the MPN (Microsoft Partner Network) have many small partners (including myself) start questioning whether Microsoft cares about them at all. It seems like the new requirements are designed to have one specific interest in mind: to get rid of small partners. From a business perspective (meaning the perspective of executives and/or MBAs with no experience running a NAV business), that seems to make sense. Focus more resource on the top revenue generators in the channel because they’re the one making money for Microsoft, eliminate or reduce the resource that are available for the small partners that produce little for Microsoft.

Doing this, the hope is to drive in more revenue, while reducing overhead and cost. Everybody wins. Yeh!

The Reality:
As many of you know, I run a small Navision shop here in Los Angeles, California. Each year, we get 1 maybe 2 new NAV deals. Customers that does business with us, stays with us and continues to invest in Dynamics NAV in the form of new granule purchases and being current on the enhancement plan.

Through the years, I’ve purposely kept my company small. Why? It’s a long list, here are a couple off the top of my head:

1. I’m not interested in headaches of running a large company
2. I’m don’t want to deal with employee politics
3. I don’t like overhead (I believe optimal size of a NAV company is 5 or LESS. One is ideal)
4. I’m not interested in upkeeping a sales and marketing department
5. I want to keep the quality of the products that we deliver
6. I’m not interested in selling products/services that customers don’t need
7. I want to keep the personal relationship I have with my customers
8. I want to keep the personal relationship I have with the people that works for me

And, I believe at the end of the day, the difference in what the staff at AP Commerce brings home now vs. if we were a large solution center, may not be all that different. If there is a difference, I don’t believe the difference is enough to have an impact on our current lifestyle.

Given that, why the bother with the headaches?

The majority of our business is recovering failed implementations and helping customers that hates the system love it again. In another words, we keep customers and business from hating Microsoft for the remainder of their natural life. We make business want to invest in Microsoft again.

Any now they want to get rid of me?

In addition, one of the best developers I know in NAV, Per Mogensen (owner of, recently came out and started his own company to better serve customers and the channel. With the new MPN requirements, there would be no way for him to do that. This is a monumental loss. Yes. Monumental.

The Cleansing:
So this year at Directions US 2010, I had a chip on my shoulder. I couldn’t depend on the Directions committee or the advisory board because the body only consisted of people from large solution centers. They are naturally going to be protecting their own interest.

What’s interesting from the Directions keynote by Michael Park was that they have no intention of getting rid of partners because they realize that partners are the lifeblood of their success. This was all quite confusing.

Since Michael Park was no where to be found after the keynote (I think he sensed I was coming), I had to approach another Microsoft senior manager to get some answers.

The place where I met him (shall be nameless since I don’t know if he’ll get in trouble) was quite noisy. He basically broke it down one of the key intentions of the new MPN requirements:

New Small Partners that Sell – Since the requirements to be a NAV partner is so easy. A lot of greedy IT folks are trying to catch the success of NAV. So they would go into a site, make insane promises just to make the sell, crap out, and dissappear into the night with the customer’s money. While not as big of problem in the US, it’s a huge problem (from what I heard) in Europe.
Internal Companies – Companies with large IT department can get around purchasing a license by certifying their own IT department to become a NAV partner.

In that regards, yes, get rid of those partners. People shouldn’t be selling NAV if they don’t know what they’re doing. Companies should be purchasing license instead of becoming a NAV partner just to get the license.

The third partner they intend to get rid of are what are termed “lifestyle partners“. Unfortunately, he didn’t finish describing what lifestyle partners are. From the few words he described, it seems to fit the description of our company. In another words, partners that don’t really sell. Before I could extract additional information from him, he had to leave to perform on stage (which I missed…).

A New New Hope:

There are flip sides to all intentions. I guess having the barrier to entry into NAV set so low, we’re really allowing unethical behavior to more easily occur. However, there are a ton of smaller partners out there who’s sole purpose is to pick up unhappy customers and make them happy again, and THAT has to translate into concrete dollars for Microsoft.

Make no doubt about it, small partners are an absolute key in the success for NAV. Forget NAV, the whole partner channel. Too bad the MBAs of the world does not understand that.

So I guess there’s really a delima on what to do next. On one hand, you’re risking your lifeblood with this partner “purge”, and on the other hand, you want to protect the credibility of the product.

Sucks to be a Microsoft executive right now.

Recap of Directions US 2010 for Dynamics NAV (Navision)

This is an overview of my experiences at Directions US 2010. Again, Directions US 2010 is THE place to be at if you’re interested in learning any new for Dynamics NAV (Navision).

The biggest difference that I noticed on this conference is Microsoft’s presence. But the biggest presence is not about showcasing the latest technology, or talk about how good the product is. Rather, it’s open forum where you can meet and interact with the product team, managers, AND executives! I have to say that I’ve never attended a Microsoft conference where you can so freely interact with all levels of the NAV team. We get to hear opportunities and concerns from all levels in the NAV organization; which is pretty cool!

Let’s start with the Keynote. As may of you may know from my last blog post at Directions, I got in trouble because I posted some numbers that were not meant for the general public. So this year, they were a little more careful abour releasing the numbers. Here are the key points on Dynamics NAV:

– Dynamics NAV is the #1 Revenue generator for the Dynamics product family
– It has the largest presence for ERP partners on the Partner Network
– Despit the economic downturn, the growth of NAV has been on a steady increase!

The last point just blew my mind! Even in an economic downturn, companies are still investing in ERP software, and more specifically, into NAV. Not just that, NAV grew in the economic downturn! This just shows you what a great product Dynamics NAV is and how good the parnter network that stands behind it is.

One other huge point is that Kirill (the head guy for Dynamics) is not under the business solution division anymore. He now reports directly to Steve Ballmer (the head of Microsft). This means that the Dynamics business is now significant enough that now warrants Steve Ballmer’s direct attention.

The demo on Dynamics NAV 2009 R2 has been showcased. There are couple of interesting things:

– Visual representation of data – The demo they showed is the new Item Availibity screen. It’s a visual representation on the stock level. You can click the chart and have the system generate a new purchase order based on the user input. In addition, this screen now takes into account forecast as well!

– RTC (Role Tailor Client) over the WAN – With R2, the users can now use the RTC over the WAN. This means that you can have remote offices and sales people take advantage of the the full functionalities of the RTC without the limitations of using remote desktop and/or terminal server.
There was an image of Dan Brown using the FULL RTC on an airplane 38,000 feet above ground.

– Most of the add-ins in the demo video are now in the base R2 product. Frankly, this should’ve been in there in SP1.

Interesting ISV:

Jet Reports – They’re an adhoc reporting tool using Excel. The Jet 2010 product has been greatly enhanced and there are a lot more templates and a easier user interface to start using the product. Some may even make the case that you don’t need to be good in Excel anymore to create nice reports in Jet. Comes with some very nice standard reports.

Centerline Pivotier – They’re a reporting tool as well. However, their approach is very different from Jet Reports. Their approach is to leverage the existing Microsoft product in SQL (that you already own and use) to generate nice reports. This product is a little more techincal, but easy enough to train end users. Also comes with some very nice standard reports.

Software-as-service (SaaS) companies – The whole concept of going to Cloud Computing. Believe it or not, NAV has a cloud model. And some of these SaaS companies that have booths at Directions are showing how it can be done.

Session of the Conference:
I have to say the sessions I enjoyed the most are the interactions with all levels of the Dynamics NAV team. From product managers to executives. It’s very valuable that they ARE taking into account on what we are saying about the product and ARE putting our input into releases.

I also got answers on why the tougher new MPN requirements. As a small partner, it seems that they’re trying to get rid of me, along with other smaller partners that has really been the lifeblood of why NAV was successful int eh first place. However, upon getting into a deeper conversation with an executive, I now fully understand why (my next blog topic).

Interesting Note:
I got more than a few people coming up to me. Not because they saw my blog or saw my posting on mibuso or They know me because because I was the “dissonant” voice in these Microsoft sessions. I spoke what, in their opinion, needed to be said. I guess when you’re really passionate about something, you fight tooth and nail to preserve it. Or make it better.