So What Happened?
Posted by Alan on February 10, 2009
Now that I have had time to calm down, I can write this post and hopefully sound rational and not have my blood pressure rise along with my desire to drive to the airport, buy an airline ticket, fly to Redmond and rip someone a new one. I hope you enjoy it!
Please remember that everything I talk about in this post is my opinion and my opinion only. It is based on my personal observations and interactions and nothing else. Everything I say from this point on could just be a huge, steaming pile of horse dung and I could have it all wrong. I doubt it, but on the rare occasion I have been known to err…
What do I think? It is one of two things. Either upper management within Microsoft does not understand the business applications market space or upper management does not want to be in the business applications market space. Microsoft’s entry into business applications started many years ago with the purchase of Great Plains Software. Eight years is plenty of time to learn this market in detail, even if you are totally inept. You can say many things about Microsoft but they are never totally inept. So to me, that means the only rational conclusion left is that Microsoft just doesn’t want to be in the business applications game. Just so we are all on the same page let me define what I mean by “business applications”. I would classify PerformancePoint as a business application and definately the products under the Dynamics banner. Office I would classify as a productivity tool. SharePoint is 50/50 but most who know it would say it is more platform that it is application.
I believe the people currently in charge are only concerned with platform and infrastructure sales and could not care less about business applications. In fact, I think that they believe business applications actually distracts from the core of Microsoft business. Are they right or are they wrong? I don’t know, but to be fair, compelling cases can be made either way. Ultimately Microsoft has to do what is right for Microsoft. The problem right now is that business applications exists in mental limbo within Microsoft. And by not fully committing or fully divesting themselves of business applications, Microsoft is doing a disservice to customers, partners and other stakeholders.
I first became a Microsoft partner through the acquisition of Great Plains Software, up to that point everything I did somehow tied back to the folks in Fargo, ND. Right away it became apparent that the Microsoft “classic” people (as we called them) just didn’t get it. They were concerned about quantity and not quality and quick, quick sales. I swear that I have met people who would rather have 10 software sales at $25,000 each rather than one single sale at $300,000. And forget about a sale cycle that takes longer than a couple months — if you can’t close it this month then don’t bother me. I had hoped that over time this would get better. It hasn’t. And unfortunately the champions of business applications have slowly, one by one, left the Microsoft fold. The crowd in charge today are those who only want or understand platform and infrastructure.
Think about this. If an organization of any substantial size is going to deploy an new planning/budgeting solution they are not going to embark on the project on a whim. It is like a new ERP system where the ripple effect throughout the organization can be huge. Therefore, it takes some time to decide even if it is something they want to do or not. Once the decision to begin looking is made, then the organization is going to do some research, send out some RFI’s and then some RFP’s and then perform vendor interviews, followed by demos and probably some proofs of concept. And once they finally decide on a vendor, then they have to fit the deployment into the next budgeting cycle. All this takes time and I am convinced that for most large organizations this cycle is somewhere between 12 to 18 months. Considering that PerformancePoint was only released towards the end of 2007 and nobody trusts a v1.0 product from Microsoft anyway — how many sales did they expect by now?!?!?! It is only in the next 6 months that a rational and logical person, who understands business applications, would expect sales and implementations of Planning to take off. I guess those type of people are in short supply at Microsoft.
[Side note: This whole decision won’t help the reputation of Microsoft and v1 products. I know for a fact that we will never ever again touch another v1 from Microsoft.]
Microsoft panicked. They were not going to hit forecasted sale numbers in a big way and were facing the first ever corporate-wide layoffs. The powers that be gave a superficial look at Planning and decided to kill it off. They simply looked at raw sales figures and ignored business cycles, the competition and the pull through of the rest of the Microsoft stack that comes with Planning. I have received feedback from different people who implement Cognos, Hyperion or Business Objects for a living. Those products were competing effectively today against Planning v1.0, but they were scared, very scared, of v2.0 and beyond.
If only Microsoft had some sort of solution that would have allowed them to better analyze their data and the market. Oh wait, they did. Maybe if they had actually used the ProClarity components they bought, rather than just killing them off, they would have seen the goldmine they were sitting on with PerformancePoint Planning.
The fact that even today, weeks after the announcement, they still cannot provide simple answers to simple questions shows that this was not a well thought out decision!!!
Given all that has happened, I really worry about the future of Dynamics. I hope that the next time the keep/kill decisions happen, if Dynamics does not make the cut, then Microsoft will at least take the time to put a plan together to sell off the division rather than just abandon it and leave everyone out in the cold.
Believe it or not this whole thing has made me realize the difference in working with an organization that understands business applications and one that doesn’t. I have also realized how much I actually miss the Ground Round, the Rock, the Northern Exposure, the Old Broadway, and even the Fargo Holiday Inn. I realize that not all of you will understand that last line — it is there for those that do.