At the Inspire 2018 partner conference, one of the key messages coming from Microsoft's channel leadership might be summarised like this: the time is now to seize the Dynamics 365 opportunity.
Dynamics 365 - Microsoft's combination cloud CRM and ERP system - saw 65 percent growth during the first three quarters of the company's fiscal 2018 (Microsoft's fourth-quarter results come out Thursday). That makes it one of Microsoft's fastest-growing businesses, even faster than Office 365.
"Over the past 12 months, we've celebrated partner achievement in business applications across the globe," said Alysa Taylor, corporate vice president for business applications and industry at Microsoft, in a blog post. "Building on this progress, we are increasing our investment in partner success for the coming year."
What follows are five key announcements from Microsoft about Dynamics 365.
A surging opportunity
During his keynote at Inspire 2018, Judson Althoff, executive vice president of Microsoft's worldwide commercial business organisation, said that partners often ask him to pinpoint the best product area for launching a new practice with Microsoft. His current answer: Dynamics 365.
"There is no better place to invest than in our Dynamics 365 business today," Althoff said during his keynote. If there's a top area to look at in order "to build forward, and really grow and expand in the next year, without a doubt it's investing in a Dynamics 365 practice," he said.
"We've never had a stronger year than this past one in business applications, and it will only be usurped by this year and the years to come," Althoff said. "It represents tremendous opportunity for all of you."
Training for partners
Microsoft is seeking to assist partners with getting involved with Dynamics 365 - as well as other business applications such as Power BI data visualisation - by offering new training opportunities in the coming year.
At Inspire, Microsoft is announcing that it is now providing free access for partners to the Dynamics online learning environment. Dynamics learning offers a large collection of self-service technical and sales resources, which previously required a fee to access. Additionally, Microsoft is launching a four-day, in-person bootcamp training for partner solution architects that are assigned to a FastTrack engagement.
Business insights for partners
At Inspire, Microsoft is also debuting what it's referring to as a "partner capability indicator," which serves several purposes at once.
The new offering provides partners with telemetry-based business insights, which will enable them to understand the performance and stability of their deployment environments. Ultimately, this will help partners with improving their business decision-making and tracking their success, according to Taylor.
Partners will be able to "look at the overall health of their system once it's implemented," Taylor said in an interview with CRN USA. "Business applications is the first product line to implement this. The intent is to go to other product lines."
Down the road, the indicators will also be used to help partners "receive credit for their role in driving adoption and customer satisfaction," Taylor noted in her blog post.
Incentives: customer acquisition and usage
Microsoft announced it is enhancing available incentives for partners in order to improve profitability with business applications such as Dynamics 365.
At Inspire, the company is disclosing that fiscal 2019 incentives will allow partners to earn between 10 percent and 50 percent more on new customer acquisition for business apps.
Microsoft is also doubling its incentive package for cloud usage and adoption of business app seats, which the company says will allow it to remain at or above competitor rates. The latter incentive is meant to ensure that Microsoft does not just promote the purchase of new seats, but also provides incentives for turning those into active seats, as well as for expanding beyond the initial seat count, Taylor told CRN USA.
A year ago, Microsoft announced special incentives for its salespeople to encourage the co-selling of solutions from Azure partners. At Inspire 2018, Microsoft is bringing field co-selling incentives to Dynamics.
Through the incentives, Microsoft salespeople will receive a 2X multiplier in terms of quota retirement when they co-sell with an ISV partner, Taylor said. "We compensate our field specifically on selling ISV solutions," Taylor told CRN USA. "This is really industry-leading."