ORLANDO, Fla.-Despite the revolving door management history at its Dynamics applications division, Microsoft is steadfastly committed to the Dynamics brand.
That’s the message Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer imparted to the 9,500 Dynamics partners, customers and potential customers in attendance at this year’s Convergence conference:
Dynamics is Microsoft’s brand for its four ERP (enterprise resource planning) suites and its constantly iterating-as in delivery mechanisms-CRM suite.
The division, collectively, has seen a succession of management changes at the top. In January, Jeff Raikes, a huge proponent of Dynamics, resigned as president of the Business Solutions groups that oversees Office and Dynamics, leaving the top spot to Stephen Elop, and the Dynamics division to Kirill Tatarinov.
Tatarinov had been leading the Dynamics group for all of six months when Raikes left.
In the past two years the Dynamics division has seen Doug Burgum, Satya Nadella, and Tami Reller (as interim head of Microsoft Dynamics) vacate leadership roles, earning Dynamics the well-deserved “orphaned child” title in the blogosphere.
Not only has there been repeated management changes, as late as last year the company did a major about face in its strategy, code-named Project Green, to unify the code base of the four disparate ERP suites.
Instead, Microsoft said it would “converge” the suites through a common technology platform comprised of its own technology stack-SQL Sever, Visual Studio, BizTalk Server, Workflow Foundation and others. Not a bad idea, but not a cohesive strategic message either.
And all that change to the Dynamics strategy over the past several years doesn’t mean a lick at Microsoft, according to Ballmer.
“The biggest decision-unless we close the deal with Yahoo-I’ve made as a CEO was pushing into the business applications area,” said Ballmer during Wednesday’s keynote address. “It’s one of the best decisions, the most important decisions, I’ve ever made and it’s the reason that brings us all here today. I am darned excited about what we’ve done, what we can do and our commitment to business applications. That decision is one I want to highlight today.”
Ballmer outlined the history of Microsoft’s mission as defined by founder Bill Gates early in the company’s history: a computer on every desk in every home. That message has evolved over the years to include one of enabling people and businesses to realize their full potential. The lynchpin to that mission statement, according to Ballmer, is Dynamics.
“Part of that is a computer in every home, but part of that relates to the ‘people ready business,'” said Ballmer. “As we sit here today we will talk a lot about business processes, what you are trying to do in your business, and what we can do to help. At the end of the day, are we getting more done, more effectively and are my people better able to do their jobs than before? Are we being better and smarter in the supply chain and with work processes? That’s what brings us here today.”
Ballmer pointed out that as a global business with various product lines, Microsoft empathizes with what’s going on in businesses today-globalization, a complicated supply chain, more M&A, and an increasing scope of compliance obligations. The best way for companies to deal with those challenges, according to Ballmer, is through software that enables people to work effectively through a number of delivery channels-and that means Software Plus Services, in Microsoft’s parlance.
Another aspect of enabling the workforce, in Microsoft’s point of view, is providing roles-based user interfaces at the application level. The other is in integrating Dynamics applications with the rest of Microsoft’s stack to enable collaboration and information sharing; utilizing environments users are comfortable and familiar with, like Office, Word and Excel. Ballmer talked about providing a bridge to connect business applications with personal computing.
“How do you let people collaborate in a way that interfaces to their line of business? How do you pull an invoice out of the system, e-mail it around, annotate it, collaborate on it and put it back in the system? All this lives in the space between productivity and the apps platform,” said Ballmer. “We think adding value in the white space from a business point of view – or Office and SharePoint – is the biggest value add we can bring.”
However, before Microsoft can tap the tremendous potential of bringing its Dynamics line of applications together with the rest of its technology stack, it’s got to get its act together with the Dynamics business, analysts say.
“The constant revolving door at the top of Dynamics has called into question their commitment to the kind of continuity you need to make a business viable,” said Joshua Greenbaum, principal of Enterprise Applications Consulting.
“Microsoft continues to make efforts to show how viable [Dynamics] is, but it’s hard to imagine. How would you run any other business if you kept changing the CEO every six months?”