Making the complicated simple

It’s in the nature of marketing people to get quite excited about ‘new stuff’.

After all, new stuff gives us lots to talk about, blog about and allows us to share the wonders of what can now be achieved with technology.

Recent months have kept us busy with a steady stream of new tools and features in Office 365.

It’s been a challenge but we’re doing our best to help our customers keep up and understand the potential value for their businesses.

My esteemed colleague, Tony Hughes, has recently written about how these new technologies are actually changing the role of IT within business, as the concept of ‘digital transformation’ gathers pace.

Sadly, there are times when ‘new’ becomes rather confusing. And I’m actually talking about people who understand technology and work with it on a daily basis.

If that’s the case, then it seems reasonable to assume that anyone out there in the real world (outside of our bizarre techno-bubble – or perhaps that should be techno-babble) will really struggle.

And struggle translates into switching off and missing out on the solutions that could make a massive difference to success.

By its nature technology can be complex, but that’s no excuse for making it complicated to engage with in the first place (especially not when ‘user experience’ has become a watchword).

So, let’s have a look at a couple of examples.

The first is Dynamics 365.

The hype around D365 has been immense. And there’s little doubt that it will ultimately be a gamechanger.

However, unravelling the current mystery of Dynamics 365 is quite tricky.

At the core, it’s actually made up of 4 different elements.

There’s an Enterprise version – made up of 2 core elements.

And for what Microsoft now refer to as SMC (small, medium and corporate) there is the Business Edition – again made up of 2 core elements.

Much of the hype has been around the Business Edition but technically it’s not available to buy yet.

Many businesses who have already deployed Dynamics 365 are, in fact, using Dynamics CRM Online which has effectively been subsumed into D365 Enterprise – as one of the two core elements.

Even this isn’t as straightforward as it might seem considering there are three separate solutions that make up this element of D365; sales, customer service desk and marketing, as well as premium features such as voice of the customer and customer portal. The marketing element is actually delivered as a tie-up with Adobe Marketing Cloud.

As far as the Business Edition is concerned, when it finally lands, we believe the core elements will be Finance and Sales, with a more powerful version to follow, bringing broader functionality across Operations.

It’s pretty clear from what we’ve already seen that there’s some clever and exciting functionality, and the integration that allows core tasks to be completed within Outlook will have a major impact on productivity and good old user experience.

At the moment, it’s unclear how much of the Enterprise-level LinkedIn integration will cascade down into the Business Edition, but it would be a glaring omission if it isn’t included.

Arguably more important than features and functionality, D365 will usher in a new approach to deploying business systems.

Historically, upfront investment both in terms of cash and the time required to scope, define functional requirements, design and deploy could be either a barrier to change, full stop, or at least impose a significant level of inertia.

D365 will be at its best when businesses take an iterative approach; prototyping, testing, evolving.

Combined with the subscription pricing model and minimal level of commitment required, this approach will significantly reduce the cost of entry.

For those with a substantial ERP legacy (a hangover from the days when systems tended to be rather overbuilt) or complex requirements (albeit often more perceived than real), Dynamics 365 might not be the answer.

At this point, it’s probably time to pause for breath. After all, we’re now not only talking about new technologies but a new approach to deploying them.

This is one of the key reasons we’re continuing to take our Futuretech events around the country and support them with webinars on specific topics that should undoubtedly be on the agenda for most businesses. Sign up now to see Dynamics 365 in action.

In fact, whilst we’re going to cover D365 as part of the wider digital transformation agenda at Futuretech, we’re also running a specific webinar on Dynamics 365 in advance for those with a specific interest or who can’t make it to the venues in Newcastle, London and Manchester. Sign up now.

One final note, to keep everything balanced, is that the capacity to confuse is not restricted to Microsoft. Sage recently released its new Sage 200c and we’ll also be running events and webinars to help bring clarity to what the ‘c’ will actually mean, especially considering the planned future integration with Office 365. We’re giving you an exclusive preview of this Office 365 integration in our event, Achieving digital transformation with Sage 200c – don’t miss out.

I think it might be time for a lie down!