Time is flying, and it is over a month ago that I attended Directions NA in Las Vegas - the essential partner conference for all Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central partners in North America. When you visit a conference, a smartphone seems to be everyone's best friend, and I am no exception. I took a zillion of pictures. Last weekend, I showed a friend some impressions from Las Vegas and came across four pictures that are very meaningful to me. With that distance to the conference, I actually noticed how meaningful they are to me (and why) and decided to share in a blog post.
#1 Teamwork rules
In 2012, 2013 and 2014, I was the only one from my company to attend Directions in the US. At that time, Dynamics NAV was new to us, and our focus was on getting up and running in EMEA. In 2015, 2016, 2017, and last year, we came with a team of two.
This year, we sent four people to Directions NA (and for the first time, we became a silver sponsor). It was me (CEO) as a kind of a "Directions veteran" (at least from the perspective of my company). Also, I brought three colleagues with me as first-time attendees: Our CTO Sascha and our new hires Paulina and Lawin, who both joined us as Business Development Managers to help our Dynamics 365 Business Central partners succeed and grow with our visual scheduling add-ins. This picture is so meaningful to me as it sends a couple of overwhelming messages:
- Directions is hard work. However, it is fun as well (as everybody who attended Directions might acknowledge). Moreover, it is much more fun if you can share your joy with an inspiring team. This fact alone made my day.
- Our growing headcount at Directions reflects our increasing commitment for our Dynamics 365 Business Central (and NAV) related business. By now, it has become the growth engine for our company, and we are fueling this growth by continued investments into our product development. Here is a figure I share in my presentation in Las Vegas: we grew our stake (counted in staff-days) into visual scheduling product development for Business Central / NAV from Q1 2017 to Q1 2018 by a whopping 94%. From Q1 2018 to Q1 2019, we ramped up that investment by another 104%.
- Last, but not least: look at the picture! Two Germany, one Mexican, one Filipino. That's no surprise. Although a relatively small company, we've always been serving international clients. Over the past years, we've been increasingly making "we love variety" a cornerstone of our company culture. As of now, we employ 30 people from 10 countries. For us, variety and diversity are not just gender or race. It's about a variety of background and mindset. We accept that this is not easy, but it helps us get comfortable with the uncomfortable. The variety of our people helps us to become a better company. I cannot express how much I love this.
#2 Microsoft Dynamics was never a better 'place to be'
We are an ISV to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. If you build and sell products for other vendors' products and platforms, you make yourself pretty much dependent on both the platform and the vendor. A few years ago, the future of the family of Dynamics products looked a bit dizzy. It was somewhat unclear, in which direction Microsoft would go with these products. There were also doubts if and how these products (and the related SMB market segment) would be of strategic importance to Microsoft.
Well, things seem to be super obvious right now. It requires just one slide to prove this assessment. Have a look! In my view, this is Microsoft's core slide to communicate the power of their cloud strategy and platform(s):
- with Microsoft Azure (= cloud infrastructure)
- with Microsoft 365 (= productivity apps for everybody)
- with Dynamics 365 Dynamics (= business apps for any organization)
Not only, that no other of the large software vendors can provide their customers and partners with an equally complete cloud offering. Even better: Dynamics 365 is shown and communicated as the central part of this cloud strategy.
As a consequence, we've seen Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central developing, taking shape, and growing at a rapid pace. If you - like us - build on something which changes that agile, you sometimes feel as being in a race in which you never can catch up. However, to me, this is a "luxury problem". The Dynamics 365 platform is the platform on which we base a substantial degree on our company's growth plan. For us, it is of significant advantage that this platform enjoys a strategic positioning as well as rapid development and growth. If things were different, our strategic position would be reasonably smaller.
#3 We have a lot to say ... and folks like what they hear
Of course, we did not only attend Directions NA to have fun as a team, and to observe what Microsoft is doing. We decided to play an active role there as well with two booths and a speaking slot. In our session, we spoke about "visual scheduling and more". It was one of five sessions to happen in parallel.
I believe everyone who sponsored a speaking slot agrees that the nightmare is a super hot parallel session making nobody show up at your presentation. I am excited that this was not the case this year. We had a full room with a lot of existing partners, but also quite a bit of new faces.
Even better: the audience was very engaged, and we received many questions and also great endorsements about what we are doing with visual scheduling for Dynamics 365 Business Central.
In particular, we showed our work-in-progress with bringing our visual scheduling add-ins as apps to AppSource:
- the Visual Production Scheduler - for an easy drag & drop production scheduling
- the Visual Job Scheduler - for an easy drag & drop project and resource planning
By the way: both products now are almost "code complete" and we are about starting the AppSource validation process. You can see the preview in the webinar we gave on May 2, 2019.
In addition to this, we also were able to surprise the Business Central community with a brand-new product:
- the Visual Advanced Production Scheduler, which brings visual advanced production scheduling as an extension to Business Central. (which was previewed in the webinar on May 16, 2019)
The latter brings me to the subtle, but the significant highlight of this photo: Have a close look. This year, I did not do the presentation alone. With me on stage was James Crowter, MD of Technology Management from the UK, and the UK's only Microsoft MVP. Earlier this year, when a product called PlannerOne was announced as being "end-of-life", James and I decided to join forces.
James and his team bring 25+ years of experience with Business Central and NAV manufacturing clients as well as a profound knowledge of the PlannerOne product. In turn, we at NETRONIC have been developing visual scheduling software for more than 30 years and already have a well-established network of 300+ international NAV/ Business Central resellers. Hence, we thought that one plus one would equal three and brought the Visual Advanced Production Scheduler to life. It is a co-development of both TecMan and NETRONIC, but a NETRONIC-branded product which will be solely sold through NETRONIC's international partners.
#4 Friendship rules. Nothing more to say
I like the image to speak for itself. Here is just a short background: We all go to conferences for business. Of course, business is about making money.
To me personally, there are a few "things" that are more meaningful than making money, and business: my wife, my sons, my family, and my friends.
What could be more exciting than traveling abroad, attending a conference, and - over the years - make friends? Moses de los Santos, working for Armada Dynamics, has become a friend over the years. He is not just a superb American representative of his Norwegian employer and a fantastic guy to hang around with. Moses is a photographer by heart and soul.
When we met in Las Vegas, he made me speechless with gifting me this stunning photo which he took. This is an unforgettable memory. Thank you so much, my friend!
So, these are my top 4 images I took at Directions, and the top 4 memories I made. Although Directions were more than a month ago: what were your top memories? Please share in the comments below.