Dynamics Matters Podcast Ep 82: How to get more value from Microsoft Business Applications

With special guest Adam Stewart, Business Applications product lead, Microsoft 

✔ Why low code technology can bridge the skills gap

✔ How the 'art of the possible' can direct organisations to success

✔ What you can expect next in Microsoft tooling

Transcript

Welcome to episode 83 of the HSO Dynamics matters podcast.

Your regular sonic dive into the world of Microsoft technology related matters and much more besides.

And I’m your host, Michael Lonnon.

In this edition I grabbed Microsoft Business Applications product lead, Adam Stewart, for a quick chin wag.

I wanted to find out what’s holding organisations back from getting the most value from their business applications and the power platform, and how they can overcome this to create a framework for solving challenges today, and setting up for success in the future.

So, grab a brew, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Michael Lonnon
Adam, tell me a little about your role in Microsoft.

Adam Stewart
So, my role is to go to market manager for Dynamics 365, finance and supply chain categories. So all of our back-office products within our business applications business group. So, in short, my role is to look after the health of the business for how those products are performing, build out our UK strategy and go to market and make sure we're selling properly and then be the bridge between the UK and our global teams for what's coming, what's around the corner, landing programme strategies and sharing back the great work we do here in the UK.

Michael Lonnon
When we talk about business applications, what does Microsoft mean when they talk about Microsoft's business applications? What are they, and what role do they pay?

Adam Stewart
From a product point of view, there's two products set that make it up Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform. But trying to understand it in a business context, it's the software that allows you to do business activity. I really like it, because if you just think about what a business is trying to do, this is where these products come in and help. So, you're trying to sell more, maybe some software to help you understand your customer relationships and contacts, like a CRM system would be good for that. You're trying to manage your finances, your cash flow, your profit, your loss, maybe a finance system is going to help you do that. So, business processes, it's the software that helps you go and execute those. And then the power platform sits across all our low code technology to automate or build quicker, more bespoke, applications on top of and extend the rest of the portfolio with Dynamics 365.

Michael Lonnon
How well known is the Power Platform known?  It's an interesting topic and talked about a lot. I work a lot in public sector but across the board, there is talk of this whole low code, no code, I think it's a bit of a misnomer, but a low code, no code revolution about how organisations can develop applications without bringing in developers. But where does power platform sit?

Adam Stewart
I think people are trying to discover the full value of it as a set, like the terminology and the buzz around it and its keywords definitely built up over the last few years ton of excitement and from Microsoft's point of view, we bank around research that shows the level of I guess, applications and software that needs to be generated over the next few years and the shortage that we actually have in, in technical talent. So low code is a technology answer to not necessarily needing to go and build custom applications with software developers and alike. It's more bespoke and packaged and drag and drop kind of interfaces to go and go and build solutions. But the excitement I guess is it's a little bit chicken and egg of you can do so much where do you start and maybe you need guidance on where to start to get going. You could just throw in and find out where you where you land on your feet, but the last few years all the challenges that we've been facing in markets and economies, I think have really spun up some incredible use cases and examples of how people have been using low code and power platform particularly, whether that's in healthcare services with vaccination tracking, and trying to book appointments to go in and get vaccinated running on low code technology through to commercial organisations using power platform and Power Apps in particular for Return to Work scenarios, who's in the office? How many people have desk, booking space when we were in that that phase of hybrid work of how many people can go into an office organisations didn't want to go and build an application from scratch to manage a new scenario, Low code technology was able to come in and fix some of those. So yeah, when we get thrown into a challenge, I think that's when you start to discover how to best use the technology.

Michael Lonnon
Do you think organisations understand the capabilities or the potential from this type of technology, and how far they can go with it?

Adam Stewart
Certainly, some are pushing the boundaries right now, but, in general, probably not and I think that's true across all of technology. Part of that is just the pace of change, right? We're investing so much in our engineering; the products are constantly evolving, and it takes that collaboration to find out how best to apply this technology and I think that's where Microsoft's strength comes in with, how we like to partner with customers and our partner channel. On top of that, we like to view our relationships as a three-way partnership rather than anything transactional, because we need to work with customers to help them get the full business value of what they're buying and discover the next business problem to go solve and go on that journey together. It's, not always an off the shelf purchase to fix a problem right now, if doing that, you're going to be repairing and replacing in five years when a new problem comes around. Instead, it's an ongoing discovery together to think about what's around the corner, and how to best apply the technology to future problems.

Michael Lonnon
One of the Microsoft's messages I'm hearing is to get more value from the things you've got. So that  feeds directly into the things you're saying. Understand what the business problems are, how they can solve them by bringing in partnerships like Microsoft and their partners to build out where technology can solve these things. So, you're not spending more money on a new technology, and, like you say, having to replace it in five years’ time?

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Adam Stewart
Absolutely. I think there's a couple of angles to this, right. Firstly, is, especially in the world of business applications, if you're not getting value for less, then something's gone wrong with the project. If you're buying a new sales system, you're hoping to increase revenue, so by nature, your revenues going to go up and hopefully your costs go down. With a finance system, hopefully, you're reducing the number of legacy apps, your costs go down, you've got a better understanding of cash flow and actually, you can manage your money better. So, by nature, and by design, there should be business improvement and value from any project. But the other side is trying to then understand, the knock-on consequences that aren't monetary related. So how many hours are you saving for people to go and execute on tasks and activity, if you're putting the power to go and act on let's say, there's a supply chain disruption, you put it in the hands of the person that can go and change a shipment or reorder a shipment to go and act on that right now, because they've got the insight, and they've got the tooling to go do it rather than spending time going up the chain, reporting back and then coming back down with an action, you're saving time you're improving efficiency that may not necessarily be directly monetary, but efficiency, process people, productivity improvements are paramount. We've seen that during the shift to hybrid work, everyone's now adopting collaboration tools. The time now is to go make those collaboration tools also help people do their job better and I think that's going to bring tremendous business value, that won't necessarily directly hit as a financial term straightaway, but will help companies gain a competitive edge no doubt.

Michael Lonnon
What might we see in 2023 from Microsoft's business applications, the power platform, where are we going to go next?

Adam Stewart
All the products will continue to evolve in their in their own right, we're investing heavily into low code technology. A lot of the areas now bringing in Microsoft's AI capabilities and so we've had some great announcements on the supply chain side with the supply chain centre and supply chain platform that brings new visibility and insights into a control tower type scenario, that we're leveraging our AI capabilities above and beyond just completing tasks and activities. But we're also going to see us building on top of our current strength of the whole Microsoft Cloud and how we do tie into those collaboration tools. Microsoft Teams becoming a hub for being able to complete work and things like Viva sales, really highlighting that seller spend 70% of their time in collaboration tools, why can't we enable that tool to help them do some of that sales job, whether it's taking notes, uploading contacts, or even just collaborating with a team around an opportunity in that tool, rather than needing to log off, go into another tool, find the right people, etc. So, I think that harmonisation of letting business applications take a backseat and be the powerhouse in the background, surfacing up through the tools that people are loving and using every day.

Michael Lonnon
Finally, then what advice would you give to an organisation looking to get more value from their investments in our platform in dynamics 365, and whatever they've bought from Microsoft?

Adam Stewart
We've touched already on the art of the possible, how do you discover what challenges you're looking to solve and often what I will tell to customers when I, speak to them, especially when you're face discovery, and speaking with Microsoft partners, don't be afraid to ask questions around art of the possible, around the future and take a moment to be a little bit vulnerable about not knowing what your future challenges might be and what problems you're looking to solve. Because the technology is going to continue to change and there will be different customer scenarios that might solve the problem you've not thought of. So, don't view it as right I've got this project, I've got a predefined list of capabilities and functionality I need, I'm going to go find whatever checks those boxes. I would say take some time to actually think about what is the art of the possible? Is there something new we could do over here and how would we achieve this in the future and ask questions that you wouldn't have thought would be possible right now. It might not be possible today, but I think it's trying to make an investment into what's going to set you up for success in the future. Speaking with Microsoft partners, those stepping stones on that digital transformation, it’s not going to happen in one day and it could be quite scary to think about everything that you could go do over the next 10 years. But once you've got that envision you can then everything that you forward so take that first step with an end goal in mind rather than a bespoke project. Otherwise, you're going to stay in the cycle of rip and replace.

Summary
The big challenge with much of today’s tech is where do you start with it?

The initial problem being to work out what you can do with it today, without locking you out of future considerations. Here we’re coming into what Adam calls: Art of the Possible.

Many of Microsoft’s tools aren’t just about solving one particular problem now because, as Adam suggests, this could leave you needing to rip and replace solutions in 5 years’ time.

Instead – and taking the art of the possible in mind - is there something new you can do over here, but still allows you to ask questions around the future?

It’s a hard thing to think when you don’t know what’s around the corner, but step one is to embrace this Art of the Possible mentality.

Thanks for listening, until next time, take care of yourselves.

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