Computerworld.com March 27, 2007 (IDG News Service) Microsoft Corp. is spending more time soliciting and responding to feedback from users of its Dynamics business applications, according to attendees at the vendor’s recent Convergence show in San Diego.
“They’re getting better,” said Tony Scallon, a business systems analyst for the IT department at Clearwater Seafoods Ltd. Partnership in Bedford, Canada, which uses Dynamics GP. “Microsoft seems to be listening a lot more.”
One new avenue for feedback Microsoft introduced last week at Convergence was a Speak Your Mind video booth with three cameras, in which conference attendees could record their feelings about Dynamics along with their questions for Microsoft executives.
By the time the event, which drew 8,500 attendees, wrapped up late Wednesday, Microsoft said more than 1,250 people had used the booth. After making a recording, attendees were encouraged to put a sticker on their clothing identifying them as having contributed to the video feedback so any Microsoft staffer could engage with them directly at the show.
Scallon was pleased with what he’d seen so far of the next version of Dynamics GP, release 10.0, due out in June, particularly the enhanced security features. Previously, when you added a new user to the system, that individual would have access to the entire product, he said. With Dynamics GP 10.0, a new user on the system will start out with no access to the software and then the IT staff can add in the functionalities the individual needs to do his job.
Five years ago, the small water division of Canadian natural gas utility Terasen, based in Richmond, British Columbia, was weighing whether to deploy Dynamics GP or Dynamics NAV. “We didn’t know what we wanted to be when we grew up,” said Carol Vorster, director of infrastructure services at what became Corix Water Products. Dynamics NAV won out because the software offered more functionality specific to the utilities industry.
Corix has grown the number of its Dynamics NAV concurrent users from 20 to a planned 250 by the end of this year. The company has aggressively increased in size through multiple acquisitions, with total headcount up from 150 to more than 1,000 staff. “We expect to triple in size over the next three years and have no plans to move away from NAV,” Vorster said. “We know NAV could scale for us.”
Corix is in the process of upgrading from C/SIDE, the proprietary database for the original Navision software on which Dynamics NAV is based, in favor of Microsoft’s SQL Server. Moving to the Microsoft relational database will make it easier to scale Dynamics NAV in future.
Microsoft is definitely getting better about listening to Dynamics users, Vorster said. “As a customer, we very much have an open door to Microsoft in terms of our systems requirements,” she added. Vorster is also the president-elect of the year-old Dynamics NAV User Group, which currently numbers around 120 members.
As for Microsoft Dynamics partners, they have also sensed a change in their dealings with the software giant.
SimCrest Inc., based in Richardson, Texas, is a 12-person consultancy specializing in implementations of Dynamics NAV. The company is both a reseller of the Microsoft software and an independent software vendor building add-ons for the ERP software. SimCrest is a Microsoft Gold Partner, a status that gives the company an assigned technical services coordinator and access inside Microsoft all the way up to the vice president level, according to Daniel Vinzant, an executive at SimCrest.
However, he knows not all partners have such access. “Microsoft is bigger than a third-world country,” he said. “If you don’t know someone there, then it’s like dealing with a third-world tourist department. They can do better.”
From what Vinzant is hearing from Microsoft, the company is now actively working to try to provide the same kind of benefits SimCrest enjoys to all of its partners regardless of their level of engagement with the company.
Microsoft has also improved its technical support capabilities. Two years ago, when SimCrest would call with questions, the company might be put through to Dynamics GP engineers who were very friendly but not equipped to handle issues relating to Dynamics NAV. That’s something that doesn’t happen now, Vinzant said.