*Please note updates at bottom of article – May 6th 2015

Dear Microsoft, 

Your Microsoft Convergence is a great conference for people focused on Microsoft Dynamics. I have been to the last 10 Convergences as an attendee, presenter and an exhibitor. From all three perspectives have found it to be a highly valuable event. After reading Anya Ciecierski’s (Cal Business Solutions) article recently I was inspired to add my thoughts.

There has been a great deal of talk recently about planned changes for Convergence 2016. The two main changes as I understand them are:

  1. A change of content focus towards business decision makers – and away from end users.
  2. A further broadening of topics to cover “everything Microsoft” and a significantly reduced focus on the Dynamics Products.

Now I fully support your opinion to create, change and dismantle any event and conference you choose for good reasons, but I would like to give a little piece of advice, if I may.

The life blood of any software community is the end users, the people that use the software day in and day out. These are the people that have been attending Convergence for as long as I have been attending. I meet and shake hands with at least a thousand people every year at Convergence, which I feel is a fair representation of the attendees present. They are all without exception users of Microsoft Dynamics Software.

Convergence should not be a sales conference,  as it is a user conference. The attendees already own Microsoft products and are committed to the cause. They are believers. There is a very small prospect base that attends, but I repeat that is very small, and prospects are inspired by passionate users much more than a pretty PowerPoint.

The people I meet each year want to know what new features are coming in the tools they use. They want to learn from experts as to how they can be more efficient and improve their business system, have lunch with peers and earn from others experiences, learn about other Microsoft tools that can help them, and dig deep into the tools they use by asking the hard questions.

If you have ever had the opportunity to walk past the eOne Solutions Expo Booth at Convergence, you will have noticed that it is nearly always crowded. This year we were directly opposite one of the leading CRM ISV’s (ADX Studio) who are well respected and draw good traffic. However the ADX Studio team commented on perhaps a dozen occasions “What do you do over there? We have never seen so many people visit a booth ever.”

Let me tell you our secret: When we attend Convergence we take our support team, our consultants and our software developers. That’s right, I fly my programmers from Australia to stand on an expo booth for 4 days straight! Why? Because I know that the attendees at convergence DO NOT want to be sold to. They want answers to their questions, they want to dig deep into the products they use, they want to look a developer in the eye and say “You should fix that.” The users want to walk up to my support team and say “Thank you for all the help you gave me last month, you saved my bacon.” They want to find our consultants and say “You know that upgrade was really painful, can you help us with getting it right?” I need my team to hear all of these things direct from the customer.

My customers know that we will have real, everyday people manning my booth that can answer their toughest questions. If they ask to see one of our new products it is a support guy, a developer or a consultant giving the demo. If they have an issue, then I send my best developer to them to find an empty table, dial into their company systems and FIX it right then and there. We refuse to sell, we educate.

Business Decision Makers (as in CEO’s, Presidents, CFO’s, COO’s) do not ask these kind of questions. These people are not at Convergence. They are at home in the office making decisions about their business. Trying to sell more product, growing their teams and putting out fires. Presidents of companies are not interested in Convergence. To be honest they are really not interested in Microsoft. What they are interested in is their own business.

So I would like to make the case that the every day users of software, the people that attend Convergence are the decision makers when it comes to software. If an IT Manager said to the CEO, “we are switching our website to use WordPress”, the CEO would nod and get on with the day. If the Financial Controller said “we are going to roll out management reporter rather than FRX and you’ll get better reports” he would nod and move on. Business decision makers rely entirely on the end users of software, (The Real Business Decision Makers), to choose the technology solutions they use.

So I don’t often beg, but today I will plead with you, Microsoft, to do just one thing specifically for the Dynamics User Community. Love your user community. Build a strong user community. Train your users. Grow Loyalty. Inspire the people that use the software every day. Build really awesome software that helps business grow. Understand that the people attending Convergence want deeper education.

Microsoft Dynamics is a different kind of software solution than most other Microsoft Solutions. When you implement Dynamics it becomes core to running every part of your business. When you implement you likely spend an extra $100,000 to $5,000,000 on your implementation, depending on the product mix you choose. This is spent configuring, training, matching business process, etc. These companies and users become immersed in this software. They live it and they need to know that Microsoft is equally immersed and passionate about Dynamics software.

Convergence has been a place to get inspired. I work with customers on stage each year who are incredibly passionate about their solutions, they take days to prepare presentations to share with other users of the software – all for free. People leave Convergence fired up and ready to make a difference in the way their business uses technology and software, ultimately to change the world.

To conclude this open letter, please take note and set the course to love your Dynamics users. There simply MUST be a Microsoft hosted conference for the users of Dynamics Software. This can be Convergence as we know it or perhaps another event. However, if you want to grow this business and keep loyal passionate users you must have an event. An event for those people that are immersed in this every day. The people that make business decision.  

Also, please do not outsource this event to others to run, for it has to be a Microsoft event. Call the event “Dynamics” and in that event I request a keynote presented from Satya Nadella, where you speak directly on Dynamics addressing the needs of ERP and CRM and discussing AX, NAV, GP, CRM, SL.

Dynamics is great, I just ask Microsoft to show that they think so too.

UPDATE: 6th May 2015

Microsoft recently made an announcement regarding Convergence content here: https://community.dynamics.com/gp/b/gpteamblog/archive/2015/04/30/convergence-2016.  My understanding of this is that from a content perspective they are leaving Convergence as is – but ADDING more content for business decision makers. This is fantastic. I am not sure how much (if any) articles like this influence decision makers, but I am delighted to get some clarification for the positive. eOne is excited and will be at Convergence in our usual large numbers – I hope to see you all there. 

Kind Regards,
Martin Olsen