directions emea 2018

It was my second time attending a Directions conference (read my 2017 Directions blogs here) – and since last year it appears I have forgotten exactly how much content you learn and consume and have to process over the course of three days. With a fortnight already passed since the Conference the lessons learned have crystallised, and so I now have an even longer to do list than before I went because of all the great things I heard about that impact the TVision message around Business Central.

When I got back to my room at the end of days one, two and three and I sat down to think about what I had learned … it was actually really difficult to decide what to include and what not to include. I could wax lyrical about all of the amazing changes, features and upgrades that our Clients will see in Microsoft Dynamics Business Central, but I’ll leave that to my more technical implementation colleagues. Instead, I’ll share what I have personally learned from a marketing point of view having attended some great sessions about all areas of the Microsoft ecosystem by some of the partners showcased there as speakers and sponsors.

There was a keynote session from Microsoft every morning. Make no mistake, even though this is billed as Microsoft Partners Conference as headline sponsor Microsoft takes this event seriously. I am a little upset that it clashed with Future Decoded – but my colleague Karen attended and she gave us tons of feedback from that. As Partners, we have an amazing opportunity to grow our respective businesses under the Dynamics 365 Business Central banner. With insights from the Microsoft team and all of the other speakers, it is clear that we should all be identifying our own specific business opportunity streams in the near future and make our businesses as strong as possible to accommodate the changes of a world without NAV.

One of the key messages we heard from Microsoft was of the four Dynamics platform benefits: Modern, Unified, Intelligent, Adaptable.

microsoft keynote

Whilst this is a serious event with a serious message, it has not been without humour. The “I tell Charles” item code demo and the observation that Dynamics is suitable for anyone over the age of three definitely made the audience laugh in a Microsoft keynote. That plus the inevitable risk of doing a live demo in front of 2300+ people in the main auditorium ensured that the audience was kept entertained as well as informed.

Let’s go back to the beginning….. Monday morning at 830am the team were all eagerly waiting outside the doors for the keynote. I can’t help myself – when it comes to organising events I always want to arrive early. And I always want a decent seat. Check – objective achieved when we all sat down together with an unrestricted view of the stage. The lights went down and we were treated to an amazing display of futuristic dance by a very talented dance troupe. It finished with the message that the future is now and we all realised that the main themes over the next few days would be machine learning, AI, Intelligent Edge and cognitive learning. After all, this was a message being delivered by Microsoft, a company with an R&D budget like no other and an enormous user base spread across the entire globe.

We then split off into our various streams. Andrea and Jason attended all things technical, Pippa was keen to see what the Leadership sessions would be about, Claudio was keen on the product development sessions as they could relate to Bevica, and Jane attended talks on Project Management and the like, which left me with Sales and Marketing. Now there were a lot of sessions going on concurrently, so we all chose a schedule to fit in with our main business objectives. Luckily post event you can choose to download all of the presentations, so as well as our own sessions, we can also reviews the slides from every single session that took place over the course of those three days.

So with so much to review and report on, I have decided to share my top five marketing lessons that I learned at Directions EMEA 2018. To be honest I could sharing about 55, but I’ll stick to five for now.

Digital Transformation

migrate to the cloud

This is a term that has been bandied around so often that it is losing significance. In reality, all businesses have to consider the implications of digital transformation. Because what business isn’t undergoing digital transformation?! By consciously ignoring this as an objective, you will get left behind. Competitive advantage is something all businesses strive for and one way to ensure this is by giving your clients the red carpet treatment. Ensure they are always happy with the service they are receiving. Which seems obvious really. Also, a stat was shared that 70% of Dynamics users are on an instance older than 2009. And this really surprises me. When the average person receives a message saying their phone operating system needs upgrading, how long would they leave it before clicking accept. A minute, an hour, a day, a week? You wouldn’t wait nine years …… Up to date IT strategy and infrastructure and a supported version of the business critical software that is used day in and day out should be top of the list for any business.

Vendor Project Success

This should not be confused with Customer Project Success. These two are not the same thing because a vendor sees project success differently to a client. For us, there are different elements to success. We see change management as important for clients. After all, an ERP implementation is a complex project and one that some people only get involved with once in a career. Managing change internally is important so we discuss this at the beginning of a project to ensure buy-in across all stakeholders. Employees’ acceptance and participation is so important for project success. It is all too common in a failed implementation to hear employees say: “I’ll just use my backdoor to the old system and do what I’ve always done because I know how it works” rather than learning a new process. And that’s why training is so important. Likewise the Leadership approach to an ERP project is a great indicator for success. If the Leadership understands and communicates the value to all parties involved, then a vendor has a much higher chance of a successful project.

Customer Project Success

After one particular session, whilst I didn’t learn too much – it was great to attend from a “I know we are doing the right at TVision” point of view. Our early conversations are all about satisfying business needs and achieving KPIs by implementing a new solution. We have a thorough FRD (Functional Requirements Document) analysis phase to ensure we consider all old processes, business transformation and future-proofing requirements will be met. The example of every car having wheels and a rear view mirror that was given made an awful lot of sense. All cars have those items. But not every car has the same extras, mpg, reliability, etc. And that’s what we should be focussing on as Partners.

LinkedIn Tips

This session began with some audience participation. We were all encouraged to use our phones to do some online voting. It was interesting to know that I was in the relative minority of the 12% in the audience with a Sales Navigator licence. Much of the session showed ways you can maximise your online presence by using LinkedIn InMails as a communication tool to cut through already heaving inboxes.

Emotional based selling

With a room packed to the rafters we were informed that realistically we should be selling based on emotion rather than cost. Making sure that we offer value to our clients rather than just basing a quote on costs. I am proud to say that we look after our clients really well at TVision – so I think we do the “offer value” piece particularly well already. Our Support Desk is highly effective and we consistently deliver efficient implementation of our ERP projects. So given that all Partners can offer the same solution (apart from our vertical of the drinks industry with Bevica) how can we differentiate ourselves? Value.

Directions EMEA 2019

Next year the event is taking place in Vienna, a city I would absolutely love to go and visit.


 By Danusia Jolliffe – Marketing Manager