The quick overview
In this episode of Digital Adoption Talks our hosts Joachim Schiermacher and Rick McCutcheon has invited Microsoft MVP and COO of DSWi Mr. AJ Ansari to talk about digital adoption strategies and we touch upon the general landscape of digital adoption. The panel will also take a look at how the Microsoft Partners can be ahead of their competitors when it comes to digital transformation and digital adoption strategies.
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The full transcript
Digital Talks Episode 2: Microsoft MVP AJ Ansari
[00:00:00] Rick McCutcheon: Hello everybody. My name’s Rick McCutcheon. I’m a Microsoft Dynamics Business Application MVP, and I wanna thank you for tuning into Digital Adoption Talks. Today there are over 300,000 business professionals with digital adoption in their title on LinkedIn. On this show, along with my co-host Joachim Schiermacher, CEO of ClickLearn, we talk to some of the leading digital adoption experts in the Microsoft ecosystem.
This week we are thrilled to be talking to Microsoft MVP, AJ Ansari, who happens to be the Chief Operating Officer for DSWI, formerly known as Dynamic Southwest, and a board member for the Business Central User Group community. Good morning gentlemen. Let’s start our conversation with an introduction and we’ll go to Joachim first.
[00:01:00] Digital Adoption product for entire Dynamics space
Joachim Schiermacher: My name is Joachim, as you already stated, Rick. So I’m the CEO of ClickLearn. We are a digital adoption and training company. We have a single product that we delivered to the entire dynamic space. And we are working closely with partners in making sure that the digital adoption opportunity gets out to as many clients as possible.
Rick McCutcheon: Okay. Thank you. And AJ, we’re excited to have you today because we’ve talked, you and I have talked online before about these types of subjects, and I know both of us, the user communities are very close to our hearts and what we do. So I think you’re going to be a great guest.
So tell us a little bit about yourself.
[00:01:30] Advocate for User Group Community and Dynamics 365 Business Central Channel
AJ Ansari: Thank you for having me here, Rick. My name is AJ Ansari. I think you’ve done a great job of introducing me, but I’ll I’ll add a couple little bit to it. Besides my role at DSWIas you’ve mentioned I am a big advocate for the user group community.
I’ve been involved with the user groups. And with the Dynamics 365 Business Central Channel for a very long time. I think I’ve been in the channel now going on 15 years and have been with the user group community since almost the very beginning. I’ve learned a lot from them in the beginning, and I think now it’s my turn to give back and that’s what I see my role as.
[00:02:03] AJ Ansari: Microsoft MVP for Business Central
I’m a Microsoft MVP for Business Central. I think a lot of that is a result of that strong sense of evangelism I have for the product that is Business Central and formerly Dynamics NAV. Besides my time with the user group over the course of the year where I participate in events, I also love talking at and presenting content at conferences.
So you’ll find me at Directions and in Days of Knowledge Nordic that’s coming up in Denmark. And all pretty much if it’s got Business Central in the name, you’re probably going to find me with some topic talking on it.
Rick McCutcheon: Okay, great. Thank you AJ. So let’s kick off our conversation really talking about we’re coming outta the last couple years of this Covid pandemic and everybody, all of a sudden we’re all working in our offices and we had to spread out quick and we’re seeing lots of new applications being quickly developed, especially in our world with things like power apps to saying, okay, this is how we’re going to do it now.
[00:03:00] So how did organizations cope with this rapid change needed for digital adoption strategies, and did the user community get left behind?
Joachim Schiermacher: I think that one of the really true outcomes of the pandemic was that we saw an extreme increase in the amount of this transformations going on, and companies were really trying to get in front of that in terms of their digital adoption strategies.
And I think that the most interesting outcome from my perspective is actually the idea of the composable enterprise. Where instead of having your monolithic major systems being rolled out. That covered basically all the business capabilities. We saw smaller solutions, best-of-breed solution being packaged in and connected using APIs, and that’s a very large increase.
[00:04:00] 40% increase in number of apps deployed by organizations
I recently read a survey by Okta where we are now at a round 40% increase in the number of applications deployed by any organization. And that goes for large organizations around a hundred and seventy four, five apps on average being rolled out in large organization. And I think the numbers are a little lower for smaller organizations, but still are a staggering 73 apps.
And when you have so much technology in front of you, you really need to start thinking about a digital adoption strategy around ’how do we adopt our users’ and also create a uniqueness into each of these individual corporations. They’re no longer just a Dynamics corporation. They have multiple technologies that are bound together, tightly together to deliver the package business capabilities.
Basically, that means that every single one of those will need to create unique user and digital adoption strategies for each of their unique settings with different pieces of Lego in different colors.
[00:05:00] Businesses adapted very quickly during Covid
Rick McCutcheon: Okay. And AJ. Over the last couple years this business central marketplace that you’re heavily involved with is skyrocketing.
And a lot of companies that had these siloed systems, especially on the ERP side, it might have been there for 25 years. Right overnight we’re switching to cloud computing. What did you see with your customer base and what did you do to help them carry forward with new digital adoption strategies?
AJ Ansari: Precisely that.
I think going back to what you were saying, Rick I think once we entered this covid reality and businesses have to adopt strategies very quickly, adopt and adapt very quickly to this changing landscape. I think one of the first things they had to understand and appreciate was their users could not be in the office all the time.
Which meant the systems that they had could not be on-premises systems. They had to be accessible from wherever they are. The systems had to be cloud-based, ubiquitous. And we saw that digital adoption was happening, was going a steady increase and then all of a sudden I think it skyrocketed conditions forced that to happen.
[00:06:00] Technology helps businesses meet gaps to maintain synergy
As we saw that, we saw an increase in modern workplace tools like Microsoft Teams coming into play in addition to Business Central because teams had to communicate more effectively with each other and Teams and Zoom and the types of solutions out there similar to those, gave businesses the opportunity to have people be in separate places but still be able to work together and collaborate and not lose that synergistic aspect.
Within Business Central. I think having the ability to do all the things that you were doing within your business, but from a computer or tablet or phone, wherever you are as long as you have a connection, I think that was a big plus. That was a big reason why we saw that. Skyrocketing growth.
[00:06:32] User training is an ongoing effort
You talked about another aspect we also saw was for training. User training continues to be not just an endeavor and effort for new customers that are being implemented. There’s an ongoing effort. That is required to continue to sharpen that saw for people to be able to go back and reference training material for them to be able to go back and then seek help and find documentation.
[00:07:00] Increasing use of digital training tools
And I think part of the change in adoption strategy is that we saw an increase in use of digital training tools as well. Whether it’s something as simple as traditional online manuals, you think people referring to those a lot more because you can’t lean over your shoulder and ask the guy or the girl sitting next to you or have partners on-site with you all the time.
And then we’re also seeing some great tools. I think the likes of what Joachim’s company is doing right with the ClickLearn. I think digital adoption tools like that have also become self-serve, self-help tools that can allow people to be effective at your job and get the help and the training you need.
[00:07:26] Digital adoption is taking off in all aspects of business
So we are seeing in all aspects, in all facets of businesses digital adoption is absolutely taking off and I don’t think this is one of those trends that are going to reverse. Certainly I think it may not continue to increase at this just extreme steep slope. But I think we’re going to see that the curve will continue to grow and it’s going to be that it’s a one-way street.
I think really we’re not going to see a decline in cloud adoption.
Rick McCutcheon: Oh, absolutely not. And we think about how many applications are out there that are they’re still in that hybrid situation and you can’t move everything. So I think we’re going to see at least another decade of getting these applications over.
[00:08:00] User adoption is a problem around CRM
So what I find interesting around this whole conversation is I spent 20 years doing CRM projects and as an MVP, most of the time I wouldn’t start a project. I tended to get dropped into a project when things weren’t going well. And we always know that user adoption was always a problem around CRM.
And I’d always say, okay, let’s go through how you rolled this out in your plan. And it was always Well-planned. Sometimes at the beginning, here’s the design, here’s what we need. We built the system. Now the systems go live, and there’s other lines in the project plan, right?
It’s there maybe one line called Train the Trainer. Whatever train the trainer was, I wasn’t quite sure that was, but it was just a line, and I think it was by default, almost every partner would drop that in because a lot of partners really didn’t have training organizations attached to it.
[00:09:00] What is the role of the partner in digital adoption strategies?
That’s changed because with cloud we may have 187 items to get that rolled out. Now we’re down to about 87 items to get that rolled out. The cloud’s taking the complexity out of a lot of what we do, but our customers are saying, I need help with the whole thing. So let’s talk now about partners and what are the role of the partner in creating a digital adoption strategy?
And let’s start with you AJ.
[00:09:27] Partners are not immune to digital adoption challenges
AJ Ansari: Rick, that’s a great question. I think we realized and probably most partners too is we are not immune from the challenges that come with digital adoption. I think you might have heard this saying the the cobbler’s children where the torn and tatter shoes I think we found that was the case for us as well.
[00:10:00] Repeatable forms of training are vital for partners
When our customers would typically ask us for training, I think we were very focused on giving live, instructor-led training. And what we realized is in this new economy, we needed to have repeatable forms of training available to for our customers so we could be in more places at once so that our customers could could benefit from some of the knowledge that we were providing in a manner that was repeatable without having to schedule the same types of training sessions over and over again.
[00:10:14] Bespode implementations over standard documentation
What we also found is that because we do a lot of bespoke type of implementations we needed not just standard adopt standard documentation that is available for publishers like Microsoft for Business Central, but we often needed documentation around some of the things that we were doing specifically for our customers.
[00:10:29] Need tools in place to document more effectively
And so that meant again, in the past that was recording videos and writing down all the things. And I think now we’ve we’ve found ourselves not just with the ability to, but with a need for, using the types of tools that allow us to do this more effectively. I think. US and all partners, one of the things that we need to come to terms with is customers are going to become increasingly more self-dependent.
[00:11:00] It’s a DIY crowd
And what I mean by that isn’t that it’s truly do-it-yourself crowd, but they are going, they are seeking out solutions and tools that allow them to do the learning and to do follow-up learning sessions or have reference tools that allow to allow them to benefit from knowledge that exists out there.
People go to YouTube, people go to online documentation and so on more than they pick up the phone and call the partner like they used to do that. So we as partners, if we want to create some stickiness with our clients, need to be that source, that reference point that customers can go to and get this information.
[00:11:30] Make sure your clients aren’t going to someone else’s YouTube for help
As a closing thought on this question, if my clients are going to YouTube and have to look at information created by another partner, there is a little bit of a risk of that relationship over time, they’re going to be like, Hey, those other partners are doing a much better job than these guys are.
Should I maybe work with them? So we need to be there for our clients leading with the types of information that they need so that they keep coming to us and we continue to foster and strengthen that relationship. And I think that’s where the partners are going to have to focus.
That’s our play in this adoption journey.
[00:12:00] The partner and the composable enterprise
Rick McCutcheon: And I think there’s a different expectation now with the customer that the partners responsible, not just forgetting that it’s not technology up and running. You’re responsible for getting my team up and running, like in using it. Joachim, why don’t you talk a little bit about your perspective on the partner?
Joachim Schiermacher: Yeah I think it’s when we look at this from the areas really of how we’ve traditionally delivered training for a very long time, all we had was essentially the vendor training, and then that was backed up by some classroom trainings typically with the partner.
[00:13:00] Clients struggle with number of apps they work on
But that was what you did in the training space. Now, when we have to come back to this composable enterprise thought where ideally everything the infrastructure of each client will be like a fingerprint, completely unique for each client. And then it’s very difficult to see the vendor actually being able to deliver on that because they’re only delivering on their own technology.
They need to deliver it within the full landscape of the client. And the client on the other hand, they need help with the amount of applications that they’re getting through. If you look at a larger organization, 175 apps running, imagine that you did a training day. For each of those, that’s 175 days out of the office.
[00:13:22] Partners need to deliver on digital adoption
It’s not going to run in any way. So I think that the only one that’s left to actually combine it has the knowledge of the complete uniqueness of each client is the partner. And that’s an enormous opportunity where the partner needs to come in now and deliver on that digital adoption. And they are the right people to do that because they’re already delivering on the entire transformation page.
And we can now see partners that are taking this serious and know that there is absolutely no digital transformation without digital adoption as well. So I think that the partners are playing a vital role now, but nothing compared to what we are going to see in the future.
Rick McCutcheon: AJ, you want to add anything to that?
[00:14:00] It’s not too late for partners to take digital adoption into account
AJ Ansari: I think I mentioned a couple of questions ago when you asked me that I think there’s no, this is a one-way road. There is no coming back from this. I think the. For any partner out there who’s still struggling with with this understand that this, that the opportunity has not sailed past.
[00:14:20] Partners: Act now on digital adoption. Don’t get left behind.
I think there you are probably not alone yet, but if you don’t make any changes to the way you’re doing business to help your customers, probably in the next three to five years, you are going to find yourself, I think well, behind the trend and your, that is probably going to affect the way you do business and affect your business.
So I think that is my call out to partners. If you haven’t looked at digital adoption tools yet, whether, and it just starts from deploying cloud-based ERP solutions to adopting better tools to help your customers. I think across all that whole spectrum start thinking now it’s not too late yet, but it will be pretty soon.
[00:15:00] What does the modern partner need to do?
Rick McCutcheon: And if we call this person the modern partner, because LinkedIn uses this term for the modern seller around sales navigator. So I’ll call this the modern partner. I think the modern partner needs to approach a new prospect or customer to say, here’s how I’m going to help you with your planning and understanding what you need.
Here’s how I’m going to help you with your deployment, and here’s how I’m going to help you with digital adoption. It’s an ongoing, it’s, and it doesn’t stop, right? You got 175 apps that are active over here. This is just not stopping. It is changing constantly. And with the cloud, it’s not like we have a yearly upgrade.
[00:15:31] Partners should help clients with complexities
Everything. Few weeks, we’ve got something changing on our desktop, especially if we got them using teams. I come in here one day and there’s four new apps in my teams. What is this? I think it’s complex for the user. It’s easier for the user, but it’s more complex for the user and it’s up to the partner, I think really to be the hero here.
Okay. This has been a great conversation about the partner’s role. Why don’t we end up with some closing remarks around Business Central digital adoption and the role of the partner. Let’s start with you, AJ.
[00:16:00] Partners should lead with cloud-based solutions
Business Central. The way it’s offered on-premises and it’s offered in the cloud, and I think the on-premises offering continues to be there solely for certain industries that are either or industries or geographies where there is a legitimate challenge to cloud adoption.
Outside of those scenarios, Partners would be better served to lead with the the cloud version of Business Central. I think customers increasingly are asking for cloud-based solutions. Very few customers now have a resistance to it. I think in both in terms of the availability and ease of access and in terms of ongoing cost of maintenance.
[00:17:00] Cloud-based solutions are effective for businesses
I think for businesses, they find that cloud-based solutions are the more effective way to go. You move from licensing that was more a CapEx spend to an opex spend because you have now subscription-based licensing that takes a small, a much lighter, makes much lighter impact on the business’s budget.
It allows them to scale up and down. So even from a financial perspective, I think it is the more. Sensible choice now to adopt and move towards cloud solutions and to move in that direction. And then I think from a partner perspective, as I said before, the customers are demanding more online self use type of tools.
[00:17:30] Digital adoption strategies are rofitable from a business model perspective for partners
When partners create these repeatable types of solutions that they pre-create, and then the customer and multiple customers can benefit from it in a repeatable fashion. They can also make a repeatable revenue stream from that. So from a business model for partners too, a digital adoption strategy and solution is a profitable choice.
This is not just the right thing to do because your partners are asking for it. It is also the profitable thing to do for your business.
[00:18:00] Cloud helps clients stay current
Joachim Schiermacher: Okay. Yeah. I completely agree. From the perspective of the cloud being the, probably the best thing that’s happened since fire, it’s it’s an amazing thing because we are able, we are capable now of keeping clients current.
On on the software, meaning that low, better security models low risk of obviously hack attacks things like that. But also in, in their own enterprise, they have the latest and greatest features of all products available for them, and that’s really great. Now the big problem here is that, that throughout that cloud facing, we actually lift the a little bit of a problem in the IT departments of each of our clients.
[00:18:39] Partners should help clients to solve the training issue for all apps
The 73 apps they have there that they need to do training on for each of the updates that are going out. They have no way of solving that. And there’s only one that can help them do that. That’s the partner needs to get into that business. And as you say Rick, there’s a great opportunity for be being a [00:19:00] hero.
[00:19:00] Here’s how you make yourself a legend
I always say that it’s I’m saddened by the way that the word legend. Has slowly devalued from meaning someone pulling a sword out of a stone to someone un expectingly coming up with crisps. But I think that here’s really in the original sense of the word, an opportunity for the partner to be a legend when it comes to helping clients with digital adoption strategies.
Rick McCutcheon: Yes. And thank you for that. Because if we look at 175 apps times I, an administrator’s gotta learn it. Manager’s gotta learn it. An end user ha has to learn it. It becomes a multiple of learning opportunities for the partner. So I want to thank everybody for joining us today on digital adoption talks, and hopefully AJ will be catching up with you in the future to find out more about what’s going on with Business CentralOkta