What’s Missing in Microsoft’s 4 Primary Conferences? The End User

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by Mark Polino, Director of Client Services, Fastpath

Expo at Microsoft Convergence 2015Microsoft has aligned their conference schedule around four primary conferences geared toward different audiences, but they seem to have forgotten one important audience: the end user.

For 2016, Microsoft’s primary conferences are Build for developers, Ignite for IT professionals, Worldwide Partner Conference for partners, and Envision for C-level executives. While all of these targeted audiences play key roles in the use of Microsoft products, they really represent a middle layer between Microsoft and its users.

Developers use Microsoft tools to create programs for other users. While developers could be considered end users of Microsoft’s programming tools, the focus is really around using those tools to develop for other users. IT pros configure and support Microsoft products for end users. Similarly, partners help implement, configure, and support Microsoft’s products. C-Level executives are ultimately responsible for purchasing those products for their employees, the end users.

Microsoft’s transition from Convergence to Envision has eliminated Microsoft’s largest end-user focused conference. While Convergence was originally focused on ERP systems, the addition of significant Office, CRM, and SharePoint content over the years made it a more broadly based event. Some Dynamics content has been promised for Ignite, but right now it feels like that event will be more focused on implementation instead of end user education.

There are other, smaller Microsoft conferences with a user focus. For example, Microsoft’s Data Insights Summit in March is geared toward end users of Power BI and related tools, specifically data analysts and BI professionals. This is just one example, but it looks like much of the work of enhancing user skills have moved to third party conferences.

To my mind, the challenge is that as Microsoft realizes its dream of interconnectivity between products, it’s not just about training someone how to enter a transaction or do a calculation in Excel. It’s about things like using Excel to transform ERP data. It’s about using CRM and Yammer to improve social reach, and so much more. Microsoft loves to lay out these types of visions, but they’re actually not very good at showing people to how to realize them.

For all the inroads Satya Nadella has made to get Microsoft products on more platforms, and to make Dynamics a part of his larger vision for the company, perhaps the relationship between Dynamics product teams and their user base was the one that was disregarded. This friendlier, more open Microsoft seems to have left end users to fend for themselves.

About Mark Polino

Mark Polino is a Microsoft MVP for Dynamics GP and the Director of Client Services for Fastpath. He is author or coauthor of five books on Microsoft Dynamics GP. Mark has been working with Dynamics GP and its predecessors since 1999. He is a Florida licensed CPA and holds an MBA from Rollins College.