Case Study: Voice to Microsoft (Tony Darden)

By Delaney Freer posted 24 days ago

  
How Engaging with the User Group Provides You a Voice to Microsoft

As your engagement grows within the User Group, so can your opportunities to get more involved and be an influential voice in the community. Dynamics 365 User Group for Business Central/NAV (D365UG BC/NAV) Member Tony Darden is a great example of this. After years of being a User Group leader, he was part of a face-to-face meeting with the Microsoft Business Central Team. This meeting helped create direct structure changes to the application, specifically around recent licensing changes, benefiting the community as a whole. 

Dynamic Communities interviewed Tony Darden, Vice President – IT of Protective Industries, Inc. to discuss his User Group journey and meeting with Microsoft. Tony has been a D365UG BC/NAV Member since 2013 and a CIO Council member since 2017. One of the primary objectives of the CIO Council is to be an important communication channel for both Microsoft and the entire Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central/NAV community, to seek guidance on strategic, tactical and operational topics.

Tony Darden
Tony Darden, Vice President – IT / Protective Industries, Inc.


Dynamic Communities (DC): Please tell us a bit about your path to becoming a member of the D365UG BC/NAV CIO Council.

Tony Darden (TD): I joined the D365UG BC/NAV user community shortly after joining Protective Industries. I was new to NAV at the time and wanted to surround myself with the businesses and people that use the system. Microsoft had their own resources and sites to leverage, but the real value to me was the user community. Shortly after joining, I learned about local user groups and found out my company was 4 hours away from the nearest one. I loved the concept of local companies coming together to meet and learn, but this distance was not ideal. Around that same time, I was nominated and voted onto the Board of Advisors and chose ‘Local User Groups’ as my focus. During my 3 years on the Board, I closed the local user group gap I faced and started the ‘Great Lakes’ chapter.

After my BOA term was up and I passed the torch on the Great Lakes chapter leadership, I continued to stay involved in the community via open forums, leading sessions at the annual Summit, and participating in webinars. The community has so many engaged members and the high volume of content and collaboration has made it a priceless resource for myself and others.

I want to take advantage of any opportunity I have to give back to the community because the community has provided so much to me, so when the CIO Council was formed and I was extended an invite, it was an easy choice to make. This is my 3rd year with the group and we have a great team.
“The community has so many engaged members and the high volume of content and collaboration has made it a priceless resource for myself and others." - Tony Darden

DC: How often does the CIO Council meet with Microsoft? What month was the meeting we are talking about today?

TD: The CIO Council meets once per quarter, with Summit serving as host to one of the meetings. Microsoft meets with us each year at Summit but has participated in our quarterly meetings and stays engaged via forums. On the licensing topic, this has spanned several months. Our first direct engagement with Microsoft was in July of 2018 and it was a topic that persisted. Microsoft announced the licensing change in May of 2019.

DC: What were the licensing changes?

TD: For NAV users licensed before May 1, 2019, you get a 1:3 benefit converting to named users for on-premise Business Central. For example, if a company had 200 full (concurrent) licenses, they get 600 named users in return. For any users that were licensed after May 1st, 2019, the conversion is 1:1. Think about the volume of licenses out there today that existed before that May 1st date – this is a huge benefit. Additionally, the annual maintenance payments you make will be based on the original licenses (200 in this example). Again, this is only for Business Central on-premise. If you are moving to Business Central SaaS, this does not apply. This is not time sensitive – if we decide to upgrade to Business Central on-premise in 2022, that 1:3 benefit will still be there.

DC: What was the CIO Council’s feedback regarding the licensing changes? Why was it important to design a new structure?

TD: Originally Microsoft was planning a 1:2 benefit, but this was a problem for many companies. For example, if your business operates 3 shifts and has shared accounts across those shifts, the 1:2 conversion would be a financial burden because each shared account would result in 3 named users. This was a sticking point for members of the Council and many others in the community. Microsoft wants to entice companies using NAV to upgrade to Business Central and licensing is an important part of that. If a company has to pay a partner to upgrade their system, incurring additional licensing costs is a tough sell. Switching the benefit to 1:3 made all the difference and allows companies to focus their dollars on the upgrade services and not the licensing. In cases where a business only operates on 1 or 2 shifts, that 1:3 benefit is even more appealing because now you have room to expand user count without additional costs.
“They cast a wide net and provide channels for anyone in the user group and elsewhere to voice their opinion and share ideas, but having them engaged with us during Summit and our meetings tells me they value our opinion and we want to be an influencer." - Tony Darden

DC: How did the CIO Council collaborate with Microsoft to design a new structure? 

TD: We would cover different topics during our joint meetings and licensing was one that made the list each time. We take a balanced forward-thinking approach. Microsoft understands that the on-premise version of Business Central is going to persist with many companies for a variety of reasons, but if they can help them upgrade in a cost-effective way that keeps them on-premise and moves them to the preferred code base and environment of Business Central with named users, everybody wins.

Microsoft is always open to new ideas and genuinely wanted to understand what the pain points were for upgrading and what could be done to entice companies to upgrade more frequently.

DC: What does having direct access to Microsoft mean to you as a D365 BC/NAV User?

TD: They cast a wide net and provide channels for anyone in the user group and elsewhere to voice their opinion and share ideas, but having them engaged with us during Summit and our meetings tells me they value our opinion and we want to be an influencer. In the end, we all want a budget-friendly better product that a business can grow with. As long as users continue having a voice with Microsoft, the future remains bright.

D365UG BC_NAV CIO Council Pic
CIO Council meeting at Community Summit In Orlando with Mike Ehrenberg.


Thank you, Tony, for sharing your experience!
The User Group community represents a collective voice to Microsoft on product enhancement and feature requests. Share your ideas and vote for future features.


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