Amit Sachdev (the Microsoft Dynamics NAV Technical Lead for Canada) recently joined Carlos Ekkert from Encore Business Solutions to discuss many of the exciting changes in the Microsoft Dynamics NAV product line.
Carlos: Thanks for joining us today Amit. Let’s start off by you sharing with us a little bit about your role in the organization? What is your role at Microsoft?
Amit: Thanks Carlos for the opportunity. Yes, my name is Amit Sachdev and I’m one of the Partner Technology Advisors at Microsoft Canada.
As a Partner Technology Advisor, I’m responsible for the Microsoft Dynamics NAV channel and make sure that our partners are well positioned and aligned to Microsoft’s strategy for Dynamics NAV. I’ve been in this role for almost five years now.
I enjoy the role because I get to work with a variety of partners from small to medium to large size companies with different areas of specialization. That’s what I do here at Microsoft.
Carlos: You mentioned that a big part of what you enjoy at Microsoft is working with different types of businesses and getting to see what they are doing. Can you expand on that?
Amit: Absolutely. Partner Technology Advisors is a very interesting role at Microsoft. As I mentioned, I work with a variety of different partners with diverse industry expertise. In this position, I get to maintain my strong business acumen as well be deeply focused on the technology.
As you know, I talk to my partners for their strategic goals and position their business according to the Microsoft Dynamics NAV product. I get to know more about our partners businesses and advise them from a business perspective.
Also, I talk to them about the depth of technology and what Microsoft brings to the table from a technology perspective. The Partner Technology Advisor role is very unique role at Microsoft.
Carlos: What do you enjoy about working at Microsoft on a whole?
Amit: Microsoft is a very interesting company to work with. I’ve been here for almost five years now. The primary reason I’ve been here so long is the people. There are a lot of great smart people in this company. Microsoft is a company very uniquely positioned in the market space today with its great landscape of products and technologies.
Coupled with its variety of products and technologies, Microsoft itself is nimble in nature and is always looking at improving itself. It’s a great company to work with. You get to work with a lot of smart people, cutting edge technologies and a multinational organization.
The Culture at Microsoft
Carlos: What’s the culture like at Microsoft?
Amit: We focus a lot on the work life balance, but unfortunately sometimes, work life balance is not always possible. Microsoft puts a lot of attention on something we call WHI or Work Place Health Index. They want to really make sure that every employee is satisfied. But at the end of the day business is business.
We are ultimately a very goal driven organization and scorecard-driven. We all have to work towards our goals – often very aggressive in nature. At the same time we get a lot of flexibility. So that’s pretty good about Microsoft.
We also change our goals based on the market alignment constantly and we adapts to strategic market directions. I feel that’s something that’s unique about the Microsoft culture.
Carlos: How long have you been working with Microsoft Dynamics NAV?
Amit: I’ve been with Microsoft for almost five years. For the most part, for more than a decade, I’ve been working with Microsoft Dynamics NAV so I know the product quite well. I’m also a published author for the Dynamics NAV product.
Carlos: In what kind of context were you working with Microsoft Dynamics before you joined Microsoft?
Amit: Before I joined Microsoft, I was primarily working in the partner channel. I lived in various parts of the world. I used to live in Vancouver before I came to Toronto to join Microsoft. Before Vancouver, I lived in Singapore. Before that in India and so on.
So I’ve worked with many partners, various size of organizations etc. I’ve helped some small organizations in starting their NAV practice as well.
Changes in Dynamics NAV
Carlos: From your perspective, how has Microsoft Dynamics NAV changed during the time that you worked with it?
Amit: Microsoft Dynamics NAV has really evolved. I have always loved the product. Starting from the early years we went through many different changes. Of course the name changes are some of the more obvious changes. Starting from “Navision” to Microsoft Business Solutions to Microsoft Attain and then now to Microsoft Dynamics NAV.
From a product perspective it’s evolved a lot with the market. As the technology is changing we’ve made sure that the product has evolved and has continuously been worked upon. Even in the past, Microsoft Dynamics NAV has always had a unique position based on the ease of use and depth of offerings available.
As the market has evolved in different functional areas, different industries and technologies Microsoft Dynamics NAV still brings that strong offering to the table. We have changed the technology a lot, improved the technology a lot, and added a lot of functionality.
Carlos: From your perspective, why should people choose Microsoft Dynamics NAV versus other ERP products out there? Especially when looking at other ERP products that are comprehensive ERP solutions like NAV is? Why choose Microsoft Dynamics NAV?
Amit: There are a lot of ERP products in the markets today, especially where Dynamics NAV focuses in – the SMB market as we call it. Microsoft Dynamics NAV has a very unique position.
What stands out with Dynamics NAV is the depth of functionality in the product and the comprehensiveness of the product while having the ability to not compromise the simplicity of the product. That is something unique to Microsoft Dynamics NAV.
As many ERP vendors have found, as you grow and start expanding the product it becomes more and more difficult to keep the product simple enough for day to day users to use it. As you start adding more functional features you are making the product more in depth and broad sometimes you tend to compromise the simplicity of the product.
This then means it becomes more complex for the users. What I like about NAV is that you get everything in simple functionality. The NAV product has maintained its simplicity despite being comprehensive in its functionality.
That is something that a customer should consider when they are looking at ERP products in the market and something which I love about Microsoft Dynamics NAV.
Choosing an ERP
Carlos: You just mentioned that the importance of the simplicity of using Dynamics NAV while maintaining that in depth functionality. Is there anything else that you would say to someone that would be considering Dynamics NAV versus let’s say a competitive product.
What would be important to consider if this is one of the first ERPs they are purchasing?
Amit: There are many factors. Of course, one needs to look at the functions and features which and align them to the requirements. And I already talked about simplicity and the ease of use of the product.
Important is also looking at the whole roadmap or the whole platform. Who is supporting the platform? What’s the longevity of the product? What’s the plan for this product? Is it going to be around for a long time?
Also, is it served up in different form factors? Is it just a PC based system or does it work across different devices like handheld devices? Rugged PCs? Those kind of things.
Most importantly, you need to look into what the R&D strategy is. What is the support strategy and who is behind the product? What’s the commitment towards the product?
If I were to be choosing an ERP product from scratch, I would be looking at the whole landscape rather than just looking at features. You have to look at the longevity of the product and from a platform perspective as you’re going to be using this product for a long time.
Carlos: Could expand on certain functional areas that Microsoft is going to expand Microsoft Dynamics NAV in, in the coming years?
Amit: One of the areas is cloud hosting coming for Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Another is our deep integration with SharePoint. With that expanded functionality it will help us expand our footprint in the upper and the lower mid markets, not just the core mid-market space.
Today we do offer private cloud offerings with Microsoft Dynamics NAV, but in the coming version in Microsoft Dynamics NAV we are going to be offering more agile platform hosting capabilities which will expand our footprint going into the public cloud model.
Microsoft Dynamics NAV is uniquely positioned because of the Power of Choice for the consumer; the option to go either on premise or to choose between private cloud and a public cloud offering.
Customers will be able to choose whether they want to use a subscription based model or an on premise price model. We are spending an enormous amount on research and development of this product and we will continue to lead the industry in innovation in this regard.
Carlos: From your perspective Amit, where does Microsoft Dynamics NAV do especially well in the sense of verticals? What verticals does Microsoft Dynamics NAV excel in?
Amit: Well one thing that I love about Microsoft Dynamics NAV is that it is a very open platform type of ERP where you can expand the system to work within a huge variety of industries.
We do have a focus on certain industries like retail, professional services, distribution and manufacturing. But with our unique platform of ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) and the large ecosystem of partners Microsoft Dynamics NAV has, NAV is used in almost any industry.
We can expand into different industries with the unique ISV solutions we have which help consumers go into various niche areas beyond the core areas of focus.
Carlos: One of the biggest changes in Microsoft Dynamics NAV was going to the new interface. What are some of the changes you’ve seen in Microsoft Dynamics NAV and how are they affecting user adoption?
Amit: There are a lot of changes we’ve done in the product over the years. One thing we have really worked upon is how to make the product productive for the users and based on that research we added something called the RoleTailored client.
Different people in the company use the system in very different ways. For example, the CEO in a company uses the system to get more analysis type data and more business intelligence type of data. So we have created roles in Microsoft Dynamics NAV for the CEO, the CFO, the President etc. As we move across the organization though, we have different people and different work roles.
Another example might be the production facilitator, production planner or warehouse worker. These are distinctively different roles from a CEO. Their screens should be very different; their access should be very different.
For this very reason we created the RoleTailored client and provided RoleTailored access for various types of roles. That was something we added based on the research we did on consumer behavior – on how consumers like to work and access the system. Something that is unique to the Microsoft Dynamics line of products.
Microsoft Dynamics NAV Role Tailored client:
Post Implementation Support
Carlos: After a customer implements Microsoft Dynamics NAV, how are they supported? How does a customer gain support after the implementation of Microsoft Dynamics NAV?
Amit: It’s important for the customer to know that not only will the product work for them but that they also understand the support and longevity of the product. So, first and foremost as you know, we are very committed to the NAV product as you know.
We have a published roadmap where we clearly define our goals and upcoming functions and features in the product which anyone can ask for.
We also provide customers with complete access to something called CustomerSource as soon as the customer signs in and buys the product. With CustomerSource they have access to all the knowledge based articles, all the learning videos, e-learning programs, PDF technical documents, help files and more. There is a wealth of knowledge.
In addition, there are a ton of forums and communities online. Microsoft Dynamics NAV also has a very large community of developers, functional consultants and many public forums. If I have a question in any Microsoft Dynamics NAV area, whether it’s technical or it’s you know functional related, I can post a question in these forums and with no time I’ll get support from different people in the community.
From a Microsoft support standpoint, we give you all the support materials for all the various functional areas, including all the training materials and e-learning videos as a part of your enhancement plan.
Further, as long as you are current on your enhancement plan, you are entitled to the latest software. Anytime we release a new product or service pack, you can download the product and use the latest version of the product without buying it
Dynamics NAV has more than 85,000 customers today. There is a large footprint of customers who actually work with NAV day and night so in that regard Dynamics NAV is well proven and well supported.
Carlos: Thanks Amit, we appreciate you joining us for this interview and we enjoy working with Microsoft and our Microsoft Dynamics partnership with you.
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