Wednesday, February 26, 2020
How many times have you listened to someone share a great success story and wondered: “All this sounds great, but in my world this would never have worked.”?
Well, you are not alone in that thought. I have heard so many different arguments, such as:
- “Dynamics 365 Business Central is too expensive for CEE markets”,
- “CEE market customers are not ready to move to the Cloud”,
- “There is no way we can do business with Dynamics 365 Business Central, until there is a Microsoft Business Central SaaS version available...”
So, that made me think, now is the time to introduce two Partners who are already doing business with Dynamics 365 Business Central and have already (for the most part) moved their customers to the Cloud, operating within the CEE market.
Now I bet you are asking:
- How did they do it?
- What challenges did they face?
- Did they have to make changes to their internal processes?
- What tips and tricks can they share with other local players from the region?
All these questions, and more, were discussed in our recent interview-based ‘live’ webinar Selling Dynamics 365 Business Central in a challenging CEE market: Two Partners. Two completely different sales strategies. Two success stories. If you missed it, do not fear, we’ve handpicked the best bits for you below. You can also listen to the webinar here
Introducing the Panel: Partner Representatives in CEE Market
Tomas Stankevičius, Cloud Business Line Manager, Microsoft ISV Development Center 1ClickFactory
Tomas frequently speaks as an expert at Microsoft events, has been presented numerous awards by Microsoft, including ‘Cloud Ambassador of the Year’, and has managed to grow 1ClickFactory’s Self-provisioning Dynamics NAV/Dynamics 365 Business Central on Azure platform to be the leading Dynamics NAV/Dynamics 365 Business Central hosting on Azure provider worldwide.
Tomas’ motto: “With very few exceptions, every customer can be deployed on Azure”.
Laura Kranauskaite, Head of Partnerships, Soft4, Lithuania
Laura is a local player, but with Soft4 has managed to go global with Dynamic 365 Business Central. The solution is now being used in more than 60 countries.
Laura’s motto: “If you want to succeed, go vertical.”
Leho Hermann, Sales manager, BCS Itera, Estonia
While many Partners in the region still claim “the market is not ready for the Cloud”, BCS Itera has managed to bring the majority of their customers to the Cloud already.
Leho’s motto and advice to other Partners: “Your Cloud-based offering should be a primary one.”
Getting to grips with the CEE Market
Inga Sartauskaite: Tomas, would you say CEE customers are an exception that cannot be moved to the Cloud?
Tomas: It would be very hard to describe the CEE market as an exception from a technological perspective. I think this market is no different to any other, except for the fact the market is a little bit behind others. And, probably, the biggest reason for this, is not the customers, but the Partners who are afraid, or don‘t believe in moving customers to the Cloud.
BCS Itera and Softera/Soft4 are great examples and proof, it is possible to deal with the challenges of the market and grow your Cloud business line.
1ClickFactory can be added to the list of best practices as well. We are from Lithuania, so we are representing the same CEE region, and yet we have managed to develop a platform that now is hosts more than 1000 customers worldwide. I think this is a good example of how a business can be scaled (in our case, we are scaling the business through our Partners).
To answer the question: I don’t see any limitations for CEE Partners: neither from market perspective, nor from product perspective. And I strongly believe ‘Cloud’ is the future.
Inga Sartauskaite: Laura, being a local player from CEE, you have managed to transfer your solutions worldwide, in more than 60 countries. What are the key values your company is offering? How do you do that?
Laura: Yes, if you ask us at Softera or Soft4, we would say “If you want to succeed (and Microsoft is supporting this claim), you should go vertical”.
Just to clarify, what we do at Softera and Soft4, both companies work with the add-ons.
Softera mainly offers localized products like localization, payroll, modules for reporting to tax authorities. Their area of focus is Lithuanian companies.
Whereas, Soft4 has developed separate solutions for property management, assets financing management and leasing based on accounting standards
The add-ons are mainly offered through Partner channel worldwide.
Inga Sartauskaite: Leho, what is your key to success? How did you come to the conclusion that the Cloud is something you should put all your efforts into?
Leho: Frankly speaking, it is not hard to put customers onto the Cloud. It actually depends on the technology. Happily, our country Estonia was one of the first in the region to get Dynamics 365 Business Central on the Cloud, so we had no other option than to push customers to the Cloud. But even before the Microsoft official SaaS solution was ready for the market, we did manage to put many customers on Azure already.
Again, looking from a technological perspective, Estonia is a highly advanced country, there are many startups (who are also our competitors), who were also helping promote the Cloud-based approach. I think this is one of the reasons we now have a situation where customers themselves come and ask for the Cloud based offerings. They don’t question the technical aspects anymore; they just want their solution to be in the Cloud.
To summarize, I would strongly argue customers are afraid going to the Cloud. Of course, they are evaluating, they are questioning, and they are considering, but the fact is still there: we can have an intelligent discussion around their fears.
Laura: I support what Leho has just said, as we are experiencing the same. When we have a prospect, we always have a discussion around their strategy, whether they would like to go on premise or on the Cloud, and lately we get far more customers interested in Cloud offers.
Inga Sartauskaite: So, it is not the CEE customers who are hesitant to move to Cloud?
Leho: No, it is not them, I believe the responsibility lays on the shoulders of the Partners in the region.
Just to add one more comment from my side, to show where we might be a bit different from other Partners (and what makes us successful in Cloud). When we are building our proposals, we try to go with only one option, and that is a Cloud option. And only in cases where the customer insists they want to go on-prem instead (customers today are very intelligent and they are aware Dynamics 365 Business Central is available in more than one option, so from time to time we do have these discussions), we do start a discussion if it is reasonable for them to even consider such an option. So, in our scenario a Cloud-based option is the only option a customer gets.
Find the right strategy for Dynamics 365 Business Central Cloud-based solutions
Inga Sartauskaite: Both of your companies have very different business strategies: can you share how you decided on these and how you made the decision to move to the Cloud?
Laura: We went to the Cloud with our vertical solutions. We started with Soft4 specialized solutions, but very soon we noticed not only you can give customers far more value with vertical solutions but also, you can use previous projects and experience to build verticals when a need is discovered.
Today it is easier than ever to add the functionality requested by a customer, as there are many add-ons offered by Microsoft Partners. If you have a closer look at our company profile, you will notice three pillars. There is:
- Soft4 - with commercial property management, assets financing, leasing accounting available for the market.
- Softera – which has products for the whole Lithuanian localization: localization package, payroll, and all reporting to the tax authorities’ modules.
- And then there is a Microsoft Partner network.
And all these three pillars play a huge role in our strategy.
Let me go back to the beginning. It all started 5 years ago with soft4RealEstate add-on and NAV itself. We noticed there was quite a number of small customers where NAV itself was too big, and a standard solution would be a much better fit and cost-efficient option.
On the other hand, it became clear that a localization package was very important. Government was pushing companies to digitalize, move everything to the digital space plus imposing many requirements within that. It was much easier to build a ready to use products to comply with the requirements than to try and customize the requirements for every customer separately. This was the moment we decided to put everything into the localization package. It was challenging, nobody knew what it meant in Cloud world, it didn’t seem secure, and we had too many questions with no answers at a time. But step by step we got where we are now.
With Soft4RealEstate the story was very similar. This was our “Cloud pioneer”, and since we were aiming to go worldwide, we already had some customers on the list to buy it. Because there were some competitors’ solutions available on the market already, our decision was to make a “light” version that had the main functionality and was suitable for property managers representing companies with fewer users. And based on what we know today, this was a very smart decision to make. Customers today are quite smart and knowledgeable, they don’t want to invest a lot and they want to see the value right away.
Leho: Just like in the Softera’s example, we are a typical Dynamics 365 Business Central implementor company. Maybe the main difference is we target midsize or bigger customers; we don’t want to deal with small customers (at least for now).
Our projects are bigger in size, which overall means we don’t have a ready to use solutions that we could take from the shelf and implement within a month on a customer site (we have very few cases like this). But with every project we try to accumulate our knowledge, and thanks to the new AL language technology, now we can build new solutions and keep them as separate layers on top of Dynamics 365 Business Central. And we try to reuse them in our new projects.
From this perspective, we are a bit like Softera building vertical solutions, but we are in the very beginning of this road. Currently, we have up to 700 users on Dynamics 365 Business Central platform. Even before Dynamics 365 Business Central Cloud version was available in the market, our company’s strategy was to push customers to use latest technology and upgrade to the latest version, as much as we could (we were not always successful, 1/3 of our customers are still using old technology) but this was always the aim.
Dynamics 365 Business Central being available to the market didn’t happen overnight, nor did us selling this solution. It took about six months to make a shift inside our company, to make our developers like or even love Al, and for consultants to like web client.
Starting from this year, though we are putting as many customers as we can on the Cloud, regardless whether it is Dynamics 365 Business Central Cloud version or Azure, we are using the newest technology which is AL language. And we are building these pieces of development so we can reuse them later on and gain efficiency from that.
We have also tried this before when it was ‘C/AL’ but we didn’t succeed. Every time we had the same functionality, we had to rebuild it. Now the technology allows us to reuse the built products easily, and we try to do this whenever we can.
So, in a way we are similar and different to Softera. We are trying to go more vertical, we have gone vertical in terms of business lines (we have three teams - one is doing professional services, another manufacturing and, wholesale and retail), and we use our Partners’ verticals for these business lines, ensuring we are using international knowledge for these fields.
Inga Sartauskaite: Tomas, both Partners are using the 1ClickFactory hosting platform for their customers: are there any insights you would like to share on both strategies?
Tomas: I think Softera and Soft4 are perfect best practice examples for using multitenant environments in a country where we do not have a localization from Microsoft: they are growing their Cloud business together with support of 1ClickFactory, and I see it as a very successful business line. There are only a couple of Partners in the world that are similar to Softera or Soft4 with a primary offering of a multitenant solution.
On the other side, they also are doing migrations from multitenant to single tenant installations (this is something that we see happening on other Partner sites as well. If a Partner sees a multitenant environment is not fitting a customer, they move them to a single tenant).
BCS Itera is representing another trend, they are mostly going with single tenant installation on our platform. They are then trying to find ways to move single tenant customers to multitenant environment. Frankly speaking, based on the Partner experience worldwide, I think Softera and BSC Itera are pretty good in a Cloud-based business context, not only in terms of CEE market, but also across the world. Even though we have small countries, small markets, not too many customers, they have proven to be successful in those markets.
Just to give some statistics from 1ClickFactory: Softera is one of our top Partners with multitenant environment. And for those who still wonder if the Cloud environment is suitable for larger installations, the biggest customer deployed on 1ClickFactory Self-provisioning platform has more than 600 users. They have been running on the shared Cloud infrastructure for more than 2 years already and are constantly growing their number of users.
We live in a very interesting times: CEE countries are just starting to grow Cloud wise, and I really hope soon we will catch up with the countries like Netherlands, US, where the Cloud is spread out widely and many customers and Partners are not questioning whether they should go to Cloud.
We are diving into sales and marketing operations on the Cloud, choosing your hosting Partner, plus much more in 'Part 2’ of this blog:
Selling Dynamics 365 Business Central in the CEE Market - Real Life Success Stories: Part 2
Don't want to read? Watch the recording of this webinar now!
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