Project Madeira Questions & hopefully right Answers

Since Microsoft announced Project Madeira last week I’ve had a lot of questions from my team and others. The announcement was covered much quicker and more comprehensively than I could, with the commitments I have, on other blogs I thought I’d give my take on the common questions. These are what I currently believe provide answers people need, (rather than official Microsoft ones though – so at your own risk be it).

What is Project Madeira?

Microsoft have taken the same technology and most of the logic from Dynamics NAV and used it to create a ‘NAV Lite’ that is only available as an online subscription option via a web browser.

It’s had considerable effort applied to the core NAV logic to make it simpler to use in a way that the small business role centre or the C5 replacement did not manage.

Why not call it ‘NAV Lite’?

Microsoft Dynamics has a large GP partner community in the US that will ignore it if they see it as a derivative of the NAV product they have been turning down for years. With the writing on the wall for GP (lots of the former GP development team in Fargo are now working on NAV and Project Madeira) Microsoft needs to get those partners to buy into another product before they defect to Netsuite. Giving a different name avoids preconceived perceptions.

Why is it US only?

See the answer above, GP is largely a US product (with a smaller user base in the UK) so that primarily where the problem is. However, if it’s not in the UK and other what Microsoft calls tier one markets by the end of the year than it will indicate a set of quality problems that I don’t expect.

Why all the coverage/fuss

Well they did a really good job of making it a surprise. I’m both an MVP and a member of something called the managed service council, both of which are supposed to give us the inside track and still didn’t get a hint that it was this ‘finished’. It does explain why I didn’t get a reply to all those emails asking what happened to the interim release promised at Directions though guys J

Surprise always gets attention; this may not be on the level of a new Apple category device but similarly by positioning it as completely new it’s getting coverage that it would as just a variant of Dynamics NAV.

Who is it for?

While they are saying its targeted at the 10 to 99 user segment I believe that its natural home is the 5 to 20 user segment that in the UK has traditionally been the home of Pegasus Opera and Sage Line 100/200.

Making it easy to move with Fast Data Migration

It’s no co-incidence that one of the first apps in it new apps store is for upgrading your data from Quickbooks (the US equivalent of Sage Line 50). This is not the sole traders start-up package unless they have significant growth ambitions. This is for the businesses who grow out of that entry level.

And I am pleased to say that the company I work for has been a partner in developing equivalent apps to the Quickbook’s conversion tool for Sage Line 50 and Pegasus Opera that should appear in the app store in the next couple of weeks.

An app store for Dynamics NAV?

The most significant aspect for Partners of this product for me is the ‘Services & Extensions’ appstore. This for the first time makes being an software publisher attractive. Previously the cost of marketing and distributing your software add-on for NAV was just prohibitive if you wanted to make money. Now Microsoft do that for you!

Sure they have to be ‘extensions’ but for those of us who haven’t been ISV’s before this levels the playing field somewhat. Every company has to start designing and building from scratch as the design will be different to stick within the ‘no modifications to standard code, use events only’ rules that extensions have.

A lot of the issues with Extensions in 2016 are gone, I’m not sure what is and what isn’t under NDA at this point so I’ll simply say the Madeira release will finish what 2016 started.

What difference does this make to traditional NAV?

I’m pretty sure most of the interface improvements will come to NAV next (can we just use this term rather than confusing codenames that have multiple meanings) in October. Just from what I’ve spotted so far that includes

· Better wizard functionality(see the getting started feature)

· Better handling of pictures and other media(see the item list)

· A better looking ‘flatter’ web browser experience (just see the whole interface)

As far as I know, no one outside Microsoft has seen the development environment for Project Madeira so we don’t know what if anything is an extension layer that they can pull off the NAV core before comes out. That will be interesting to determine. For me I hope they publish it all, I don’t understand why they wouldn’t? Then again I don’t have their angle on the world so maybe they have a good reason but they need to explain it.

Does it affect existing NAV customers/prospects?

No, not a bit, just to clarify this is not a suitable platform to move to. If you’ve just looked at NAV, not bought it yet but haven’t discounted it as way to complex then forget about Project Madeira. Look at the functionality list, there may be 1 in 1000 businesses that can use this instead of full fat NAV. For the rest it will bring improvements medium term to full fat NAV (can I really start calling it FFN?) as described above but you still have the same realistic choices you had yesterday and you should get on with getting on the latest release of FFN.

In any event it’s a new platform in preview – do you want to wait potentially a year before you can start using it live here in the UK? That’s a lifetime to a small business.

How limited is Madeira?

You know I’m not sure right now. Some areas which were announced as excluded are still in fact available. This is built on the core Dynamics NAV base remember and that makes it hard to close off an area due to the drill around capability that NAV has. Its looks like they have taken a lot off the menu but I’m curious to find if it’s still actually there. So I’ll take the functionality list as an intension rather than a definitive right now.

Where will Microsoft position it in future?

Which brings me to another question of Microsoft’s positioning of the product. Having just resolved one almighty mess with NAV/GP/AX/SL why would they create another one? This needs to be restricted in ways that make it above start-up but below medium, a level I call small business. There will be massive pressure in the future from users & partners to enable just one extra bit of functionality but they need to resist otherwise they will kill the NAV goose that laid this golden egg.

Will it be successful?

Well early signs say yes. They have done a good job of simplifying and getting the walk me subscription to guide you through was a masterstroke. The independent analysts seem universally positive. 

What will it cost?

But they have not announced the commercials yet and key to success will be what it costs in this very price sensitive level of the market. Small businesses do not like subscriptions, they prefer one off costs unless it’s so low they know they will be able to find the money to pay for it in the bad times. That’s why Office 365 has succeeded, because no one conceives that they won’t be able to find £7.80 or just £3.10 in even the worst month. £50 per month however, especially multiplied by several users starts to sound like a lot to find when the next recession comes.

It’s only available via CSP which is Microsoft’s next generation subscription licencing platform. That means you cannot get the major cost gone in the good times like you can with a traditional licence. It means Microsoft need to get the price low enough that people will not care (like O365 rather than CRM Online).

Guess we need to watch this space but I hope the Office people price it for volume rather than the Dynamics guys who have a NAV/GP mind set. We want ubiquity rather than exclusivity please.

Who will be selling/promoting it?

Everyone – CSP has no restrictions like the other Dynamics ERP products have had so expect this to be available from everyone from Vodaphone (on the same bill as your mobile) to Dell (bundled with a laptop in a Business Package).

I could take the ‘partner employee’ position of getting huffy about that and saying it will be a disaster because they won’t know what they are doing. But this is simple remember, designed so it’s hard to get it wrong.

What will happen to current partners?

Traditional partners have three choices, embrace and compete with your ‘expert’ credentials to sell as much as the rest or position yourselves as the specialist who can help when people reach the limits of what is after all ‘NAV Lite’. The third option is to use your knowledge and expertise to become an ISV via the app store. And I guess quite a few will try to do an element of all three.

When will we get NAVOnline?

This is not it but its damn close and proves its possible. Watch this space. If you were Microsoft why wouldn’t you? I’m already planning to scale down my commitment to Azure because with the combination of the managed service and this plus NAVOnline when it comes I think we will need it less. There will still be unique heavily customised customers that its appropriate for though.

What do I like most?

The outlook integration is so cool. It’s a so called ‘killer feature’ in my book that puts us way ahead of those nosuite people. Prospects will love this because they will see themselves using it and know it will save them time. It’s a productivity no brainer that it will take the competition a fair time to match.

Hope this helps fill in any of your blanks, I’ll add to it as and when.