Have you ever wanted to hear and learn directly from the Microsoft experts responsible for the business applications that you use every day? The Microsoft Business Applications Summit is an annual conference that allows you to do exactly that while learning about new product innovations and seeing how businesses around the globe have been transformed by Microsoft technologies. Several members of the ClickDimensions team were in attendance at this can’t-miss event last week, and you can read all about the key takeaways from the Microsoft Business Applications Summit 2019 for two of them in this blog post.
Mike Marriage, Vice President of Product Management
1. AI, AR and the platform. My focus track at the event was on UI/UX and data technologies. The opening keynote showcased a lot of AI and AR technologies. This was primarily applicable to manufacturing and retail, but I must admit, it was pretty cool. There was also discussion around Microsoft’s move to more of a platform on top of which they provide extensible applications. That was also the theme in many of the sessions on applications.
2. Unified Interface. Of particular interest to me was their plan for the Unified Interface. What was especially exciting to me in light of our UI/UX uplift project at ClickDimensions was the ability to create controls via the PowerApps Control Framework (PCF). This will allow us to provide the user experience that we were hoping for, but were restricted by limited capabilities in the previous framework(s). They also discussed their plan to merge these new technologies across canvas apps and model-driven apps. This will allow reusability across application types and even blending of the applications themselves. With this, developers will be able to tailor the user experience within Dynamics and not be restricted to the designs and flows implemented by Microsoft.
3. The state of the current web application framework. There was also a mention that Microsoft will soon be announcing the plan for the sunsetting of the current web application framework. This is the framework that was initially used by ClickDimensions to develop our marketing automation platform. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we have migrated to the new Unified Interface framework. So, we currently make both “flavors” available to our customers. But upon Microsoft’s deprecation of the web app framework, our customers will need to be on the new Unified Interface app. Hopefully our customers are already making this switch or preparing to make it.
4. Data, data and more data. Data, and unlocking the value within it, continues to be a focus of Microsoft. There were many, MANY sessions on PowerBI, the Common Data Service (CDS) and Common Data Model (CDM, and other data technologies such as Azure Data Factory and Data Bricks). I believe that Microsoft is in lockstep with the industry and placing a heavy emphasis on leveraging data is a sound strategic move. The tools that they offer in this space continue to evolve and once again, we have a great opportunity to utilize these technologies to our benefit at ClickDimensions. We’re already using several of them such as Azure Data Lake Gen2, Azure Data Factory and Azure Data Bricks, but I believe that there are many other use cases for these tools within our organization.
5. So much cool technology. As I sat through these sessions, looking at all these cool new technologies and the pace of innovation at Microsoft, I had to resist the geek in me that wanted to rush out and begin building applications. There is a lot of technology that will help ClickDimensions today, and a lot more on the roadmap over the next six months. I’m really excited to lean in to Microsoft even more and take advantage of the tools that they are providing.
Richard Evans, Vice President of Product Marketing
1. A focus on marketing. There is a lot of interest in the Microsoft universe around how Dynamics and other business applications can be used to support the needs of marketers. The sessions were well attended. The audiences were engaged. And the Microsoft team was speaking more about marketing than I expected. This focus on marketing is great news for ClickDimensions and our customers, and for all marketers who use Dynamics.
2. AI and machine learning. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are continuing to transform marketing as we know it. At the event, there was a clear focus on the importance of leveraging data to make marketing campaigns more effective and to provide more automated, actionable insights for marketing users. Because these new features are built on new Microsoft AI tech that is also available to ISVs like ClickDimensions, it will allow us to take our deep understanding of the needs of marketers and combine it with these Microsoft tools to build machine-learning-powered functionality at a rapid rate.
3. Bringing sales and marketing together. Sales and marketing alignment is still a hot topic and the people at Microsoft who build tools for marketing users are constantly thinking about ways to align marketing with sales and support. We couldn’t agree more.
4. Data for marketers. The importance of having marketing-specific reporting and dashboards is now more important than ever. The reporting available in PowerBI alone will not solve the needs of most marketers. PowerBI is too technical and open-ended, requiring IT or Business Systems involvement to connect the data sources and build marketing reports from a blank sheet of paper. Tools like Sweetspot are essential for marketers to self-serve reporting that clearly connects marketing tactics to revenue and success.
5. A great learning opportunity. This was my first time at the Microsoft Business Applications Summit event and I was not disappointed. It was filled with great content delivered by the teams who are directly responsible for building the Microsoft applications I was interested in. Not only were the sessions packed with insightful material, but I was able to drop by the product kiosks in the exhibition hall and talk directly with the Microsoft teams to get even more insight and to follow up on questions generated during the sessions.