As 2021 draws to a close, let’s look back at MSDynamicsWorld’s
most read articles of in the past twelve months.
With Business Apps now serving a more recognizable role at
Microsoft, it should perhaps be no surprise that some of the most
well-read stories this year focused on the company’s broadest
announcements: robust financial performance and a maturing industry
Microsoft also seems to have found more ways to explain the
roles of Dynamics 365 applications and Power Platform services in
the context of the company’s higher profile offerings like Azure
cloud services, Teams, and Microsoft 365. That improved visibility
alongside data on product growth and new product portfolio updates
all fed our readers’ interests this year.
Microsoft by the numbers
MSDW’s coverage of Microsoft quarterly earnings reached new
readership highs in 2021. The rise in earnings interest by our
readers could serve as one indicator of shifting perspective in
2021 as the company reported steadily impressive cloud revenue
growth, with Dynamics 365 and Power Platform growth holding steady
or even accelerating. Microsoft’s
FY2021 Q4 and full year earningsreported in
late July outperformed analyst estimates with Azure growth of 51%
and Dynamics 365 revenue growth of 49%. The company ended the
fiscal year with net income of $61.3 billion and earnings per share
FY21 Q3 results also beat estimates. “The
Microsoft Cloud, with its end-to-end solutions, continues to
provide compelling value to our customers generating $17.7 billion
in commercial cloud revenue, up 33% year over year,” executive vice
president and chief financial officer Amy Hood told investors.
Azure revenue was up 49% and Dynamics 365 revenue grew 45%.
Microsoft also chose to re-frame Business Applications slightly
thanks to the launch of a
new Digital Transformation Platform Groupin March. Led by James
Phillips, who had previously been president of Business Solutions,
the new organization covers Phillips’ existing portfolio and
incorporates Azure AI, Azure Data Platform, Azure IoT Platform, and
industry cloud solutions. This new organization had 15,000
Microsoft employees at the time of the announcement, and Phillips
continued to report to EVP Scott Guthrie.
Microsoft also revealed that
Dynamics 365 Business Central, their SMB ERP
offering, cruised past 15,000 cloud customers in Apriland is
seeing 200 percent annual growth in users. The rate of growth in
users was higher than the growth in new customers, according to
Business Central GM Mike Morton.
Business Central channel veteran James Crowter took the
product’s successes in stride as in his well-received May article
the priorities on which he would ask Microsoft to
focusto further strengthen their ERP lineup in the face of
stiff global competition. For example:
Despite the lack of backing by Microsoft Corp., the product
succeeds thanks to end users loving it and partners filling the
growth in Business Central wins has led to a chronic
shortage of skilled people. The pandemic reduced demand for three
months in 2020 but it’s back now and more extreme than ever, with
every candidate having multiple offers, some without interview.
I know some at Microsoft have seen the ‘templated implementation
methodology’ as a way to sign up more subscriptions without solving
this issue and I have no doubt that it has a place in the
ecosystem. I believe, though, that it’s starting to make the demand
for expertise higher. That is because a lot of the organisations
that used this approach to get started now want to go further
having reached the limits of the templates.
Pricing and packaging
Products and licensing schemes never stagnate at Microsoft, and
as cloud apps and services evolve, so do the parameters of their
sales and subscriptions.
better storage pricing and allowances for Business Centralin
April, a change aimed to address a major hurdle in the previous
model that limited storage to 80GB plus 2 to 3 GB per user.
We also learned in August that the latest iteration of
Dynamics 365 HR will make a clean break from the legacy HR
capabilities in Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations apps. That
decision to proceed with separating the products once and for all
seems sound, but it will require some untangling of product
features and licensing, Microsoft explained. Overlapping HR
features in the other Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations apps will
eventually fade away, as late as 2025, but D365 HR will begin to
take precedence much sooner, with Lifecycle Services compatibility,
functional advances, new integration options, and new licensing.
Power Platform licensing continued to evolve in 2021, too. In
Microsoft announced plans to lower Power Apps
pricingwhile also simplifying per-app plans. The change was a
response to a “significantly accelerating” volume of apps being
built atop the platform, Microsoft’s Ryan Cunningham stated at the
time. The update lowered per-user plans from $40 to $20 per user
per month, and per-app plans decreased from $10 to $5 per app per
month. Power Apps Portals also received licensing updates. Readers
took an interest in June’s announcement of
new pricing tiers for high volume portals, a
move that was designed to bring published costs for hundreds of
thousands or millions of logins per month into a realistic range.
Looking ahead to 2022, Microsoft has introduced more options like
pay-as-you-go pricing, new entitlements for AI
Builder, and higher usage volumes.
The Business Apps ecosystem seems to have adapted to Microsoft’s
twice-yearly release waves for Dynamics 365 and Power Platform. The
planning documents get lots of attention from bloggers and
partners, while the community also awaits some inevitable surprises
that don’t make it into the printed version. Perhaps predictably,
our coverage of the
2021 release wave 1 plansrose to become one of
the most popular items of the year. For more feature-level
insights, see articles highlighted in
2021’s “best of” article highlighting MSDW
Microsoft revealed plans for
new B2B e-commerce features for Dynamics 365 Commercein January
that add account relations, partner management, account-based
promotions, distributed order management, and more. Those
enhancements helped Microsoft
launch the Microsoft Cloud for Retail, which
consolidates the company’s retail industry offerings from Dynamics
365, Power Platform, Microsoft Advertising, Azure, and Microsoft
365. The company pursued similar goals across
a range of industry cloud solutionsin 2021.
Dynamics 365 Sales got a new mobile appin 2021.
It provides a better experience on mobile interfaces than the
model-driven interface with optimized views, better information
capture using device controls, and better access to information via
Microsoft also revealed its
plans to bring user group support in-housein
March. After keeping user groups at arm’s length for years, the new
plans involved a dedicated internal team that wants to support
individual user groups with technology infrastructure and
organizational tools. Microsoft estimated at the time of the
announcement that that there were approximately 700 local user
groups globally. Not all of those groups have lined up with
Microsoft’s approach yet, but the team seems poised to offer more
enticements to local leaders in 2022 like better access to
Microsoft personnel and some technology updates.
Other popular reporting from 2021: