Team Pacejet spent some time in Phoenix last week as a sponsor of the Microsoft Dynamics User Group Summit; we came away impressed. It's no secret that Office 365 cloud has been growing fast, Azure has rocketed into second place behind AWS, and Microsoft recently announced 19% year over year revenue growth (Microsoft rises on earnings beat). And with 50% more users attending Summit this year, it looks like Microsoft has found their cloud software mojo.
Because Summit is a Dynamics ERP users event with a complex business community running AX, NAV, and GP versions, it was not surprising to see competing priorities across platforms and concerns about moving from on-premise to cloud. But this year's unified 365 branding, growing maturity of the Dynamics Business Central cloud platform, and clear path from on-premise to cloud technology created evident enthusiasm in the user community. While it might seem counter-intuitive, Microsoft's experience in maturing their own cloud-based ERP is driving them to offer expanded enterprise solutions that can benefit users running any ERP.
Cloud software as a first step or a destination
First time event attendees were everywhere at Dynamics this year, most users we spoke with were looking to get a clearer perspective on the Microsoft cloud and the impact on their systems. Some users were looking to add better shipping to existing on-premise AX, NAV, or GP ERP versions to get more value out of current investments while charting a path to the cloud. Other users either were already moving to cloud-based ERP or had a clear timeline in mind for the move. At Summit this year it was a rare exception to find a business with no plans to leverage cloud solutions at least somewhere in their operations.
Expectation that cloud software connects better
Another interesting trend we noticed at Microsoft Summit was a more widespread understanding of how cloud software is inherently better at connectivity than legacy on-premise systems and why that feature is valuable. Born-in-the cloud platforms like Pacejet are better at system integration partly because of architectural upgrades to leverage elastic PaaS environments but also because of a "connect first" design assumption at the heart of modern SaaS construction.
It was interesting to see, for example, how little explanation it took for Dynamics users to recognize the value of Pacejet a) connecting to carriers in real-time via APIs and b) using continuous deployment to maintain and extend carrier network connections over time. In fact, most users we talked to were quick to accept the premise of "you'll connect my systems to all my carriers and I'll focus on which carriers are doing the best job for me, what they cost, and what shipping services I need next." One more example of how it seems we've reached the cloud-first tipping point.
Ecosystem integration, not just ERP integration
As an ISV adding integrated shipping for Microsoft ERPs to our solution portfolio, Pacejet invested to create solutions for Dynamics 365 Business Central, Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations, Dynamics NAV, Dynamics AX, and Dynamics GP. And while we talked with many users at Summit about the core features of Pacejet shipping integrations with their specific ERP, we also heard broad-based interest in learning about Pacejet support features for the entire Microsoft ecosystem.
Demand for Microsoft ecosystem support showed up more strongly this year in questions about compatibility, customization, and flexibility. Some users wanted to learn more about the Pacejet RESTful API and how it could provide rate-shopping for various Microsoft compatible e-commerce applications. Other users were interested in how to leverage the Pacejet API with Webhooks to quickly and easily create customized shipping notifications, alerts, and workflows using Microsoft Flow (more on that below). While users are increasingly comfortable being relieved of the headaches of hardware, software installs, and operations responsibilities, there is clearly a new focus on how systems can adapt to specific industries and user needs.
Multi-app business process with Microsoft Flow
Among the many solutions showcased at Summit, Microsoft Flow was a standout example of the maturing Microsoft cloud and how it can add value you to just about any business. For example, on the plane coming back from Summit, I was able to use the latest version of Microsoft Flow to quickly design and activate workflows to conditionally send branded shipment email confirmations along with internal and partner email alerts for new shipments.
In the example below of Microsoft Flow, I configured shipments leaving a warehouse or arriving at a customer location trigger Pacejet Webhooks which activate Microsoft Flow to transmit customizable email notifications using data retrieved from the Pacejet RESTful API. The expanded infrastructure in Microsoft Flow lets power users orchestrate and optimize workflows across diverse cloud-based systems with little or no programming. This level of flexibility and open connectivity was existing to see and certainly got the gears spinning at the Pacejet offices (expect a video blog on this topic in the near future!)
See you next year in Florida
Thanks to the many Microsoft users who stopped by to visit team Pacejet at our booth, we enjoyed meeting and "talking ship" with you. We also wanted to thank the partners new and existing that we met in Phoenix, we're ready when you are to continue expanding solutions for customers. Looking forward to next year's Summit in Orlando Florida!
Learn more about the science of shipping
Pacejet helps you transform the shipping dock into a launching pad for profitability. This starts with a best-in-class cloud-based solution, surrounding it with the consultative support that enables customers to thrive in the 21st-century shipping economy.