Thank you for reading our first newsletter of 2017.
It is now 2017 in the lunisolar Chinese calendar as well. 2017, the year of the Rooster. Their new year has begun and will last until Feb 15, 2018. I hope the content of this newsletter excites you all. Our calendar year 2017 is on and a lot happened in the first weeks of the year. This newsletter is full of real news, a fact checked by me, myself and I.
Unfortunately you can no longer rely on news really being true or not and for the news tiger I am that is hard to accept. As I always mention introducing myself I am a person interested in news, where the news is brought to all of us online these days. And with the increasing speed of the internet it sometimes reaches the receiver and reader even before it has been published, in other words leaking. The instant news is mostly short news messages. As I wrote earlier I am still a big fan of old-fashioned newspapers.
These newspapers have lost the advantage of bringing the news first long, long time ago, but for me it is still the best source of understanding and interpreting the background of the news. Unfortunately these newspapers are read by less and less people (no time to read and why pay for news if you can get it for free?) and therefore the price of that same newspaper has increased significantly over the last couple of years. The story with newspapers is like Moore’s law. Moore’s law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. As I wrote in 2014 my Saturday newspaper before the internet era contained 164 pages minimum. Today that same newspaper is less than 50 pages thick. So, Moore’s law in printed media is that the number of pages in a serious Saturday newspaper halves every two years. In contradiction the price of that same newspaper followed the opposite of Moore’s law (Less’s law?): the price of a newspaper doubles almost every two years.
I am not sure of any of these laws apply to the license costs of business applications and its accompanying implementations, let alone the return they have on the investment. Microsoft has introduced the Microsoft Dynamics 365 concept during summer 2016 and has changed product names, their pricing and licensing a couple of times over the past years. They changed a couple of P’s from the marketing basics and changed one P a couple of times which is feeding the competition. And so they did with the name of the product we grew up with. From Axapta to Microsoft Dynamics AX to the New Dynamics AX to Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations. I don’t know in which marketing books or lessons Microsoft folks have learned this, but that it would be good to do this was never in my books.
The pricing changes are partly a result of the change from perpetual licensing (capital investment for buyers) to subscription licensing (operational expenses for buyers). Pricing is also changed by moving applications to the cloud including operating system use (Microsoft Azure) as well as hardware infrastructure (your software is running on someone else’s computer). Furthermore, this is result of the change in user types, the number of user types and the privileges of these user types. The result is that you can no longer compare the Microsoft Dynamics 365 offering with for instance the IFS World offering (just to name one Microsoft Dynamics competitor). From the customer’s perspective it looks like Microsoft Dynamics is sometimes 4 times as expensive as our competitor’s offering. Customers are prepared to pay more if there is a clear added value let alone the return on investment, but is that still the case with Microsoft Business Solutions? As one of the best Microsoft Dynamics sales reps I know is always saying: ROI on ERP is bullshit anyway!
Do we need to separate bullshit from facts? Do we need to understand the difference between signal and noise or truth and lies? (This part is based on a recent column of Peter de Waard’s in the Volkskrant, my favourite newspaper).
As there is a law for almost everything there is a law for this as well: Bandolini’s law or the bullshit asymmetry: The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it. Alberto Bandolini, an Italian independent software development consultant, came to it after seeing a debate between former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi verbally fighting his opponents with clear lies. Not the first time as the Italy Chronicles (the Italy we don’t know 🙂 ) proves. The saying lies have no legs (or in Dutch and then translated in English (Dunglish) something like: although the lie is at highest speed, the truth will always overtake) is not much more than a friendly idea.
Is this new? No, it is not. Ironically, it seems that the “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes” quote isn’t from Mark Twain but a slightly modified version of Charles Spurgeon’s “a lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on” (1859) which, in turn, might be inspired by Jonathan Swift who mentioned in 1710 in his classic essay The Art of Political Lying that Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it. There were hardly any newspapers back then… According to RationalWiki, the concept may also refer to the “teoria della montagna di merda” (“the Bullshit Mountain Theory”) as postulated by Uriel Fanelli, another Italian. The Italian circle is round. Without diving much further into this now we have seen similar things in recent elections and even after during inauguration. How many people were there?
With upcoming elections in the Netherlands, France, Germany and (yes) Italy and more countries we will see this type of behaviour soon again.
Fact checking should be in the DNA of every journalist, but with the pressures of bringing news as soon as possible as well as decreasing income, newspapers have accordingly less resources to check facts or fact checks. In the run to get as much clicks and advertising income online sites have no reason or sense to fact check and bullshit simply attracts more visitors to the website. Science is conducted by press release. Higher education rewards lies over analytic thought. Startup culture elevates lies to high art. Advertisers wink conspiratorially and invite us to join them in seeing through all the bullshit — and take advantage of our lowered guard to bombard us with bullshit is of the second order. I am happy to hear the Washington university recently started education in differentiating facts from lies and the website Callingbullshit (where previous statements come from, are they true?) are fed up with bullshit.
How does this translate to our world of business applications? We know vendors of business applications (sometimes) misrepresent the truth during the sales cycle the demos and presentations. They spread FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) or worse throw mud on their competitors. Throwing mud by the way means that you lose ground. Checking the facts should also be in the DNA of each prospective customer, but how to do that? And how if what you see or hear is something different from what I see or hear.
Buying teams of customers consist of different individuals receiving and perceiving the same information differently when attending for instance a demo and presentation. Knowing this sales people should not work based on their own assumptions, but instead check the assumption. Sales reps from an industry or vertical focused Dynamics Partner (let’s say the manufacturing of communication equipment vertical) assumes company ABC has the same needs as company XYZ in that same vertical. That might be true or might not be true. You could also question if industry or vertical focus is right or not. Here is an interesting view on this from a Dynamics 365 Fighter Pilot Steve Mordue, but maybe that is a topic for my next blog.
Have you heard of optical illusions and depth perception? Perspective can trick the ear into hearing, understanding and explaining the same information differently. Just like the way perspective can trick the eye into seeing parallel lines that appear impossibly to meet, artists can use perspective tricks to create other optical illusions. Look at this one, created by the German psychiatrist Franz Muller-Lyer in 1889:
I thought the first line is longer than the second line. It is not, so avoid thinking that based on this experience every person or every customer in the same industry is the same.
The master of optical illusions is of course Maurits Cornelis Escher (http://www.mcescher.com/). Your perspective affects not just your view of distance, but the appearance of colors and hues you perceive as well. Check out this picture:
The gray bar across the middle of the picture appears lighter on the left and darker on the right. But that’s only because of the contrast between the gray bar and the different shades of gray in the background. The background is darker on the left and lighter on the right. Despite its appearance, the gray bar is actually the same color on the right and left.
In addition to appearing to vary shades of a color, sometimes our visual perspective can cause us to see colors that are not actually there. This is because our brains can perceive color in relation to other colors that are present. Take a look at this optical illusion, follow the simple instructions, and notice if you see green grass:
or illusions using shade:
or illusions using 3D:
Comparing pricing of business applications of different vendors is like comparing apples to oranges or apples to watches or seeing the panda.
Selling licenses alone (perpetual or subscription) is not enough, it is about the usage of the license. And frequently products or places are used in a different way than meant to be. This recently resulted into a new word in the Netherlands: Laadpaalklever or translated as chargingpoleminion. With electric cars becoming more popular there is a growing need for loading stations. Cities respond by creating loading bays which look like normal parking places. And that is exactly how they were used more and more given the extraordinary parking charges in city centers and charging for free. Very frustrating to other electric consumers with empty batteries wanting to load their cars. This is how new unexpected problems arise as a result of yobbo or jerk behavior. Via social media Elon Musk heard about the complaints and Tesla is the first to introduce its new pricing structure (stekkergeld or plugmoney) for the Supercharger Network with a simple list of costs per kWh and minute depending on the regions. Charging your Tesla was free in the Netherlands, but not anymore. It is now €. 0,35 per minute at 8 loading stations resulting into a parking fee of €. 21,00 per hour. It is funny to see that this pricing immediately leads to new initiatives and even an app: social charging. The app gives insight into free loading stations.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 is running in Microsoft’s cloud on Microsoft Azure. As a customer the monthly user price includes the Azure consumption. We use Dynamics 365 for Operations internally for hour and expense reporting and project management system. For us a partner we have to pay for Azure consumption which looks like it is charged by the minute as well. Or even charge by the second, like lawyers do (is this Microsoft’s law?). We had to increase the credit card limit by the month as consumption increased. Don’t forget to switch off the Azure server when it is not used. A very expensive parking place, a real disillusion.
I want to end this blog with a variant of optical illusions. Like many of you, I travel a lot and have seen many airports and planes from the inside and outside. Recently a very nice project caught my attention and I want to share that with you. It is from an artist by the name of Mike Kelley and one of his projects is Airportraits where he is photographing arriving and departing scheduled flights. His project started in March of 2014, when he created the first image of this series, Wake Turbulence, which depicted an entire day’s worth of aircraft movements at Los Angeles International Airport composited into a single image. Here are some images from departing flights from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol as well as arriving flights at London Heathrow.
Los Angeles and Dubai were easy because of stable weather conditions where Schiphol, Frankfurt and London were more difficult because of fast changing weather conditions. Amazing, isn’t it? Imagine if we would combine the air pollution or the sound of all these planes in one moment. Let’s not do that and lets enjoy the art instead.
Happy fact checking!
On behalf of Dynamics Software