I’m sitting in the press conference at Microsoft’s Convergence conference, and I’m reminded of the one reason I hate trying to cover the Dynamics part of Microsoft: They won’t answer a host of questions about their business that virtually every other company will answer. Which means as an analyst I can’t compare apples to apples, and can’t evaluate how Dynamics is doing along some key criteria. Here’s a sampler from today’s press conference:
What are Dynamics’ revenues? (Answer: we don’t report revenues now that we’re no longer our own business unit. We’ll tell you what our billings are, which is largely irrelevant as data point insofar as billings are not comparable to any known statistic offered by the rest of the market.)
What is the upgrade success for Dynamics’ products? (Answer: anecdotally, one partner told us they are having success upgrading.)
What is the contribution of Dynamics to the rest of the Microsoft in terms of revenues and/or percentage? (Answer: see revenues question above.)
Why is this information so important? First, after 20-plus years in the business, and a serious case of cynicism that has flared up since this last financial crisis emerged, I worry that companies that won’t share key data, particularly data that is shared almost universally by all their competitors, have something to hide. I say this with zero evidence that Microsoft or Dynamics is hiding anything, and with total confidence that the Dynamics business is solid. But, there are too many precedents that point to obfuscation as the first indication of fraud. Microsoft can, and should, be as transparent as possible, and it’s not. To its detriment, in my opinion.
The other reason this is important is that there is a continual need to reinforce to the market the notion that Dynamics is important and strategic to the rest of Microsoft. Despite, or perhaps because of Microsoft’s best efforts, this question still lingers almost a decade after the company embarked on its enterprise apps strategy with the acquisition of Great Plains. It came up yesterday during the analyst conference, when three partners were asked during a Q&A waht they would like Microsoft to do more of. The answer? Categorically state the importance of Dynamics to the rest of Microsoft, as much as possible. Some real data about revenues and contributions to overall Microsoft success would go a long way towards fixing this missperception.
In the end, this data black out is a sore point that I don’t have a lot of hope will change any time soon. It’s unclear why Microsoft does this, or what benefit it could possibly bring them (assuming there is nothing to hide of course.) But until this problem is remedied, there will always be an asterisk next to any claim of success on the part of Dynamics. And that’s a shame, for Microsoft and the entire market.