As an author, trainer, presenter, courseware developer, entrepreneur and now Microsoft employee I have spent my career bridging the complexities of Information Technology with the necessities of addressing business needs.  It has Wrequired me to continue developing not only my technical skills but also my understanding of how companies in different industries deliver their goods and services.  I’ve had the unique opportunity to live through several technical migrations from

  • Mainframes to Personal Computers to Mobile Devices
  • Products made of Atoms to Services delivered with Bits
  • Proprietary languages and systems to Open Source and Standards
  • Software as a Product and OS as a Platform to Software and Platforms as a Service

As each migration wave matures the need for businesses to be more agile in order to survive accelerates by orders of magnitude.  Companies depend on their IT resources – both internal support and now purchased services and platforms – to help them serve their customers.  But IT can never move fast enough for the business.  The need for the people closest to the customer to optimize their processes – and to change them quickly to meet changing customer needs – has never been greater.

Giving Business the tools they need

So while internal IT is focused on managing security, identity and systems management across their internal systems, SAAS and PAAS platforms business users need ways to compose their own applications using tools that give them a “Business Applications Platform as a Service (BizApps).”  IT can continue to maintain and support their local systems, purchase and integrate SAAS platforms and build new solutions on a PAAS platform that serve enterprise needs while this BizApps platform allows the business to innovate with their customers, partners and employees.

Learning from the past

I was an early innovator in the Applications Hosting business.  One of the companies I founded – Vobix – was one of the first – and largest – Application Service Providers from the early 2000’s.  That experience taught me some difficult lessons about being first to market, having a vision that exceeds current technical capabilities and the difficulty in selling that vision to business.  I also served as the CEO of a first mover in the mobile application space for the distribution industry and learned about the intricacy of developing on immature platforms, with unreliable connectivity and untested software development tools.  These and other experiences have given me more tools to evaluate the likelihood of a product, service or platform to achieve long-term success.

As I look at the current landscape of available Business Application Platforms I am convinced that Microsoft is the company uniquely positioned to provide the BizApps Platform of choice for Business and has the best long term prospects for adding value to the platform while keeping it affordable.  Yes, Amazon is the current leader in providing Infrastructure as a Service.  SalesForce is a leading provider of both SAAS solutions with their CRM offering as well as PAAS offerings such as Force and Heroku.  Google has a SAAS productivity platform, a growing data center presence and a near monopoly position in Search.  But no one has the depth, breadth and integration of Microsoft’s platform.

The Microsoft Advantage

Microsoft provides business services across three clouds that operate securely with integrated access, authentication and authorization provided by Active Directory –

Azure – for IAAS and PAAS applications developed by Business Developers and ISV’s that can extend seamlessly from the Private Cloud in a company’s data center to the Azure public cloud.

Office 365 – the standard for productivity platforms in the cloud and on premises including

  • content creation tools like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Sway
  • scalable data and collaboration services like Exchange (Mail), OneDrive (personal files), SharePoint (document management) and Skype for Business (voice, IM and presence)
  • clients across all major browsers and hardware platforms to allow access anywhere, any time on any device.

Dynamics 365 – a platform that provides businesses with core business applications supporting finance, operations, manufacturing, distribution, sales, service and human resources.

Enter Microsoft BizApps….

With every passing technology generation it’s been necessary for business to mold the technology to meet their unique needs.  Whether writing macros for Excel, developing simple solutions in Access or creating standard templates in Word the need for creating these solutions continues to grow.  As the world moves toward consuming more cloud services the need for integrating these services with the core productivity platform have never been greater.  In many ways the industry has simply moved from application silos on premise to SAAS silos in the cloud.  No single application or platform can anticipate and deliver all of the capabilities that businesses require to serve their customers.

But with the integrated and secure operations, productivity and application clouds from Microsoft, businesses can start developing solutions to serve their customers with a significant head start, providing:

Integration: The ability to combine data and process between both on-premise data and services as well as SAAS and PAAS platforms through process automation services like Microsoft Flow and Azure Logic Apps

User Experience: A PowerApps platform that allows businesses not only to develop unique web and mobile solutions but to extend existing productivity platforms like OneDrive and SharePoint

Analysis: The industry leading data integration, analysis and reporting platform – Power BI – that can aggregate data from any source and provide reporting, dashboards and complex analysis for businesses and their customers

Innovative Services: The Common Data Model provides businesses with an entity based repository that requires no advanced programming knowledge to use, automatically scales and provides direct integration with other business databases and applications. In addition to an innovative business data service, Microsoft BizApps can integrate with and consume services from communication services, SAAS and PAAS providers, machine learning, cognitive services (allowing systems to speak, listen and see) and even IoT services.  The open architecture of the Microsoft BizApps platform makes it simple for business users to easily use new services as they are developed by Microsoft or any other industry provider.

Learning the BizApps Platform

I started this blog to help businesses learn how to leverage their investments in Office 365, Dynamics 365 and Azure by building solutions using the Microsoft BizApps platform.  Microsoft, their partners, consultants and other bloggers already provide help and support for Microsoft BizApps. I’m adding my perspective as someone who works every day with businesses to envision, build, deploy and support solutions based on these tools. I hope you find the insights I share to be valuable in your growth as a creator of Microsoft BizApp solutions.

John Landgrave

Disclaimer – The opinions expressed on this blog are mine and mine alone and shouldn’t be interpreted as an official position or an endorsement by my employer – Microsoft Corporation.