Microsoft is launching a new user group program for Dynamics 365 and Power Platform that includes new technology investments and plans to get more new customers involved in local user group involvement.

As part of the new approach, will be Microsoft providing the structure and guidelines for forming and managing groups while continuing to rely on the community to run the individual groups.

Some of the major independently run user group organizations like Dynamic Communities, Inc (DCI) and Dynamics User Group have already agreed to wind down some of their own local user group efforts and encourage local leaders to align with Microsoft's plans.

Microsoft's Alysa Taylor and James Phillips at MBAS 2020

Microsoft employees involved in launching the local user group platform include recent hire and former Microsoft MVP Heather Newman and company veteran Gordon Macdonald. Executive support for the initiative comes from the leaders of the business applications group, James Phillips and Alysa Taylor, Macdonald explained in a briefing to the DynamicsCon advisory committee. The presentation was one of several meetings Macdonald and Newman have held in the community in advance of the public preview. (Note: I am a member of the DynamicsCon advisory committee.)

Macdonald and Newman said their team will take an approach that empowers and supports community-led groups. Microsoft estimates there are approximately 700 local user groups globally today. 

"We are happy to engage with user groups regardless of what platform they are organized on … but we’ve heard loud and clear from customers that they would prefer a more complete community experience with more connection to Microsoft," Macdonald told MSDW. "We’ve heard from UG leaders that they want more support to grow their groups."

The initiative to centralize leadership of user groups should align Microsoft and its business applications group more closely with the community programs of other major enterprise software providers like SAP, Salesforce, and Oracle. Those vendors all provide a level of centralized visibility and support for user groups that has been a challenge for Microsoft with its network of independent and often overlapping community associations and membership organizations.

With the new model, user groups that align with Microsoft will get access to online tools that includea new web-based platform and the option to add Teams as a component of their local user group experience. Teams tenants will be assigned specifically for group events, which will keep activities separate activities from customer or partner tenants.

Users can expect to see a public preview in April of the new platform. General availability is planned for summer 2021.

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