Peer Power Blog
This blog is about the power of peers in the IT space. It is designed as a place to share things I have learned the past 24+ years running a business as well as meeting the growing demands of business owners we experience leading the Heartland Tech Groups - a peer group network for IT business owners.
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It's a Wrap - WPC 2012 is in the Books
Last week was an interesting week at Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto. It was a battle getting there – plane delays and cancelled flights didn’t allow me to get to town until mid-afternoon on day one. Twenty seven quality hours in Detroit that weren’t on my calendar or agenda but it certainly reminded me that I am not in control of much, actually anything if we get right down to it. Just another reminder that the unexpected can happen at any time, and being prepared for it is an important thing to have as a priority. That is why the life and legacy plans can’t be put off – you never know when the unexpected will strike and sometimes that is more than a flight delay or cancellation!
WPC 2012 was very upbeat, at least for the most part. With over 16,000 people in attendance, it was a sea of humanity. There were logistical challenges like there always are – lines long, Internet not working, rooms packed so you couldn’t get into sessions, not enough break snacks (in certain areas), distances too far between meetings, keynotes and the trade show and on it went. But I was impressed with the order that all things happened and think this was the best run WPC I have been to in my dozen or so years attending. The team did an awesome job preparing and given the task they were handed – did a marvelous job of feeding, moving and connecting all of us.
Evening events were challenging as the venues were all over town. The good news was that most were walking distance, at least before you got so tired you didn’t want to walk anymore. There were far too many events to get to so one has to pick and choose carefully – but that is far better than wondering what to do with your time. No one can accuse this event with not having enough content, parties, keynotes or any other conference amenity – they have lots of all of it.
So what were the big takeaways from WPC 2012? Here is my short list:
1.The state of the SMB channel is in flux. The announcement about SBS becoming end of life in 2013 and the SBSC program being ended were not really surprises or even news, but they did manage to get the ire up of some SMB partners. The reality is that this has been coming for some time. It is the right move given the strategy that Microsoft is pursuing. SBS was a great customer value, but there are ways for us to serve that space with other products and quite honestly fit into the Microsoft ecosystem. SMB should not be a ‘one off’ kind of solution or program. Small business is what drives economies around the world and we need to be part of the mainstream program and strategy.
2.The SBSC death should have happened a while ago. That program lost value years back and has been carried along on life support for far too long. I believe there is plenty of opportunity for a program for small business partners but SBSC was not it. What owners need is a community that can collaborate and help them build a company that is prepared for the challenges of the future. There needs to be a focus on business skill and leadership development. Is it Microsoft’s job to provide that? I believe their role may be more appropriately to create an ecosystem where those things can be easily secured and leveraged using organizations that are focused there to deliver. HTG (www.htgpeergroups.com) is completely focused on the SMB partner with our face to face and now returned on-line program. We serve all partners big and small that serve the SMB space. There are many other places to get education and skills as well. If people really want to learn and grow there are plenty of opportunities for that to happen.
3.Microsoft did make a clear statement that partners are part of their plan. The Office 365 billing fiasco has been a source of contention between partners and Microsoft for years, ever since its release actually. There are lots of reasons why, but the core of the issue is the ownership of the client relationship. In the SMB space, partners are going to own that relationship. They perceive it to be their value add and I concur with that analysis. Partners are how business happens in the SMB space. So Microsoft’s resistance to allowing us to direct bill an end user was one area many drew the line. Unfortunately that derailed the penetration of O365 significantly in the SMB space and allowed competitors to penetrate in an unneeded fashion. But the announcement came (the actual implementation is a ways off yet) that we will be able to source O365 just like every other produce we buy from Microsoft – through the distribution channel. I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours on this problem over the last few years and this announcement alone (which I didn’t get to hear in person due to the plane fiasco) made WPC worthwhile for me.
4.Windows 8 changes everything. The last time I really felt that way was Windows 95 some 17 years ago. We have been computing in the same basic way since then. This is the first truly transformational OS for many years. And that transformation is really dependent on a new wave of client devices that enable touch computing. Touch is the transformational part of this release. It also carries the same Metro look and feel across all devices, which is a great story, so my phone, pad, tablet, notebook, desktop or any other Win device will look, act and feel identical. That is a cool story. Windows 8 is a game changer. And it is only a couple months away.
5.Windows Server 2012 amps up the compete war around virtualization. HyperV has come of age, and it can no longer be ignored or written off as a poor substitute for VMWare. It is a real virtualization platform with lots of value add and strong features, benefits and performance. Time for all the holdouts to evaluate the workload and truly consider getting ramped up on this Microsoft solution. There will be a lot of opportunity and money to be made as Windows Server 2012 comes to market, so readiness is a big deal. It is time now to start the discovery and learning process.
6.MPN value is no longer a mystery. There were some studies that proved in black and white the value of the MPN program to a partner. How a partner cannot understand this is something I struggle to understand. The value of this program is so far beyond any other vendor program that it is not even funny. Yet so often partners just don’t seem to connect the dots. They fail to utilize so many of the benefits and leave so much opportunity and money on the table. If you haven’t looked at the study – find it and review to see where you are leaving money on the table.
7.MPN competency changes are coming. The good news is that the MPN program is making some needed adjustments on their competencies and combining some to make a more realistic number. They went overboard in the last FY and had things far too granular. The bad news is that they are realigning their competencies so for some of us, we have a lot of wasted time and effort getting our team in compliance with the current standards. I am all for raising the bar. But let’s decide what the program will be and not change it every 6 – 12 months in ways that require us to reconfigure how we work with Microsoft. We need stability. We need to get things solid and stick with one plan for a few years.
8.Office 15 is just around the corner. There was absolutely no mention of Office at WPC this year. Seemed sort of strange – but the executives I spoke with said that was intentional. I’ve been told we will have clarity around that product launch in the next 30So as we plan and prepare, we shouldn’t forget that this major release is right behind the Windows 8 server/client release and needs to be factored in. Just one more reason to be excited about the future and what Microsoft is providing to help grow our business.
9. Our annual Partners in Christ meeting went fabulous. We had a great turnout and heard from Chris Chirwin and Jason Jones. Their stories on life and living were powerful, and they gave us good insight. There is so much value in getting together with others and talking about how faith can integrate into the marketplace. And when we are at events like WPC, we tend to switch God off and forget that He is even around. Actually when we travel, we need to stay plugged in to our walk with God more than most times. A special thanks to Intellinet, Lanspeed, HTS, HTG, Onward, CCB and Nexus for funding the event. We'll be meeting next year on Wednesday morning in Houston. Plan now to join us!
There is more opportunity on the near term horizon than we have had for years. But opportunity that is not acted upon is of little to no value. So it comes down to execution – which is the Achilles heel for most of us. We must plan, prepare, and then execute. And the time to do that is now, right now in fact, because the time is short before the launches occur and these opportunities become reality. Are you ready? Do you have a plan? Or are you stuck in the past and complaining about the decisions that have been made? Are you going to miss the future because you refuse to change from the past? Microsoft is providing us a great platform to really leverage for the future. The ball is being passed to us – we need to be ready to take action and capitalize on this wave of opportunity.
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