David Fuller, Partners & Alliances Director at EACS, provides his predictions for Microsoft’s conference…
Next week is Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Orlando, Florida. My children have just about forgiven me that I will be a stone’s throw from Disney without them. Having assured them that it is a full working week (honest) they have sent me on my way with a shopping list.
June is the end of Microsoft’s financial year so the conference always happens in July to rally the Partners and get us all “super jazzed” for the coming year. I’ll be providing regular updates from the conference but this initial post is my take on what we can expect to hear this year.
It’s been almost 18 months since Satya Nadella was appointed CEO and he has been very active in repositioning Microsoft with his “Mobile First, Cloud First” strap line. A theme in the Ballmer years was the genuine excitement displayed when he and others talked about competition. Nadella wouldn’t be leading Microsoft if he wasn’t a competitive animal however his record suggests his battleground is one based on demonstrating value rather than a fist fight. He still has the likes of Kevin Turner, who isn’t exactly the shy and retiring type, for those who prefer a more confrontational approach.
The top team now is Nadella’s but the realisation of the need to have Microsoft as the default choice for customers from Cloud to End Point has many challenges, not least the still disappointing performance of the phone platform. The departure of former Nokia chief Stephen Elop signalled a change of direction with Nadella creating a new Windows and Devices Group headed by Terry Myerson. This continues the drive towards a single product approach which should enable development at a more rapid pace. I use a Windows phone and really like it but they have a way to go before Android and Apple get too concerned about market share.
Microsoft’s partners will need to evolve if Microsoft is to execute on this strategy. Customers need to consume services if they are to gain sufficient levels of familiarity and expertise that will defend Microsoft from its competitors. I’m expecting to hear more about how Microsoft will support Partner to Partner engagements so that customers maximise the investments they have or are likely to make. Traditional Infrastructure Partners who are building cloud practices may not have experience with Dynamics or SharePoint and although these lines are becoming more blurred it could cause channel conflicts as Microsoft drive customers to consume more and more cloud services. The knock-on effect for customers is more sales calls from more people which could do more harm than good for Microsoft’s reputation.
Cloud has been a major disruptive force, maybe even the biggest in my time in IT. It is reshaping how customers deliver IT, how it is paid for and the business models of Partners. I’m not convinced that Microsoft always understand the need of local markets and is assumed that what works stateside can be applied on a global scale. I understand why they want this but the drive for operational efficiency from within shouldn’t stop the local UK subsidiary from making decisions that impact the unique circumstances and needs of its customers and partners.
Innovate, Engage, Transform and Lead are the four subject areas for this year’s conference with what looks like at first glance a decent balance between technology and business. The proof will be if the sessions are new and updated, or just a rehash of last year.
I’m sure that there will lots of talk about the technology that is about to launch in market. Windows 10 is probably the best publicised but there will also be Surface Hub which is bound to create some “oohs” and “ahhs” from the audience, but this technology could be transformational if deployed with business outcomes in mind.
I would expect to see lots more on how Microsoft is driving customers to Azure with more use cases coming on line almost by the day. DR as a Service, Back up as a Service, Business Intelligence all delivered by harnessing hyper scale will be key messages that Microsoft will want its partners to embrace. As long as they can clearly and easily couple this to Partner Profitability then I’m sure that there will be some big strides in this area during the next Financial Year.
5 years ago when Microsoft declared they were all in for the cloud, partners and customers were asked to believe in Faith, Trust and Pixie dust and that it would all come good in the end. Well today the Cloud is with us and is being embraced on a significant scale and now is the time for these services to be deployed and consumed in the mainstream. Microsoft needs its Partners to do this and so I expect this call to arms to be the main focus for this year’s event.
Often at these events it is what you learn when you are not in a session or a keynote that is the most valuable and I’m looking forward to listening and understanding my peers’ perspectives on Microsoft strategy and how this is impacting them.
It’s important for Microsoft to leave their partners feeling inspired and to help with this a keynote session will be delivered by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgenson. Nineteen days after they set out to achieve one of climbing’s most difficult challenges, these guys reached the summit of the 3,000-foot rock known as El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, marking the first free ascent of a notoriously difficult section called the Dawn Wall. Overcoming adversity, strength, courage, determination will be key themes but I’m looking forward to hearing their story.
Look out for some more insights from Microsoft’s conference over the next week.