As a Microsoft Gold Partner and a SharePoint ISV, one of the most productive events for my company Axceler each year is the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, last year held in downtown Toronto. It was my third time at the event, and I am looking forward to participating again this year as it is an amazing event to meet, greet, and connect with every flavor of Microsoft partner. In fact, this past year we switched around our strategy for the event, deciding not to exhibit, yet sending twice as people people to the event. I spent almost every minute of each day in meetings with Microsoft and various prospective and current Axceler partners, drinking a bit from the marketing fire hose in content sessions, and at the constant flow of vendor parties, including our own.
While WPC is a great event and one that every company in the space should attend, the difficulty is extending that partner buzz all year long. In a post for Microsoft’s DigitalWPC website, I shared some thoughts on how participants can continue to drive value from their WPC attendance. While you will make connections and participate in mixers and events within your region, there are three primary ways that a Microsoft partner stays connected within the community:
- IAMCP – The International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) has chapters around the world, organized by community members with the sole purpose of partner-to-partner networking. Most chapters hold regular meetings with guest speakers from within the chapter, from Microsoft, or from other business and technology professionals. For example, the Seattle chapter will be hearing this week from two members of our chapter as we discuss the Microsoft product planning cycle and how partners can participate in that process. Last year we had 7 or 8 speakers come share their expertise, including Microsoft CVP Jon Roskill. And this year we already have lined up MPN’s Kati Quigley and Microsoft COO Kevin Turner. It’s nice to be in Microsoft’s backyard! But the chapter meetings are not all about guest speakers – its about connecting with other partners, learning about what is working for their businesses, and developing new partner relationships.
- DigitalWPC – For those unfamiliar with this great website run by the MPN team, DigitalWPC is Microsoft’s effort to extend the WPC conversation to a year-long dialog, and they do a pretty good job of sharing internal messaging as well as external voices, like mine. Want to know about the latest updates to the partner certification model? Want to know Microsoft’s position on cloud, virtualization, and business intelligence? Need details on changes to licensing? You can find all of this – directly from Microsoft’s leadership team – through the site.
- PinPoint – Microsoft PinPoint is the primary portal through which you can find partners by application, services provided, name and location. Registered partners are able to complete a profile, and anyone can use the site to search for partners globally.
These are all great resources, but there’s always room for more tools, more ways to connect to the partner community. One new site that has launched is PartnerPulse, created by members of the community for the community, that allows any company to create a free profile, but with additional features and capabilities for paid membership.
What is slightly different, apart from the fact that Microsoft does not own the site, is that they are attempting to build out an SEO-optimized and socially connected version of PinPoint, utilizing some of the same social features (comments, ratings, uploads, links, alerts) as we now expect to see in the tools we use. Personally, I think it’s the right direction for a partner community tool. Having multiple partner portals is healthy – competition drives innovation, and PartnerPulse may inspire Microsoft to modify their PinPoint model to come up to speed with the social technology norms. Besides, when a company like Microsoft (or any other massive corporation with large partner communities) has too much control over the ways in which partners connect, that is a bad thing.
We’ve long been asking Microsoft for a PinPoint refresh, and now the community has stepped up. I’m interested to see how things develop.