Takeaways from #WPC15

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Sitting here on my flight home to Seattle from a week with other partners in Orlando, attending my 6th Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (#WPC15), I’ve had time to reflect on some of what I picked up at this year’s event, and thought I’d share a few thoughts. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve probably seen some of the selfies and group photos from throughout the week, but there was actually work accomplished this week, believe it or not. In fact, I had intended to attend several sessions this week – especially those geared toward SharePoint and, specifically, ISVs – but my meeting schedule remained hectic throughout and I was unable to attend anything but the keynotes. But that really is the point of these events, isn’t it? Especially when Microsoft now makes the content available within a day, if not hours. The benefit of being there in person is your ability to sit down face-to-face with partners new and old.

Of course, its also a place for Microsoft to announce and disseminate partner program news and updates, and to recognize the efforts (and wins) of their partner community. You can go through the many articles, press releases, and blog posts that detail the state of the Microsoft program from this past fiscal year, but my takeaway on what to expect for the coming year for partners is simple: get ready for change. Microsoft channel chief Phil Sorgen shared this message of change during his keynote on Monday, but he also gave the Seattle IAMCP a preview a few weeks back, which I summarized here. He cemented this idea of change in his remarks on Wednesday by repeatedly stating that “All partners are now ISVs,” as part of Microsoft’s push for SI’s (strategic integrators, or consulting companies) to move from project-based or reseller models toward managed services and, ultimately, IP creation. Hence the mantra Sorgen repeated that we’re all ISVs. Of course, we’re seeing this all across the partner landscape…..and its certainly not unique to the Microsoft ecosystem, but a reflection of the changes underway in information technology and software because of the movement toward the cloud. The difficulty for partners is to understand where the platform stops, and where partner solutions should begin – because this is a moving target with Microsoft (and other major platform providers).

If I can step onto my startup/entrepreneur soapbox for a moment: there is nothing unexpected here in Microsoft’s partner messaging. Truthfully, partners should not be surprised that many aspects of Microsoft’s business seem to be infringing on partner territory in recent years. It’s the nature of SaaS. Microsoft is making the same adjustments, having to re-think strategy and positioning, and features versus partner solutions. As Microsoft has attempted to soothe some heated words and frustration within the partner community, telling us that “Microsoft loves our partners!” there has been somewhat of a collective rolling of the eyes….but I do believe that Microsoft is trying to right the ship. When Microsoft COO Kevin Turner spoke to the Seattle IAMCP a couple years back, he talked about this change, and even remarked that “it will get more difficult before it improves.” In many ways, I believe we are turning that corner (or will be within this fiscal year), and Microsoft is beginning to figure out how to position itself and the partners within this new normal. But nobody is going to make this change for you. Partners need to figure it out – and those who can make the change will see their businesses accelerate, as Microsoft demonstrated with example after example this week.</soapbox>

Having said all that, my real takeaway from this week was that Beezy is about to go big. Yes, this was my first week in the new role as CMO for enterprise collaboration ISV Beezy Inc. And yes, we had a huge announcement around our Yammer integration with Beezy, for both online and on prem environments – which follows an even bigger announcement at Ignite in May of our support for Office 365 and our ability to migrate everything (not just content) from Jive, IBM Connections, and NewsGator (now called Sitrion). In fact, we can migrate SharePoint 2013 on prem social to Office 365 and Yammer, too. But beyond these feature announcements, what is most exciting (to me, at least) is identifying and solving platform gaps, and how Beezy solves some MASSIVE gaps around social, adoption, and productivity for SharePoint. And customers are definitely responding. That’s my takeaway from this week – a confirmation that we have something unique. I’m excited to be on Team Beezy.

Of course, there were quite a few interesting technology announcements and discussions this week, as well, which will be covered in the coming weeks by blog posts, panel events (like the next CollabTalk show in IT Unity), and tweetjams (like this month’s tweetjam discussing Project GigJam). Lots going on, so keep your eyes open!

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.