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WPC 2014 Insider Perspective

WPC 2014

WPC, otherwise known as the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, was again a huge event this year with over 16,000 attendees descending on Washington D.C. July 13-17. This was my 8th WPC since first attending in 2003. Having traveled most of the nation, D.C. was one of the few cities I hadn’t previously visited. The historic landmarks made an impressive backdrop and the weather was warm, but nothing like the heat of Oklahoma.

Nobody does a conference as well as Microsoft, especially on such a large scale. In 20 minutes I was back in my hotel room, having registered and purchased the Surface 3 conference deal. The WPC app let you schedule the ten different sessions you could do each hour in seconds, while providing you full event information. Every aspect was well staffed and executed with an army of Microsoft people everywhere, including audio-visual techs in each of the hundreds of meeting rooms. From training sessions to evening parties at over a dozen famous venues, the longest I ever waited was for the light to change crossing the street.

Even though there are over 300 Microsoft Partners in the state of Oklahoma, I only ran into one other Sooner. This is not surprising, as IDC still reports that 70% of technology firms are not profitable. Microsoft also reports that only 3.5% of the 640,000 global Microsoft partners transact cloud services. Most partners can’t afford to go, much less spend one second away from their business without it going under. Unfortunately for clients, those same technologists also don’t have time for the continuing education in an industry that changes 10 times faster than any other. The partners that say “I’ll just get everything from digitalwpc.com”, never set aside the 40 hours to review – not to mention comparing experiences with other partners or meeting with key Microsoft personnel.

The tracks this year were:

  • Leadership, Sales & Marketing. I suppose these areas were grouped together because technology people generally have no clue about business, but leadership is and always will be a separate category. For certain today, sales is DEAD and you simply market and tell a story. Traditional sales people are absurdly ineffective with huge bravado, while being perpetually terrified about answering technology questions. Customers hate being sold, but love to buy from the people that are different. Your website better be mobile optimized and your look and story better be different than your competitors.
  • Mobility & Devices. 14% is the current market share of Windows devices in smartphones and tablets. Snicker if you want, but a Surface 3 does twice what an iPad and Mac Air do together for less than half the cost. Many of our clients are already deploying Surface 3 as the only equipment for employees, instead of  traditional desktop, notebook, and tablet combination. I’ll take my Windows Phone over a Droid or iPhone any time. The biggest exposure for both Google and Apple is security. Microsoft is decades ahead with fewer vulnerabilities and secure device management using Windows Intune.
  • Cloud. The winners will be Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Microsoft Online Services will soon pass the $2 Billion annual revenue mark. While the mantra was that cloud partners make more money, this statement is only true if you’ve been doing it for the past 5 years and have the volume of 5,000 subscribers or more. On-premise solutions are twice as profitable for partners. Customers should utilize partners that have been doing cloud for at least 5 years and traditional partners better stick to what they know or go bankrupt trying to catch up.
  • Enterprise Social. Somehow you found this blog and I’d say that Matrixforce is better than average at social media, but not yet stellar. Social is definitely not going away and no matter what you do, some employees don’t know what is going on without this curious medium. Some of the best information I’ve gotten about Microsoft solutions and offerings has come from Yamjams (kind of like a Reddit IAmA discussion over an hour), in spite of all the e-mails and websites. Overwhelmingly, the best demo of the conference was using Skype real-time translation, where the presenter on stage spoke in English to a woman in Berlin speaking German.
  • Big Data. Microsoft is ahead of the times, with offerings like Power BI (Business Intelligence) to take a series of spreadsheets and quickly create key performance dashboards. Established businesses have been clamoring for a way to make sense of massive information, but small business either won’t be mature enough to appreciate or will need to help to utilize.

More than anything this year, Microsoft continues to demonstrate the ability to adapt and tell their own story such as 88 Acres. While Apple churns out the next Mac and iPhone with no new benefits and Google just continues to increase ad costs, Microsoft is differentiating with productivity and security for business and consumers.

Although most Microsoft detractors are currently dumbfounded by Microsoft’s continued and improving profitability, some in the press couldn’t resist throwing some dirt and FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) during WPC. Business Insider released Microsoft to Cut 18,000 Jobs trying to suggest that Microsoft is doing poorly. The first comment hysterically states Microsoft won’t exist in 20 years and then the comments degrade to discussions about H1B workers, even though the article explains that Nokia employees are being downsized from the acquisition. CNBC tried to keep Apple relevant with Apple, IBM in massive enterprise hardware, software partnership. Let’s take an unsecured device and unknown app and try to do business. Besides, IBM makes its money from consulting and financial services today.

Satya Nadella ended the final day keynote with the Nietzsche quote “Courage in the face of reality”. The meaning was really more for partners, as Microsoft has already made the transition to devices and services. The transformation is amazing given the massive size of Microsoft. Maybe Microsoft is using the Mike Michalowicz Pumpin Plan to kill off most partners leaving the 25,000 or so that truly help customers and Microsoft.

My focus for WPC was Azure and digital marketing, two things mid-sized businesses can’t afford to misunderstand. I’ll be briefing Guardian clients during CIO Reviews and if you’d like to know more about what I learned at WPC, please ask questions in the comments below.

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