After the excitement of the Office 2010 CTP releaseÂ in July’s Microsoft Worldwide Partner conference keynote, I did intend to write something on this blog about the other key announcements.Â Those plans didn’t come to fruition for a variety of reasons (although I’ve written plenty about Windows 7 since) but one of the main announcements was the relaunch of the Microsoft Partner Programme as the Microsoft Partner Network, based around:
- Capabilities – Microsoft is looking for partners who invest early with deep skill sets and the 30 competencies will include an advanced level for those who will invest early and commit early.
- Customers – a customer satisfaction survey will be part of the partnership renewal process.
- Connections – making social media work for business, embracing the best of the web with the best of social media to use these technologies in business.
I work for a Microsoft Gold Certified partner and it seems to me that these changes could be significant.Â No longer is being “big” enough to get support from Microsoft – the partnership is a two way commitment and it’s clear to me that Microsoft will favour those partners who are helping to drive their products forward, rather than being dominant forces in the IT industry in their own right.
There’s nothing wrong with that – indeed that’s what partnership should be about – working together to jointly promote one another’s business for mutual gain, rather than thinking of the relationship in terms of software supplier around which to provide a service wrapper, or a hardware layer, or additional software functionality, so I spent a day last week at Wembley, at the Microsoft Partner Network 2009 event in order to learn more.
Hosted by the BBC’s George AlagiahÂ (who was amusing, personable, andÂ very capable when one over-zealous attendee stormed the stage to try and put his question forward, much to the amusement of the other attendees!), the event featured a succession of Microsoft executives, customers, and even the London Evening Standard’s Anthony Hilton, who gave an extremely interesting talk on why recession is not necessarily bad for business although I was less impressed by the afternoon session with several London Wasps players and coaching staff (now, had it been Northampton Saints, I may have had a different opinion, although Rugby Football Union team building still seems irrelevant at an IT conference, even one focused on partnership).
So, what were the key messages from the day?Â Well, what follows are based on the notes I made (I also twittered throughout the day on #MPNÂ and #MPN2009) and are hopefully relevant to readers of this blog:
- Microsoft UK’s Ask A PartnerÂ number has changed to 08448006006.
- The Microsoft Partner Network is about supporting innovation using Microsoft products and the General Manager of Microsoft UK’s Small, Medium EnterprisesÂ and Partners Group, Scott Dodds, characterised a successful partner as one that:
- Deploys/adopts/embraces theÂ latest software versions.
- Makes use of partner network resources to drive new business.
- Differentiates themself with solutions built on Microsoft technologies to drive new business (including partnering with other Microsoft partners).
- Commenting on the state of the UK IT Market, Dodds said “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste!”, citing a need to pour energy and passion into a business, to look at what works and what doesn’t in the businessÂ - and then to reinvest and refocus, not retrench.
- Dodd’s message to partners was to look for opportunities through innovation, to deepen and strengthen customer relationships, and to compete and grow share.
- Anthony Hilton, from the London Evening Standard backed up Dodd’s message (I’ll write a separate post on his presentation) and his closing statements were that businesses can grow in difficult times, by shifting to focus on transformation of theÂ business – thinking about the creative rather than about the destruction.Â If a business can adapt then theÂ resulting opportunities will be well worth the effort.
- John Noakes, a Partner Technology Specialist at Microsoft (not the Blue Peter presenter) spoke about how 1999 is different to 2009 – now business are investing to survive and are looking for cost reductions.Â Price, cost and value are different things but cost reduction is on everyone’s mind… but it’s not just about concentrating on costs or on innovation.Â If we’re really smart, we can reduce costs to enable investment in innovation.
- SoftwareÂ plus services is about combining the best of cloud-based and on-premise solutions.Â
- Noakes listed seven points to talk to customers about that are highly relevant in today’s business world: unified communications; enterprise search; business intelligence; cloud computing; social computing; mobility; and virtualisation.
- James Akrigg, Head of Technology for Partners at Microsoft UK claimed to have completed an installation for his demonstration in the car on the way to Wembley – I’m not sure if that shows dedication or a lack of planning but he took a look at some of the Microsoft technologies that are coming to market in late 2009/2010 and claimed to be fighting hard not to say that he’s “superexcited”.Â Using an alternative job title of Microsoft CSO (Chief Simplication Officer), he expressed a view that product+product=more opportunities.
- Nick McGrath, Microsoft UK’s Director for Commercial Market Strategy was clear in his articulation of Microsoft’s strategy: innovate for the long term; grow market share.
- On innovation, he spoke of 2009/10 opportunities including new versions of Windows (client and server), Office, SQL Server, SharePoint, Exchange, and Windows Mobile.
- With regards to growing market share, McGrath stressed that Microsoft is focused on partnership (cf. Oracle, who haveÂ bought 39 ISVs in the last 3 years) before moving on to attack VMware’s “virtualisation tax” and Google’s privacy issues, asking if their applications are reallyÂ business ready?Â He then talked about working with partners to growing market share together and called for partner to use their partner managers to get Microsoft’s attention.
- Dr. Andrew Herbert, Managing Director of Microsoft Research in Cambridge, United Kingdom (referring to his labs as “Ye Olde Research Labe” compared with Microsoft’s new research laboratories in Cambridge, Massachusetts!) explained that Microsoft Research works on everything from theorem proving to the practical implementations of technology, advancing theÂ state of the art in computer science, transferring this technology to Microsoft businesses and leadingÂ MicrosoftÂ into the future.
- Microsoft Research staff have no milestones, targets or scorecards,Â and Herbert said that they get up in the morning and decide what they want to do, which not only sounds great but in practice makes the organisation very agile so that it can help the company to respond to challenges (e.g. Microsoft needed its own search engine and Microsoft Research could work on it rather than buying in search services… the result is Bing).
- Other examples of Microsoft Research’s work in Cambridge include:
- Programming principles and tools (e.g. F# in Visual Studio 2010).
- Operating system, networking and distributed systems (e.g. the Windows Vista network mapÂ and Barrelfish).
- Computer mediated living (e.g. Sensecam, and SecondLight).
- Machine learning and perception (e.g. Xbox Live ranking, and Project Natal gestures).
- Computational science (e.g. 2020 science, MCH(1) antigen model, ecology model for climate change).
- Microsoft Research’s vision is create seamless experiences that combine the magic of software with the power of the Internet across a world of devices and Herbert spoke of 3 screens on the cloud: big (TV); medium (PC); and small (smartphones and other personal devices) with seamless integration between the three before showingÂ a UK General Post Office film from 1969 looking at telecommunications in the 1990sÂ which may have been a few years out but it was spookily accurate, predicting many technologies that we take for granted today.
- Herbert then closed by highlighting the long investment periods that are required to grow software markets, with waves of innovation and again mentioning the power of combining client devices with cloud-based infrastructure.
- Microsoft UK Managing Director, Gordon Frazer, spoke of at what’s happening in Microsoft’s UK business, again highlighting the vision of PC, phone and web providing seamless experiences across all aspects of our lives.Â He too stressed the point that Microsoft’s big opportunities are focused on the long termÂ and being tenacious, citing 4 releases of Windows before it was widely accepted [and it's generally noted that most Microsoft products reach maturity at version 3], highlighting a total research and development budget of $9.5bn, and demonstrating Microsoft’s big opportunities using a surprisingly candid red/amber/green (RAG status):
- PC $4.2bn (green).
- Phones $1bn (amber).
- TV and entertainment $1.6bn (amber).
- Servers $2.2bn (green).
- Communications and productivity, creativity and socialisation $7.2bn (green).
- Search and commerce $2.1bn (red).
- Enterprise infrastructure $2.7bn (green).
- Frazer also shared some advice from the Microsoft’s UK company event last Monday at which employees were told to take care, take share, take pride.Â The point being made at Microsoft Partner Network was that market share is an indicator of success, regardless of whether the market is growing or contracting.
- He then highlighted that the Microsoft partner ecosystem accounts for 241,000 jobs and Â£20.5bn in revenue.Â Over the period 2009-13 the IT market is expected to grow, with 78,000 new jobs andÂ 2,500 new companies, representing a 1.8% growth vs. a decline of 1.0% in the UK’s GDP.Â Microsoft’s Britain Works programmeÂ is intended toÂ help 500,000 people into work by 2012 and to make IT the engine for the UK’s productivity, efficiency and economic impact.
- James Akrigg returned to talk about supporting partners in their future:
- The people within the organisation who need Microsoft resources are not necessarily those directly involved with the partnership and encouraged partners to expand the number of people with access to the Partner Network resources.
- Resources available include: campaign resources for The New Efficiency marketing campaign (e.g. events in a box); te latest product logos; a Gear Up guide (e.g. to make partners aware of licensing changes, so they can build competitive solutions); a demonstration showcase suite; and opportunities for collaboration – so that partners can join forces to offer complete solutions.
- Akrigg also highlighted resources to connect with customers, including Microsoft Pinpoint (to find products, services, and more with the help of an online community that connects businesses with Microsoft Certified companies) andÂ showed the Partner RSS HubÂ for partner news.Â
- The rest of the afternoon was taken up with the London Wasps section that I have already commented on, before the main event closed down; however there was a public sector breakout session at the end of the afternoon in which Microsoft UK’s General Manager for the Public Sector, Dr Nicola Hodson spoke about how even cutbacks present opportunities – as government organisations are looking for strong business cases with a fast return on investment.Â
- Highlights from the public sector session included:
- Microsoft worked with North Leamington school, deploying Windows 7Â as part of the Innovative Schools programme.
- Tony Ellis from the London Borough of Brent spoke about the challenges of running his IT operation, targetting front line services to some of the most deprived areas in London:
- Councils offer a huge breadth of services – which means a breadth of IT requirement – and 85% of all government services are provided by local councils.Â Brent doesn’t spend much on IT (in fact they have the 2nd lowest budget in London), but they believe they spend it wisely, making use of Enterprise CAL arrangements to deploy Office 2007 to 3,500 users, to move from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, to deploy OCS 2007 R2, IAG and SCOM, and are planning a SharePoint deployment for 2010.Â The authority is also piloting Microsoft’s BPOS service as well as a virtual desktop infrastructure on Hyper-V but, after this investment, Brent plans to sweat these assets.
- Ellis spoke of challenges including working with public/private partners; efficient data management (structured and unstructured); traditional vs. cloud infrastructure (G-Cloud); security and trust; anytime anyplace anywhere; and the green agenda – before closing by saying that it is tough in the public sector, and there are budget reductions, etc. but there is also a great opportunity for the use of IT in government – saving noney, making IT a critical enabler, and ensuring that staff make full use of the tools.
- The Health Future Vision videoÂ from Microsoft’s industry innovations group at Microsoft dates back to 2007 and is a view of technologies may provide more seamless connections across healthcare providers and equip patients with the knowledge and control they need for a more comprehensive, personalized healthcare experience.Â It seemed a little strange to show this in the UK (where the NHS Connecting for HealthÂ programme has attracted plenty of criticism) but it did show the potential for the use of IT within healthcare services.
In all, I was a little dissappointed with the Microsoft Partner Network 2009 event.Â There were some interesting speakers, and some important messages, but the afternoon was a bit weak.Â To top it off, the draw to win an Xbox 360 was performed whilst some of us were still in the public sector session – but at least I did manage to get my picture taken with George AlagiahÂ (thanks to John Rule for taking over the camera for me)!
TheÂ presentation materials from Microsoft Partner Network 2009Â should soon be available on the Microsoft Partner Network website.