Trip to Texas – WWPC Day 4

EDIT – I wrote this entry last Friday, but before setting off on my 14 hour flight back to blighty from Texas I neglected to post it on-line! Whoops!

The final day of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference has now finished, but what a day!

I missed the opening Keynotes at the Toyota Centre due to assisting with a client site outage back home in the UK, so didn’t get to see Kevin Turner, Allison Watson or Guest Speaker – Nobel Peace Prize Winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus speak in person. Gutted! I’ll catch up on this via the Microsoft Digital WPC site shortly though.

I did attend the UK Regional Keynote though with Gordon Frazer and Scott Dodds. This was an excellent session with both men speaking about their views on the UK Partner program and how Microsoft can work to engage with their British partners more effectively. The session ended with a Question and Answer from the audience, which included some very direct questioning over the lack of financial incentives for partners to sell Microsoft licenses – both Frazer and Dodds admitting the current system was difficult to work with, but that Microsoft Licensing as a whole was an almost Gordian knot which took time to address. Overall, a positive keynote that left you feeling good about being a UK Partner to Microsoft – and that’s really what these keynotes should be giving those in attendance.

I skipped the Microsoft provided lunch to meet up with my man Texas Matt and his friend Dean, so we could hit a local eaterie and have a final Mexican meal whilst we debated Politics across the Atlantic. Somehow I don’t think my US-bashing Environmental rant went down well with two men who own trucks the size of small Elephants (and that weigh twice as much) but they humoured my green diatribe whilst restraining themselves from physically attacking me – bless them. Huge thanks to my old friend Matt and his family for making me feel welcome during my stay – make sure to check out Matt’s blog!

The afternoon session saw me listen to "More Money through Higher-Value Transactions with SMB Customers" – which concentrated on Microsoft Licensing opportunities for Partners. Now Licensing, especially Microsoft Licensing, is not a subject which appeals to most – but this was a session with a difference – hosted by Microsoft Licensing Guru Eric Ligman. If you’ve never read Eric’s blog, I strongly encourage you to do so – even with it’s US focus it is essential reading for everyone. I met Eric earlier in the week after reading his blog for the longest time, and he proved to be an engaging speaker in this session – believe it or not I actually came out of this session with some exciting ideas about how I can do more with Microsoft Licensing! No, I’m not being facetious – I actually found myself furiously scribbling notes about Software Assurance, Open Value Licensing and more. Yes, I know I’m an uber-geek for being turned on by licensing – but blame Mr. Ligman for making the session so interesting! 🙂

The final session I was less enamoured with. "Microsoft Software + Service Strategy – Offer Customers Flexible Choices". Now Software + Service has been hammered into us as Partners all week at WWPC – every Keynote, every session, every conversation with a Microsoft employee has featured Software + Service. I’m afraid this session was uninspiring and dull. Perhaps that sums up Software + Service for me! <grin> I won’t go into depth on the reaction to Microsoft’s Software + Service Strategy, as many much more experienced and business savvy individuals such as Vijay, Vlad, Karl and others have already discussed this in depth. My own opinion? Microsoft had no choice but to offer this type of service given the competition from Google, etc. Do I no longer trust Microsoft as a Partner because they are marketing to my clients directly? I trust Microsoft as a Partner as much as I ever did! Will my clients use Software + Service? Maybe – maybe not. The reality is that they’ll pick whatever solution they feel works best for them – be it on-premise, hosted by Google, or whatever! Does this offer clients more choice? Yes! Does it make life more complicated for me? Probably! Do I see clients moving to a hosted solution in droves and thus cutting me out of the loop? Well we’ve been working with Microsoft on Office Live for a year or more now and I’ve not seen a significant shift in favour of a hosted solution there. Honestly? I’m fairly non-plussed about the whole situation and don’t understand the furore from certain other Microsoft partners. Maybe I’m not bright enough to appreciate the complexities of the argument, or maybe I’m just too busy concentrating on growing my business and adapting to the market to notice. Either way, what comes will come.

To close the day, nearly all 10,000 attendees of the Conference made their way to the nearby Minute Maid Park, home to the Houston Astros Baseball Team, for the Conference Farewell Party. Wow! Microsoft sure know how to throw a party! The Park was rammed and was buzzing with tons of foods from different corners of the world, drinks aplenty, live entertainment including a  Karaoke Bar, Live Bands and Fireworks, XBox 360 and Classic Gaming Consoles – and just a fantastic atmosphere in general. I know I had a fabulous time and every one I met seemed to be having fun too. Just a fantastic evening and close to a brilliant week.

This was my first Worldwide Partner Conference, and my first ever IT Conference outside of the UK, and I’ve to say it was an incredible event. Microsoft are to be commended for organising the event so well, with a ton of fascinating Keynotes, Break-Out Sessions, Hands on Labs, Shuttle Buses to and from hotels, and all the other logistic difficulties they handled so very well. But the real value for me was meeting so many of the individuals worldwide I’ve previously only spoken to via telephone, e-mail and Instant Messenger, plus being introduced to many many more folk I’m glad I met. I was made to feel so welcome by people who only knew me by name, had read my blog or read my articles – it really gave me a warm glow and I got a real sense of what the Small Business Specialist "Community" is all about. I’ve come away from the Conference with a ton of notes and ideas to work on when I return to the UK – I’m excited and looking forward to working through them!

Thanks to everyone I met, and look forward to seeing you again next year! 🙂


2 Responses to “Trip to Texas – WWPC Day 4”

  1. 1 Mike July 16, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Hi Rich,
              glad to see you enjoyed the conference. Sounds like you feel it was time, effort and money well spent. You\’ve obviously gone up in the world as I don\’t get to travel first class anywhere! If it makes you feel any better I am travelling to Seattle next week and that will take me 14 hours from melbourne to LA and then another 3 to Seattle. I have a five and a half hour wait in LA which will be a nightmare – my least favourite airport on the planet so far.
    Looking at the pictures of you in Texas I was struck by how much more of you there is these days compared to when I last saw you (which admittedly must be at least 5 years ago an probably more). Having said that, there\’s more of me too since we last met so maybe it shouldn\’t have been such a surprise.
    I have to say, I find your blog and the progress you are continuing to make in business quite fascinating. It makes me feel that maybe I\’m not so far away from Weoley Castle and my previous life as I really am (approx 12,000 miles or so).
    Keep up the good work and I wish you continued success in your new ventures.

  2. 2 Richard July 17, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    Great to hear from you Mike – I was half expecting to see you at WWPC, but I\’m sure our paths will cross another time. I love your comment "how much more of you there is" – that\’s the politest way of saying "you\’ve put weight on" next to "you\’re looking well fed" I\’ve ever heard – bless you mate <grin>. The fact Tubb is indeed becoming Tubby is a cause for concern, I\’m in need of (and I suspect there are many of us) finding a better work/life balance, and that includes healthy eating, getting more exercise and taking time away from the office. I find it easy to give advice regarding that aspect of things, but not so easy to follow it myself!Glad the blog makes you feel closer to "home" – I must admit I love following your blog, and those of other friends who are now living in foreign countries – the world really is getting smaller!

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