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Microsoft WPC Roundup

Last month saw the hosting of the annual Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Orlando, Florida. 

This was the tenth conference I have personally attended, and was well represented by the Empired Executive team. All up we had 12 people in attendance, including our CEO, our COO, a number of our General Managers and Country Leaders and other leaders from within the business representing various divisions. These Empired folks represented our Australian, New Zealand and North American businesses. Whilst it is a significant investment to have 12 senior leaders take time out of the business, and for many, travel substantial distances to the USA, we view it as a landmark event each year on the calendar. WPC for Empired provides us with the opportunity to personally connect with many Microsoft leaders from around the globe. WPC also allows us to hear directly from Microsoft on their plans for the coming year and how we may align, leverage or accelerate our business strategies based on theirs. And finally, it gives us pause for thought to connect with other leading Microsoft partners from around the globe and hear of their successes, challenges and learnings.

I observed that this year Microsoft was far more engaged with us as a partner. This may be a broad statement that applies to many partners, or may be Empired specific as a result of our recent achievements within the Microsoft world in the past 6 months; in any case, it made for a thoroughly enjoyable and productive WPC. We met with many senior Microsoft people, from Australia, New Zealand, APAC and Redmond, who all actively engaged us in conversation about our strategies, where we were heading with Microsoft and how we could do even more together. As a result I left after the event both energised and exhausted from the whirlwind of activity!

The three main themes that Microsoft outlined as part of its FY16 strategy resonate strongly with us at Empired. To recap, they are;

Reinvent productivity and business processes

Build the intelligent cloud platform

Create more personal computing

At Empired, we’re keen to introduce solutions to customers that are engaging experiences, impactful, natural and loved by both consumers and IT professionals. Our history in productivity solutions is strong, and we are definitely buoyed by the announcements and opportunities to extend this into insights and content discovery and creation in the new wave of tools. And our cloud story aligns tightly with Microsoft’s hybrid and flexible approach to the cloud.

My key takeaways from the various keynotes and sessions I was able to take in are as follows;

The Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program is certainly the way of the future for a lot of Microsoft partners. The geographic and product expansion of the program makes complete sense. Fortunately, Empired has held a Tier 1 status within the program, being one of the first partners appointed to it within Australia late in 2014. Through this early access to the program, we have learned a lot regarding the way the program works and how to navigate it effectively for customers. 

HoloLens is amazing. The practical applications for this technology seem limitless at the moment, and Microsoft is doing an excellent job of using this technology to capture the hearts and minds of developers and consumers. Admittedly it is still very early days however, and I suspect that we are at least 18 months away from seeing any real traction with it. Definitely one to watch.

One of the most exciting announcements for Empired was that of the Cortana Analytics Suite. Microsoft, in my opinion, has really brought together a great set of independent technologies into one cohesive suite. From the machine learning provided by Azure, the visualisations from PowerBI and other tools and the personalisation and perceptual intelligence of Cortana, Microsoft is going to be in a real leadership position with regards to providing “intelligent action” and competitive insights. We at Empired are already passionate about developing a strong competency in this area, extending our skills based on our existing Data Analytics practice.

The announcement of a new licence for Office365, being the “E5” offering is very clever. By providing customers with a cloud based PBX and PSTN conferencing, Microsoft will certainly remove the headaches of on-premises telephony infrastructure. However, I suspect it won’t be without its own challenges; to be determined over the next few months when E5 becomes available. 

It was excellent to see our very own Pip Marlow, MD of Microsoft Australia up onstage as she told of success stories in our region and the ability to grasp change and see opportunities within times of disruption.

Another very exciting outcome from WPC was the announcement of our inclusion into the 2015 Microsoft Dynamics “Inner Circle”, an elite group of the most strategic Microsoft Dynamics partners from across the globe with sales achievements that rank us in the highest echelon of the global network of Dynamics partners. As stated by Neil Holloway, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Business Solutions Sales & Partners “These award-winning partners inspire us by the standards they set and the impact they have on the business.  Microsoft is honoured to recognise Empired for their achievements this past year and for their dedication and support of Microsoft Dynamics applications.”

Finally, my personal highlight of WPC was having some dedicated time with Scott Guthrie. Clearly, Guthrie is one of the smartest, most capable guys within Microsoft, so to get any of his time, let alone 45 minutes dedicated, was humbling. Having recently inherited some of the Dynamics engineering team, I was keen to hear his thoughts on the future of the Cloud and Enterprise group at Microsoft, incorporating the business focus of Dynamics. We spoke about the upcoming release of AX7, and the opportunities for Cortana Analytics with ERP data amongst other topics such as the changing landscape of SaaS and of course, Azure. Definitely a standout conversation amongst many at WPC 2015. 

Posted by: Andy Neumann, Chief Marketing and Innovations Officer, Empired | 11 August 2015

Tags: Microsoft, WPC

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