Today Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) 2014 kicked off with a keynote by Phil Sorgen, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner group. Sorgen highlighted the current state of the industry and presented a vision for the next year.
One thing that was clear in the keynote: This is a new Microsoft. The company has been listening to the needs of customers and partners, and it is aligning all the pieces required to move forward in the cloud-and-mobile-first era.
The vibe of the conference keynote was focused on the new world of Cloud, Mobile First, and Always On. Microsoft knows that in order to be an answer to what the world is looking for, the company will need to come to the market as a challenger. Microsoft will need to be able to reach the new generation that is entering the workforce knowing all things mobile and expecting information fast and quick. Microsoft will need to provide truly innovative applications and solutions that provide this generation with a new way of working together--a way that matches their style and their expectations and is different from the everyday tools that are used in most organizations today.
In order for Microsoft to take more of this market and to reach this new workforce, the company will need to challenge the market in new ways. Disruption, differentiation, and speed will be the marching order as they continue to move forward.
A major component of the approach is the alignment of Microsoft's partners with the company's vision and strategy. The changes for partners that were presented in the keynote today will impact the types of scenarios that you will see from service and solution providers. As Microsoft starts to embrace a new way of doing things and removes barriers for partners to build upon the Microsoft foundation, new types of solutions and services will enter the market.
The key areas that the keynote focused on were Microsoft Azure, mobility, and partner program changes that go along with the new Microsoft focus.
Sorgen encouraged partners to jump in and embrace Azure with their customers. Microsoft challenged its partners to make this the year or moving customers to Azure on their terms. To help make this happen, Microsoft announced several new features and initiatives to help with partners' transition to the cloud, including the Azure Certified Program, Azure Partner Initiatives, and Azure Machine Learning Services.
With Azure adoption accelerating as more than 1,000 customer sign up daily, these announced initiatives will make it easier for partners to provide complete solutions to their customers.
Microsoft worked hard to present mobility solutions from both the end-user perspective and the IT pro perspective. Finding the balance between having the tools needed to work efficiently and the security required to do work successfully was at the core of demos of Delve, Office for IPad, Azure Rights Management and Enterprise Mobility Suite.
The future is a combination of solutions that can meet any user where the user needs them, without compromising the security of the data. Because Microsoft's mobility tools are all integrated together, controls are able to follow the information through various stages and with different permission sets for users.
Partner Program Changes
Without the Partner Network, Sorgen noted, Microsoft wouldn’t have the success that it has had. However without changes to the program, Microsoft faces challenges in helping partners embrace the offerings within Office 365, Azure, and CRM.
To address partners' needs, Microsoft is introducing three new cloud competencies that partners can engage in: Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions, Cloud Productivity, and Cloud Platform. These competencies are based on solutions for Office 365 and Azure and are meant to help reduce and remove the barriers to partners entering into these areas.
Several existing cloud partner programs will be retired and replaced with these new programs, which cover all scenarios from a partner working with a small business to a partner that is building Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions within Azure.
These changes to the program will allow new Partners to enter into the market more quickly than was previously possible and with more support from Microsoft.
The Future and Roadmap
After the speakers presented all about new things coming along, Kevin Turner closed the keynote with a strong focus on the marching orders Microsoft is presenting to its partners. Together, with its partners, Microsoft is going to focus very strongly on initiatives to double down on the cloud, win in mobile, and compete to win.
By taking this new approach, Microsoft has already started to tear down barriers to large-cale adoption, according to the keynote. This change will be seen most clearly this holiday season with the release of many new devices, all running Windows, and many of them at low, affordable prices.
And as Microsoft continues to move forward in these areas, the company is committing to join forces with partners with a “refuse to lose” mentality, doing what it takes to deliver solutions to customers based on their needs and wants.
The Worldwide Partner Conference is a time to celebrate Microsoft partners and highlight ways that they can continue to work together to help customers do more with Microsoft. At this conference, Microsoft typically does not make major product announcements since the focus is about the partner ecosystem and how partners can work better together with Microsoft. That doesn’t mean there is nothing to gain from the event for non-partners. By listening to what the company shares, you can get an idea of Microsoft's direction and future. You can hear what is coming and get an idea of the new types of service offerings that will be available in the future. This year, the takeaway is clearly about enabling partners to build on Microsoft's cloud and mobility offerings and create new ecosystems of products and services. If Microsoft's partners are successful, Microsoft is successful.