It has been almost two week since I landed back in Brisbane after a whirlwind week and a bit in North America for the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. My, and Adopt & Embrace’s first WPC! I think I am finally over the jet lag. But the work has only just begun!
In my final guest post on the Microsoft Australia Partner Blog about my “First Time Attendee” experience at WPC, I wanted to take some time to reflect on the experience and share with you my key takeaways, actions, progress against the goals I set etc.
As a general statement before I get into the detail – if someone asked me whether or not WPC was a worthwhile investment as an emerging Microsoft Partner… my answer would be a resounding YES.
There are a couple of different ways I can unpack that very quick answer.
WPC enabled me to work on the business, not in it
Like many smaller Microsoft partners, I wear many hats in the business. One of the interesting things about being away from the business for a week at WPC (well as much as I could be) is that it gave me a little bit of breathing, and more importantly thinking space. I could take most of those hats off! From when I stepped on the plane in Brisbane until when I landed back in Brisbane 9 days later… I was working “on my business, not in it”. WPC was a great catalyst to enable me to get out of the minutiae of customer meetings, proposals, billable work etc and really think about how we can improve our organisation and better align within the Microsoft eco-system. There are already a number of decisions we have made in the business that we would not have made (or had the chance to even think about) if we didn’t “pull the rip cord” and land at WPC for the week.
WPC enabled me to establish and/or reinforce key relationships across Microsoft
Being a Partner Seller based in Brisbane, we have reasonably good access to the local branch. However, Microsoft doesn’t start and finish at 400 George Street. There are plenty of Microsoft stakeholders that we have established ‘virtual’ relationships over time that we very rarely get face time with. Whether it was members of the Office Business Group, the Partner team, Sales Managers or the Executive team, WPC gave me the opportunity to have a meal, a social drink, or a formal meeting with people we don’t normally get to see all that often. To put it in perspective the conversations and catch ups that we managed to have in just one week in Toronto was the equivalent of 3 or 4 trips to Sydney to engage with the same people. But in a more relaxed, but also more focused environment.
Park Microsoft Australia for a second though… the real advantage of WPC was being able to establish or reinforce existing relationships with Microsoft stakeholders from APAC, or Redmond. Be it Ananth Lazurus, the APAC Partner Lead out of Singapore… Brian Kealey, the Country Manager for Sri Lanka and the Maldives… Steven Malme, the Senior Director for Corporate Accounts in the Asia time zone… Cyril Belikoff from the Microsoft Office team in Redmond who has responsibility for the O365 active usage number globally… to be honest it would be possible to drop even more names. Beyond name dropping, we have follow up actions and activities with most of those stakeholders, all focused on mutual “win/win” outcomes. Would that be possible without going to WPC – well yes. However, it would be difficult to achieve so much progress so quickly without everyone being at WPC at the same time.
WPC enabled me to connect with other partners from around the world and learn from their success
Calling WPC a “melting pot” or Microsoft Partners from around the world may sound a bit clichéd… but it really is. Formally I was able to sit down with a number or partners who traditionally would be considered competitors – except that geography means that realistically we are not competitors, but organisations focused on serving our markets better. For example, I had a great 1 hour meeting in the WPC Connect meeting zone with Richard and Kanwal from 2ToLead. We explored opportunities to deliver services on each other’s behalf for our respective (and growing) lists of customers with international operations.
Other partnership opportunities emerged between partners focused on serving different markets here in Australia as well. Whether it was exploring how to assist LSPs broaden their customer conversation to accelerate active usage, or help solution partners broaden their offering to existing customers, there were a number of very fruitful discussions.
RE: the Australia specific conversations – yes they could have taken place at the Australia Partner Conference, but the key difference with WPC is that because only 250-300 people from Australia attend (and not 2000) there is a very high likelihood you are having those conversations with a decision maker who can act (or delegate action) based on the outcomes of your meeting. Another big tick for WPC!
WPC enabled me to learn some new things
The opportunity to learn is everywhere! The content of the keynotes and handful of breakout sessions I managed to attend was valuable. Even more valuable was the conversations, questions and answers you overhear throughout the conference. What are the questions or concerns that the delegates from New Signature – one of the more successful Office 365 partners in North America – are raising at the end of the session. Do they apply to my business? Is that answer relevant to my customers.
Then there are the war stories you get caught up in over a few beers at the networking events like the Australian trip to Niagara Falls. My biggest regret of my experience at WPC was that I didn’t get into “Sponge Mode” fast enough and didn’t realise the useful and actionable knowledge that was being shared right from the start.
WPC has enabled us to establish more authority with our customers
All this week the customers I have talked to have been very keen to learn more about what WPC was like, what the key takeaways were, and what it means for their business. A great ice breaker for an authentic conversation where we can deliver more value to our customers by interpreting and contextualising the key announcements and news form WPC for our customers.
So how did we go with regard to our WPC goals?
If you think back to my first guest post in June, there were three key goals we set for WPC
- Connect with key stakeholders within Microsoft Australia. Specifically, those that are goaled/targeted on Office 365 active usage / adoption / consumption. We will ensure they are familiar with what personal and professional value Adopt & Embrace can deliver to them and the customers in their territory. We will do this during informal conversations using customer evidence from engagements over the past 6 months.
- Similarly connect with key Microsoft Partners within Australia. Specifically, those that are considering augmenting their traditional business with high value advisory services, managed services or IP focused on user adoption. We will ensure they are familiar with our channel friendly approach that enables them to resell Adopt & Embrace’s capability to unlock additional value for their customers. We will do this using customer evidence from through partner engagements over the past 6 months
- Finally connect with forward thinking international partners. Specifically, those that have dipped their toe in the water of delivering services around Office 365 adoption / change management / value realisation. Beyond sharing war stories, we want ensure they are familiar with our “Lean User Adoption” methodology and discuss the potential for them to leverage our ‘secret sauce’. We will do this using customer evidence from Lean User Adoption based engagements over the past 6 months
So how did we go? Compared to many attendees (both partners and Microsoft), I had a relatively relaxed week. I didn’t have many meetings pre-scheduled apart from a handful that I had arranged via email or the meeting scheduling tool. This meant that I needed to actively seek out the people I wanted to engage with on site. Across the week there were around 15 meetings that would fall into one of the three buckets listed above. Some of those meetings where 5 minutes catch ups with emails exchanged and a list of actions. Some were an hour long and covered a lot of ground before agreeing on next steps.
If I were to have my time again, I think a little more time planning ahead of arriving on site, and organising a few more scheduled meetings would have helped us unlock more from WPC. That being said, having flexibility in the schedule also meant that we could quickly react and meet with people when the opportunity arose. That careful balance between a calendar jam packed with meetings, and enabling the serendipity of connections at the event.
What about the other side of WPC…
“What happens at WPC stays at WPC” J Just kidding. What I can say is that there is never nothing to do at the Worldwide Partner Conference. You can’t attend every party. You can’t attend every lunch or breakfast event. The key is to prioritise and think about what value you can extract from that event.
The partner celebration on the other hand was amazing. As per my last guest blog post – Icona Pop were great, Gwen Stefani was sensational. Nothing like a concert to really take your mind off work for a little while.
So what is next?
For me, I have a long list of actions from WPC. Be it follow up activity based on meetings had on site, or changes in our business / approaches / how we communicate about what we do with customers. I am slowly working through the list, I almost need another week off to kick start all the execution we need to do off the back of what we learned at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference.
I think we will have all of that under control just in time for the Australian Partner Conference in September. Wow… only 40 days to go! I have registered, you should make sure you get your ticket today.