Guest Post Mark Leigh: Microsoft Inspire & Digital Transformation on A Personal Level


Mark Leigh
Director - Small, Midmarket Solutions & Partners at Microsoft
Microsoft Australia



Last year was the first time I attended Microsoft Inspire (known then as the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference) in my current role as Director - Small, Midmarket Solutions & Partners at Microsoft. And as we count down the weeks to Inspire 2017, needless to say I can’t wait to go again.

Digital transformation is the buzzword on the tip of every industry player’s lips, and no doubt the conversation around digital transformation is going to be a key piece of Inspire. But there is another type of transformation that happens after an event like Inspire and that is personal transformation; something that I, and many of the partners I look after, have experienced.

Transforming relationships is just a start. While it is an honour to meet partners from all over the world, last year we had 260 people from Australian Partner Organisations at the Worldwide Partner Conference (Microsoft Inspire). 260 partners who made the long trip to hear Microsoft’s story - how we are transforming and our key areas of focus for the year ahead. We were able to have these discussions separated from the normal rigour of our day-to-day work environments; providing an opportunity to connect with partners in a way that we may not have been able to do back home in Australia. At Inspire you get to spend quality time together through the sessions, seeing some of the content for the first time with your partners, and you get to talk about it afterhours, over dinners or at networking events.

While it is obviously a time of great learning for me as I hear about some of our strategies and new programs, the connections I get to establish through the networking events are equally important. For example, this July we will hold a private walking tour of Washington DC which will be a great way for me to connect in a different way and establish new relationships and deepen existing ones.

With a target of more than 300 individuals from Australia, and previous percentages showing about 50% of those people will be first timers, it will be a phenomenal opportunity to develop first-hand relationships with new partners and understand more about their businesses and get them to understand more about ours.

Another significant transformation that takes place is in the learning. Last year there were around 130 first timers who got to see what Microsoft is really all about, the scale of the business, the different areas where Microsoft has a role to play and the impact we can have globally. They, along with all attendees, got the opportunity to connect with our executive and other partners from around the world, and to meet people who might be doing similar things but in different markets. To be part of that overall experience, where not only traditional partners, or partners who have been with Microsoft for a long period of time, get the opportunity to hear more about our transformation and getting those new partners to experience and get a perspective on the business and where it is going, is a tangible highlight.

Last year I connected with a Partner who was very focussed on building their business around a competing platform. They made a last minute decision to attend Worldwide Partner Conference (Microsoft Inspire) and afterwards totally refocussed their business. One of the key reasons in this change of heart was going over to Worldwide Partner Conference (Microsoft Inspire), connecting with the team and seeing the commitment Microsoft had to their business. They then came back to Australia and all the touch points and relationships that they started at Worldwide Partner Conference (Microsoft Inspire) in Toronto took them to another level in their business. In fact, our data shows that partners who go to Microsoft Inspire (Worldwide Partner Conference) and have those connections at the corporate and local level do accelerate their transformation much faster.

Seeing the first timers, experiencing what they are experiencing along with them and seeing the impact it has on them and the level of enthusiasm it generates is something I will always value as a huge benefit of my own attendance.

And in terms of digital transformation, there has never been a better time to attend Inspire. The lines are blurring between various different types of partners, customers and industry segments. It’s becoming very hard to differentiate one type of partner from another because of this blurring of the lines. Getting partners to go to Inspire and experience what other partners are doing in the context of that complexity and also to get exposure to Microsoft’s position in various areas of the business that they might not have been have been exposed to before, might give them a good perspective on how digital transformation is going to potentially impact their plans for the upcoming years.

I am excited to see how our partners come back and leverage the learnings and content they get to absorb at Inspire and then go off to figure out what their local strategies might be around the thought leadership position we are taking at Microsoft.

It’s a personal transformation for partners at a time of digital transformation and that combination alone makes Inspire 2017 the place to be.

To find out more please visit Microsoft Inspire.

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