WPC: Disrupt or be Disrupted

Today, I’m at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Orlando, Florida. When it comes to talking to our partners, what is top of mind for me is ensuring Microsoft empowers our partners’ success and profitability through innovation on our platform.  Today’s sessions focused upon a number of things that partners should be thinking about to continue driving success.  For my part of today’s conversation, I focused upon disruption and the transformative opportunities self-disruption can provide.

In a world where technological and business model changes are accelerating, finding an opportunity to disrupt – a competitor, an industry or even your own company – is more achievable than at any point in history.  Over the last decade, change has come to every facet of life, from the way we exercise with wearables, to the ways we teach in schools with devices.  Change is ubiquitous.  Given the rate of change in technology, disruption is no longer an “if”, but a “when”.  So if disruption is unavoidable, businesses have two choices: be in the business of disruption – or be disrupted.

Thanks @jakrigg for the photo!

Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s CEO, nailed it: “We believe that every industrial company will become a software company.” This means that every industry has already been disrupted by the necessity of all companies becoming ISVs.  Why?  Because a new wave of digital upstarts have already embraced the latest capabilities of technology to drive change, across every industry. From Uber in transportation to AirBnb in Travel, every industry is seeing new players seeking to capture revenue and share.

At Microsoft, we are driven by opportunities for disruption.  We’ve seen multiple waves of disruption come and go – and through these waves we’ve disrupted, often in conjunction with partners like you. We’ve continued to evolve, for example, disrupting our Office business from a collection of boxed products, and then to a business that leveraged a client and server model with Exchange and SharePoint. 

We have repeated this type of disruption, most recently with Office 365, continuing the prosperity of the Office franchise. By taking an entrenched position of leadership, innovating from a position of strength and rebuilding Office for a world that is Cloud and Mobile first, we’ve continued to grow a product with an already massive user base. 

Many partners are already well down their own paths to disrupting their ways to industry leadership.  I shared one of my favorite stories of this kind of disruption at WPC – it is about connected cows. At Build, Joseph Sirosh talked about how the internet of things, cloud services, data and analytics make farmers lives easier in managing herds of cows.  Joseph’s story was just the first chapter of what is ultimately a story about an internet of cows

For the latest chapter, a question:  which geography produces the most milk per cow in the world? Counterintuitively, the answer is Israel. How does a country that is mostly desert do it?  By taking the idea of an “Internet of Cows” using Azure on the back end, to connect farmers more directly to their herd. 

The Israeli dairy industry has built technology that collects, analyzes and shares data on milk quality, quantity, a herd’s health, including rumination (whether the cow is moving around), temperature and other critical metrics, all through sensors attached to the cow’s neck.  The data is analyzed and shared to improve industry-wide productivity.

One of the partners in the dairy industry helping to make this happen is SCR. They’ve built HealthyCow24, which enables farmers to stay connected and in control of the herd from anywhere – biometric data gets transformed into actionable information a farmer can use, direct to the smartphone or PC.

Afimilk is another partner, empowering production efficiencies through real-time analysis of milk.  Their AfiLab product measures milk for fat, protein, lactose content and other factors. This analysis is used to optimize feeding, and to monitor and alert farmers, regarding nutrition. The device’s online analysis of milk allows screening for health issues and for raising efficiency.  As it is produced, milk is analyzed, then routed into drinking milk or cheese vats, as appropriate.

A partner called AKOL (the Agriculture Knowledge OnLine), commissioned in 1999 by the Cattle Breeders Association of Israel, provides a “dairy cloud” service to producers, dairies, laboratories, and government and regulatory bodies. They’ve enabled a level of open sharing that’s allowed Israel to innovate to the front of the dairy pack.

There are numerous other examples of disruptors I highlighted at WPC.  From Muzik Official who are disrupting the music industry with digital drumsticks that don’t require a physical drum set, to Jet, an upstart looking to take on Amazon in online retailing, and Egnyte, who are disrupting storage management, examples of startups disrupting established industries are everywhere. 

For growing companies like SalesForce, partnering with Microsoft ensures that our mutual customers’ CRM systems are tightly integrated. And even big companies like Siemens and Schlumberger are disrupting their industries by leveraging the power of innovative devices and cloud computing to drive efficiencies.  The last example I mentioned at WPC is Unit4, a company that reinvented its approach to ERP.  By leveraging Microsoft Azure’s Machine Learning, they’ve built “Self Driving ERP”, ERP software that knows what you want before you do.


Helping partners reinvent themselves to thrive against future challenges is one of the aspects of my job that makes it so rewarding. Partnering with companies across the entire company lifecycle, from startups to mature industry leaders, we get to participate in building the solutions that can disrupt these partners to future success.

In this pursuit, there are numerous resources Microsoft provides that are relevant for a company at any phase of the business lifecycle:

  • Microsoft Partner Network – It all starts here with MPN.  Become a Microsoft Partner and gain access to a broad suite of Microsoft resources.
  • MSDN – Microsoft’s Developer Network offers unparalleled access to tools and resources that a developer needs to build great software on the Microsoft platform.
  • Channel 9 – deep technical resources on topical subjects from Microsoft’s leading subject matter experts.  If you want to see videos of technology in action, this is the place.
  • Microsoft Virtual Academy – Want to learn more about Microsoft technology in a structured way?  MVA is a great resource for providing training on technical subjects to individuals and groups.
  • Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professionals – MVPs are technical leaders in their communities, bringing subject matter expertise on Microsoft technology to the local level.  You won’t find a better local resource for answering questions about Microsoft technology.
  • Events – We run thousands of events every year, in locations across the globe.  If there’s a topic you are interested in learning more about, the chance is that there is an event coming near you that will bring Microsoft’s subject matter experts to your doorstep.
  • Ideation Sessions and Hackfests – For partners who want to discover opportunities when building on the latest Microsoft technology, Envisioning Sessions bring partners and Microsoft together to explore thee, then Hackfests make these opportunities real, through sitting down and building solutions with a partner.
  • Microsoft Ventures and Accelerators – Ventures is Microsoft’s connection to the venture capital community, directly benefitting Microsoft’s startup partners.  Our accelerators and partner led accelerators provide mentorship and access to expertise, focused upon helping founders grow their businesses.
  • Microsoft Innovation Centers – With 105 MICs worldwide, there’s likely one near you.  MICs provide the facilities and resources for students and startups to come together, take advantage of unique Microsoft resources and build great businesses or solutions.
  • BizSpark – For startups, the easiest way to get access to a robust collection of Microsoft software and services, without cost.
  • Marketplaces – enhancing visibility and access to your solutions through customer marketplaces for Windows, Azure and Office.
  • Go To Market Support – My team is focused on providing the resources that ensure partner success after they go-to-market, not just when they are building solutions.


So I’ll leave you with this. Disrupt or be disrupted. If “Disrupt”, let’s disrupt together.