Prior to BETT 2016, Gerald Haigh previewed the inaugural appearance of the Microsoft Partner Village. Below, he shares his thoughts – and those of some of our partners – on the four days at the ExCel and what being in the Microsoft Partner Village enabled those exhibitors to achieve.
You can read Gerald’s original piece here: Who’s who in the BETT 2016 Microsoft Partner Village
I spent quite a lot of time at BETT in the Microsoft Partner Village and when I sat down to think about it, I realised there was a lot to take away from the experience. Bottom line, though, is that this was a brilliant idea that undoubtedly succeeded on many levels. For one thing, it enabled some partners to have a BETT presence which they might not have otherwise managed. And on the other hand, those exhibitors who already had a main stand elsewhere in the Show were able to use their Village presence to provide a different angle on a product or service.
Even more important, perhaps, was the strong message which the Village carried about the two-way relationship between Microsoft and their partner businesses. The partners place great value on the link; it opens doors and demonstrates that they have the approval and support of a major global business. Microsoft in turn, relies heavily on partners in making Microsoft technologies accessible to specialist markets – in this case education - so that teachers and students to exploit them fully and extend their own professionalism to the benefit of student learning.
At BETT the strength of this relationship became very visible in the Partner Village. There, in a compact but cleverly used space, just across the way from the Microsoft stand, enquirers were able to find businesses which, between them, offered innovative and different kinds of answers to their questions. Teachers, school leaders and IT managers were able to talk to the right people, and make arrangements for longer discussions or meetings in the near future.
A number of partners had the Office 365 logo prominently displayed alongside their own, for example and it’s clear that it acted as a magnet for enquirers. Time and again, when I asked, ‘What are your visitors looking for,’ a typical answer was,
‘They want to know how to use the Microsoft technology they already have more completely and efficiently. They’ve got Office 365. They know they could be doing a lot more with it, and they want help with that.’
Not all of the information seekers were from UK. Office 365 for Education has a global reach, and the desire to make full use of it is shared across the world. I spoke to Eskild Thomason of the Bogøe Kostskole, an independent boarding school in Denmark:
‘All students have Office 365,’ he told me, and we’re looking at ways of bringing it all together as we prepare our students for the future, and to look out into the world.’
There was a wide choice of options for these enquirers. To mention just some, there were full Office 365 Learning Platforms from LP+365 and Skooler; bespoke portals such as that by SalamanderSoft; integration between Office365 and Capita SIMS from Ruler; top quality advice on devices and all the elements of Office 365 from Misco, hybrid (on-site plus cloud) from AspiraCloud, full Azure hosting of software resources from Airhead.
The small presentation theatre in the Village was a strong factor in its success. Helen Walker of “Misco’ was delighted to tell me that her sessions there were packed, and teacher Steve Gillott was attracting lots of attention as he showed his classroom use of SalamanderSoft’s SharePoint portal.
‘I was able to show what we actually do in class, rather than just tell them what’s possible,’ he said.
The good news, too, was that, at least for the businesses I talked to, enquiries had turned into strong leads. One director, in the week after BETT, was following up approaching 200 realistic opportunities, and there were others with similar stories.
Final thoughts? Close analysis of pros and cons, gaps and areas for revision are strategic questions for others, but my feeling is that the Partner Village, in some form, could be a BETT feature for the foreseeable future. It is, after all, a very visible and tangible expression of the symbiotic interdependence between Microsoft and their hugely varied array of partners. Alex Pearce of BFC networks, who did very well in terms of serious business, made the point very well when we spoke the week after the Show.
‘Our presence there, close to the Microsoft stand and associated with them, demonstrated clearly that we are a well-established serious business.’