Gerald Haigh: Reflections on the Microsoft Partner Campus at BETT 2017

It may seem like a distant memory by now, but it wasn't all that long ago that tens of thousands of educators, school leaders, students and technology innovators were all congregated underneath the roof of London's ExCel exhibition centre for four days during BETT 2017. It was a fantastic show all round, and to follow up on our partner presence is Gerald Haigh with a retrospective look at what was happening in our Microsoft Partner Campus. Back in January, Gerald wrote a piece looking at each of the 21 exhibitors who would make up the Microsoft Partner Campus at BETT 2017.


There were 21 Microsoft Partners represented in the BETT Partner Campus, and having written a preview blog mentioning each of them, I followed up just a few to gather their reactions. Apologies to any whom I missed and would like to express a view. Just let me say, ‘You already have my email address. Please weigh in with your ideas and I can do a supplementary blog.’

What impressed me most was the enthusiasm of those who were positive about their BETT experience. Having a presence in the Partner Village, for example, puts a positive stamp on the relationship with Microsoft, a view well expressed by Richard Willis of Salamander Soft when he writes,

"Being in the Microsoft Partner Village was again great for us. It’s a fantastic chance to be closely associated with Microsoft, meet new customers and just as important catch up with existing customers."

Helen Walker, of ‘Vivi’ found lots of interest in their wireless screen mirroring tool, which will make life easier in many classrooms:

"Both the quality and quantity of leads were excellent. In terms of awareness, we feel like lots of people know our name now."

And then this, This, from Paul Flack of Stone Group, who was on their stand throughout the show, surely exemplifies everything about Microsoft’s purpose and vision in running the Campus.

‘This was the first time that Stone had been part of the Microsoft Partner Village and the atmosphere was amazing. Our stand attracted a lot of attention from new prospective partners, through to existing customers that didn’t know we are able to offer a complete end to end solution using Microsoft technologies.  We were very busy for all 4 days, and we are already starting to see some of the conversations with customers on the day turn into longer term opportunities which we are now very well placed to capitalise on."

That, really is what all BETT participants are trying for. It’s true that brand recognition and interested visitors picking up ideas are all fine, but the legitimate hope is that there will be serious business contacts, to be developed in the coming days.

Louise Simpson, of ‘TeacherIn, who have developed an app connecting schools with supply teachers, cutting down on the need to use expensive agencies, draws attention to the value of being in partnership with Microsoft, in the Village. The Show and the Village made up a key point in their 2017 UK launch.

"Not only were our existing contacts and partners able to easily find us at such a vast and busy show, so too were new contacts. TeacherIn were delighted to celebrate our Bett Award win for Innovation, and our highly commended award for EdTech Start Up, with the Microsoft team and the other village partners. Being on stand with Microsoft helped to reinforce and build our partnership, as well as to spread the word not only about our supply teacher app but also the free CPD training we offer supply teachers which includes Microsoft courses."

Another opportunity, seized by all the enterprising BETT exhibitors, is to listen attentively to existing customers. This will maintain their interest and loyalty, and also give extra purpose to developing the product itself. Jon Kent, of Teacher Dashboard, for example, writes directly and positively to those who visited the Stand,

"It was great to hear at the BETT show how you are all using Teacher Dashboard, and you can expect a number of your feature requests to arrive over the next month."

eduboard-1The whole of the Village was buzzing, for all of the show, but I’d guess that one of the most attention-grabbing features was Gemstone Software’s ‘EduBoard’, which, together with companion product, ‘EduSync’, combine to make Microsoft Classroom accessible and easy to set up. Interest in Microsoft Classroom was high among Show visitors, and EduBoard’s added-value approach meant that their Stand was constantly under siege, from interested school leaders, teachers and technical leaders.

What the product essentially does is gather data from all sources in a school and present it as clear dashboards which are visually attractive and, most importantly, easy to read and interpret. It becomes possible to identify gaps in knowledge and progress, in individuals or groups. It’s then possible to provide additional content, using the system’s link with GCSEPod for example, or self generated content perhaps with personalised Office Mix from Office 365. Coming just as Microsoft Classroom is announced as a free add-on for Office 365, and developed in association with Microsoft, EduBoard and EduSync have arrived at the right time. Here’s Brendan Nel, Founder and Innovation Director. As with others I’ve quoted, Brendan’s enthusiasm leaps from the page;

"It has been our most successful BETT ever! We have successfully launched EduBoard with the Microsoft team after 2 years of hard work with schools and colleges and trips to Redmond."

Brendan goes on to describe how their stand, and their people, were overwhelmed by the interest schools and colleges are showing in  Microsoft Classroom and how they see the value of EduBoard in supporting digital transformation:

"We are pleased to announce, that we have been selected as a Microsoft premium partner to support on-boarding of Microsoft Classroom and provide a free EduSync service to automate the synchronization between MIS and Microsoft Classroom. EduBoard will also make your data managers life much easier to deliver greater insight to your school data from various systems with Power BI from a secure Azure data store. We're making sense of  digital learning with data and creating transformational impact for schools."

eduboard-2He’s certainly right about that. Bespoke, attractive and uncompromisingly clear dashboards give individual students not only basic information about their attendance, behaviour, assignments and timetable, but highlight progress against expectations and routes for improvement. The value of this for school leaders at all levels is obvious, as is the availability of access for parents.

Another BETT, another Partner Village, with lessons to be learned at every level. To me, thought, it seems clear that the idea of grouping Partners into a campus close to the Microsoft stand is a brilliant way of emphasising the nature of partnership, and the sense of a Microsoft family – quite aside from the obvious advantage of making it easier to find what you’re looking for, which is always a problem at BETT.

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