This is my 12th Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. My first one was in Minneapolis back in 2005, which was an eye-opener. The previous 10 years I had been visiting the comparable IBM Partner Conference so I was pretty new to the Microsoft ecosystem. I had of course worked with Microsoft technology as CEO and head of development for a business intelligence and data warehousing ISV, but really working with Microsoft started in 2005.
Since then, I have talked to hundreds of Microsoft partners, educated hundreds of Microsoft partners in different business topics and participated in tens of different Microsoft conferences and learnt what it really means to be part of an ecosystem. Last year I wrote a blog about my experiences of the WPC15 Orlando event and you can expect me to do the same after Toronto WPC16 event.
FIRST SESSION – HOW TO ENTER US AND CANADIAN MARKETS
I have also been blessed with the opportunity to deliver sessions the past few years at WPC events, and this year will be no different. The first session is July 11th 1:00-02.00 PM in Room North 104B with the title “LEAD04p- Successfully entering the North American Market: Practical strategies for bringing your business to the United States and Canada”. This session is a panel that we have run now multiple years and based on the feedback from previous years, we have been asked to do it again. The panel is moderated by my good friend Per Werngren, the worldwide President of International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMPC), a position that I was also lucky to have a few years back. IAMCP is all about p-2-p and my passion. IAMCP is the heart of creating win-win relationships with partners and the core of channel success.
SECOND SESSION – TOP 10 RECOMMENDATIONS WHEN BUILDING CHANNELS
My second session I will be delivering at MPN Theatre Monday 11th of July 3:30-4:00 PM and the topic of this session is “MPN02e – Top 10 recommendations for building channel business”. I will present the tools that I use when delivering channel workshops for ISVs and I have listed the top 10 areas that I feel are extremely important when building a channel business. These are based on my own channel building experiences that is part of my ongoing services. This is not an academic list, it is a list of pure personal experience what works and what does not work in channel development.
WHAT TO FOCUS ON AT WPC?
There have been lots of write-ups of what partners should be doing at WPC. Scott Bekker from Redmond Channel Partner lists 9 must-see sessions as well as the expected themes, 9 eye-catching sessions, 5 competition clues and 11 buzzwords during the conference. I feel that I am well prepared for this conference and took some time to reflect how my own conference focus have shifted throughout the years.
Back in 2005, I was completely green to the Microsoft ecosystem, but I was fortunate to have people like Per Werngren and Juha Heikkonen to provide guidance and mentoring to me. Since then, I have become a mentor for organizations but realize that we all need to learn new things every single day to stay relevant. The technology, the ecosystem and business models are changing and if somebody suggests that he/she knows everything, that is a sign of either arrogance or ignorance. Just take Office 365 technology and the impact of that to software developers and ISVs. The introduction of Graph APIs and introduction of SharePoint Framework open new opportunities for ISVs and developers to innovate new generation solutions. The way things have worked before, might not be the way one should go forward with, so each and every developer has to reflect on his/her skills to ensure to stay relevant going forward.
FOCUS AT WPC WILL CHANGE WITH BUSINESS MODELS
The first few years when participating in WPC conference, I spent lots of time working with IAMCP colleagues, which really opened the avenues to understand the ecosystem. I feel this work is now paying off as my network of partners and relationships to Microsoft on different levels gives me new perspectives and view on WPC. I became a vendor for Microsoft a few years ago, whereby I feel strongly connected with Microsoft on many levels. My objectives have also changed in respect to WPC.
First of all, I really have to understand where Microsoft new fiscal year is taking us as these will be the drivers that will also drive my own work for the fiscal year. I need to understand the priorities of different Microsoft organizational levels and also be able to help Microsoft partners to translate what it means for them when working with Microsoft field teams.
Building a network takes time and there are no shortcuts to it. You have to build your reputation and your presence in the ecosystem and WPC is a great way to boost your own network as face-to-face connections still matter and that is how relationships are created. I have seen individuals that have tried to accelerate the networking by spamming people and that typically does not work well. Treat your network as an asset, an asset that has to be nurtured and maintained in a manner that you maintain your reputation.
DO NOT MISS WPC KEYNOTES
The key sessions for me and partners is to participate in each keynote session (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) and then agree on key meetings with Microsoft employees and Microsoft partners that I am working with. I typically do not have time to go to sessions (besides my own) as this is the most important week for TELLUS business to align the priorities to that of Microsoft’s and to meet people face-to-face.
It is crucial for Microsoft partners to understand the Microsoft annual “lifecycle” to be aligned with the priorities for the new fiscal year. My company turned 11 years this June and the past 11 years, I have never taken a vacation before WPC and immediately after WPC. The pre-WPC work is important to maximize the benefit of WPC, and 2 weeks post conference, it is important to follow-up on every discussion and agreement that you had during the week. Once this is done, I can take my 10 days’ summer vacation, which is a week extended with 2 weekends.
I am extremely excited to be able to participate at the WPC conference again this year, it is the highlight of the year for me and the opportunity to meet my worldwide friends and partners. The past 12 years I have also missed our anniversary, and when we hit 30 years, I will have to bring my wife Rita to the event. This year she will be at WPC with me at the partner celebration event, so we can celebrate our day a couple of days later.
The conference is sold out, so it will be a city full of life and business networking an entire week!