By Howard M. Cohen
Microsoft Inspire, formerly known as the Microsoft WorldWide Partner Conference (WPC), still brings together more than 20,000 members of the company’s global partner ecosystem every year. This year’s event was held last week at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
The theme for this year’s Inspire was “Collaborate – Innovate – Accelerate,” incredibly appropriate for the challenges Microsoft partners face.
Raising the Bar Through Focus
Nine years ago at this event, Microsoft introduced the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), which compelled solution providers to raise the bar and declare their core competencies. One new wrinkle back then was the “exclusivity rule,” which required four unique specialists to pass tests for each gold competency. Capturing all 30 competencies would require 120 specialists. No more being “all things to all people.”
At that time, the No. 1 partner out of more than 120,000 U.S. partners in the Microsoft PartnerFinder held 29 of the 30 existing competencies. Making the reason behind the rule obvious was the fact that they only had 17 employees. Great test-takers, but hardly conceivable that they could deliver on all those competencies with so few people. This was what Microsoft designed MPN to resolve.
Specializing and focusing in this way also meant partners would have to team with other partners to address larger projects requiring multiple competencies.
The strategy worked. Today, partners collaborate with their peers more enthusiastically and successfully than ever before.
With the accelerating global movement to the cloud, partners have had to reimagine their practices and innovate new ways to go to market with new services that resonate well with customers.
One of the more exciting announcements at Inspire 2018 was the introduction of the Azure Expert Managed Service Provider program, designed to enable partners to manage cloud-based Azure environments, and on-prem/Azure hybrids as easily and completely as they now manage on-prem.
Software Vendors Become MSP-Enablers
Touring “The Commons” at Inspire, you could find many vendor partners who also enable MSPs to extend their capabilities into cloud and hybrid networks. Some were designed to enable partners from the start, some have shifted their business model from selling through partners to selling to partners, and others are transitioning.
Perhaps most impressive at Inspire (pictured above) were the large crowds attending many of the presentations that took place on the floor of The Commons instead of in breakout rooms. Each of these talks further enabled partners by providing them with greater insights into Microsoft and related technologies and where they’re going in the future.
Click through the gallery below for pictures and more recap from Microsoft Inspire 2018.
CEO Arnie Bellini was perhaps the first visionary to see opportunity in enabling IT providers to manage service delivery. The takeaway from his experience is to persist, and always continue innovating to respond to new needs in our ever-changing IT world.
Nintex CEO Eric Johnson runs what might be the blueprint for the future of every IT partner in the channel.Nintex
began as a solution provider or systems integrator selling IT services to customers. At a given point, the company began to develop its own intellectual property in the form of customizations for SharePoint. These developed into branded products which today span many platforms and make Nintex one of the most successful partner-enablers in the industry. This is a transition many partners have already made, and others will have to make soon, from systems integrator to independent software vendor.
proves the axiom that it's five times easier to sell to an existing customer than to create a new one by offering partners more service subscriptions to sell into their customers.
Monthly recurring revenue (MRR) is a key part of any partner's success strategy, and the more MRR-producing services you can sell into each customer, the more MRR you build. From data backup to security, business continuity and now professional services automation (PSA), Datto is busy enabling many, many partners.
Not satisfied with providing MigrationWiz, a service for partners migrating their customers onto Microsoft Office 365, BitTitan
expanded its scope into truly hardcore Azure management with the introduction of MSPComplete.
Pictured here are BitTitan CEO Geeman Yip (second from left) with members of his team, flanked by Jon Sastre, president of the board of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) on the left, and Jeff Goldstein, president of IAMCP’s U.S. board, on the right.
Emerging from Dell ownership, Quest
is transitioning from selling products to customers to enabling partners to provide a broad selection of management and security solutions. Thei company's slogan says it all: “Simple IT management for a complex world.”
According to Justin Crotty, senior vice president, “NetEnrich is the partner you need to simplify, control and optimize existing new technological frameworks.”
The resources NetEnrich
provides to partners include expert human resources, high-level certified engineers who can step in to help on the most sophisticated projects.
slogan says it all, epitomizing the emerging new business model that many others are now adopting: “We empower IT service providers with technologies that fuel their success.”
Takeaway: You don’t have to go it alone or wait until you’ve developed tools to help you expand your MSP practice into the cloud.
IAMCP Women in Technology
One of the greatest and most powerful enablers at Inspire was the IAMCP chapter of Women in Technology
, whose luncheon was completely sold out. Shame for those who missed it; their special guest speaker after Microsoft's Gabriella Schuster was none other than CEO Satya Nadella.
Pictured here are chapter chairwoman Christine Bongard front and center, along with several of her thousands of highly enabled members.
We All Scream for ...
Yes, those are buckets of ice cream, lest you think Inspire was all work and no fun. These intrepid scoopers informed us that attendees who wanted more than one flavor were asking for hybrids. (The chocolate was excellent.)
The most legendary events at Inspire, back to the WorldWide Partner Conference (WPC) and even further back when it was called Fusion or Stampede, have always been the parties. Unfortunately, we can only show you this one picture from the IAMCP party because, as you know, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.