MINNEAPOLIS, Sept. 18, 2002 — This years Stampede, the annual conference for Microsoft Business Solutions global channel partners, is a bit different from years past.
The name, for starters. This year, the four-day event (Sept. 17 – 20) takes place under the umbrella of Microsoft Business Solutions. The new grouping includes the businesses of the former Great Plains, Microsoft bCentral and Navision a/s. The last was acquired by Microsoft in July and resulted in the addition of 1,300 team members and 2,400 new partners that sell and support Navision products in 94 countries.
Then theres location. For the first 16 years, Stampede was held in Great Plains hometown of Fargo, North Dakota. This year Microsoft Business Solutions opted for the bigger accommodations and the greater accessibility of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Finally, size. A record 2,000 alliance partners, value-added resellers (VARs), consultants and independent software vendors (ISVs) from around the world registered for Stampede.
Orgad Gratch, a long-time Stampede attendee and CEO of Toronto-based TGO Consulting, Inc., said the events move to Minneapolis seems like a natural step for a growing organization, though he’ll always have a certain fondness for Fargo.
“The first time we went we werent that excited, but over the years its become a sort of second home for us,”
he says. Gratch’s 50-person company specializes in implementing Microsoft Business Solutions applications.
But regardless of all that’s new at this year’s Stampede, the core goals of the conference remain the same, according to Jodi Uecker-Rust, corporate vice president for Microsoft Business Solutions.
“As it has from the beginning, Stampede provides a vehicle for sharing strategies and directions with our partners through keynotes, general strategy sessions and hands-on sessions on topics such as new releases and sales and marketing issues,”
“Its an incredible opportunity for Microsoft Business Solutions to interact face-to-face with our partners. And many partner organizations get even more value from Stampede by using the event as a launch pad for their own internal planning.”
At the Conference: New Technology, New Relationships
This being a Microsoft Business Solutions conference, there is no shortage of technology at Stampede 2002. The conference includes more than 120 solutions forums and concurrent sessions. And, in the traditional tradeshow format, Stampede Expo showcases the latest technologies, product enhancements and vertical applications that solution developers and alliance partners have to offer.
Stampede 2002 also includes 14
developed to provide in-depth reviews of products, programs and systems. These include:
A session focused on the divisions overall vision and strategy
Solutions forums focused on the latest information on products and services
The always-popular main-stage product strategy session, which featured demonstrations of several new and upcoming releases
To augment the learning that takes place at Stampede, Microsoft Business Solutions offers pre- and post-conference training.
But ask Stampede attendees what they remember and value most about the event and the likely answer is the people.
“The sessions on whats new with the products and technology are great, but what we really get out of attending Stampede is the chance to build relationships with the people at Microsoft Business Solutions,”
In fact, Gratch thinks that the natural affinity that Doug Burgum — Microsoft senior vice president and president of Microsoft Business Solutions — has for face-to-face communication is pillar of Stampede — and of Microsoft Business Solutions as a whole.
“He meets a person once and remembers their name forever, which is amazing because he probably meets thousands of people a year,”
“And his keynotes are always interesting. Hes always into history and geography, which leaves you wondering where its going, but he always manages to wrap it into an objective. I love it.”
Partners and Team Members Connect on Professional and Personal Levels
As conventional wisdom dictates, the sales force is the link between the company and the world. But as Uecker-Rust explains, the sales force for Microsoft Business Solutions is really Microsoft industry partners since the division does not sell its business applications directly to customers. An event like Stampede, she says, offers a chance to learn about the real issues affecting Microsoft Business Solutions sales force.
“The give and take between team members and partners creates a deeper understanding that simply cannot be reached via communication vehicles like e-mail,”
“When working through transitional times in our industry, for example, it is easier to communicate messages with trust and understanding when theyre facilitated through face-to-face interactions at an event like Stampede,”
There are several aspects of Stampede that set the event apart from others in the industry, Uecker-Rust says. Theres the executive question and answer session where Burgum answers questions from the audience on everything from his children’s health to the divisions future direction. For recognition, team members, customers and partners nominate other partners for awards to be bestowed at a ceremony thats a part of Stampede.
Proof positive, Uecker-Rust says, that Stampede is about more than technology: several marriages have resulted from meetings that took place at Stampede. And while Gratch hasnt culled a marriage out of attending Stampede, he has made lots of friends over the years.
“Stampede is definitely a special event,”
“It stands out among other conferences in the industry.”
The collegiality of the Microsoft Business Solutions network of partners creates a collaborative, supportive environment in which people feel comfortable sharing their experiences and listening to those of others, Uecker-Rust says.
“Stampede always includes several opportunities for strategic networking,”
“This face-to-face interaction transcends the normal business relationships and takes it to a deeper level of partnering for the success of both organizations.”
Uecker-Rust emphasizes that all of the organizations now joined as Microsoft Business Solutions bring a strong commitment to partner success and integration — a commitment she says is in no danger of changing.
“Microsoft Business Solutions is 100 percent committed to a channel partner model — thats the heritage of both Great Plains and Navision,”
“Our level of commitment is something thats here to stay.”
Knowing the People Behind the Technology
Gratch says that knowing the people behind the software is a key to selling Microsoft Business Solutions applications — and that Stampede is an ideal vehicle for relationship building.
“If it werent for Stampede, we wouldnt have such a tight relationship with Microsoft Business Solutions,”
“If youre going to sell Microsoft Business Solutions, its important to know the people who develop it. Customers buy not just because software is good, but because there is a mutual trust among all of us.”
Bottom-line, according to Gratch, is that Stampede is a good investment.
“This year were bringing 12 people, but in the past weve brought as many as 20,”
“The first time we went we didnt have a lot of money, but it turned out to be one of the best investments wed made.”