MINNEAPOLIS – July 7, 2005 – Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference 2005, which gets underway Friday at the Minneapolis Convention Center, will offer more than 6,000 industry partners from around the world several chances to identify business opportunities, acquire expertise needed to grow their companies and build alliances with Microsoft and other partners. The schedule includes Microsoft executive keynotes, product- and industry-specific information sessions, recognition events, structured networking opportunities, an expo and numerous venues for mingling formally and informally with Microsoft team members and other industry partners.
But Microsoft organizers of the event and its partners agree that one of the conference’s most important dividends doesn’t take effect until the stage sets are disassembled, the on-site, temporary technology infrastructure is packed and sent home, and the convention center lies empty and awaiting the next event.
“One of the most valuable aspects of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference is the relationships that are cultivated there, and the subsequent collaborations that take place long after the conference is over,” says Allison Watson, vice president, Worldwide Partner Sales and Marketing. “We strive to host an annual conference that leads the pack in terms of providing highly relevant information to the industry partners who develop, sell and service innovative solutions based on the Microsoft platform.”
The collaborations born of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, Watson says, are a not-so-subtle nod to the direct correlation between business success and solid relationships. “Microsoft’s industry partners are in a unique position to support each other,” she says. “Today’s businesses often require complex, innovative approaches to developing technology that meets their needs. And, to meet those needs, Microsoft’s worldwide network of industry partners offers an incredible range of product, industry and geographic specializations and expertise that present a unique opportunity for collaborations.”
The logic, Watson says, is fairly straightforward: By working together, Microsoft’s industry partners are able to better serve the needs of a more diverse range of customers. “Today’s marketplace is more complex and competitive than ever before,” she says. “The collaborative relationships that come out of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference help our partners effectively address complicated business challenges brought to them by customers.”
You Can See the Future
Per Werngren is CEO of IDE, a systems integrator based in Stockholm, Sweden, that specializes in migrations to the latest Microsoft platform as well as outsourcing. IDE is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. While the core of IDE’s business is in Sweden, Werngren says that attending Microsoft’s partner conference – this year marks his fourth – always reminds him that business opportunities don’t end at the shores of the Baltic Sea.
“Sometimes at the partner conference I meet people I can do business with, and sometimes I just learn a lot,” he says. “A fellow from Australia might have some valuable tips for me based on the experiences he’s had in his country.”
In addition to attending Microsoft’s partner conference, Werngren is also president of the International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners (IAMCP), which was formed in 1994 and currently has 1,600 members around the world.
One of the more beneficial aspects of the conference, he says, is the information Microsoft provides. “When you attend the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference you gain knowledge that is very helpful when you are giving direction to the company you work for,” he says. “Based on what you learn at the conference, you can see the future, and you can see what’s going to happen in the coming year in terms of technology and marketing. It shows you where to invest, which is critical.”
In addition to learning, Werngren says he has formed relationships at the partner conference that have resulted in winning additional business for IDE.
“I attended a session once and met another partner from Sweden who happened to specialize in Microsoft Project,” he says. “We realized we could do business together.”
Since that meeting Werngren says IDE has introduced customers to the partner that specializes in Microsoft Project and has also collaborated on a couple of implementations, resulting in an increased level of customer satisfaction for IDE’s clients.
Werngren points out that while the profits don’t always come in the form of financial gain, they are definitely good for the bottom line in the long term. “These relationships aren’t always immediately profitable financially, but they let us help our customers, which is an important factor,” he says.
Currently, Werngren is working closely with a Bulgaria-based systems developer he met at a Microsoft partner conference. Their goal: to implement an e-government solution in member countries of the European Union (EU) that will provide citizens with access to government portals. The portals will offer them easy access to information on topics such as healthcare benefits, housing and taxes.
The solution, which is 100 percent Microsoft driven, is up and running in Bulgaria. The EU has taken notice of it and wants to offer it to other countries. The problem, Werngren says, is that a business within an official member country of the EU – which Bulgaria is not – must “sponsor” the project.
That sponsor is Werngren and IDE. “What they’ve developed is outstanding,” he says. “I think of it as a big solution for a small country, but we’re collaborating to further develop it to fit other countries within the EU.”
Collaboration that Extends Value of WPC Into All 12 Months
Bill Breslin is the director of application solutions of Houston-based Insource Technology, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner that specializes in infrastructure, outsourcing support and application development with a focus on Microsoft SharePoint Server and Microsoft .NET technologies. Like Werngren, this year’s partner conference is his fourth.
Another commonality Breslin shares with Werngren is playing a leadership role in the IAMCP Breslin is currently president of the association’s U.S. board of directors.
Breslin says membership in the partner association is an excellent vehicle for extending the value of Microsoft’s partner conference into all 12 months of the year.
“A lot of us who are Microsoft partners are small and midsize businesses ourselves,” he says. “Because of our size we can’t do it all, but we hate to say no to clients. By working with partners who are also members of our association we’re able to work hand-in-hand with a Microsoft partner who is equally committed to living based on the ethics statement we all sign when we join the association. There is a strong sense of assurance that comes from collaborating with someone with standards as high as your own.”
According to Breslin, one of the ways in which he’s benefited from both Worldwide Partner Conference attendance and IAMCP membership is the increased familiarity and camaraderie with partners that specialize in Microsoft Business Solutions business applications and related services.
“Microsoft has emphasized merging its classic partners with those focused on Microsoft Business Solutions,” he says. “By attending the conference, I became sensitized to the excellence provided by Microsoft Business Solutions partners, which are some of the best in the business.”
After attending a couple of conferences where partners from each camp sat on separate sides of the aisle, Breslin says he reached out not only to improve working relationships but to also more diversely populate the U.S. board of directors of the IAMPC.
“We are now working closely with a Microsoft Business Solutions partner in Houston, and the partnering relationship forged between classic partners and Microsoft Business Solutions is also reflected in the composition of the IAMPC’s U.S. board,” he says. “The relationships expand everyone’s market reach.”
Overall, Breslin says, collaboration among Microsoft’s industry partners simply leads to better business and better customer service. “Thanks to relationships Insource has with other partners, we know where to find people with expertise in areas where we don’t have it,” he says. “Without those relationships, if we had to augment our services we’d have to look up people in the Yellow Pages.”
Mr. Navision in Montreal
For the first time since the mid-1990s, Reginald Howatson won’t be attending a partner conference. Why? Because the pace of his business has accelerated to the point where he can’t afford to be out of the mix for three days.
“I’ll miss it sorely,” he says. “In fact, I feel like I’m having a nervous breakdown at the thought of not going.”
A slight exaggeration, he admits. But only slight. “If you go to the Worldwide Partner Conference, you’re one of the people who’s in the game,” says Howatson, an account manager with Bell Business Solutions, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner that sells its own vertical applications and resells Microsoft Business Solutions—Navision. Bell Business Solutions is headquartered in Lachine, Quebec; Howatson is based in Montreal.
Like Breslin and Werngren, Howatson credits being an active member in the IAMCP – most recently he was board president – with helping him identify valuable business opportunities that are seeded at the conference and blossom throughout the year.
“At a professional level, it’s important to give yourself a competitive edge,” he says. “Being a member of an organization like the IAMCP and participating in an event like the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference affiliates you with a world-class technology vendor and a network of expert business partners. It demonstrates that you know business and that you know software.”
Active membership, in conjunction with the annual partner conference, puts Howatson in touch with the know-how that can help his company grow the way he wants it to.
“As a business person I’m not looking to make just a single sale,” he says. “I’m looking for people from other companies I can partner with and go to market with. I’m looking to expand, to offer more solutions to more customers. The Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference and the IAMCP offer several opportunities to make those connections.”
Howatson has several examples of partner conference meetings that have lead to additional business for him.
For example, when a Microsoft business partner headquartered in Germany opened an office in Montreal, Bell Business Solutions lead the Microsoft Navision implementation.
And, at another Worldwide Partner Conference, Howatson met a software developer that specializes in retail applications. “The partner conference is a great chance to meet ISVs and integrators who work with Microsoft Navision,” he says. “I was particularly interested in the retail application, so I got to know the product and now the software developer and I work together to sell and implement the solution.”
Howatson also credit’s the conference’s international flavor with generating business. “The conference is attended by lots of international companies,” he says. “When companies expand they go international. After meeting people from growing international companies at the partner conference, I receive phone calls from people who want to work with me.”
Finally, Howatson offers a bit of seasoned wisdom for those not prone to stage fright: he urges other partners to seize the opportunity to speak and present at the conference. “I’ve done both, and it definitely establishes your credibility,” he says. “As a result of speaking at the conference, I’m unofficially known as ‘Mr. Navision in Montreal.’ When other partners or customers need a Microsoft Navision person in Montreal, I’m their man.”