REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 17, 2007 – With in-person, tailored events being held across the United States, Microsoft is making it easy for small- and mid-sized businesses, partners, developers and IT professionals to understand the value behind two of the company’s most anticipated releases, Microsoft Windows Vista and 2007 Microsoft Office.
On Tuesday, the Microsoft Across America events team kicked off its tour of 59 U.S. cities, providing seminars at no charge until mid-March to small and medium businesses, technology partners, developers and IT professionals. The events are divided into tracks hosted by Microsoft Connections, Momentum, TS2, TechNet or MSDN Events. Tracks developed for specific audiences will show attendees how Windows Vista and the 2007 Office release can help them work more effectively, stay remotely connected to relevant people and business data, backup and protect their desktop, and more effectively manage contact information.
Shawn Travers, an IT professional evangelist at Microsoft, presents the IT Professional track at the Indianapolis Microsoft Across America Launch Event on Jan. 16. Click for a high-res image.
Simultaneously, Microsoft will also hold a second series of 15 targeted events designed specially to provide information for IT executives from medium-, large- and enterprise-sized companies. As CIOs and IT teams at larger companies tend to face different business and technical challenges than smaller organizations, Microsoft has assembled an agenda tailored to that audience.
“The fact that this is the single largest launch got people really excited,” says Rodney Clark, general manager of Microsoft Across America. “When you look at the magnitude of the investment in research and development that Microsoft made, getting partners and customers ready is the fun part. Some truly amazing work has been done at Microsoft to bring these products to market, and when we started considering the magnitude of effort we made a commitment to match all the hard work that’s already been done.”
Key to that commitment, Clark says, is delivering an event experience that makes leaving the daily routine of running a business worthwhile. For customers, the expertise they can have access to in the areas of search and security alone make attendance a wise investment of time. Trust is a definite benefit for attendees, Clark says. “People who attend our events make a connection with Microsoft and walk away with a resource they trust,” he says.
And for partners, Clark says that in addition to establishing a personal rapport with customers, the events provide an avenue for building their readiness and proficiency. “It offers them a way to make an investment in themselves by sharpening their skills.”
Darren Mahurin, information technology director for Preferred Sourcing LLC, attended the first day’s events in Indianapolis. “It’s the glances of products and tidbits, along with the tools, that we learn what’s available to make migration and adoption easier,” he says. “I enjoy events like this – it’s a value add to the products.”
Putting the Puzzle Together for Small Businesses
John Stroiney’s job description is simple: show small businesses how to make the most of technology. “I help them put the pieces of the puzzle together in terms of IT,” he says. As a business productivity advisor at Microsoft, Stroiney is looking forward to the events. “I’ve been here seven years, and the excitement these products have already generated with customers is very evident,” he says.
The small business track is divided into three main sections. The keynote sets the stage and focuses on how individuals and organizations can use technology to work more efficiently, stay connected on the road, to more effectively market and sell, and better protect and back up valuable data. To do this, Stroiney demonstrates features, draws on video case studies on early adopters, and explains how businesses that use previous versions of the products benefit from an upgrade. “Most of our time is spent pulling from both products and telling the story of how they work together,” he says.
Then Stroiney shifts gears to Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, a collaboration tool that facilitates more effective information sharing. Stroiney says that for the numerous customers using Microsoft Small Business Server, the tool represents an update. “We have a scenario-based conversation about a fictitious company that is using this tool to better manage a product launch, doing things like running discussion boards and managing calendars,” he says. “We cover how what currently requires multiple systems can now be handled with one single tool.”
Finally, Stroiney covers Microsoft Office Accounting Professional 2007 – formerly Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting – which includes a new feature that helps manage eBay transactions and Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager. “This product has the power to take financial data stored in the accounting system and make it available to the people throughout the organization who need it. The tools help people better perform everyday financial tasks such as creating and tracking quotes, invoices, reports and sales projections.”
Stroiney says that one of the biggest benefits of attending the event is the opportunity to meet local Microsoft business partners. “Microsoft partners will be at the event, and they can help attendees evaluate the technology against their business needs,” he says. “If it’s a good fit, they can derive maximum value from the products by working with a local Microsoft technology expert.”
An Industry-Changing Paradigm
Anand Iyer, a developer evangelist at Microsoft, understands firsthand how busy developers are because he’s had experience as one. Despite hectic schedules, though, he urges developers to attend. “The release of these products is an industry changing paradigm,” he says. “This is the new wave. The productivity people can realize with these technologies is unparalleled.” Simply put, invest a few hours in Iyer’s developer track, hosted by MSDN Events, and the number of hours saved in the future will be staggering.
Working closely with the Microsoft Office team, Iyer’s track – which consists of five sessions – delves deeply into all things developer. Iyer’s first session explores the ways that Microsoft Office can be used on the Microsoft Windows Vista platform as a collaborative development environment. Next, Iyer explains the presentation foundation capabilities in Microsoft Windows Vista – one of the most compelling aspects of the product, he says, for designers and developers.
Third, Iyer covers building connected applications with Microsoft Windows Vista. “We’re in an era of Web services, and in this session we discuss building applications that communicate with one another more effectively,” he says. The fourth session covers connecting and extending 2007 Microsoft Office client applications, and Iyer’s track wraps with extending the server side platform.
In addition to the tracks for developers and small businesses, tracks will be offered for three additional audiences: IT Professionals, IT Executives, and Partners.
The IT Professional Track, hosted by TechNet Events, will cover the features that will simplify deployment of Microsoft Windows Vista, the 2007 Microsoft Office release and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 in the organizations that the IT professionals serve. Deploying wireless networks, upgrading desktop software, and understanding server security considerations are key topics.
The IT Executive Track is hosted by Momentum Events, which are geared toward midsized IT professionals and technology decision makers with a focus on using technology to transform an organization by building a people-ready business. The IT Executive Track launch events will allow attendees to discover the management features and operational efficiencies in Microsoft Windows Vista that can make a positive impact on business performance.
Mid-market customer Bud Pflug, vice president of information systems at Dorel Juvenile Group, says, “I came to the event for information, to learn what others were doing with the software and to focus on what Microsoft has to offer. We see what we use everyday and it’s fun to see Vista and Office in action to learn about the products and how they apply to our business.”
Finally, the Partner Track will be hosted by Microsoft TS2 Events, which are designed to help technology partners enhance their technical knowledge, improve selling skills, and learn about various programs and offers specific to partners who are focused on the small to medium business markets. Partner Track events will feature live demos and provide insight into effective sales and support methods that can make a business more profitable.
“Our participation in launch allowed us to invite VIP customers, to learn about Office, Vista and Exchange, and to see how a highly organized company uses and benefits from the technology,” says Paul Thomas of Crowe Chizek and Company LLC, a Microsoft partner. The partner hosted a booth at the Indianapolis event and having worked with NFL team Indianapolis Colts as early adopters, they invited a few team members to attend the event.
The events, according to Clark, are only the beginning. “When you look at a company like Microsoft that is pumping this level of resources into its products, it makes customers comfortable to invest in the technology, and it makes partners comfortable choosing to develop on our platform,” he says. “Our investment makes applications more adoptable, speeds implementation, provides a more secure and reliable infrastructure, and provides considerable service opportunities for our partners. Rather than troubleshooting and problem solving, our partners can focus on enhancing their customers’ environments.”