Q&A: Executive Briefing Center Expands to Meet Growing Enterprise Customer Demand

REDMOND, Wash. — Jan. 18, 2008 — Executive briefing visits with Microsoft have long been valued by customers, partners and the company alike as a way to make face-to-face connections, share business processes and information, and help solve critical issues for companies and industries.

Lynne Stockstad, General Manager, Enterprise Marketing

Each briefing is custom-tailored to the customer or partner’s specific request. Executive briefings provide prescriptive guidance on how to anticipate, understand and respond to growing needs and opportunities, and how existing and emerging technologies can be used to enable businesses and employees to reach their potential.

In recent years, these visits have become a hot commodity — as Microsoft’s enterprise business focus and its offerings have grown, more enterprise customers have requested private briefings with Microsoft’s business groups, senior executives and industry experts. In 2006, the Association of Briefing Program Managers — an international organization with more than 100 Fortune 500 member companies including IBM, Sun, Cisco, Dell, Oracle, HP and Apple – rated the center with its “Recognition of Excellence.”

In response to this increased demand, the Microsoft Executive Briefing Center (EBC) has undergone an extensive two-year planning and construction project to improve the relationship-building experience it provides. Today, the EBC celebrates the expansion grand opening that to showcases its state-of-the-art hospitality that will support the thousands of visits it hosts annually with prominent business, government, public sector and education leaders and industry partners.

The EBC’s 20,000-square-foot expansion adds 60 percent more space for briefing rooms and gathering areas, increasing its capacity to host approximately 15,000 visitors annually. The EBC also now houses new communications capabilities and technology that will enable briefings in Redmond to be coordinated with customers across Europe, Latin America and the Asia Pacific.

To get a better understanding of what the new EBC means for Microsoft’s largest customers and partners around the globe, PressPass sat down with Lynne Stockstad, general manager of enterprise marketing for Microsoft’s Enterprise and Partner Group.

PressPass: First off, can you briefly describe the significance of the EBC’s expansion for Microsoft’s enterprise customers?

Stockstad: At its core, this is an investment on behalf of customers and partners. Since it opened in 2000, the EBC has been one of our most effective ways to engage with those constituents. Customer understanding is the foundation of all we do, and the EBC supports integrated meetings tailored to the requirements of enterprise customers. We made a long-term commitment to help our customers anticipate and lead in their markets around the world, to explore new capabilities and innovation and to improve their organizations with our technologies. We don’t like to say no to requests for time in the center, so I’m excited about the ability to better meet this customer demand.

This expansion helps us fulfill that mission on two fronts. It enables us to increase our annual briefing capacity from 10,000 to 15,000 visitors annually. In addition, the redesign helps us engage in new ways. The center now encompasses six additional customer briefing rooms, innovative collaborative areas and first-class services ranging from concierge to dining. The facilities and programs are all designed to help illustrate the vision for how technology can enable deeper connections, collaboration, innovation and improved operations and productivity for businesses and its people — a vision for business that we call the People-Ready Business.

PressPass: How does the EBC showcase Microsoft’s People-Ready Business vision?

Stockstad: Microsoft believes that fundamentally it is people that innovate and drive business success. The EBC’s mission is about connecting our people with our customers and partners in a state-of-the-art facility that fosters collaboration around the customer’s needs and help them find ways technology can enable their employees. The center’s infrastructure facilitates deep dialog and showcases the technology that supports it.

One of the 16 Executive Briefing Rooms at the newly-renovated Microsoft Executive Briefing Center.

This approach is very different from many other technology executive briefing centers, which often lead with the technology itself. We begin with a focus on the customer’s need and experiences. Innovative technology is incorporated seamlessly throughout the space, in the background. The technology supports a more conversational format, enabling engaging, dynamic discussions, and our people provide the catalyst for building closer business relationships. They work to identify customer and partner opportunities first and foremost. This doesn’t only benefit our customers and partners — it also helps Microsoft better understand customer needs and leads to innovative developments on our end. The people we have hosting these briefings are product managers, developers and executives who really value the chance sit down with customers and facilitate a real dialog.

The expansion was designed to enhance and support this collaboration, and allows all participants to access, use and act on the information shared. Today, our presenters can be right at the briefing tables, which have built-in monitors. Equipment with ambient noise reduction and rear-projection systems keep the workings of technology out of sight. We’ve also seamlessly built in the necessary equipment for remote participation in briefings and digital recording, as well as set the space up for Microsoft RoundTable and video teleconferencing capabilities to meet the needs of customers who can’t travel to Redmond.

PressPass: You mentioned that insights from the briefings sometimes make their way back to product and services development. What is the significance of the EBC in that process?

Stockstad: First and foremost the EBC is for customers and partners to deepen their relationships with Microsoft’s business and segment groups, executives and industry experts. Equally important is that, through those engagements, Microsoft hears directly from customers and world leaders to help shape strategies across product and service offerings. We have numerous briefings per year with customers in each industry we serve, so we also get a great sense of what’s going on in a specific industry. It’s a huge source of insight for us as we shape our next product and service plans. We learn as much from our customers and partners as they do from us. It’s a two-way street.

And we hope that customers and partners that visit the EBC get some unique benefits as well. When they make that commitment and investment to come to Redmond, we share with them the latest of what’s shipping, as well as receive feedback on new innovations, our software roadmap, strategies and more. It’s a great opportunity to build a closer relationship and help shape our plans going forward.

Visitors tell us the chance to learn first-hand about new technologies and how they can help their business is one of the biggest benefits of visiting the EBC. As much as 80 percent learn about capabilities they weren’t aware of before. So for Microsoft, this is a way to provide a foundation for understanding the business impact of technology. They may come in thinking about SharePoint, and leave with a full understanding of unified communications and collaboration, and how that can serve their business. Our unique briefings can provide powerful insights about business and technology requirements in the enterprise.

PressPass: Can you describe the average briefing?

Stockstad: There really is no average briefing, because we do customize each session based on what each customer’s goals are and what they need to get out of the session. Based on those needs, we ask the appropriate functional experts from our internal departments to attend and share their strategies. We may bring in industry experts to lend insight to the discussion. And we often ask senior executives such as Steve Ballmer, Ray Ozzie , Simon Witts, Chris Capposela, or others to join the conversation.

The new executive dining area allows guest of the Microsoft Executive Briefing Center to take their lunch and enjoy interacting with executives from other companies.

The EBC’s skilled program team manages the engagement of the senior executives, business groups and more than 2,000 employees who each provide quality and breadth in their areas of expertise. We also hold briefings to share business best practices, and to that end we include representatives from Microsoft’s functional groups, such as Human Resources, Corporate Communications and Real Estate & Facilities (REF) and Finance to create the most meaningful agenda for each visitor.

Topics range from deep dives on what products like Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, and Exchange Server 2008 can do for a large organization, to sharing best practices on digital marketing, to role-based productivity, etc. We have hosted thousands of dignitaries, heads of state and corporate executives. Depending on the nature of the briefing, we might offer insight into the enterprise technology roadmap, or we might focus on a facet of the customer’s business to solve a specific customer or industry pain point. Briefings with government officials may focus on intellectual property and developing a software economy in emerging markets.

PressPass: Tell us more about the EBC
program that will support briefings in geographies without access to one of Microsoft’s nine EBC briefing centers.

Stockstad: EBCDirect is our program to give an Executive Briefing experience to those customers who cannot visit the EBC. More than half of our visitors are international and many simply can’t make the trip to Redmond. The program enables us to reach more customers than we can physically host at the EBC and brief them in their geography.

PressPass: What are the hot briefing topics for 2008?

Stockstad: In 2007, Microsoft invested US$7.1 billion in R&D, which has helped us drive quite a lineup of new technologies for customers. Last year we launched the new Office, Vista and Exchange solutions. This year we’re launching new versions of Window Server, SQL Server and Visual Studio. In addition to the hot briefing topics on those launches, we have new technologies around collaboration, unified communications, productivity and business intelligence that provide a really exciting roadmap for customers to deliver tremendous new capabilities to their organizations.

We also have a lot of solutions important to the enterprise, including virtualization, security and management. And going forward we’re finding a lot of interest from companies in how to use our software technologies supporting the evolution of Web 2.0 and enterprise search, and software + services. All of these are going to be hot topics for the new EBC during the coming year and beyond as Microsoft continues to expand in the enterprise.

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