“Microsoft has always been a partner-led company and will always be a partner-led company.”
Unsurprisingly, words to that effect ringed loud and clear during three days of keynotes, sessions and streams at the 2016 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto.
While profound declarations of partner love usually appeal to the more Americanised channel contingent, for the local partners in attendance, underneath the marketing rhetoric, a digital agenda was clear.
But as the dust settles on 72 hours of Redmond-related insights and opinion, many partners are still adjusting to Microsoft’s new business model of cloud-based software and services.
Perhaps not all in the sell-out crowd of 16,000 partners require transformation advice, but nonetheless, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had to use his keynote to highlight the new business opportunities that exist as organisations formulate digital transformation strategies.
“Business leaders continue to talk about digital transformation in a variety of ways based upon the businesses they run or the industry in which they operate,” Ovum Research Analyst, Richard Edwards, said.
“But the essence of such conversations remains the same: using new digital consumption and delivery technologies to change business outcomes.”
For Edwards, digital transformation projects can encompass a wide range of business areas.
Yet on stage, Nadella simplified matters by focusing on four business outcomes that CEOs care about: engage customers, empower employees, optimise operations, and transform products.
Additionally, he walked through the company’s offerings where partners can add value and make a difference: Dynamics 365, Office 365, Cortana Intelligence Suite, and Microsoft Azure.
“Microsoft’s partners have traditionally built, developed, and deployed solutions that focus on improving efficiency, decision-making, and productivity,” Edwards said.
“But for many enterprise employees, there are still too many barriers between productivity tools and business applications, and these impede the productivity gains that CEOs and business managers are desperately searching for.”
As a major player in the productivity software market, Edwards believes Microsoft has to shoulder some of the blame when customers complain about the “cognitive load” felt by employees as they try to stitch together productivity and collaboration tools, line-of-business applications, and professional relationships.
Acknowledging the situation, Nadella spoke about Microsoft’s mission to lighten this load through the combination of Office 365, Dynamics 365, and LinkedIn - recently acquired for $US26.2 billion - and the important part that partners must play in meeting this objective.
“Microsoft’s own digital transformation program is well under way, but many of its partners are still playing catch-up,” Edwards observed.
“The synergies between Office 365, Dynamics 365, and LinkedIn certainly herald new opportunities, but these will take a while to materialise.
“Eagle-eyed partners will already have spotted some of the opportunities that lie ahead, but others will need more help and explanation.”
As explained by Edwards, Nadella led the group that acquired Great Plains - now Microsoft Dynamics GP, a mid-market ERP product - in 2000, so he will think of this as the final pieces of the jigsaw falling into place.
“His challenge now is to convince partners to get behind this plan,” Edwards countered.
“And to develop an ecosystem that offers clear value to executives and decision-makers while lightening the cognitive load on business users.”
James Henderson is attending 2016 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto as a guest of Microsoft.
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