What do you hope partners will take away from the conference?
Allison Watson (AW): We gave our partners a tall order and I broke it down into a couple of things. First I wanted to thank the partners because Microsoft isn’t successful without our partner ecosystem. Our partners made fairly big investments in their businesses and we have over 14,000 partners in Australia. We talked about the jobs our partners create; we expect 1200 new IT companies in Australia in the next five years so it is a pretty significant growth industry, which therefore makes it a nice growth industry for Microsoft.
Then we talked about two major areas of investment. One is where are we today: The $7 billion we are continuing to invest year over year – what does it buy for them, where are they today and what should they bet on depending on what business they are in? Secondly, we talked about transforming their business around software plus services as we make the transformation both in our technology models and our business models.
Australia had a fantastic year and was recognised on the worldwide stage as one of our fastest growing subsidiaries worldwide.
You have 14,000 partners: How do you ensure they all get the right touch?
AW: Any one partner of any one type should have a profitable business opportunity to partner with Microsoft. We have 900 employees in Microsoft Australia and 800,000 customers, so striking the balance with 14,000 partners and approximately 140,000 individuals is a goal. Those individuals are business owners, sales professionals, marketing and technical professionals – what we try and do is build two levels of interaction for each. Managing directors and CEOs look for once-a-year, strategic direction and a quarterly business plan update whereas a sales professional will want more regular engagement both in training and readiness. Technical professionals often don’t even want to talk to you; they just want the information when they need it. We’ve also built a set of online tools to complement our in-person efforts.
With both Microsoft and VMware providing their hypervisors for free, the virtualisation space is becoming a management game. How should the channel position themselves?
AW: What we think we have now is the ability to democratise virtualisation. Three to four per cent of servers have been able to have access to virtualisation because of the price ratios of putting it on there. The power of servers out there going unused and the potential to drive virtualisation across them is virtually 100 per cent. There isn’t a partner, unless they were not into infrastructure at all, that we didn’t say virtualisation is the way to go. Between both Hyper V and Systems Centre Device Manager, where you can manage not only Hyper V-based virtualised machines but also VMware machines, you can bring an interoperability environment together. So that is a major call to action – especially in times of economic uncertainty where there has always been pressure on IT budgets and IT executives to do more with less.