Well… we are all back now from WPC 2009, and I must say of all of the partner conferences I have attended over the years, this year was far and away the best and most meaningful gathering yet! I believe this to be true for a few reasons that none of us have been immune to and none of us can deny. The world has changed over the last year with the economic “reset”, the incredible upheaval in the job market, and the incredible pace of change that have streamed through every part of our lives… From the juggernaut of “twittering” (ugh!) to the election of this nation’s next president (finally), to the incredible pace of technological change that we have seen through the convergence of communications, the world seems to have sped up, and slowed down all at the same time.
You could easily see in New Orleans that the days of the thousand-and-one parties, and “sky is the limit” networking events are gone and that everyone is minding their collective kitchens much more prudently. I believe that the event was much better BECAUSE of these changes, rather than in spite of them. Three things in particular struck me this year that I would like to share…
1. Playing for Change!!! – Peace through Music… What an incredible idea, incredible talent, and most importantly, an incredible display of what differing cultures, points of view, and backgrounds can do together when united within a cause… namely the universal language of music. NOTE TO MICROSOFT… Bring this group BACK EVERY YEAR, rather than have some “headline” band that is there for two sets on the last night, and out of town just after collecting a check. We all felt like this group took the journey with us this year from start to finish and that was pretty special (and for anyone who walked the halls of the convention center, you know just how long that journey was)… please check them out and support this incredible cause… http://www.playingforchange.com
2. Day of Giving – Because our company was lucky enough to be recognized as a Partner of the Year award winner this year in UC Messaging, a couple of us had to do a dress rehearsal (for the life of me I do not know why) on Sunday right in the middle of the different giving events, so we had to scramble and only could do the mural and bead work paintings. What struck me during this time was the fantastic talent and inexhaustible patience that these kids had for all of us wanna-be, but never will-be, “artists”. The pride these kids took in the art that they created and that we feebly tried to recreate was inspiring! Part of our group went to build walls for houses in the 9th Ward and relayed what the other side of New Orleans–the side we do not see around the Convention Center, French Quarter, and downtown moving and shaking areas, ever see. It deserves a special thank you to all of those who got out there in the heat and incredible humidity to make a difference and help build shelter for families! Thank you all!
3. The Message – The theme that seemed to resonate throughout the week was one of teamwork and a renewed sense of energy, hope, and optimism–something very badly needed. Let’s face it; all of our batteries have been drained severely this last year. Our businesses have been stretched and tested like no other time in our generation. From Windows 7, to Office 2010, to Exchange 2010, to Azure, and beyond, the line-up and excitement for this year’s launch wave is something that should get ANY Microsoft Partner excited about not only the opportunities as a Microsoft Partner, but as well Microsoft’s position in the Marketplace… I for one especially appreciated Kevin Turner’s keynote. It is important to be direct, brutally-honest, and unapologetic about competing for market share–none of Microsoft’s competitors have ever been apologetic. I think many of us have long wondered why Microsoft seemed to sit back and take it so much, rather than going on the offensive. We are now seeing that there may be a little bit of “rope-a-dope” strategy–Bravo! In general, the message was clear, inspiring, and exciting… It makes us all feel better about betting a large part of our businesses on the Microsoft Partner Program.
In a year that we all are hard pressed to justify the cost of attending any event, let alone a week-long “group hug”, it was very encouraging to see that it is ok acknowledge that times have changed, and that there is no reason to pretend or try to deny it. We now all know where, collectively, we are going as Microsoft Partners. If the hard-working folks in the partner program–scratch that… the partner network… take the feedback that I have heard from my peers, we are in for a great time again next year in Washington DC. Our organization is already setting aside budget.
Thanks to all that attended, and I look forward to seeing you again next year!