I’ve just about recovered from my Microsoft WPC induced jet lag, following the conference, which took place in Toronto last week. It was a great event, and as a representative of a Microsoft Cloud Solutions Partner business it was incredibly insightful as a guide to the changes in Microsoft’s strategy.
The main takeaway for me is that Microsoft has bold and ambitious plans to engage channel partners on a number of shared priorities, such as accelerated cloud adoption, Windows 10 Enterprise deployment and digital transformation.
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I heard on many occasions that the cloud will be a $500 billion-plus opportunity by 2020. Furthermore, Azure cloud is poised to become a true hyper-scale platform for creating hybrid clouds spanning Microsoft data centres, as well as service provider and end-customer facilities.
It’s clear to me that Azure is key to Microsoft’s future. Looking back 4-5 years, Windows would almost certainly have had the biggest keynote, followed by Office and then the Server and Tools division. This year Cloud and Enterprise which owns: Azure, SQL, Windows Server, Dev Tools, EMS and Power BI received a keynote twice the length of Office and Windows – a subtle but clear sign of the changing of the guard. This has also been reflected in the targets for FY17 within Microsoft, which reveal all the focus is on growing Azure aggressively.
To support partners Microsoft is doubling its investment in cloud platform internal-use rights, as shared by: Gavriella Schuster, CVP of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Group. That move will support partners’ work with Microsoft’s cloud technology and pursue activities such as building demos, she said in her keynote.
Microsoft is now enlisting partners in their mission of driving digital transformation for customers. Digital is now front and centre for CEOs, but the partner ecosystem must be able to align digital transformation with customers’ business outcomes, too. Jeff Immelt from GE provided fascinating insights as to how GE has embraced digital to transform their business.
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Windows is still an important business for Microsoft though, with more than 350 million Windows 10 users already. The new Windows 10 Enterprise E3 subscription service provides partners with a significant opportunity to develop new managed service offerings around delivering enhanced security solutions for their customers.
SQL Server 2016 growth is also a priority, as Microsoft aims to help customers turn the idea that “data is the new electricity” into reality, using real-time business insights and analytics to help drive digital transformation.
That being said, Microsoft doesn’t want partners to neglect hardware. According to Microsoft, “customer experiences come to life through hardware solutions,” and this is another ecosystem agenda item for 2017, particularly with the announcement of “Surface as a Service”.
Schuster claims that Microsoft has seen 17,000 partners transact since the launch of CSP last year. In May, CSP transactions overtook the number of Microsoft Online Services Adviser program and Microsoft Open programs transactions for the first time.
WPC reinforced many things this year, but the key message was that digital transformation is vital, it isn’t an option, it’s a necessity not only to thrive but to survive. Businesses need to embrace the digital world to build better products, keep customers engaged and most importantly, stay relevant in a rapidly advancing marketplace.
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We are now entering the fourth generation of the industrial revolution; AI and machine learning will significantly change productivity and jobs in next 30-50 years. Microsoft’s Brad Smith summarised this aptly – 40 years ago, every elevator had a job inside, a person pressing the buttons for you. Today, this doesn’t happen, and why should it? In 40 years’ time we will think it was equally quaint that there used to be a job in every taxi when there are so many driverless cars and drones roaming our streets – jobs are changing, and businesses need to make sure they don’t fall behind.