To WPC or Not?

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Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference is the defacto number one ticket in the business software world – has been for nearly a decade. If there is a high profile meeting you need to have or want to get your message across, WPC has been the place to do it. Year after year it breaks the attendance records and serves as a launching platform for Microsoft’s strategy for the year and for years to come.

This year marks the first time that many of the partners I work with will not be making the trip. Not just IT Solution Providers but (sponsors) technology companies as well. There are the typical excuses:

1. I have too much on my plate right now
2. We don’t see a reason to go
3. I don’t like where it’s at (Los Angeles)

This year there is a new predominant message I keep on hearing: “I just don’t see the point.. Too much $$$ for too little value.. No ROI for the small partners..”

If partners that Microsoft depends on to deploy their solutions see no value in attending Microsoft’s conference, then can Microsoft really be blamed for building business models that not only exclude but force the exclusion of Microsoft partners from the Microsoft solution chain?

Granted, most of my discussions are with the infrastructure partners who do not do enough business with Microsoft to be a part of the strategic discussion – but they all do depend on benefits they receive from Microsoft in terms of promotional marketing collateral, (nearly) free software to run their computers and networks with and licensing help.

This can be a dangerous path separation for the two parties. Microsoft, from their cloud business development standpoint, typically sees infrastructure partners as deployment assistance / setup laborers kind of like your cable TV installer. Meanwhile, infrastructure partners tend to be the gatekeeper (think “internal IT”) for small businesses that run Microsoft networks, they aren’t exactly the cable guy. So between Microsoft deciding they will handle the sales and billing and partners deciding that there is no value in working closely with Microsoft, what happens to the Microsoft software during the next refresh/upgrade decision making cycle?

Many (myself included) have criticized Microsoft for spending too much of it’s focus on crushing competition themselves, instead of counting on the partners. Let’s see if that message changes this year – because Microsoft has found out on Windows Phone and BPOS that without partners it’s not really able to get to the business customers on it’s own great marketing.

Time will tell.. but we’ll be at the Microsoft WPC as both attendees, sponsors and Looks Cloudy as press. I hope we can offer some insight of what it’s like to be there from all 3 angles.