This was my sixth Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference—my first was WPC 2005 in Minneapolis—and probably the most useful and effective that I have experienced so far. I have to admit that there is a world of difference between how I plan for the WPC event, and how I follow up after the conference. I have always emphasized to Microsoft partners in my educational sessions that one should divide conference execution into three steps: pre-conference, the conference itself, and then post-conference analysis.
Looking Back on WPC 2011 in Los Angeles
This is when you will determine the companies and contacts that you want to meet and approach with a quality message (not spamming). You will not have time to meet every one of the 15,000 participants, so you have to ensure that you carefully select the ones that you want to meet. This year, my key objectives were to meet with Microsoft executives from different regions to get feedback, and to see how FY12 looks to them from an execution perspective. As a partner, you need to remember that Microsoft executives are there looking for guidance from Microsoft partners to figure out how to execute their own upcoming fiscal year. For them it is important to see what partners think about their plans, and if there is something missing, corrective actions can be taken. Keep in mind that more than 95% of Microsoft revenue comes from the partners, so Microsoft executives view partners as the key to achieving success each fiscal year.
During the Conference
If I started this journey again, one lesson I would seek to learn from WPC veterans is how to be most effective during the week (a good source of advice is the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP)). The keynotes are the most important events to listen to, and my recommendation is to do it at the event itself, as you can really get the feel of how the speech is delivered. You cannot get the same feel when reading a blog post or watching a video after the conference.
A key element is also to be able to share ideas during and after the keynotes with your partners and colleagues. This year I was honored to be part of MPN Live—a streaming talk show featuring partners and well-known industry analysts. The idea behind this live event was to discuss cloud transitioning and what we thought about the keynotes from the first day. On the third day (Wednesday) I participated in a social media panel where I had the opportunity to speak about why it is important to understand social media, and how it can be used to brand your company—especially if you are a small-business owner. I sincerely think that social media and understanding the use of it has finally proved its relevance, which seemed to be confirmed by the room being completely packed and the audience posing great questions to the panelists.
It is fun during each WPC to see the same faces that you have seen during the previous years, exchange ideas, and compare notes on the past year to become more effective in the next. One of my key mentors throughout the years has been Mr. Per Werngren from IDE, who coached me through the years via IAMPC (I eventually became Worldwide President for IAMCP following his tenure as President). I think it is important to have somebody to lean on when you learn about business ecosystems. Now I am in the position to share these lessons with other partners who navigate the vast Microsoft network.
My WPC week ended on Friday when I delivered a guest speech at the Global Education Partner Summit about cloud business modeling. This was a nice addition to the already successful week at WPC, and I am very happy that I did it, as it gave me the confirmation that the topic of cloud transformation for Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and Systems Integrators (SIs) is something that everybody is looking at, and that my research on the topic has been relevant.
My family knows that I can never take a vacation before WPC or immediately after, as the third stage of each WPC conference is follow-up. What I do every year is—immediately after the WPC week—send an email to everyone I met and exchanged business cards with, and follow up with what I promised to deliver.
What many Microsoft partners are missing when making the decision about WPC attendance is that the conference is where Microsoft executives lay out the plans for Microsoft partners for the coming fiscal year. What is also important to recognize is that partners get to hear this message before the Microsoft field, as the week following the WPC, Microsoft personnel have a big internal conference (MGX) where they get review what was said during WPC with an internal twist. WPC is where we all get to know Microsoft priorities for the new fiscal year, and the priorities for each product group and market segment as each Microsoft executive reveals the corresponding plans for the partner ecosystem.
How does this impact my company TELLUS International? It is very simple. We have aligned ourselves with Microsoft’s priorities, whereby we adjust our execution plans based on six-month cycles. We start our internal planning in April-May each year to get ready for WPC in July. As we work with Microsoft field teams around the world, we have a pretty good hunch about where things might be moving for the first six months of Microsoft’s next fiscal year. We have an internal meeting immediately after WPC to compare notes on the speeches and discussions with Microsoft executives, and finalize our plans.
We review our execution roughly six months later (which is also when Microsoft typically has its mid-year review). Why is this important? It is important simply because we want to be aligned with the Microsoft field to be able to provide the most value, and to create a win-win value proposition. It is only the natural thing to do from entrepreneurial perspective, and we have become more effective in this each year.
Planning for Success
What can we learn from this? It takes planning to be successful in WPC participation and it starts several weeks before WPC and ends a couple of weeks after WPC. This year I feel that the venue was especially successful for us, as I got to confirm our plans and meet the people I wanted to meet. Each year WPC leads to business dealings with a tremendous return on investment, so my strong recommendation to Microsoft partners is to select WPC as your main conference if nothing else can be afforded. If you do not make your money back, then you have to look at the mirror and ask yourself if you executed with a good plan.
Let me know if you agree with my approach. And if you have another one, I would love to hear it.
Dr. Petri I. Salonen