Microsoft Inspire - Driving Opportunity
Christopher Martini, VP, VOSS Solutions
As July comes to a close, Microsoft partners around the world find themselves in a familiar position: Returning home from the annual worldwide partner conference ("Inspire") and trying to unpack the conversations, business cards, receipts, marketing messages, reorganizations and exciting opportunities that generally follow Microsoft's largest partner event of the year.
This year brought tens of thousands of us from around the world to Las Vegas, so that we could look for opportunities to engage with Microsoft and each other, to grow our respective businesses. VOSS attended the conference again this year, and we were fortunate enough to have customers and partners joining us from literally every corner of the world.
The 2018 conference lacked the blockbuster announcement that we may have seen in years past; there was no major change to the way that Microsoft will engage partners, and no flagship products have had the kind of overhaul we saw with the Skype for Business to Teams evolution, but there was still an awful lot to be excited about.
Microsoft made a flurry of announcements leading up to the event, including the release of a free version of Microsoft Teams. This new version supports up to 300 users and is currently available in 40 languages. Clearly, this is a compelling offer for organizations who may have been considering Slack. Providing a robust solution in a freemium model will certainly help Microsoft grow the installed base, while giving ecosystem partners more opportunities to sell compelling services around the Teams product.
As a partner and former Microsoft employee who has attended this event too many times to mention, it was surprising to note how narrow the enthusiasm gap is between Microsoft and its partners when it comes to Teams. Generally, Microsoft introduces a new product and declares that it will soon be the standard that customers will want, and as a result, partners should be developing offers and solutions to meet this expected demand. Partners, on the other hand, are generally more pragmatic and driven by deals in the pipeline. As a result, you can generally expect there to be quite a gap between what Microsoft is excited about, and what partners are actively selling. This is especially true with new products, as opposed to new versions of old products. Teams, on the other hand, may be experiencing some benefits associated with the S4B evolution. Partners are almost universally convinced that Teams will be a hit for Microsoft, and the majority that I spoke with are actively engaged in going after the opportunity.
From VOSS’ standpoint, this is an exciting development on a number of levels. First and foremost, our flagship product, VOSS-4-UC, is already able to support Microsoft Teams. In addition, the customer journey to Teams will require organizations to make a variety of decisions that we are uniquely qualified to help them with: Which users require which services? What is the best deployment model for our organization? What do we do with our existing deployment? Are there features or functionality that we currently leverage which could cause issues when we make the move to Teams? VOSS looks forward to helping our customers make sense of their options, and deploy the best solution based on their unique needs.
In addition, Microsoft made some compelling announcements in the Analytics space. Workplace Analytics and MyAnalytics Nudges demonstrate that Microsoft is looking for new and interesting ways to mine meaningful insight from the mountain of data that modern UC environments generate. While there was a solid amount of enthusiasm around these announcements, there is a critical part of the story that Microsoft is unable to address: Most enterprises rely on more than one vendor to deliver their UC solution. As a result, vendor-specific solutions like those from Microsoft and Cisco, will only ever deliver part of the story for customers. VOSS is excited to have a solution in place today that pulls the entire story together. Our customers and partners are delivering the best service that they can - across vendors and deployment models - and VOSS delivers unique insights no matter which vendor choices they make.
In summary, the event was the well-run, well-attended global event that we have come to expect from Microsoft. While it lacked the major blockbuster announcement beyond the Free Teams offer, I suspect that this was welcome by a partner ecosystem focused on driving opportunities.
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