WPC 2014 Insider Perspective

WPC 2014

WPC, otherwise known as the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, was again a huge event this year with over 16,000 attendees descending on Washington D.C. July 13-17. This was my 8th WPC since first attending in 2003. Having traveled most of the nation, D.C. was one of the few cities I hadn’t previously visited. The historic landmarks made an impressive backdrop and the weather was warm, but nothing like the heat of Oklahoma.

Nobody does a conference as well as Microsoft, especially on such a large scale. In 20 minutes I was back in my hotel room, having registered and purchased the Surface 3 conference deal. The WPC app let you schedule the ten different sessions you could do each hour in seconds, while providing you full event information. Every aspect was well staffed and executed with an army of Microsoft people everywhere, including audio-visual techs in each of the hundreds of meeting rooms. From training sessions to evening parties at over a dozen famous venues, the longest I ever waited was for the light to change crossing the street.

Even though there are over 300 Microsoft Partners in the state of Oklahoma, I only ran into one other Sooner. This is not surprising, as IDC still reports that 70% of technology firms are not profitable. Microsoft also reports that only 3.5% of the 640,000 global Microsoft partners transact cloud services. Most partners can’t afford to go, much less spend one second away from their business without it going under. Unfortunately for clients, those same technologists also don’t have time for the continuing education in an industry that changes 10 times faster than any other. The partners that say “I’ll just get everything from digitalwpc.com”, never set aside the 40 hours to review – not to mention comparing experiences with other partners or meeting with key Microsoft personnel.

The tracks this year were:

  • Leadership, Sales & Marketing. I suppose these areas were grouped together because technology people generally have no clue about business, but leadership is and always will be a separate category. For certain today, sales is DEAD and you simply market and tell a story. Traditional sales people are absurdly ineffective with huge bravado, while being perpetually terrified about answering technology questions. Customers hate being sold, but love to buy from the people that are different. Your website better be mobile optimized and your look and story better be different than your competitors.
  • Mobility & Devices. 14% is the current market share of Windows devices in smartphones and tablets. Snicker if you want, but a Surface 3 does twice what an iPad and Mac Air do together for less than half the cost. Many of our clients are already deploying Surface 3 as the only equipment for employees, instead of  traditional desktop, notebook, and tablet combination. I’ll take my Windows Phone over a Droid or iPhone any time. The biggest exposure for both Google and Apple is security. Microsoft is decades ahead with fewer vulnerabilities and secure device management using Windows Intune.
  • Cloud. The winners will be Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Microsoft Online Services will soon pass the $2 Billion annual revenue mark. While the mantra was that cloud partners make more money, this statement is only true if you’ve been doing it for the past 5 years and have the volume of 5,000 subscribers or more. On-premise solutions are twice as profitable for partners. Customers should utilize partners that have been doing cloud for at least 5 years and traditional partners better stick to what they know or go bankrupt trying to catch up.
  • Enterprise Social. Somehow you found this blog and I’d say that Matrixforce is better than average at social media, but not yet stellar. Social is definitely not going away and no matter what you do, some employees don’t know what is going on without this curious medium. Some of the best information I’ve gotten about Microsoft solutions and offerings has come from Yamjams (kind of like a Reddit IAmA discussion over an hour), in spite of all the e-mails and websites. Overwhelmingly, the best demo of the conference was using Skype real-time translation, where the presenter on stage spoke in English to a woman in Berlin speaking German.
  • Big Data. Microsoft is ahead of the times, with offerings like Power BI (Business Intelligence) to take a series of spreadsheets and quickly create key performance dashboards. Established businesses have been clamoring for a way to make sense of massive information, but small business either won’t be mature enough to appreciate or will need to help to utilize.

More than anything this year, Microsoft continues to demonstrate the ability to adapt and tell their own story such as 88 Acres. While Apple churns out the next Mac and iPhone with no new benefits and Google just continues to increase ad costs, Microsoft is differentiating with productivity and security for business and consumers.

Although most Microsoft detractors are currently dumbfounded by Microsoft’s continued and improving profitability, some in the press couldn’t resist throwing some dirt and FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) during WPC. Business Insider released Microsoft to Cut 18,000 Jobs trying to suggest that Microsoft is doing poorly. The first comment hysterically states Microsoft won’t exist in 20 years and then the comments degrade to discussions about H1B workers, even though the article explains that Nokia employees are being downsized from the acquisition. CNBC tried to keep Apple relevant with Apple, IBM in massive enterprise hardware, software partnership. Let’s take an unsecured device and unknown app and try to do business. Besides, IBM makes it money from consulting and financial services today.

Satya Nadella ended the final day keynote with the Nietzsche quote “Courage in the face of reality”. The meaning was really more for partners, as Microsoft has already made the transition to devices and services. The transformation is amazing given the massive size of Microsoft. Maybe Microsoft is using the Mike Michalowicz Pumpin Plan to kill off most partners leaving the 25,000 or so that truly help customers and Microsoft.

My focus for WPC was Azure and digital marketing, two things mid-sized businesses can’t afford to misunderstand. I’ll be briefing Guardian clients during CIO Reviews and if you’d like to know more about what I learned at WPC, please ask questions in the comments below.

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Yammer Curiosity

Yammer LogoIf you don’t know about Yammer, it’s effectively the Facebook for business – recently purchased by Microsoft and now included free in every Office 365 subscription.

Given this one fact, many people think “Social Media? No Way.” and promptly run away. Of those remaining, the majority have LinkedIn or some business features of the various other social networks and can’t fathom the use of something else internally.

Well that’s the rub. Yammer isn’t just internal. Plus, the communication in most organizations ranges from poor to terrible - despite phone systems, e-mail, and instant messaging. Yammer can be used to build relationships and provide more value to customers and vendors. Let’s face it. Your desk phone will soon meet the same demise as your home phone. Instant messaging is intrusive and e-mail takes the bulk of your time and focus with only 1% of messages useful.

Yammer is about curiosity. Yammer is a better approach to keep up with people and information on your schedule, rather than the flood of near defunct 40-year-old e-mail. If you don’t update your skills beyond current mundane tasks, they will be automated or outsourced in 3 years or less.

Businesses need a better way to keep up with the rapid pace of change. You need to work smarter and faster. Learn more about Yammer and start sparking new and innovative ideas today.

Does Your Blog Have a Name?

Horse with No NameCue the music. The tin sounding voice starts and you just know it’s some cool rocker with the life experience of hard living. “You’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name …” or maybe the internet with a no name blog.

It screams apathy if your blog is your company name, domain name, or simply “blog”. You might as well be the same as everyone else. In the technology industry, the lazy just stream duplicate content across the web from Techadvisory.org. They can’t put a name with the blog because it’s not theirs. To compound matters, the content is pretty basic and often has nothing to do with what those organizations really do.

Name your blog if you’re considering one for your business or have started a blog, but just not branded it. The last time I checked, there were several hundred million articles on naming your blog. Probably just a few dozen are actually relevant, but that’s a different topic. Naming your blog can be summarized into just a few points:

  1. Readable, pronounceable, and spellable
  2. Concise, unique, and memorable
  3. Descriptive and not generic keywords
  4. Personality, reader focused, and ever green

The first one is fairly obvious like Prince, who changed his name to a symbol and got lost in obscurity. Memorable is tough, but unique and concise are generally fairly easy. Your name should be for your readers that sets the tone, but gives you enough flexibility to change focus or expand content over time.

Absurdly, most articles about naming blogs are either on nameless or hapless blogs. This blog’s name is Adroit. Beyond the clever definition, it’s easy to read, say, and spell. Adroit is a relatively unique name as any other similar named blogs are sparse or long abandoned. The tagline of “Virtual CIO and Digital Marketing Blog” is used to tell readers specifically what the content is about. Adroit kind of sounds technical while short and almost playful. It’s a name that will hopefully last for a long time.

Now lock in that blog name. (You can even announce it as one of your blog posts.)

Cue the music. Lynard Skynard begins to wail “What’s your name …”

Technology Writers on Notice in 2014

2014 LogoIf you’re a journalist in the technology industry, then one of your resolutions should be to get your act together. Let’s start with Christopher Mims’ 2013 Was a Lost Year for Tech. In a word PATHETIC.

Mims doesn’t work in the industry, but had a deadline and went to a tired formula of: negative, salute to the favorites for advertising, trivialize the new, bash Microsoft for fun, and tell the industry it’s arrogant.

For the record, technology has been the main industry that has brought the U.S. economy back. Like in most years, it’s really the software that was the story and not the stray gadgets like wearables. Why pay homage to Apple, while giving back-handed comments about Google and Microsoft?

The tired “Microsoft is evil and the PC industry is dead mantra” just screams out of touch. Microsoft wrote off $900 Million for Surface RT, but that pales greatly to the $29 Billion in iPhones unsold in the channel by Sprint and Verizon. Smartphones and tablets proliferate, but maybe since Microsoft supports popular products like XP for over a decade people are simply keeping their computers longer? Microsoft killed the stack rating nearly 2 months before the Mims bashing comments.

Yes, there were acquisitions and mergers that are usually lauded in other industries. Instead of discussing how Silicon Valley has hurt manufacturing and jobs, why not talk about 3D printing that will make us competitive again? Mims redeems himself somewhat with insight on social media and the NSA, but the damage was already done.

Go write for the tabloids if you just want to cause controversy. Your job is to report the facts and give something helpful for your audience. Cut the crap with the tired old formula, as my resolution this year is to regularly expose such drivel.

2013 Virtual CIO Blog Review

This is the annual report from WordPress.com. Blog posts increased to weekly, page views nearly doubled versus last year, and the most notable referring site was LinkedIn. Obviously, no one got the April Fools joke and interestingly several of the most popular posts were from the prior year:

  1. WordPress.com Google Authorship (November 2012) – Author rank will be one of the most important aspects of content marketing in 2013.
  2. SEO Sabotage (September 2012) - For the effort involved, you could definitely work on improving your own content and value to customers. Hopefully, tools like the Google Hummingbird will eliminate this pending cottage industry.
  3. Ballmer and Microsoft Misconceptions (August 2013) – A short review of mainstream media referenced as obviously doing no fact checking.
  4. iPhone 5 Flop (September 2012) – Apple sold millions of the new device, but failed to meet sales expectations. Maps was a huge debacle, battery life is still bad, iTunes continues to wipe data, and e-mail ActiveSync problems remain.  Apple stock is still down overall and the hip and young crowd no longer think Apple is cool.
  5. Java Fades to Oblivion (January 2013) – The year started with CNN reporting on yet another Java vulnerability. Java developers continue to dwindle, Java updates rarely work as the bane of security audits, and the world will be a safer and simpler place without Java.
  6. 10 Modern About Page Tips (January 2013)  - Approach and presentation is dramatically different from the 5 paragraphs of boring text.
  7. 25 Expert WordPress.com Principles (January 2013) – Get to writing, avoid common mistakes, and accelerate your success.
  8. 10 Things to Know About Microsoft Partners (April 2013) – 20 years of insight about being a Microsoft Partner revealed.
  9. Authorship: Does Your Baloney Have A First Name? (September 2013) – Why would anyone believe anything from a nameless and faceless author?
  10. Testimonials Are Contrived (October 2013) – Testimonials are just another commercial.

THANK YOU for following this blog and I look forward to providing more expert business, marketing, and technology insight for 2014!

Back to Facebook

Social Media Image
OK, I was wrong. I really didn’t think Facebook would survive. It was a fad that would fade away like Myspace. So, just another lesson to learn about people and in turn business.

Facebook was a curiosity I signed up for long ago just to understand the buzz. Technology is the broadest field of any, but you can’t really claim to be a technology expert and not know the basics of something hitting mainstream consciousness almost daily.

Search Engine Optimization was the craze at the time, so obviously it was my place to be for backlinks and a company page. Reading a lot growing up, I was always amazed about Asian culture and how over crowded and lacking in any privacy for the average person. Facebook felt like it could be that way. Then the rules changed and that funky little Facebook language for company pages changed decimating a two weeks worth of effort. Matrixforce serves organizations and not consumers, so the company page was abandoned. My Facebook presence was on auto-pilot while I went on to WordPress, Expert Articles, Tumblr, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Squidoo, Google Plus, and HubPages.

In the mean time, Facebook had the IPO, made numerous changes including vanity URLs for users and organizations, and has even managed to make money. Time flies and you’re there. Plus, unfortunately you do have to get the experience to have the wisdom of how all these services should be used.

Since Facebook is not going away, I used our trademark status to wrestle our Facebook URL from some security guard company in India and we’ll begin filling in the timeline, as we do a pretty fair job providing content for clients. Personally, my Facebook page will be … well … personal.

That’s the thing you learn: unlink your accounts because you should have a different persona on different services. Like probably a lot of people, I linked my Twitter account to everything. It was lazy, simple, and easy. However, that approach just spams the other services with the same stuff and what is appropriate for Facebook, may not be good fit for something like LinkedIn.

For my Facebook friends (which truly is a pretty small set of family, friends, classmates, etc.) don’t be alarmed when my account is largely decimated and changed. There may be the weekly post from my blog, but everything else will be personal. Go to the Matrixforce Facebook page if you want the business and technology stuff and you’ll just have to see how I use the other services.

Twitter Bootstrap Mania

Twitter Bootstrap
There is so much that happens in technology that the general public doesn’t realize. Twitter Bootstrap is one of those new (first released in 2011) and little known technologies. It has nothing to do with tweets or business startups. Instead it is revolutionizing websites and many organizations today are beginning to utilize this new paradigm:

  1. Mobile first. The concept means all pages are automatically sized from large displays down to tablets and the small screens on smartphones. Menu options are also toggled into a list for mobile devices.
  2. Standard set. Much like Microsoft set the standard for putting applications in “program files”, Twitter has defined standard names for sections of the page, common styles, and class objects. Now web development is more consistent and easier to maintain across any platform. The current version is 3.0 and new features are sure to be added each year.
  3. Sticky Header or Footer. Since it’s common to have the navigation fixed at the top of the screen, users can always quickly switch to another page and footers no longer need redundant menu links.
  4. Responsive and stylized images. Images automatically grow and shrink with the different sized displays and difficult graphic effects like rounded corners and circles are now one simple command.
  5. Nimble and dynamic. Websites are never done and now Twitter Bootstrap allows organizations to quickly deploy and change web presence for any event or customer need.

Legacy web designers and graphic artists have voiced backlash against Twitter Bootstrap as too confining and all the sites looking the same. Many initial Twitter Bootstrap sites do simply have a plain black or white menu. However, theme sites like Wrapbootstrap show how varied and attractive such sites can be, while adding incredible usage and functionality. Make plans now to convert your websites to Twitter Bootstrap in 2014 or you may risk looking dated and unuseable in this fast-moving mobile era.