Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sunday Morning (no thanks to Gwen)

Here I sit, broken hearted, tried to... get away earlier, but, well, that's not happened, so I may as well blog! :)

As we all know, I went to both Tech Ed (the WESS Pre-Day) in Sydney last Tuesday as the SBSC PAL and also to the IT Aged Care conference in Melbourne on Thursday as both an IT consultant, a representative of two of our clients, and on behalf of Clipsal Australia and their Vieo platform. It was good catching up in Sydney with a number of the SBSCs from around Australia on the Tuesday (and for dinner on the Monday evening), however I'd like to have spent more time at Tech Ed to get a bit more of a feeling about the SBSC program from those who were staying on for the full event. As your SBSC PAL, if I don't know what you want from the program and how you feel about it thus far, I cannot represent your thoughts and feelings to neither Microsoft Australia nor Microsoft Corp. So...

It seems that Robbie's not alone. From what I hear, Tech Ed US didn't deliver enough technical training to attendees around WESS, it appears as though Tech Ed EMEA has no WESS Pre-Day at all, and as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, it seems that the Virtualization Pre-Day event at Tech Ed AU was also a little light on technical content. So, at least there's something to be positive about - it seemsd that across the board, with a few exceptions (such as the SharePoint Pre-Day at Tech Ed AU), Microsoft worldwide didn't deliver what the attendees expected on a technical level. Robbie's in great company! :)

Now, what was mentioned to me (and from on stage) is that the technical training we received from Wayne Small and Lingan Satkunanathan was right from the Microsoft WESS Level 300 content. This just means that Microsoft, as far as WESS goes, is missing the mark on what we consider Level 300 content to be and what they consider it to be. For what we, the SBSCs, expected from Level 300 content, have a look at this link - sure, it is specifically for support webcasts, but the definitions are still valid. It seems that Microsoft uses a different scale for their WESS content.

One very big positive for Microsoft Australia is that they cared enough about WESS to actually run a Tech Ed Pre-Day event centred around it. That is different from a lot of the rest of the world. This goes to show that some of the people inside Microsoft Australia care enough about us to hold this event, even though the focus may have been off target. Compare us to small, insignificant places like the EU and US, and we're ahead by a fair margin! :)

Robbie has recently blogged that "... it really struck me that far & away the best part of my job is getting to engage with people who see their involvement in this space not just as a job, not even a career, but truly a vocation. Almost a calling if you will..." - it seems that some people in Microsoft are finally "getting" SMB. We're a community, whether Microsoft (or other third parties) recognize this or not. We're a passionate bunch. We often call things as we see them, and this at times will cause a bit of squirming with our suppliers. Microsoft knows this. Acronis knows this. Symantec doesn't care about this. Those companies that recognize we're commenting and caring about their stuff are the companies who will do in this marketplace - those that ignore our comments and feelings will be shunned by the SMB community. It has always been that way and, as far as I can tell, will remain the same for quite some time.

One good example of how we are treated is Microsoft's PSS Callback for SBS. Microsoft no longer cares enough about supporting SBS to actually stay on a call and direct it to someone who can assist - instead they will eventually call back. Eventually may be an hour or four later, but in the mean time we've done due diligence and determined that this is a serious issue, serious enough for us to call PSS and ask them to help us out. We don't call them when we can't work out how to change the background image - we call them once we've Googled, asked around other colleagues, and have a client in dire need of getting this box back and running *now* (not some time after we get a call back). This shows the myopic view of SMB that Microsoft Corp has - it is a bad omen for EBS, Windows Server, Exchange, SQL, BizTalk, CRM, Sharepoint and all of their other products too. If we feel we're being palmed off as insignificant by this treatment, we need to make our voices heard, and that is exactly what your PALs are here for - to represent your concerns and feelings to Microsoft Corp. If we say nothing, we're accepting that this treatment of SBS is a good thing.

I have some other positive news about SMB with respect to Microsoft Australia - they are starting to understand that if we offer feedback (as asked for) over many years and we hear nothing back nor see anything positive from Microsoft (Roadshows being dropped, Support being dropped to call back, etc) then we have no other option to feel as though our feedback is falling on deaf ears. They are starting to understand that we want to take part in ongoing communication with Microsoft Australia to better develop both Microsoft Australia's and our own business strategies in the SMB marketplace. They are starting to take us seriously when we offer input that we've been asked to give and realize that they can no longer ignore us and have us support them for it. They realize that to increase Partner satisfaction scores, they need to increase Partner satisfaction, and ignoring your Partner channel, asking the end users why they have a Small Business IT provider as they are a waste of money is not the way to achieve this. The only way to increase Partner satisfaction is to take the Partners seriously.

So, I'm waiting to hear back on a summary of the recent meeting that a number of SBSCs had with Microsoft at Tech Ed on Tuesday evening, following on from the APC meeting that I blogged about earlier, and will post more about what's happening when all of the attendees have had a chance to check through the summary and offer any relevant input. This is definitely a positive step with respect to the SBSC Program here in Australia and as the Australian SBSC PAL, it is something that I'm glad to have a hand in starting. With any luck, this also means that I can stop using a sledge hammer on Microsoft/Microsoft Australia now that I can see the ball starting to roll and use a mallet instead just to keep it rolling. You never know...


The Outspoken Wookie

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