Each year, across the various territories worldwide, the Microsoft regional offices approach leaders in the Small Business Specialist Community (SBSC) and ask them if they would volunteer to undertake roles as Partner Area Leads (PAL’s).
What is a PAL?
Historically, the role of the PAL has been to act as a conduit between Microsoft and it’s Small Business Specialist Community. Microsoft is such a behemoth that many smaller partners can feel like it’s difficult to engage with them – and that’s where the PAL’s come in. The PAL’s help small partners engage better with Microsoft, and to listen to feedback from the Community and share this with Microsoft.
The role is unpaid, and for the large part unexpensed – meaning the PAL’s give not only their time, but often go out of pocket to help support others too. The fact that these individuals, who are busy with their own businesses and family commitments, agree to take on the PAL role is an indication of their belief in the peer community.
We’ve had some really great PAL’s within the UK since 2006. Individuals such as Gareth Brown of Sytec, Andy Trish of NCI Technologies, Vijay Riyait of Ardentisys and others have given their time and energy to help their peers and the community as a whole grow and prosper.
The UK PAL’s are…
For 2012-2013, the UK has three PAL’s. They are:-
- Guy Gregory of London based The Final Step – Guy has served the UK as a PAL since 2011 and has been an active part of the Worldwide community for much longer. Always giving of his time and expertise, Guy is the first person many of us turn to for advice and guidance on Microsoft’s Cloud Services.
- Andy Parkes of Coventry based iBIT Solutions – Andy has acted as group lead of AMITPRO, the Midlands User Group for more than two years. In that time he’s travelled the country to give his time freely with presentations on Sharepoint – thus he’s been dubbed “Mr. Sharepoint” by our community.
- Robert Gibbons of Think4 IT Solutions based in Manchester – In 2011, Robert took over as group lead of the Manchester SBSC Group. Since then he’s transformed the group, doubling attendance and encouraging new members.
I’m so pleased to see Guy, Andy and Robert as PAL’s! I’m a firm believer that the PAL role should be Microsoft’s (and the Communities) way of acknowledging those individuals who are considered true leaders by their peers. Guy, Andy and Robert are exactly that.
All three have my full support and if you already know them, I’d encourage you to take this opportunity to let them know their time and contributions are valued. If you don’t know them, take time to reach out and introduce yourself – they are good people to know.
The future of the SBSC Community
On a final note – historically, what we refer to as the Small Business Specialist Community (SBSC) was born out of the Microsoft Partner programme. Independent User Groups worldwide sprang up focused around the Small Business Server product which many of the SMB IT companies who were Microsoft Partners actively sold. People got together to talk SBS.
Over the years though, those user groups and that community has been less about Microsoft, and more about collaboration at the small business level. Peers have got together not to talk Microsoft products, but to talk business.
With last weeks announcement from Microsoft that the SBS line is to be discontinued, many SMB IT companies are fearful that the SBSC Community will die as a result. I don’t believe that will be the case. For many years now Independent User Groups have survived and thrived without any support from Microsoft. In fact, for many attendees at these user groups – Microsoft is hardly relevant to their business. But they still attend these user groups because they get great value from learning and sharing with their peers.
The worldwide SMB IT Community doesn’t need a Microsoft product to base itself on. SBS might be dead, but the SMB IT community goes on regardless. Call it SBSC, call it SMB IT, call it whatever you want – the end result is that collaboration with your peers will result in you growing your SMB IT business faster than you would alone. That’s the single best reason to get involved.