Looking at Microsoft WPC 09 in New Orleans

Microsoft WPC 2009

Microsoft WPC 2009I’m writing this sat in the lounge at Newark International Airport near New York, waiting for a flight taking the GG and I back to Birmingham, and I’m reflecting on the past week spent in New Orleans at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference.

What a week! After a couple of days holiday in my favourite place, New York City, the GG and I flew onto NOLA. This is my 2nd WPC (I attended in Houston, TX last year) and so I tried to compare last year’s trip to this years one. The biggest change for me was – there’s no doubt in my mind that whilst last year I still felt I was attending WPC as a Technician who worked within a business, this year I attended as a Business Owner. Upon reflection on my personal and business growth over the past 12 months, I’m really pleased with that statement.

This year I was fortunate enough to be invited to WPC as a Speaker, and involved in a couple of presentations.

Our “Power of Community” session was a question and answer panel affair, and I was sat along my HTG colleagues Dave Sobel of Evolvetech, Erik Thorsell of Success Computer Consulting, and Jamison West of JWCS, with Mark Crall of Tech Care Teamacting as moderator. The session had a disappointing audience turnout, but I took pride in the fact that those people who did attend took the time to come and chat with the panel afterwards. If just one member of the audience had been inspired to engage with the Community in the same way I did after such a session last year, then I consider that a success.

I was also roped into presenting on our experiences with Windows 7 Professional by my friends at the Microsoft Windows 7 Ignite Team. This was a last minute addition to my schedule, but went really well – with a good audience turnout and some interesting questions posted to myself and fellow Ignite partner Stephen Hall of District Computers. Make no doubt about it, Microsoft’s Partner Community is excited about the potential of Windows 7.

I discussed the difference in the size of the audience between the Community presentation (Business) and the Windows 7 presentation (Technology) with some colleagues during the week – we concluded that the majority of people who visit WPC still do so primarily as Technologists, with a fewer number being Business Owners. Ironically, the IT industry needs to concentrate more on positioning their products as Business Tools and less as Technology products with “features and benefits”. Let’s hope more people understand this message as time goes on.

Presenting aside, there was also a ton of content at WPC that I was interested in. Unlike last year though, this year my itinerary was *chock* full of meetings. I met with peers, partners and trusted vendors. I got involved in Round-Table meetings. I renewed old relationships and created new VarVid interviewing Richard Tubbones. There’s little doubt in my mind that, with few exceptions, anyone who is really serious about growing their business or engaging with the SMB Community was in attendance at WPC – and I was going to make sure to make the most of my time with these great people!

Then there were the interviews. I’ve been video interviewed so many times this past week that I’m not sure I even knew what I said anymore! Expect Aaron Booker of VarVidto post a ton of stuff in the days to come.

An interesting side note to WPC this year was the amount of new people I met through Twitter. The #WPC09 hash-tagtopped Twitter’s trending more than once, and I updated regularly. This in turn saw a lot of people following my updates, and some great folks getting in touch with me to connect personally. Sadly, by the weeks end the spammers had hijacked the #WPC09 hash-tag, which was frustrating, but the positive impact had already been felt.

There was also a ton of great break-out sessions to attend, and I made sure to schedule time to attend at as many as I could. Sadly as the meeting requests continued to pour in, I only managed to attend half as many as I’d like – but there’s only so many hours in the week (even with daily 0630 starts!) and I know my time was well spent.

Then there are the Keynotes which took place each morning. Personally, both last year and this year I only attended the Monday morning Key-note in which Allison Watson and others map out the next year or mores’ vision for Microsoft and it’s goals. The news around the new Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) and Exchange and Office 2010were interesting, to say the least. The other days keynotes I paid cursory attention to whilst I used the time to start planning some of the great ideas I’d already been inspired to act upon. I found the other Keynote speeches a little too “Rah! Rah! Microsoft” for my taste – but I know others find them very useful. Each to their own.

I thought the Vendor Expo Hall was well populated this year, even if I only got to attend for an hour on the last day due to time constraints. I know from speaking to a few of my friends who are Vendors that they were disappointed with the turnout, but everywhere I looked visitors were engaging with vendors, so I guess it depends on your expectations going in. I understand it’s not a cheap event to attend as a vendor, but where else are you going to find your most engaged partners in one place for an entire week? I also blagged a ton of swag to bring back for my local user grRichard Tubb & Andy Trish in silly hatsoup, AMITPRO. 🙂

Finally, there was the parties! Wow! With presenting this year, I was a little more restrained than last year (but only slightly) but there was a couple of mornings where I (and more than a few of my peers) woke with a sore head and a dry mouth. And that’s all I’ll say on that score – if you’re a friend on Facebook then you’ll already have seen some incriminating photo evidence such as the shot of I and a certain SBSC PAL to your right…

I’m already considering where both I and my MSP business will be be this time next year when WPC comes to one of my favourite cities to visit, Washington, DC. I’ve some warm friends who I enjoy spending time with in that part of the world, so I’m planning that visit already. 🙂

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