A Glimpse Inside Microsoft

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A couple of weeks ago, I found myself at my very first Microsoft-sponsored event… the SMB Nation 2014 Fall Conference in Redmond, WA.  I had no idea what to expect from my first peek inside the behemoth that is known the world over, save for the small percentage of Apple diehards, as THE gold standard in computing.  Until this visit, I had always viewed Microsoft in a similar way that I view other larger-than-life entities, such as Congress and the Wizard of Oz — faceless, impersonal, and very powerful.

As an invited guest of SMB Nation’s founder, Harry Brelsford, I was very eager to dig in, learn everything I could about the inner sanctum, and share with all who would grant me their ear, how my company, Plum Unified Communications (aka PlumUC), has embraced the Office 365 business model and created incremental revenue streams for Microsoft partners providing Office 365 to their customers.  I had momentary visions of grandeur that included these partners watching me with bated breath and hanging on my every word…

So, being an East-coaster with school-aged kids and a regimented morning ritual before the bus makes its way up our country road and pulls in front of our home at precisely 6:45 am (Eastern) to pick up the most precious cargo there is, of course I was ready to begin my evangelical journey when the clock struck 3:00 am… Pacific.  Since I was asked to assist with the streaming of the events to the conference’s remote audience via Lync, I arrived on the Microsoft campus before the sun even considered pushing aside the prior night’s darkness… and before the guards unlocked the doors.  And to think my wife tells me that I am late for everything…

Fast forward about an hour… to when I caught my first glimpse of the Kodiak Auditorium (see inset).  I was experiencing all of those emotions that accompany all new, unfamiliar, yet highly anticipated events… excitement, nervousness, and determination to seize the day.  Since the task at hand was to prepare to stream the event live to a remote audience, I set to work with the gentlemen donning the black polos emblazoned with “Microsoft” across the pocket.  The first faces of Microsoft that I got to experience up close and personal.  Not faceless, quite personable, and, sorry guys, not all-knowing (although they were infinitely more qualified AV technicians than I!).

Fast forward another couple hours… which now makes that a full 6 hours since my day began, and our conference was underway…

Since approximately 300 attendees / sponsors were expected to be in attendance, this was certainly one of the smallest and, dare I say most intimate, conferences I had ever attended.  My mission was clear… share with everyone, who stood still long enough to listen, how PlumUC has embraced Office 365 and is focusing on providing voice enablement of the famed service suite.  Leading up to this day, Harry had been pretty emphatic referring to this event, now known as O365 Nation, as “the world’s first independent conference focusing on Office 365.”  He explained to me on numerous occasions that everyone in attendance would have some stake in the sale of Office 365 or supporting services.  He was spot on!

It was so refreshing speaking with one IT professional after another and consistently hearing, “Yes, I sell Office 365,” which was invariably followed by, “what does PlumUC do?”

“I’m glad you asked…,” and I was off to the races!

But, back to Microsoft.  Specifically, the people behind this faceless giant.  Since they were one of the premier sponsors of the event, there were quite a few MS types milling about.  I quickly learned that they were not cold, corporate types, operating in strict contrast to their laid back counterparts, whose mother-ship is due south down the Pacific coast in Cupertino.  The handful of Microsoft people I met were engaged with the conference audience, highly knowledgeable, and passionate about helping their sales partners succeed in their businesses.

This short trip had many highlights, among them an invitation to present PlumUC services to a group of Microsoft partner support staff.  Microsoft recognizes the value of their partner channel and is constantly seeking ways to help them, not only sell more Microsoft products, but by providing exposure to a wide range of supporting services to increase their monthly revenue.

So, I am now preparing to share my experiences and voice strategies with the most hallowed, yet personable, of audiences.  Sounds like another blog entry in the making…

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