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IDG Contributor Network: Microsoft Inspire: A picture into the future of Microsoft

 [Disclosure: Microsoft is a client of the author.]

Partner conferences are an element of large tech companies that smaller firms don’t have the resources to maintain. The interesting things about them include insight into how seriously the vendor takes its partner ecosystem, the balance between direct sales and partner efforts.

Partner conferences also are where the partners go to get a heads-up on where the firm’s priorities will be in the future. Done right, these are like sales events with lots of energy and programs focused on driving sales, partner and customer engagement, and lots of recognition for those that generate the most revenue and can showcase unusually high customer loyalty.

But Inspire is a view into the future of Microsoft, which is of utmost importance in this sector. And the heads-up I got this week on the show has identified some interesting new elements.

Dynamics 365

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that Microsoft has largely pivoted from their PC and server operating system and application roots to a cloud services vendor. Azure has replaced Windows as their most strategic platform and their emphasis on Dynamics 365, a comprehensive management dashboard with massive AI improvements, helps validate that. And this tool appears to be at the heart of what they will showcase at Inspire.

Much of the event appears to surround this effort and how partners can not only sell it but use it themselves to improve their own operations and better manage their customer relationships. Very similar in implementation (from a Microsoft perspective) to sales management tools, it’s an impressive offering when implemented properly.

But the part that should prove the most interesting is that this should allow Microsoft to better understand where partners are performing well and where they are struggling – allowing Microsoft to more effectively husband partner efforts into successes. Of course, it also allows the partners to better manage their own shops, effectively raising all boats.

At one time, companies seemed unable to grasp that marginal partners can adversely impact their brand. Back when I did more surveys, one of the interesting results was how much less satisfied Microsoft customers were when they worked through partners than when they worked directly with Microsoft. I actually observed this personally when we used a partner for an Exchange project (the partner didn’t know Exchange and I didn’t pick them).

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