More than a week after the Microsoft WPC14 in Washington, sorry DC, I am still buzzing, and disrupting the office with photos, stories and strategies.
It was my first time at a WPC event and first time in DC, so what are my takeaways?
Firstly if you are going next year; prepare, prepare, prepare. I am pretty good at knowing what I want from an event but with 15,000 other attendees on the go it is easy to get lost in the mix of what is going on. Plan it out, set some objectives mark them down when done and use the extra time to find out more. Ideally buddy up with someone who you know or at least know of, there are plenty, make the most of your supply chain and contacts or visit the suppliers that are relevant to your needs.
If you are stuck, speak with the guys at Microsoft, of course they want to you have to the best time but tell them why you are there and they will steer you in the right direction.
Oh yeah, get as many party invites as you can. Nothing makes friends like a chat over a beer or wine, but of course drink some soda.
We have come to the Microsoft party maybe a little later in the day than others for us but their user to cloud Office environment is pretty kick ass, mature and ready for any business to take full advantage of.
To prove just that Kevin Turner's keynote had an absence of chat about products still under development or waiting for the next release and was all about Microsoft being market leading and ready to sell, in volume.
There was a notable demo late in the week on Skype Translator which pitted a German woman and an English guy against each other, the banter was translated back and forth with amazingly accuracy, even given the tension in the one voice and the joy in the other three days after the World Cup Final. Very impressive stuff.
Microsoft are evolving quickly in to a services business, its not complete for many reasons, mainly the historical and always needed on premise products, but it is trucking in that direction.
Windows Mobile is here with a bang. I have always stayed away from it as all my previous experiences were dull and pointless to say the least just because it had no real resemblance to a mobile device or my desktop environment. However, now it is probably the best mobile interface I have touched for both business and home use, and that’s what I want from a device.
You might know that I struggled with the underwhelming experience of my iPhone5s and switched to a recently purchased HTCM8 which was better, different, good but just not there. (now for sale at a good price). The Lumia 930 is fantastic.
Scottish Development International really did create some fantastic business intelligence and networking opportunities for us while we were there, well done Gordon Esslemont and Julie Brown and the rest of the team for making it work so well. Love the ‘wee booklet’ which we are going to pinch the concept of. As you know no matter where you go there is always a Scot doing a key job and it was fantastic to meet up with Stuart Baird and his team. He is a long time ex-pat working for the British Embassy in DC (shhhh don't tell anyone).
It was clear to me that WPC brings together partners, competitors, suppliers and friends from everywhere and outside the Microsoft space I had the chance to catch up with a few like minded others. Trend Micro are a business that gets IFB, our markets, clients and needs and JD Sherry and his team did a great job in further developing our understanding of how we will work together and also strengthening the relationships and friendships involved. We may have done some of this "networking" in a less formal environment that the conference.
I also benefited from a great opportunity to discuss partner strategy in a relaxed session with Michel van der Bel. I say relaxed, he is Dutch, they never stress, but exposing the top guy in the UK in this way for me demonstrates how business ready Microsoft are and confident in the product mix and delivery.
Of course, you could argue that this is all marketing smoke and mirrors to cover up the fact that they are looking over their shoulder, or at times at the bumper in front with a Google sticker on it but there is no complacency here. IFB have always said as a business the only thing you can do about competition is compete and Microsoft have their sleeves rolled up.
So has my first time visit to WPC changed our business strategy?
I went to WPC to find out more about how IFB as a proven, long term ISP and Data Centre business, with a lot of connected clients, could sell more Data Centre centric stuff. We are about to complete our second DC in the heart of the UK Oil and Gas sector in Aberdeen and as much as it will be a colocation site it will be a big Cloud and managed services platform for us also. Any new services coming online from our current location and being delivered from our new location must at least keep us relevant and attractive to our clients but really had to add new revenues and margins to what we do.
In particular I wanted to qualify just how we delivered on the qualified demand from my clients for hosted email, VDE and applications including Office 365. We are scaling up our business not just in the new Data Centre but the service offering and also in the resources and partner we need to step change our business.
What WPC has done for IFB, and me, is corroborate our strategy and as importantly how we can execute it. It has moved our thinking and actions forward in weeks and possibly in areas months and forced us to put ourselves under greater pressure to get on with it.
Graeme Gordon is the Chief Executive Officer of IFB and is responsible for the development and implementation of an ambitious business strategy to deliver game changing growth. Since IFB began operating in 1996, Graeme has held a senior role within the business and has played a major role in bringing IFB to where it is today. Playing an active role in both client and supplier management, Graeme is central to the continued development of IFB’s service offering in response to both Customer and Market demand.
In addition to his position at IFB, Graeme also maintains a high profile within the IT community and is a board member of ScotlandIS, the leading ICT trade body in Scotland. Graeme lives in Aberdeen with his wife and three children.