Microsoft recently hosted an informal roundtable event with our Senior Windows Essential Server Solutions Product Manager (Windows Small Business Server & Windows Essential Business Server) from Corporate headquarters - Nicholas King. This roundtable was set up at relatively short notice and involved a handful of SBSC partners who travelled to Microsoft's offices in Reading to talk openly about their issues and concerns surrounding the SBS 2008 and EBS 2008 products. In response to this roundtable event we've collated the feedback given and wanted to share the points we took from the session and for some areas advise what steps have already been taken to address the issues with the wider UK Small Business Specialist community:
The key takeaways from the roundtable were:
- SBS 203 Migration Pains: Partners expressed concerns about the lack of resources to assist with migration and the complexity of the end to end migration process
- Click through Hands on Labs have been delivered on Technet to help walk through the deployment and practice before a real migration - EBS 2008 demos can be found here and the SBS 2008 demos can be found here.
- Hands on labs are in development to also support readiness for migration.
- There are a number of sessions on migration available on the partner portal covering migration. We’re also scheduling another migration session in the near future details to follow shortly
- The Upgrade Value Proposition: There was a feeling that Microsoft has more work to do around partner and customer value proposition for SBS reasons to upgrade from 2003 to 2008.
This seemed to be a common theme and as a result we are looking into how we better formulate our value proposition for upgrades. There are a couple of ideas in the pipeline regarding compelling reasons to move from SBS 2003 to SBS 2008, including building some scenarios or promotions to help you initiate an upgrade conversation. Unfortunately I cannot share any more details on this at this stage, but in the meantime, if you have any ideas of what might work here, then please do let us know. Send suggestions to email@example.com.
- SBS 2008 Training: Partners felt there is a lack of availability of SBS 2008 technical training on the current release version which has prevented partners getting trained up so that they can deploy SBS 2008.
Nick has escalated this at a senior level to the partner readiness team at Corporate and has informed me that the final courseware for SBS 2008 is expected to be delivered in June 2009 for SBS 2008 and in August 2009 for EBS. In the meantime all CPLS (Certified Partners for Learning Solutions) channels now have access to RTM code level readiness labs and sessions. This has not been an ideal situation for any of us, but hopefully we have now taken a step in the right direction and courses will be ready for July – in fact you can register for this one now:
- 44CO120 - M6445 - Implementing and Administering Windows Small Business Server 2008 (4 Days) – London 13th July
- This hands-on workshop provides students with the necessary knowledge to plan and implement Windows Small Business Server 2008. Students gain first-hand knowledge on topics such as installing, migrating, monitoring, securing, and backing up data. £100 per delegate.
In terms of training that can help you through the SBS 2008 exam, Nick recommends you use the bitesize courses on the 5W/50 webcast series: http://www.mssmallbiz.com/training/.
- Pricing: Price of SBS 2008 was a concern for partners – whilst partners would like to sell Open it is believed to be more expensive than full retail product or OEM. With such a price difference they have to be fair to their customers and cannot be seen to sell at a higher price just because they will get Microsoft Club points etc.
This has been very carefully reviewed by Microsoft and we always investigate the right price point for Solutions for Small Business. From our research it was evident that the increase in price of SBS made up only a small portion of the overall price to the end customer. As we move forward we’ll continue to review the pricing for future versions of the product. For those customers that are looking for a low cost server, the recently launched Windows Server Foundation should suit their base needs.
- Solutions Pathway: Partners felt there was confusion around what the purpose was for solutions pathway, also concerns that end user discounts are published publicly.
The SBS team has taken this onboard and working with the appropriate teams to make changes. Further information will be provided in the future as we look across worldwide feedback and look for a ways of reducing the complexity with Solutions Pathway.
- Partner Resources: Partners expressed that there is a lack of partner resources for SBS 2008 and EBS 2008. In addition, Partners said that Microsoft need to pay more attention to localising corporate tools and resources as resources become too “Americanised".
Nick has escalated this at Corporate level and:
- There is a wider project now in motion to address the WorldWide Partner Portal engine and how we internally filter content down to each country.
- There is a review in place of SBSC content and how more content can be discovered
- The SharePoint Opportunity: Felt that partners are missing opportunities on promoting SharePoint and Windows Mobile opportunities with SBS 2008. Microsoft could do more to help partners understand the opportunity.
Nick and Gareth are looking into what can be done here and identifying any other best practice across the world that the UK might be able to adopt.
- EBS Launch: Microsoft need to consider putting renewed emphasis behind launching EBS and targeting the right partners. In addition, launching SBS and EBS together meant that EBS got 2nd place and it diluted the marketing by launching them together. Numerous scenarios were put forward by the partners to help highlight the opportunity with EBS to other partners.
We are putting a plan in place to address this and gather some case studies whereby partners are growing their businesses by selling EBS. The aim is to showcase to other partners and help them see the opportunity, as appropriate to their business. Stay tuned for more information.
Partners would love to have the SPLA type licensing for SBS and EBS without actually hosting on OV Subscription. i.e. Predictable model of costs each month. This would be a value prop on moving to SBS 2008
Feedback has been taken onboard. We’re investigating if this is feasible.
- Office Communication Server: Considered by partners to be too big for many small businesses – need a simple Unified Communications solution that is cost effective. Response Point needs to launch in the UK.
Feedback has been taken onboard.
- BPOS: Partners felt there is more work to do around the BPOS Value proposition "to partner".
We understand that we have more work to do around the BPOS value proposition for SMB and have therefore engaged with the appropriate teams to address this. The team in Redmond have taken this on board and are looking at potential solutions that could resolve these issues.
We would like to thank those partners who kindly gave up their time to join this roundtable and engage in the discussions. Hopefully this provides a useful summary of our key takeaways and steps we are taking to address the topics raised. We’re committed to hearing you feedback and working together to make you and our products successful in the SMB marketplace. The last 9 months have been some of the toughest economic times in living memory, we’ll continue to look at new ways to supporting you, and welcome any feedback or ideas you have to better support you in your business with Microsoft. Send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.