Readers know my favorite vendor event format is the analyst summit. I have written extensively about Workday, Salesforce, Oracle, Plex and other summits on this blog and at New Florence.
Interestingly, while other vendors have been perfecting the art of the analyst summit (see here, here and here) Microsoft which used to run a very informative and enjoyable annual summit has moved away from them. For four years it did not have one. So I was pleased they convened one this week.
I will have several posts from the event over the next few days, starting with this scorecard
Location - A
While most vendors have been using hotels and other external locations for their summits (and Microsoft also did in past), this time it used Building 92 at its sprawling Redmond campus. While it may not have been as picturesque (especially with the unusually dry weather when we were in town), it more than made up in reliable wi-fi, AV equipment, pantry and plenty of space for one on ones. Bonus – we got to mingle with many new hires who were at the building for their orientation. You could feel their excitement and nervousness, and it reinforced the vibe of a Microsoft in transition.
Photo below of fellow analyst, Holger Mueller outside the building
Executive Access – A+
During the sessions, at dinner and in one and ones, Microsoft made available plenty of access to the executives. I am greedy with my questions as my colleagues kindly tell me so appreciated the access. I also found the executives repetitively thankful to the analysts for making the long trek to the Pacific NW. They need not have but the humility and hospitality was noticeable.
Photo below of panel with Jeff York, Hayden Stafford, Alysa Taylor, James Phillips and Clare Henry representing the finance, engineering, marketing, and sales leadership of the Applications Group. Not on panel, but omnipresent during the event was senior statesman and visionary, Mike Ehrenberg.
Content – A-
The event was very well paced and covered wide ground with slides, panels and demos. From a business process perspective, CRM dominated especially with recent moves with LinkedIn and partnering with Adobe. That was understandable because the audience was heavily skewed towards CRM analysts. The Finance, Operations and People/Talent areas got much less focus as a result. To me this is another sign of Microsoft in transition – a far cry from the Great Plains and Navision that used to define Microsoft Applications in the past. Another transition is in the partner ecosystem – no longer just the Great Plains type reseller to a wide range of ISVs and SIs which represent Microsoft’s own broad portfolio with the Azure cloud, machine learning and other products. It was good to have a session on the changing partner landscape. Also brave of Microsoft to have a licensing and pricing session. That is an area most vendors like to keep opaque pretending that as analysts we don’t hear about it all the time from their customers. A customer executive panel with reps from the Seattle Seahawks and MacDonald-Miller was especially interesting to me. I am always looking for my books for innovation in places where you don’t often expect it – and to hear of data scientists and use of Azure in sports and HoloLens and smart buildings in construction brought out other dimensions of Microsoft’s product portfolio. The demos with the LinkedIn integration and the PowerApps which bring end user familiarity with Office apps to allow for developing a wide range of “citizen code” to demanding, transaction intensive applications were particularly striking
I would like to have seen more on industry applications. This is something I am bugging every vendor about. So many industry specific “books of record” are long in the tooth, and yet most vendors are just trying to develop and sell horizontal apps. Also, I would have liked to hear about more recent One Microsoft examples as in Delta and MetroBank in the past . To me, Microsoft sometimes "goes low" and focuses on tactical competition with ERP and CRM vendors, when the world around it is being defined by GE’s vision of the Industrial Internet and impact on smart products, asset management and field service, advanced manufacturing and Industrie 4.0 concepts that companies like BMW and Boeing are deploying on their shop floors and Amazon’s sweeping vision for logistics. It is one of the few vendors which can pull all kinds of capabilities together to solve grand challenges customers face.
In fairness, Microsoft was playing catch up in many areas after missing the summit in prior years. As it swings back to an annual format, the agenda should be more reflective of its broad and ever evolving capabilities.