Friday, November 4, 2011

COMDEX Rides Again - COMDEX Virtual 2011

Remember when COMDEX was the technology event of the calendar? Well COMDEX is back, in a virtual format and the COMDEX Virtual 2011 event will be held in the next 2 weeks. You can watch some of the presentations live or recorded plus visit the booths and talk to vendor reps, all from the comfort of your desk!

A full agenda, jam packed with content is available here.

There's vendor presentations, training sessions, booths to visit, a lounge where you can chat with other attendees and more. It is completely complementary and there will be great giveaways like iPads, Amex and Amazon gift cards and prizes from vendors. You can register here.

Will there be virtual booth babes? You'll have to attend to find out....

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Cloud and The Customer

In my conversations with business owners who run mature, highly successful businesses the conversation often goes like this:

Client: "So what's the 'Cloud' thing all about? It's just like hosting right?"

Me: [explains value proposition of cloud]

Client: "OK so reduces upfront capital expenditure, but probably costs about the same or more in the long run"

Me: "Yes, once you add up all the costs, there's not really a substantial cost difference."

Client: "So why would I give up control if there's no price advantage. I guess if I was starting again it might be worth looking at. But there's no way I'd put my companies communications infrastructure and my systems with [telco/large IT company. Have you tried calling those people? They can't even do simple things right, imagine if our email was down and we had to talk to some offshore call centre to try and get it sorted out?"

And that's pretty much the end of the conversation about Cloud.

So, you might ask at this juncture if we are anti-cloud as a business. The answer to that question is simple - we are all about recommending the solution that gives a client the outcome they need. Cloud is not an anathema. It's the right solution for some businesses, but not all. So Cloud is valid where it matches the desired outcomes.

We could, of course, wrap our managed services expertise around cloud solutions to add value. But while the big players sell 'Cloud' as a commodity, its difficult to convince a client who likes cloud on the basis of a sub $10/month cloud bundle that they really need your ongoing managed services at $50 - 100/month. Especially without the advantage of white labelling and bundling a full service into a single bill to the client.

So why does a client need something other than the sub $10/month cloud bundle offered by a telco/large IT provider?

Because the client still needs expert help to navigate translation of their business requirements, to manage user questions, service provision issues, training, desktops, application integration, internet connectivity, back ups, disaster recovery.

And before they even get that far, is the average business owner or executive qualified to select the right type of cloud service for their business? Do they have an adequate understanding of systems complexity, risk management, etc to choose a service that will meet their business outcomes?

Successful businesses value their relationship with their trusted advisors - accounting, financial, legal and IT providers. Disconnect the trusted advisor from the client/IT relationship and results may vary.

As IT providers, we are far more excited about the technology than our clients are. If you can deliver enough productivity and profitability to your client that they can upgrade their BMW, buy a boat, have a better family holiday or more time off, this is gonna float their boat alot more than using 'cloud' ever will.

The successful business person is focussed on outcomes, not technology. Choose the right technology for their outcome, be that cloud or on premise.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Windows 8 Revealed at BUILD Conference

So Windows 8 was revealed to assembled developers at the BUILD Windows Conference in Anaheim, CA last week and a Windows 8 Developer Preview released to anyone with a working internet connection.

What's the fuss?

We had Windows 8 installed quick smart onto a spare Windows tablet. While there's some functionality missing its easy to see the potential of Windows 8 for apps with the new 'Metro' tile layout. Jensen Harris did a great job of presenting Microsoft's new challenger for iOS and we're keen to see how Windows 8 continues to take shape with progressive builds.

You can get all the info on BUILD and download the developers preview from the BUILD website.

Here's a couple of great articles that give you a good run down of Windows 8 features and their potential:

PC World

So, its early days, but what do you think of Windows 8? Are Microsoft headed in the right direction?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Microsoft Regional Business Building Sessions - Coming to a Town Near You

Microsoft's Brad Clarke will be hitting the road again next month presenting SMB focussed 'Business Builder' sessions in the following locations:

  • Albury
  • Ballina
  • Canberra
  • Ballarat
  • Coffs Harbour
  • Gosford
  • Liverpool
  • Newcastle
  • Orange
  • Penrith
  • Wollongong
  • Gold Coast
  • Ipswich
  • Cairns
  • Townsville
  • Caloundra
  • Geelong
  • Bendigo

These sessions will cover

  • Small and Medium Business Technology Overview
  • Partner Network Update
  • Cloud Computing

You can register for a session in your location here. Contact Brad at if you'd like more information or to organise a 1:1 session.

Keira McIntosh is the General Manager at Directions Technology - an Australia owned small business providing managed and reliable IT Support in Brisbane. You can also find her on Twitter and Linked In.

Earn $$$ with Microsoft Dynamics Lead Referral Program

This new referral program was announced at APC and Brad Clarke of Microsoft has kindly provided more information.

If your clients could benefit from a Dynamics solution in their business but you lack the skills, resources or desire to implement a dynamics solution yourself, then this program can earn you up to $20,000 per opportunity by referring a Dynamics solution through this program.

To qualify you must be part of the Microsoft Partner Network and there is an registration form to complete.

More details on the Microsoft Partner Network website.

Keira McIntosh is the General Manager at Directions Technology - an Australia owned small business providing managed and reliable IT Support in Brisbane. You can also find her on Twitter and Linked In.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Quick Recap: Microsoft Australian Partner Conference 2010

I registered for APC this year with a not insignificant amount of trepidation. For years we attended Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference and gave the local event the swerve. For the last four years we've attended both the Worldwide event and the local event. I think the lure of tropical North Queensland was what got us over the line initially.

The two events have always been different. Both have always had a strong business, marketing and product roadmap focus - these are not events for technicians. For technical info, you'll be wanting TechEd.

I didn't love WPC this year, but I'm relieved to be able to report that APC was a great event and I left with great enthusiasm for working with the Microsoft Australia team. Here's a few highlights.

SMB Pre Day
Mark O'Shea lead a small but keen group of SMB'ers through product line up with a deep dive into Aurora and SBS7 sharing with the us hot content straight from the product team. We discussed nifty features built into Aurora designed to allow deployment and management of Online Services – from BPOS and CRM Online as well as the opportunity for other hosted providers to utilise the SDK and offer their services straight from the console.

At morning tea I reluctantly left the SMB pre day to head to the Sofitel for the Partner Advisory Board meeting. Other content included Intune and a session on virtualisation and management. Whilst the presenter had considerable enthusiasm for Microsoft’s management tools, he seemed to have missed to part of the brief asking to adapt the information to an SMB audience, spending most of his airtime talking about System Centre et al and very little time on Hyper V.

Congratulations to Mark O’Shea who provided most of the content and did a great job of really providing useful info for SMB Partners

Partner Advisory Board
The most important thing I want to share with readers about this part of APC is that Microsoft Australia have a strong leadership in Tracey Fellows, Paul Voges and George Stavrakakis. The team took the board through an open discussion/Q&A session where some hard hitting questions were put to the panel. One thing was demonstrated in this session – Partners at every level need to assess what Cloud means to their business.

SMB Kick Off & Content
Wow! Best kick off at any conference anywhere! That was the feedback from partners who attended the first official SMB session of the conference. “Overworked and Under Laid” was the title of this session, delivered by Nigel Marsh, former CEO of George Patterson Y&R (recently replaced by Russel Howcroft who you may know from The Gruen Transfer). His colourful delivery and ability to cut to the core and ‘tell it like it is’ was appreciated by the audience. He spoke about the lack of real leadership inside many organisations and the challenge of business owners and leaders to give people a reason to show up to work – describing many workplaces as abattoirs for the soul. He spoke of his realisation of what it meant to lead and some of the important realisations he personally had discovered as a CEO, father and leader. If you get an opportunity to hear Nigel speak, I highly recommend it. If not he has two great books ‘Overworked and Underlaid’ and ‘Fat, Forty and Fired’, both of which I highly recommend.

We then got into the core content of the conference with sessions from Clayton Moulynox, Bill Vlandis, Bruce Rasmussen and David & Ursula Paddon focused on marketing and sales opportunities and actions. Day 2 of the SMB track was lead by Brad Clarke and Rosemary Stark and looked at partner business models and opportunities with HAAS, Open Value licensing, virtualisation and Aurora.

There was much less of the title/content mismatch of previous years with only a couple of sessions leaving you scratching your head. However the most notable example of this was the session “We’ll Show You The Money – Find Hidden Revenue From Existing Customers” which turned out to be about software piracy and SAM audits! Whilst the concept of SAM audits are fine, the companies Microsoft engages could do a better job of understanding licensing, thus lessening the pain for partners and End Users. Frankly a good Partner will be ensuring the lead their customers on a path to compliance (and license sales) from day one and needs to help from the SAM audit process to do this. This session was a great opportunity to catch up on some email and Twitter!

We were also treated to not one but two SMB parties – the first a classy soiree supported by Ingram Micro and the second a beach themed bash complete with loud shirts, silly hats and fake tan! These parties, and APC were a great opportunity to network with other partners and for me these conversations are always the highlight of any Microsoft event.

MAPA Awards & Closing Dinner
A reformatted Microsoft Australia Partner Awards presentation was one of the highlights of the conference. A number radical changes saw the Awards go from the tedium of 30+ category squished in around three courses and entertainment to a focused and entertaining afternoon awards presentation hosted by Adam Spencer. Robert Schwarten, Qld Minister for Public Works and ICT also reprised his appearance and his (unintentional) gags about 'getting on the scoot'. This format really put the focus back on the Partners and a special congratulations to Evolve IT for taking out Small Business Partner of the Year in a strong field with Calvert Technologies and Solutionware also nominated. Decoupling the Awards from the Closing Dinner meant that partners could relax and enjoy the evening after a very full and rewarding conference.

Thanks again to George Stavrakakis, this years APC host and to his team at Microsoft who organised the event as well as Mark O'Shea for an excellent SMB Pre Day.

Keira McIntosh is the General Manager at Directions Technology - an Australia owned small business providing managed and reliable IT Support in Brisbane. You can also find her on Twitter and Linked In.

SMB Need to Know - new podcast series from Robert Crane

Those of you who know me realise I haven't always worked in the IT industry and one thing that differientiates this industry from the various others I've worked in is the constant change.
All of us struggle to keep up with everything going in this industry, blogs, industry press, training etc etc etc. So. Much. Information.

Podcasts are a great way to take the information with you and get some of that keeping up done while you're travelling, jogging or (like me) ironing.

For Australian SMB IT professionals, or frankly IT professsionals anywhere, Robert Crane has kicked off a fantastic podcast series called 'Need to Know'. The only problem for IT professionals outside Australia might be the funny accents ;-). You'll find the first two episodes here with Susan Bradley doing in the inaugural episode and Wayne Small of SBSFaq doing podcast no. 2 on TechEd. Further episodes with Mark O'Shea of Microsoft and myself are in the works. I'm sure Robert would love your feedback on episodes to date as well as what you'd like to hear covered in future episodes. You can also follow Robert on Twitter at @directorcia.

Also worth checking out is AuTechHeads 'CoalFaceTech' podcast series - while you're there you can join AuTechHeads a free membership group for IT Professionals from SMB to Enterprise and everything in between. My Twitter buddies Matt Marlor @OhCrap and Steve Molkentin @TheMolk lead proceedings.

Keira McIntosh is the General Manager at Directions Technology - an Australia owned small business providing managed and reliable IT Support in Brisbane. You can also find her on Twitter and Linked In.