Wow, I go on holiday, spend some time catching up on e-mail, and what do I find "There’s a whiff of coffee in the air…" asking if Microsoft can help position Vista and Office for small businesses and then Vijay also asking "What’s the Value Proposition…??". Now these two blogs acknowledge that there is value in both products, just that the communication of that value is not getting through. It is also worth me saying that I thoroughly appreicate and desire this sort of discourse. Without getting the occational slap around the face Microsoft can not improve what it does, especially if the slap is deserved.
Lets start with some ground rules:
- Vista & Office are not something that every business has to buy either on the 30th November or the 30th January, some people can or will wait a month or two before they feel the need :-)
- Microsoft does not have all the answers - that is why we rely on a fantastic partner network to fill the gap between MSs view and the customers
- The products value is additive - one feature by itself is not necessarily enough, but putting things together and they will often solve enough problems to justify the purchase - sometimes the ROI is pure cash to the business, sometimes increased productivity and sometimes it is something that the business owner wants or knows will help them change their business the way they want.
- It is time to change how you and your customers work. Places where value was added before will now be in the box, ways of working will change for both partners and customers. This is something that has to be accepted by everyone. Standing still and clinging onto the past will not work in the IT industry
Lets start answering some points raised by Susanne at UKSMBGIRL:
- The new ’start’ button - someone tell me again why this needed changing? If it was only a minor change that we shouldn’t be worried that lots of R&D money was spent on then why is it one of the first things everyone mentions when presenting?
Minor change, well perhaps, but it is often one of the 1st things people see and use on their PC every day, so it does need attention, plus finding programs, tools and files is a very useful thing and as mentioned later, people do spend time looking for things.
- The funky looking packaging to house the numerous versions of Vista (there are five if any of you were interested) - great for the shelves but it’s not really going to make me think ‘value for money’.
The funky box will help people see the box in retail stores and buy the product. Who will they need to install it and make it work... well that would be you. When Microsoft releases a product like Office and Vista, a large number of people go and buy it - perhaps because they were looking for something new anyway, but partners need to be aware of this and help their customers take advantage of it
- The gadget toolbar that shows me the time (I can do that already thanks), RSS feeds (that’s what Outlook 2007 or IE7 or even Firefox** is for), and other applications that most Small Business Specialists would ban because they could potentially encourage time wasting - 2.5hrs a day is spent searching for information (I told you I listen Microsoft!) so why swap one problem for another?
The gadget tool bar might look like a "toy holder", but we are beginning to see people building gadgets that return business value. CRM can put out an RSS feed, having the top 5 issues appear there, or the latest actions to worry about has some value. People spend serious time and money chasing information that if presented in a glancable way on the gadget bar would show business value in terms of productivity. People also need to feel that their computer is personalisable to be useful to them. Want to know the cricket scores - you can either have a gadget, repeatedly open a web browser to see, or make your staff unhappy by banning the cricket results from the business. There will be more of these coming along, but Key Performance Indicator gadgets will be a boon, and worst case, you can have one written - isn't that the value proposition for Open Source?? :-)
Also, gadgets will not cause that amount of time wasting and if you can cut 1hr a day from peoples searching, that is a very real benefit for businesses, providing they have a list of things they want their staff to do if they were more productive. I know I could do more if I got more time back - but I have been using the benefits of Vista and Office for years, so I've already got my efficiencies :-)
- The over zealous IE7 that blocks CompanyWeb… great…
Problems like this will be fixed, so don't worry about them in the long term. There are already some links on Sean's blog, but expect a pack from Microsoft. (See SeanDaniel.com on SBS 2003 & other Tech-stuff- Looking to run Vista RC1 on SBS 2003- for the information)
- BitLocker - great! but oh wait… Enterprise version only
This is one of the features that some customers are willing to spend money on (or even already do on 3rd party solutions). How can you get it for your customers - Open Value licensing, including my favourite of Open Value Subscription, which has a lower cost of acquisition due to the fact that you don't own the software, but means it is quicker to obtain and some customers would much rather rent software - which means you then have an ongoing relationship over the years as to how you enable them to get the most from the latest software, which is part of the rental agreement (as is training, home usage right, staff purchase etc etc)
- OneNote 2007 - great! but oh wait… Student and Teacher versions only (I’m seeing a trend here)
- Exchange 2007 is great but the voice messages via email is already available as an add-on
- Can the American Exchange Lady have a domestic accent instead please? You may tut at this but as a telephone specialist we always get asked to change the American voice to English.
- As much as Exchange has a ‘wow’ factor - I think small business clients CAN afford not to talk to their server
I will agree with the comments about Exchange - it is not a great fit in the SBS small business world due to it's x64 server requirement, which is not something that SBS 2003 can do, so a 2nd server is required. Having said that, for those where unified communication (or the lack of) is a problem then this is something to consider for them!!
- SharePoint sub-folders in Outlook that allow you to store documents off-line is already available in other forms
You might use other methods today to take SharePoint offline today, but it is not as nice, or price inclusive as using Outlook. One of the thing Vista and Office do is bring under one roof things which were previous offered by various products, required spending money in some cases on multiple products and then trying to integrate them. This should make it easier. Easier for partners, easier for customer and easier for users (as in the people who don't sign the cheques, but use the software)
(I pick on these points for now because some were used in today’s demonstration)
There has been nothing in these presentations or communications so far that have answered my question. What I have seen so far are a collection of functions and features that are either already available through third party products or are things that I am managing without so far, for example:
Did you know that 70% of the ideas and questions submitted on the Microsoft Office ‘wish list’ are already in the existing version (2003)? Then what they did was take what was already there, re-shuffle it so that it is easier to locate, give it a new name and that is a key feature of Office!
I disagree with you on this, but it is how it is positioned. If a customer says to Microsoft that the one thing that would make the product better is having feature "X", then making this available to them in a way they can find is extremely valuable - just as tailoring a piece of training to show them how to find "X" in their existing product would, but then they would not get the new usability functionality, the other new features or the reason to believe you are a more valuable partner who they should invest strategic time and money with! It is also worth bearing in mind that "in the product" and "easy to use" or "only just functional vs fully functional" should be taken into account.
Breaking news guys, this doesn’t make a sale.
I agree, this does not make a sale, but if you can honest say... "I know you want to be able to solve business problems A, B & C and I can show you how you can do it with Vista and Office" and while A might be in earlier products in some form, B & C are new, or made much, much easier and require less training to find or use - this is real justification for the products.
I’m don’t pay for someone to cut up my dinner into bite size pieces - it would be nice but I can manage thank you very much. Granted, I like the Ribbon Bar and I probably do work quicker but I can’t quantify it and nor will my clients before they part with their money.
If 70% of the list is already in place then a) the partners are selling it poorly, b) they aren’t necessarily key business functions, c) users clearly need some training (opportunity to add value guys!).
Well, I am afraid that the fact they are asking for the features puts it into a) and c) - and given the number of times I answer for partners the "How do I..." and I tell them, means it is probably both of those. We have offered 10's of thousands of training places to help partners understand products, but often we get "I don't need to be trained" or "I don't want to know how to do that" type responses. Why, because the partner does not care about those features and functions - the customer might, but not the individual people at the partners. Admit it, when did you last do training to find out what business value Office could bring your customers.. any takers? When did you last try to show your customers 5 ways they could change their business using Office.... anyone? So the issue here is that while significant value can be added it is just a new version of Office/Windows means that people (especially technical people and I count myself as one) don't invest the time to work out the true benefits so they can pass them on to customer. Oh, and I don't mean installation help, attending a technology presentation from Microsoft - I mean a business oriented what can it do for you day - and then spend time afterwards thinking how to apply it to your existing customers and use it to go after new customers. For those few I have just insulted, I apologise, but it is not many!
When the most important question of ‘why should my customers upgrade?’ was asked, the question was taken ‘offline’. In my view, when the entire room leans forward to hear the answer, maybe, just maybe, it is important to have the answer so you can clear up something a lot of people are asking.
OK, so this is bad. I can't say this is a good thing that MS did, so I will just say sorry - we should be able to answer this off the top of our head, so I will fill a whole new blog entry on this alone.
It was acknowledged that this question gets asked hundreds of times… so where’s the answer?
I have written this up at this blog location "What can Vista and Office to for Small Business"
When I have asked this to those in the right departments, I get every answer available for the ‘pro-sumer’, ‘home user’, or ‘enterprise’ but not a whistle for small business customers.
I have NEVER not given answers for small business customers, so I know this is not true, but I agree that we could do more to ensure more people in Microsoft know this information. I also know that you have figured out the answer yourself and Microsoft has only had some of them for you. We need to make it clearer why - and the small business team are working on this, but more people in MS should be able to answer this question
The aim of People, Ready, Business is to move the focus away from the product and more onto what is meant to matter more: People. Good, well understand that small businesses have a sensitive budget, partners don’t necessarily have the resources to re-word what MS has put together and deliver it to their clients, and I don’t know many of the product team members who have spent enough time in small business to understand exactly what it is we are asking of them.
Do you really want MS to write a standard "this is why you should get Office and Vista" piece, print it up and for you to hand it out? Small businesses are incredible diverse and MS can not cover all the angles. What is more, part of the value partners bring to the table is that translation from MS speak to appropriate customer speak. We can help, but in some cases, we need to share features and functions and let you join the dots. You are incredible at doing it, providing you are open to change. Small businesses are not the only ones with a "sensitive" budget, but if the partner invests the time to work out how these products can help them deliver value to their customers, articulating it is easy. If the partner is not willing to invest the time to learn this, then even if we say what is possible, how would you ever actually deliver a solution. Especially when that solution has to be something different from that you delivered with previous products.
I want to know how much installing Office 2007 and/or Vista will cost my customer (don’t forget they will have to pay for our time to configure it) and what the ROI is on these products. And don’t forget that they already own expensive software that they are not using to it’s full potential - that’s right partners, time to add value!
In laymen’s terms - if my customers aren’t using what they have now 100%, why would they want to spend more money on something else they won’t get maximum use out of?
Well, they will pay to get a better business solution from you, but you need to understand their business needs and form a solution that fits their needs, whether they use Office and Vista or not. It should not be news that partners could add value here, but why has this not happened already - why does the launch of Vista and Office act as a catalyst when time previous has not? Nope, time to add value, but why not make it easier for everyone and do it with Office and Vista rather than using older, less appropriate software for today's world?
There are not enough reasons coming from the MotherShip to convince me otherwise as yet- I have asked lots of Microsofties and they have at least been honest enough to acknowledge that this is something that needs addressing immediately.
More messages yes, but how would you like them - personally delivered, web training, courses (we have some good stuff out there already and we have the Symposium coming too)? Also, do you want MS to deliver the features and you to figure out how it applies to your customers, or do you want solutions, of which there are 1,000's which you would then have to wade through to find the right one for your customer? MS needs to deliver more messages, but we cannot wrap it up and put a bow on top - Partners need to be searching for features and customer problems to match them.
Other interesting facts I learnt from the day:
- Vista Business - no multi-user language interface You can get the Welsh interface in the UK as this is a legal option
- Windows Vista Enterprise “reassuringly expensive” - riiiight It is not that expensive, if this is our messaging in the presentation, we need to get it changed
- Gartner predicts that Windows Vista will be installed onto 26.2% of businesses by the second year after launch It could well be much higher in small business, what is more, if you consider that there are 1.6-1.8M small businesses in the UK or 30-50% of the UK workforce, even if only 25% move in the next two years, that is 450,000 businesses or 7M+ desktops in the small business space - I think that is enough to keep us busy!!
- Windows XP is forecasted to reach its maximum market share of 78.4% in the home market in 2007
- Partner Opportunities - massive customer footprint, new markets and scenarios, promote premium offerings, deepen customer relationships, lower costs to serve, compete with non-genuine This is all true, but it is up to you as a partner to drive
- You should be asking your customer why they are considering Vista Ultimate over Vista Business… why aren’t we talking about Vista over XP? You are right, but if we can show benefit to XP users, then benefit to 2000/98/95 users should be a doodle!!
Telling me how much you’ve spent on advertisments isn’t going to excite me and it isn’t going to make the customer buy either.
I understand why the amount of money might not excite you, but we are often asked if we will do a campaign or launch the the same gusto as people remember for Windows 95. We are also asked how much effort Microsoft is putting into "umbrella" advertising that almost everyone will see. The amount of cash being spent is indicative of Microsoft's commitment to ensure that partners' customers hear about Windows Vista and feel a need to know more about what it will do for them.
Now I have been working with some of my clients to test both Vista and Office 2007. In fact, we’ve been using it in the office but we’ve found too many things along the way that are going to be problematic in the long run. Things like removing the DOMAIN login at the start has been done mainly for cosmetic reasons and VPN problems we have experienced are just not going to help - moreover, supporting such a drastically new UI is going to be a pig too.
To change or not to change, that is the question. The old UI is good, but perhaps not quite what people need in today's world where more applications and greater interaction with PCs is Rife. If you look back at the history of the PC, some would say that the reason that Windows was so successful (v1.0) was because users wanted the nice interface of the MAC on a PC. 20+ years on and people want their PCs to be more than functional, they want to enjoy the process. Add to that the fact that the UI changes are useful is a double win. Removing the Domain login is part of the step of moving to Fast User Switching, something that was repeatedly requested.
The VPN problems were fixed towards the end of the Beta, so most of those should now be gone.
Finally, on the support issues, the OS is actually much easier to support - yes, the changes will take people to get used to, but when you buy a new car, washing machine, game etc some things take a little longer to do while you adjust, but if the process is pleasant then this is something people are prepared to invest the time in. If your customers buy through Open Value Subscription then they can also provide software for people to use at home at a very discounted rate, which means some employees will even be glad to "learn" at home too at no additional cost to the business.
There have been some definite advantages to using Office 2007 which I have experienced myself and if you took it away from me then I would grumble. I would be lost without OneNote but that’s only in the forthcoming S&T edition. Vista has a great desktop search but I can download that for free so help me out guys. I would not buy Excel 2007 just so I can analyze reports in colours and I don’t think I notice how much quicker the formula processing is. PowerPoint is produces great presentations but it won’t change the actual content I produce. Moving images around in Word is a lot easier and the push-pin recent document function is good too. As they said today, there are lots of little reasons as to why a move to Office 2007 is good but not everyone will use them all. Find me a ‘killer app’ and I’m laughing.
If there was a "killer app", go look at the new business contact manager - it is an amazing improvement. Having said that, "Office" and "Vista" are also both Killer apps, so perhaps you should consider them on the whole as opposed to by the individual components. While colour coding your spreadsheets might not make your life easier, if a business sends out lots of spreadsheets for people to understand, if it speeds the process - it might be a killer function for them. Read the documents I have posted and see if they help.
This post has been sitting in my drafts for a while now in some shape or form. I wasn’t sure when publish it but I spent some time with some credible partners today at the event and there are too many asking the same questions.
No one is trying to oppose your work Microsoft, hence why your event was fully booked. We are searching for answers to the questions we have because we want to do this properly. All partners are the key to Microsoft sales and yes, whilst it would be great to find lots of new businesses to sell to, Marketing 101 says that selling to your existing client base is the most effective and easiest option.
While I know that partners are looking for answers, some have to come from within - you would hate Microsoft if we told you what to say all the time :-)
So if you want to go along to the EVOlution launch then the link is at the top of this now very long post.
If you want some REAL, HONEST, HOME GROWN partner debate (yes it’s allowed!) that will give you real ROI to your time then book out the evening of Tuesday 21st November and come along to our November Kent SBS Group Meeting which focuses on EVO in the small business arena. This is an invitation-only event so you will need to either drop me an email or sign up by commenting below. We have at least four partner groups attending and David Overton, Robbie Upcroft, and Matt McSpirit are gearing up for it already.
Thanks for the plug Susanne - indeed - debate is good, so are informed opinions. The betas and RCs have been available for a while and hopefully partners have been thinking about how these can be useful to their customers for a while.. please tell me you have been doing this?
I would also like to add that I have a fairly good idea about how to sell Office 2007 and Vista to small business clients but that’s because I’ve been testing the applications for over a year and worked it out myself. My job means I need to know this but many small business partners don’t have the time or the resources to look everything available to them or attend the training laid on for them.
Microsoft, use your resources to get some answers for your small business partners (Registered, SBSC, or otherwise). The small business is a massive opportunity and we’re not hearing the right noises from you guys.
See the blog on why Vista and Office for Small Business.
I look forward to posting a more positive follow up shortly.
So do I Susanne - I know you know, but hopefully as a community we can get it right.
Now for Vijay's Blog
Come on Susanne say what you really feel! It’s not far from what most Small Business Partners seem to be saying but then I guess we are mostly a sceptical bunch of people. I’m certainly not going to argue to the contrary as Susanne and Readycrest have been heavily involved in the beta testing of Vista and Office 2007.
I’ve thought about this quite a bit and my conclusions are that this is a generic issue to do with new technology launches. The vendor always tries to convince us that we must upgrade or buy their latest offering and why not? They’ve spent many years investing in it and bringing it to market and they believe in it. However, the end user is always sceptical and only the limited “early adopters” are going to get onboard straightaway. The mass adoption is going to come somewhere down the line (Gartner have attempted to quantify this and I blogged about this in a previous post). The situation is even more bleak if you read Susanne’s other post, which has an article on how thinking about IT strategically is a fallacy and it’s just a cost of doing business.
So lets make this very clear, if your customer does not have a true business need then no point in trying to sell to them, unless your ethics are different to mine :-) However, if there is a business need and IT can address it, then you should offer a solution. Finally, since you are on the outside of the business you will either be in a more or less priviledged position to spot this, so asking the business owner what their plans and problems are may well give you the opportunity, but that is sales 101, so I don't have to tell you how to do that.
So what do Microsoft want? I guess they want to try and speed up the adoption cycle by getting partners ready for something that is going to happen eventually. At some point support for Windows XP and Office 2003 will be discontinued, versions which only run on 64 bit hardware will be prevalent and people buying new PCs will buy with Vista preinstalled. Remember, Microsoft has a 90% share of the desktop market!!
Of course Microsoft wants the adoption of technology to continue, and yes, support for the older products will eventually stop - our support policy is better than most anyway ;-) However, if you want to get more focus, attention and help from Microsoft, you need to keep up. I'm not saying we will be nasty or ignore other people, but partners who want to help adoption of the new stuff are often sayign what we are saying, and that makes for better alignment.
From a partner perspective, I think Dave Overton summed it up for me in reply to a post of mine on SBSBPI. Wouldn’t we rather be working with the “early adopters” rather than the “technology laggards”? We have to go out and find these almost mythical businesses so we can get ahead of the curve, or do something innovative like Vlad but then you would expect nothing less of him!
More and more business are adopting technology, and yes, you have to go find them. But why else did you go into business... for someone else to do the work.. nope didn't think so and I don't want you getting all angry with me, but that is what you do best.
I know Susanne and Vijay well and I am glad they posted their blogs - I know they are in part giving us a prod that we need, and in part venting frustration at things not being as they should be, but I expect there to be more yet.
Mon, Nov 13 2006 9:01 AM