How Microsoft partners need to evolve in the new “digital” world

Digital transformation, digital workplace, workplace v.next, activity-based working, future ways of working, cloud, consumerisation of IT, and many more terms swirl around us in the technology industry on a daily basis.

Managers want their employees to work more “digitally”, employees want their organisation to catch up with technology trends.

IT firms have been told to become a “Managed Service Provider” (MSP) by their vendors for well over a decade, and most have embraced this well. But a change is coming. In fact the change is already here.

Much like the mainstreaming of cloud services took away revenue from traditional server deployment and upgrade projects, so too will commodity technology services as vendors offer their own technology onboarding & migration services and tools. The role of a traditional IT partner is getting squeezed out of its traditional comfort zone.

As someone who went through several transformations with my own partner business and now spends time working independently advising and working with other partners, I wanted to share my insights and views on what partners face in the modern era, and what I believe they need to do in order to continue their own evolution to meet new and future demands of their customers both from the sales cycle as well as technology and user needs.

This short whitepaper was sponsored by Exclaimer and can be downloaded from their website: https://www.exclaimer.com.au/pages/partners/partner-to-modern-msp

Is Yammer an extinction-level event?

Much like the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs millions of years ago, Cloud is doing the same to IT pros the world over – either putting them out of a job, or changing their job around them.

Recently I have been embroiled in some bickering brought about by Microsoft MVPs who have been told to move their conversations to Yammer instead of via traditional Exchange-based distribution lists. (When I say embroiled – I was more of an instigator and antagonist.)

I extol the virtues of Yammer to customers, partners and anyone who will listen. Why? Not because I love it, or because I think it is the answer to everything – but because it changes the way we work and collaborate, and I think for the better.

A number of IT professionals (even MVPs) have been quite resistant to Yammer, seeing it is another means of communication when they already have (several) other working forms. They also see it as something else they need to learn, or too noisy, and call out elements where they perceive it to be inferior. Some of the commentary I have heard from those people is that they will absolutely refuse to use Yammer.

Thinking about it in hindsight – such vehement opposition to Microsoft products is not new. It was recently seen when Microsoft killed off the Small Business Server product line, when BPOS (and later Office 365) was introduced, when the Start menu was taken away in Windows 8, the Office Ribbon was introduced, and many others. These people were feeling challenged, their comfort zone (and profession) was changing, and they were being forced to adopt something they didn’t particularly agree with (or know how to use).

Most recently (literally the day before this blog post, which got me so riled up) the Microsoft team that drives the engagement with Office 365 (and related) MVPs decided to kill off our two distribution lists as we were already using Yammer. Most of the Office 365 MVPs had already voted in favour of this. A number of other MVPs (even some with the Office 365 team) objected with a variety of reasons. My beef with this was that some of the MVPs said they would refuse to use Yammer instead of the distribution list. Seriously? You do realise the train is leaving the station? Yelling at the driver won’t make any difference.

The problem with objecting to Yammer, calling it an inferior platform, and anything else – is that unless you have actually adopted and mastered it your opinion isn’t worth the bytes it consumes. It is not fair or balanced. It’s like saying Office 365 is better than Google Apps. Why? Because the marketing material says so. See if you can define “better” from every person’s perspective and see how you go.

Cutting through the crap – will people every switch from Lync, SharePoint or Exchange to Yammer because it replicates some of their functionality? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Will people choose to initiate conversations, share information, and communicate in Yammer instead of the other 3 products? Absolutely! And that is why Microsoft is integrating them with Yammer.

Just because Yammer has messaging functionality does not mean it threatens Exchange or will ever replace it. It simply means that *some* messaging will take place on Yammer instead of via email. Can Yammer do exactly what an Exchange distribution list can do? To be realistic – yes, the functionality is not that complex (send mail to email address, distribute to members of list, repeat). Is Yammer perfect for every person – no, nothing is.

And that’s the point. Yammer (like many solutions) is most things to most people. It is not everything to everyone. And therefore it won’t do everything the way every single person wants it to. Does that mean we should stay where we are and not move forward? No. Let’s lift our knuckles off the ground, stand up a bit straighter, and walk forward.

Yammer is not an asteroid, it is not the ice age, it is not the wheel, and it is not fire. It is more like the invention of sliced bread. It’s still bread – we just consume it differently.

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NOTE: This blog post has been revised since it was originally written as several people commented out that some of my called out a certain group and ultimately had originated in a private forum (distribution list actually). Taking this into consideration I have revised those relevant sections as the resistance to change is in fact broader that that specific group.