Meet Andrea Russell

I can’t believe I don’t have a photo with Andrea from WPC, that is a major oversight but she is probably one of the most important people in our lives as SBSC Partners. She is the Worldwide Programme Manager for SBSC and lives and breaths the "blue badge". I’ve now worked with Andrea for just over a year and realised that underneath that outwardly cool, calm and collected exterior lies a very determined person. I know that often the feedback is that Microsoft does not listen and act but you can be sure that Andrea is pushing hard for SBSC Partners. She’s been known to corner people in the corridors of the Redmond Campus to demand stuff for us. She might not always get it but I know she won’t give up easily. She was the one who got Michael Risse over to a lunch with the SBSC PALs in Houston so we could ask him some questions including why the recent Small Business Vista Adverts were highlighting free support direct from Microsoft and didn’t mention SBSC Partners or any Partners!

She’s overseen an amazing period with SBSC Partners globally reaching about 15,000 over many different countries in a relatively short time. As she told us in Houston, it is the largest coherent Partner Group in Microsoft, bigger than any of the competencies so a "force to be reckoned with"!

It’s all about the people, it’s people who drive Change.

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SMB Forum Presentation on Proactive Community Membership

20080707194958(3) This is the presentation that was delivered by Mark Crall, David Lees and myself at the SMB Forum day at WPC 08 Houston. Now it’s yours to own and delight in and learn from the wisdom of what I humbly like to call the "Dream Team", nay visionaries, people who were not appreciated during their own lifetime but which future generations will look upon with great distinction :-)

You can download from Skydrive and feel free to disagree with what’s in it or add anything in the comments which you think is important. It’d actually be quite nice to have an ongoing discussion because no one has THE answer on this!

Meet David Lees, South African SBSC PAL

DSCF0009 It was my pleasure to spend quite a bit of time with David Lees, the South African SBSC PAL and also to present with him on the SMB Forum Day on Proactive Community Membership.

First and foremost David is a business man, so what he does is in context of running a very successful practice. After the last WPC in Denver, David got back home and decided to change his business completely. He’d been running a Network Infrastructure/CRM business but decided that the time was right to focus. So, he sold his shares in his business and started a new business called Sector4 from scratch just working on CRM and set about growing this via Partner Networking.

What he’s achieved in 12 months is pretty amazing and now has 3/4 people in his business with 11 CRM Opportunities, 7 of which were Partner sourced and 7 more which are ongoing.

David and I talked quite a bit at WPC as we were staying at the same hotel and we both agreed that the focus for ourselves and building Community would be on Business Growth. We both felt optimistic about the future and pretty excited. For David, with the CRM Competency, it is a great area to be in at the moment as it is one of Microsoft’s fastest growing products and by all accounts CRM 4.0 is a pretty good product.

David is not a technical person, he’s a business analyst and he looked for the opportunity and seized it. He didn’t complain about Microsoft’s Strategy and the Partner Model, he just went out to be successful and do profitable business.

This is one person I’m definitely going to be keeping in touch with as he has a load of great advice about business and as they say stick around successful people.

Meet Elisabeth Vanderveldt, Canadian SBSC PAL

DSCF0019 Liz is one of the Canadian SBSC PALs and someone I hugely respect. Not only does she run an award winning Gold Certified business, Conamex, but she is actively involved with the IAMCP (International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners) and is a leading light in the Women in IT/Leadership area. This is actually a rare photo with Liz as she’s normally rushing off to a meeting somewhere or organising some session. One smart cookie who also used to take part in Martial Arts competitions, so she’ll "kick your ass" if you mess with her!

The word "passionate" is an often over used word but in Liz’s case it does not even begin to describe her drive and energy. It’s one of the reasons why I get rather worked up by people who think the PALs are paid to just spout the Microsoft mantra. You couldn’t buy Liz for any amount, a woman with a huge amount of integrity.

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Meet Emily Lambert, SBSC Programme Lead

Emily recently took on the role of Channel Development Manager / Community Lead for SBSC. She has been working at Microsoft for 4 years and the last two as a marketing manager for the Windows Mobile Team. She’s not new to the SBS Groups as she has been taking feedback from them recently and as a result has been working to put together a mobile offering through one of the Mobile operators and their distributors.

I’m sure she’ll be coming to a Group near you and wanting to listen to the issues that you feel are important to your Business and your SBSC Engagement.

Gareth Brown of Sytec and myself as the two UK SBSC PALs are committed to working with Emily to support SBSC Partners.

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SBSC Programme is Evolving

In line with the changes to the overall Partner Programme, SBSC is going to evolve. Some of this vision was shared by Andrea Russell at the PALs meeting last week in Houston. As this is in draft form I can’t really say too much about it other than it seeks to take into account the different things we do as Partners with a number of "specialisations" or "routes" to become an SBSC Partner. We currently have 2, which are the network infrastructure and system builder side. From what I’ve seen it will better fit what we are doing and overall I like it. One of the PALs role will be to provide input into this. This is also coupled with the fact that 2 new server products will be released later on this year namely SBS 2008 and EBS 2008. There are new exams on the way, which people like Mark Crall and others are working on. I don’t know the timeframes for this but as soon as I do I’ll post it up here. There will be a "grace period" to get re-certified but that period has not yet been fixed but it would be interesting to hear what people think that period should be?

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Deanna Trencher, Unsung Hero

DSCF0036 There are many people behind the scenes of the Small Business Team at Microsoft Corporate and to pick out one seems a little unfair but hey, it’s my blog!

Deanna has been working with the team for a couple of years (I think?) but doesn’t work directly for Microsoft and through what Microsoft terms a "vendor", a bit like a contractor. She’d previously worked for Microsoft for a good number of years.

Deanna has had the responsibility of organising the SMB Forum/Symposiums over the last few years and what a great job she’s done. I worked with her in getting the Community Presentation together that was delivered by Mark Crall, David Lees and myself. She’s been a "go to" person to talk to and very open and honest. She held the fort for the SBSC PALs Programme when Andrea Russell was away on maternity leave. So, all in all a really nice person and good fun.

Thanks Deanna :-)

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Mark Crall on Varvid from WPC Houston

Great job by Mark Crall and the guys from Varvid

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WPC Houston

It’s been a busy couple of days here at the Microsoft Partner Conference in Houston. Yesterday was the PALs meeting and whilst certain things I cannot discuss in detail what I can say is that there are changes coming for the Partner Programme and SBSC is going to be part of that change, whereby it will broaden out to include additional areas of specialisation. There will be announcements on the Partner Programme changes this week, so look out for those in Alison Watson’s keynote. With the introduction of SBS 2008 and EBS there will be new exams and Partners can request free exam vouchers by sending an email to The exact details of the SBSC criteria are being worked on and is something that the Comunity/PALs can help to shape. It’s good to see Microsoft not having a focus on growing the number of SBSC Partners.

Today at the SMB Forum Michael Risse VP of SMB announced that SBS 2008 RC1 was available today and I later read that the SBS 2008 launch date has been set to 12 November 2008. Funnily this was not announced at the SMB Forum and I believe this info might have been leaked to the Press and that Microsoft have had to play catch up rather hurriedly.

Also, Solution Profiler is changing to Microsoft Pinpoint  to provide a more sophisticated search capability to find Partners by end customers. It is apparently powered by the enterprise search capability that Microsoft acquired via the purchase of FAST. It will provide Partners a Microsite feature and the ability for customers to evaluate Partners through a rating system.

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Let the Pimpin Start

I’m learning much from my fellow US colleagues and I’m "pimpin" the "Maximising Your Membership of SBSC" session at SMB Forum at WPC by David Lees (South Africa SBSC PAL), Mark Crall (US SBSC PAL) and me! I’ve no idea what the session code is but tick the box thingy or whatever you need to do to sign-up (actually I think you choose on the day). In putting together the content I can tell you there’s some great experiences to share and discuss. Hopefully, we can get some great conversations going. Come to say what you feel because you know what? Microsoft is big and bad enough to look after itself!

We’ll also be discussing if Mark Crall is possibly the nicest person ever because I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like the guy, that surely isn’t possible? If you don’t actually like him please let me know :-)

… and if you think Mark is cool, then wait until you meet David Lees :-)

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