Archive for October, 2007

Merrill Lynch chief Leaves

The Merrill Lynch CEO, Stan O’Neal, has left his job because of the exposure of the company to bad debts of $7.9 bn and reporting a third quarter loss of $2.3 bn as reported by BBC News Online. Now what do you expect is going to happen to Mr O’Neal? Well, he’s retiring with immediate effect and probably a multi-million pound payoff. Job done, thank you and good bye! It really is a win-win situation being a CEO for a major corporate. If you’re successful, then big bonuses and if you mess up big time, big payoff anyway! Is there no sense that it’s actually success that should be rewarded? I saw recently (…and I can’t remember where), how little Steve Ballmer was actually paid but had good stock options which is fair because if Microsoft do well and make profits then his shares are actually going to be worth something.

The next time you make a mistake (I know we never do !!!), try asking your customer for some more money just to walk away from the mess into the sunset and see how they react??

[update] Read Robert Peston’s (BBC Business Editor) blog on this and then the comments. So, Small Businesses have no business plans or strategies? Well, compared to Merrill Lynch I would say our business strategies are like a masterpiece!

Blue Monster's First Anniversay


It’s Blue Monster’s first birthday so come on …”Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you…”

As with most One Year Olds it’s just beginning to walk and talk beyond those early baby ramblings and we’re just getting beyond those “aawwhh isn’t cute!” or “looks just like it’s dad!”. As Steve says in his post people either love it or hate it and I’ve personally gone from one extreme to another and back again and I’m sitting at the “love it” end at the moment. But as Steve points out people have an opinion on it. One thing I cannot deny is Steve and Hugh’s committment to it and their desire to start the multitude of conversations that have gone on around it. It’s made me think about my relationship with Microsoft, iQubed’s relationship with Microsoft, my customer’s relationship with Microsoft and my relationship with other Microsoft Partners.

Some people may think there is a certain arrogance to “Microsoft being able to change the world” but there is no doubting that as the one of the richest companies in the World, it does have certain responsibilities beyond it’s core business aims. In fact it is called Corporate Social Responsibility.

I used to be firmly on the “Microsoft is Evil” camp and my aim when starting out in business was to show businesses how Microsoft was screwing them silly and locking them in to their solutions. Open Source was the saviour to me! Before starting my business I was a software team leader for a Software Consultancy specialising in GSM/3G solutions to major Telecomms compnaies. We were developing test software for this market enabling 3G testing. I led a team of 6 Java Developers and introduced them to NetBeans (Open Source development framework), Ant (Java build tool), CVS (Configuration Control) and Bugzilla (bug/issue tracking) – so the whole toolset and application was Open Source from start to finish. I then went on to work for a Smartcard Company working on developing test tools using Eclipse (Open Source Java development framework) working with a team who were totally Open Source and where one of the team was a contributor to Debian. So, you can see I don’t come from a Microsoft Technology background.

How does this relate to the Blue Monster? Well, my Company is now a Microsoft Certified Partner and I’m a SBSC Partner Area Lead and I was sitting clapping enthusiastically at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Denver in July to Steve Ballmer. So, quite a “Road to Damascus” I would say! It was some people from Microsoft who changed my perception of Microsoft because they actually came out from TVP and talked to us. I began to find that I actually liked these people, that I could trust them, that they did not bullshit me and they were genuinely interested in my success. You could say it was their job to do this but thinking back, it was not their job to do all the things they did do and they did it because they believed in something more than just a big corporate that they worked for. It was the Blue Monster at work eventhough they were not necessarily followers of it.

I used the Blue Monster in my recent presentations to fellow SBSC Partners because we are at the frontline of how end customers perceive Microsoft, we are the ultimate Blue Monster foot soldiers whether we are fans of it or not.

iQubed and Ardent Information Systems Partnership

So, the news is that I’ve also become a Partner in Adent Informations Systems which is a software solutions company. My partner and colleague Ashish Raina has been doing an amazing job in developing Ardent into a successful software outsourcing company over the past 3-4 years. The company has 30-40 experienced software developers which are mostly working with SME Technology Companies based in the UK. Ardent enables companies to bring their technology products to maket quicker and more cost effectively. But it’s not about being the cheapest because I’m sure you’ve been contacted by endless companies in India looking for a route in to the European market. Ashish and myself understand Technology companies and we’re based right on your doorstep, so no awkward phone calls over a crackling line to someone who doesn’t understand your frustrations. It is about Customer Service as Susanne eloquently presents on! We’re backing this up by developing an integrated strategy with Microsoft and Ardent is in the Microsoft Partner Programme and looking to progress very quickly. We’re able to deliver solutions such as hosted MOSS 2007 (based in the UK) using SPLA backed by people who have many years of advanced infrastructure development and the quite often overlooked part, TESTING! In terms of software skills the developers have skills in ASP.NET 2.0, .NET 2.0, C#, VB.NET, SQL Server, XML, Java and Oracle. We’re in the process of signing a deal with a Business Support Centre based in Central London to support startup/early stage ISVs with complete software teams. They’ll be a new website soon but I wanted to get a heads up to people because were very much Community/Partner/Collaborative working focused. We’re looking for long term relationships where we can add value to each other’s businesses. If you’re going to the Westcoast Business Forum on 29th November then Ashish and I will be there if you want to have a chat.

I’m really excited about this!

Virtual WPF Bootcamp – FREE

Yep, it’s FREE and no need to register for this 3-day Virtual WPF Bootcamp. Everything you need to learn about developing in Windows Presentation Foundation. Dust off the Visual Studio 2005 Standard Ed discs you got in the Action Pack and put it to some good use. Great idea by Microsoft and I’m looking forward to other sessions on Visual Studio 2008 and Expression Blend 2.0. Now if only I had any designs skills :-(

SUN, Microsoft, Intel…

I got an email today from Interface Solutions about Sun’s new Intel based workstations and servers. How the world changes? Intel based systems are seen as “hot” by Sun now with workstations such as the Sun Ultra 24 but not only that they signed a deal with Microsoft to OEM Windows. If you now feel like Alice in Wonderland and have fallen into a new world where everything is topsy turvy, then Jonathan Schwartz (Sun’s CEO) explains the rationale on his blog. In essence Microsoft Software makes Sun MONEY!!!

Sharepoint User Group Hands-On Session

Interested in a hands-on session for Sharepoint in Leicestershire, then check the following from the Sharepoint User Group

Subject: SharePoint User Group Meeting – Midlands – Ullesthorpe – 1st November

Hi All , You are all invited to an evening of Testing / Exploration and Discussion. .To make up for the Coventry cancellation I will be hosting a meeting with a new twist next Thursday. As well as having Dual screens for demo’s I am also going to have 15 PC’s setup for attendees to use with pre-configured SharePoint installations. I would like to try and have an evening where we can test new ideas out , or maybe you just want to try and set something up or learn how to just get sharepoint setup / designed right. The machines will also have Visual Studio installed and Designer. In other words an open evening for discussion / testing and exploration. snacks and soft drinks also provided. Sign up here with your name and also you could suggest some things you would like to discuss and maybe setup / Test. Steve Smith

How to Specialise and Suceed

I came across a Leicestershire based Gold Certified and SBSC Partner the other day which just seemed to appear out of nowhere, called “Green 4 Solutions”. Interestingly, they were specialising in CRM 3.0 for the Sport/Leisure Industry and had gone from zero to Gold Certified Partner in 15 months and were top of the league for new customer sales of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. That’s amazing stuff and just goes to show what can be achieved when you get really focused.

The advantages of being a member of the IET

Being a Chartered Engineer and a Member of Institution of Engineering & Technology (formerly the IEE), I have access to the facilities of the IET. I was in London just the other week for a meeting with a colleague and a potential client, so I thought we’d meet at Savoy Place which is the home of the IET. It’s next door to the Savoy Hotel and just down the road from Embankment. We used the Kelvin Lounge and received free tea/coffee and had a top quality lunch for a very reasonable price whilst having access to free internet wireless. It’s a very impressive place, filled with marble busts of people like Faraday and access to a technical library as well.

Let’s do lunch there soon :-)

SBSC PALs Conf Call Presentation Slides

As promised here are the slides from the conference call that Andrea Russell used. I’ve only removed the introduction bits.


In terms of the Customer Campaigns, they will be released first in the US/Canada over the next couple of months, so we’re probably not going to see them until early next year (at a guess). The advice/recommendation from Microsoft Corp is to have the Call to Action to go to a SBSC Partner but the Microsoft Subs may implement this differently fitting in with their own priorities. So, we need to get our feedback over to Microsoft UK, that we want these Campaigns branded “SBSC”.

You’ll notice that the Small Business Toolkit (the one with Demo Showcase 2007 in it) slide says shipping in December 2008. I think this is a typo and should be December 2007, otherwise we’ll be waiting a long time!!


SBSC PALs Quarterly Conference Call

I thought I’d post up some initial points from the first SBSC PALs conference call today. Firstly, I emailed Susanne’s blog post to Andrea Russell (Microsoft Worldwide SBSC Programme Manager) and the other PALs before the meeting. Andrea mentioned this in the call today and welcomed that people were getting these things to her and encouraged people to do this. I saw Andy had posted after reading Susanne’s thoughts.

There was some postive news that our feedback is getting through.

Michael Risse, VP of the Small and Midmarket Business Group has issued an open letter to SBSC Partners about the issues with Solution Finder.

Demo Showcase 2007 will be available to all SBSC Partners, shipping this December. I clarified that it will be the Virtual Server Images and not just the canned simulations and Andrea said it will be the full versions.

The Managed Newsgroups are now 24 hour in the UK and other selected countries from last week.

Special Edition Toolkit will ship in December provided you are a SBSC Partner before 30 November. You will get Vista anytime upgrade to Ultimate from Business, eval of Forefront for Sharepoint/Exchange, Demo Showcase 2007, Brand Tools, Viral Videos, Licensing Guidance, printable Small Business Guide.

Customer Campaigns around the following areas (hopefully call to action will be go to a SBSC Partner but depends upon how Microsoft UK implements them)

  • Security and Reliability
  • Business Productivity
  • Customer Acquisition & Retention
  • Business Solutions

Also, Microsoft are asking where we would like support from Microsoft to build business in new areas such as CRM, Sharepoint, SCE, Security and/or vertical market segments.

I will post up some of the slides from the Presentation and write some more when I’ve had time to digest the information.

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