Business Wisdom from the Rainforest

The evolution of Microsoft partner businesses parallels the a walking tree in the Costa Rica rainforest.

A few months ago, I visited a rainforest in Costa Rica and it made a lasting impression on me. While the forest's ecosystem was incredibly lush, it was by no means homogenous. In a dynamic climate truly ripe for growth, everything had found its own way, and place, to thrive. The harmonious variety in that rainforest was absolutely unforgettable.

And then there was the walking tree. Yes—a tree that walks. With a network of roots above and below ground, the walking tree can move up to 10 feet in a 12-month period. But the walking tree doesn't move just for the sake of movement; it positions itself in the spot where it can take maximum advantage of light, soil and nutrients.

I see a parallel between the walking tree and the evolution of our own businesses. The companies able to survive and thrive in our industry will be those that remain agile enough to move swiftly to capitalize on growth opportunities, while continuing to tap deeply into their core competencies—earning status with customers as trusted technology advisors and providing even greater opportunity for growth.

Regardless of the direction you plan to take as a Microsoft partner, the Microsoft Partner Program provides a rich environment that can help you meet—or exceed—your business goals. To prepare for the coming year, I'd like to share a few ideas on what you can do to make the most of the opportunities before us.

First, with December and January right around the corner, the time to get started renewing your membership in the Microsoft Partner Program is now. The Partner Program is our primary vehicle for linking you with the training and resources that can help nourish your business. With the renewal period fast approaching, I encourage you all to familiarize yourselves with the program's competency frameworks, which are key to helping customers identify the Microsoft partner best qualified to meet their needs. I'm pleased to say that we're introducing a number of new competencies, including those focused on custom development, security and mobility, as well as the information worker. We also recently launched a designation for the small-business specialist.

Rainforest TreeAnd talk about a climate to drive growth! You'll want to prepare for an abundance of software innovation. Over the past five years, Microsoft has invested more than $30 billion in research and development. That level of investment will be reflected in an amazing wave of releases scheduled for the next 12 months. First up will be the launch of Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, each of which is poised to become an absolute blockbuster. Your customers—existing and potential—are relying on you to help them upgrade and build new business applications drawing on the strength of these new, incredibly powerful technologies. Another exciting launch is Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0, a truly revolutionary product that will take integration with Microsoft Office's Outlook and the rest of the Microsoft Office System to a whole new level. Also in the blockbuster circle is the recently released Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting, which is already winning rave reviews among customers and partners.

Market conditions are absolutely right for the introduction of the benefits that Microsoft's integrated platform can offer customers. In November 2004, Forrester Research Inc. found that of the 275,000 midsize businesses in the United States, 79 percent want a standardized platform, and they want that platform to be Microsoft's. They're interested in streamlined workflows, collaborative capabilities, reducing the costs of the IT infrastructure, and business applications. The small-business segment is no less compelling. According to AMI research, 40 percent of the 3.2 million small-business entities that have five or more PCs do not have a server. That means that 1.2 million small businesses in the United States don't have a server—and they need one.

I encourage you to leverage the information on the Microsoft partner portal, to take advantage of training and resources, to pursue competencies, to rev up your marketing engines, and to suit up and prepare to surf on the wave of innovation that's right around the corner. Together, we will build business.