WPC: It's All About the Networking

The Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston is the channel's biggest networking opportunity of the year.

What happens at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) doesn't stay at the Worldwide Partner Conference. Just ask Angel L. Pérez.

A few years ago, Pérez met a California-based government solutions provider at the WPC, and was able to lead with that company's solution to land a $3 million deal with a government agency back home in Puerto Rico.

"Other than the partner conference, it's difficult to establish relationships with companies," says Pérez, general manager of Rock Solid Technologies Inc., a Gold Certified Partner in San Juan. "Every year we do a different [partnership with another Microsoft partner]. The partner conference has been very successful for us."

Those kinds of networking opportunities came up again and again in Redmond Channel Partner magazine interviews with about a dozen partners on their reasons for attending Microsoft's annual WPC. [This year’s conference runs from July 7-10 in Houston.]

The conference has grown fairly steadily from its October 2003 start with 5,500 partners in New Orleans. Last year's show drew about 7,000 partner attendees to Denver, and about the same number are expected this year. Gathering all those people under an official Microsoft umbrella makes it much easier to identify and act on new business opportunities, according to partners.

"WPC is the most important partner event in each fiscal year," says John Payes, president of the Canadian chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners. (IAMCP). "It provides a great forum to foster new partner-to-partner relationships and explore new business opportunities in many jurisdictions around the world."

Getting a brain dump from Microsoft on its roadmaps and marketing plans is a strong secondary draw for many attendees. "Hopefully, what Microsoft will release at the WPC this year will be similar to what [it] releases every year relative to business plans, roadmaps and partner programs," says Rand Morimoto, president of Convergent Computing, a Gold Certified Partner based in Oakland, Calif. "In a short three-day period, we learn more about the go-to-market initiatives, the upcoming products and technologies, and the role partners will play in the Microsoft ecosystem. The more knowledgeable we are, the better we can hit the ground running with the local district," Morimoto says. His company will sent four people to the WPC in 2007.

Personal contact with Microsoft employees is also high on the list of reasons to participate in the show, says Douglas G. Hafford, vice president of consulting services with Afinety Inc., a Gold Certified Partner based in Los Angeles.

"These personal contacts can improve dramatically the level of communication between ourselves and the Microsoft team," Hafford says. "Once you've met, it's much easier to understand the motivations and needs of the other person and both cooperation and response improves."

To enhance those all-important networking opportunities, Microsoft will once again offer the WPC Connect online tool, known last year as "Rio," for scheduling and tracking appointments. The company says Rio was used to schedule more than 10,000 meetings at the 2006 conference.

One other classic networking opportunity happens before the conference. The IAMCP will hold its invitational golf tournament on Sunday, July 6.

While networking on the golf course, at parties, in regional or industry lounges, in sessions or outside the keynote halls has tremendous value, Insource Technology Corp. gets a different kind of intangible benefit from sending three employees to the event, says Bill Breslin, sales director for the Houston-based Gold Certified Partner and president of the U.S. chapter of the IAMCP: "The additional benefit comes from the energy and excitement the Microsoft execs seem to infuse the partners with." (Adapted from “It’s the Networking, Stupid,” from June 1, 2007)

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.