Q&A with the IAMCP's New Worldwide Leader

Kelvin Kirby talks to RCP about what's coming down the pipeline from the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners, from the organization's plan to expand its chapters to what to expect from the upcoming Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference.

Kelvin Kirby has been a recognized figure in the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) and its previous iterations for a long time. This year, Kirby's profile took a big leap as he assumed the presidency of the worldwide organization. We caught up with the U.K.-based Kirby in an e-mail interview about his plans for the IAMCP during his term.

Kelvin Kirby
Kelvin Kirby

RCP: You're (relatively) new to the role of Worldwide President for IAMCP International, but you're not new to IAMCP. What's your history with the organization?

Kirby: I have been a member of IAMCP (and formerly AMSP) since 1998, so I have known about the organisation for a long time. I was involved in the U.K. Board of IAMCP as far back as 2003, and I took over as U.K. president in late 2007, re-launching the U.K. chapter with a proper business plan and strategy in March 2008. I was elected to the EMEA Board later that year and in 2009 I was elected to the IAMCP International Board. In January 2010 I was elected to the role of treasurer on the International Board. In November 2011 I was elected to serve as the next worldwide president effective from Jan. 1 this year.

So yes -- you're right that I am new to the role of worldwide president, but not so new to IAMCP. The really great thing about working with the International Board is that they are a really committed and great group of people and very supportive of me in this role. It wouldn't be possible to execute on the vision and strategy that we have without this great team of people!

What's your background in the Microsoft channel, and what does your company do?

I've worked with Microsoft since 1990. In 1993 my company, Technology Associates International, became a Microsoft Certified Partner, and in 1999 we became a Gold Certified Partner. Of course, with the changes in the Microsoft Partner Network [MPN] we now have three Gold competencies in Project and Portfolio Management, Application Integration and as an ISV. Plus, we have eight Silver competencies. We are a Small Business Specialist partner and enrolled in Cloud Essentials. I was privileged to become the first MVP for Microsoft Project back in 1996!

The company focuses on IT solutions and services (but especially Microsoft Project, Project Server, SharePoint, SQL Server) and we are also driving many of our customers toward hosted solutions. The ROI for hosted solutions is clear so our aim is to flip our customer base from 80 percent on-premise/20 percent hosted to 80 percent hosted/20 percent on-premise within two years. We've been delivering hosted Project Server and SharePoint solutions since 2003. An increasing part of our revenue is from our ISV activity where we have developed add-in products for Project Server and SharePoint (and a couple of Office add-ins). As a services company we deliver a lot of custom training across many platforms. As well as technical training (Visual Studio, TFS, BizTalk, SQL, Project Server, SharePoint), we also deliver social media training and services. We are also a PMI Registered Education Provider and Prince2 ATO so we cover every aspect of project management development and education.

What's the state of the IAMCP as you're taking it over in terms of membership, community health, relationship with Microsoft and any other metrics you see as critical?

I am so excited to be worldwide president this year. We are driving more initiatives and developing new regions and chapters all over the world. We just set up the South East Asia Chapter, and we've just had a request to set up chapters in the Middle East. In the United States we have new chapters in Charlotte and Phoenix, and Canada is also growing its chapters, which is great because the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference [WPC] is in Toronto this year.

Talking of WPC, we have continued our great relationship with [the charity] OneXOne. This started with the Day of Giving at WPC '11 in Los Angeles, and we worked so well together [that] we have driven that forward to a continued and expanded set of activities this year at WPC '12.

Our relationship with Microsoft is better than ever in my view. The connections in Redmond I have built up over the time I have been on the International Board have been invaluable in me being able to drive forward conversations and discussions in all areas of the business. What I really love is the frankness of the discussions that we are able to have about the direction for Microsoft and how IAMCP can [help] both strategically and tactically with initiatives. Microsoft has some great people working on MPN, for example, but the resources are limited, and so it's the IAMCP that can really deliver "on the ground."

Being from an engineering background (Jaguar cars), I always look for an automotive analogy, so think of it this way: MPN is the vehicle that Microsoft designed, the partners are the ones who get to drive it and the IAMCP are the ones who can maintain, support and enhance the driving experience for partners. Think of IAMCP as your "pit crew." I think we are much more than that, of course. We work on advocacy (in the above example -- highway laws, road regulations, highway code and homologation), community (bringing all the drivers and manufacturers together) and education (how to drive, speed awareness, etc.)

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What's your vision for where you'd like the organization to be when your term is over?

I have committees working on a number of things, but many are focused on driving infrastructure for the organisation. For example, we have an online committee that is looking after our Office 365 and CRM 2011 Online platforms and building them out so they can be used across all IAMCP regions and chapters, not just the International Board.

We are also reviewing the bylaws of the organisation to bring them up to date and create more agility for the board and the organisation as a whole. I have also started to get the regions to share their best practices and to discuss what each of the regions are doing so that we can capitalise on what is being done in one region to see how it might work in others. Taking this approach gives us a more coordinated organisation and prevents duplication of effort in the regions.

We are currently looking at how we continue to build significant new value for our members, of course. One way is to look at relationships with other organisations that may bring inherent value to members. Another is how we build out the Web site and associated platforms using Partnerpedia and Social27 to provide partner portals that make sense for the partners to collaborate and build their channels, and which might provide a showcase for members' products and services.

There's no doubt that being a voluntary organisation makes achieving some of these things challenging within the term of a presidency. Like continuous improvement, we rely on the members and the boards for new and innovative suggestions on how to improve things. I think as long as we have an infrastructure that allows us to execute on those requests I think that would be a legacy I would be happy with. There is so much we could do, it's sometimes hard not to run away with the ideas!

"MPN is the vehicle that Microsoft designed, the partners are the ones who get to drive it and the IAMCP are the ones who can maintain, support and enhance the driving experience for partners. Think of IAMCP as your 'pit crew.'"

Kelvin Kirby, Worldwide President, IAMCP International

What kinds of initiatives are you driving right now?

Well, of course, WPC is a key initiative. In fact I just finished a blog posting for Microsoft (to appear on shortly) about how partners can make the most of WPC.

In terms of specific initiatives we are delivering, they include webinars about WPC, running cloud transformation workshops and training in many regions and chapters, and something we call the Chapter Health Index (CHI). The CHI will provide key business intelligence about every chapter worldwide, including the level of engagement with the Microsoft subsidiary, engagement metrics, board contacts, membership numbers, growth levels, etc. This information helps us to work with local chapters to see which ones might need closer engagement with Microsoft. And since we share this information with Microsoft as part of a strategic planning exercise, it enables Microsoft to understand how well the field offices are engaging with, and what level of support they are providing to, the local chapters. This will drive increased activity in the chapters and from Microsoft, which is all great news for our members, of course!

What are IAMCP International's plans for the WPC?

Well, where do I start? On Sunday [July 8], we will be involved in the Day of Giving again this year, and we also have a great golf tournament lined up. This year it will be a joint tournament with Microsoft, so you might well get to play with someone from Microsoft's senior team. On Monday evening, we will have our IAMCP Welcome Reception (Room 718AB in the Convention Centre) and we expect this to be the biggest event we have ever had. Come join us for a party atmosphere and to mingle!

Throughout the week, we will have several sponsored speaking sessions and executive roundtable events. On Thursday, we'll have the Women in Technology Luncheon, which is always a great event. And throughout the week, we will have a booth in the Solutions Innovation centre and a kiosk at one of the main access points. Plus, we will have reserved priority seating for IAMCP Members at the keynote sessions, giving our members the best (and closest) view of the keynote speakers.

Of course, we will also be doing lots of other things but some of these are still in the planning. There are some great opportunities for IAMCP sponsors (golf, Welcome Reception, social media and session/roundtable sponsors) at WPC along with some social media packages. Anyone who may be interested should e-mail [email protected].

For Microsoft partners who haven't joined the IAMCP, what's your message?

IAMCP is much more than an association of like-minded individuals with an interest in making their businesses more profitable. It's really a family of very passionate and engaged people who not only want the best for their companies but have the ability and foresight to give back to the community, as well. It's what makes the community of people within the IAMCP able to donate their time, knowledge and expertise in a friendly manner and in a fun way. Our philosophy is that doing business should be fun, and it is more fun when you can do business with friends that you trust.

For anyone new to IAMCP or trying to understand the appeal of IAMCP, I can honestly say that I have made more close friends through engaging with IAMCP than with any other activity I get involved in. Apart from the obvious benefits of working with some incredibly talented people and being able to share in each other's success, the IAMCP members have been responsible for driving over $10.2 billion worth of partner-to-partner business, and that has been verified by IDC over two years ago. The figure today is likely to be much higher. IAMCP members are regarded as best-of-breed partners and on average command a 23 percent higher revenue income and a 19 percent higher profitability than non-IAMCP members. The evidence to join is compelling, in my view, and simply a no-brainer.

The value is enormous. Even one conversation with someone from IAMCP could easily generate the ROI to pay for your membership for one year. To be honest I just don't understand why all partners are not members of IAMCP! Of course, I am biased. But I have seen it from both sides of the fence, and as someone who runs a partner business I couldn't conceive of never being a member of IAMCP. Not only do partners get benefit from all the activities they run throughout the year, but being involved in the IAMCP definitely opens doors that would otherwise have remained closed. My message and call to action for partners that want more from their MPN program membership is simple -- join IAMCP today!

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