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Can Microsoft's Envision Event Take the Place of Salesforce's Dreamforce?

While not everyone in the channel is excited about Microsoft Envision, the replacement for Microsoft's old Convergence event, could it be just the right content offered at just the right time? 

Billed by Microsoft as the flagship event for business leaders, this year's Envision may be Version 1 of a well-timed bid to replace Salesforce.com's mega-event, Dreamforce, as the destination for those seeking a strategic vision of technology.     

According to an announcement in January by Chris Capossela, Microsoft's executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Envision "is designed for CxOs and their senior department and functional leaders who are driven to shape their own future and position their organizations and business for success in a mobile first, cloud first world." Attendance at this first Envision event, which will take place on April 4-6 in New Orleans, La., is reportedly expected to be around 8,000.

A Dreamforce Competitor?
When Dreamforce launched in 2003, only 1,300 people attended. After steadily building an audience over the years, Dreamforce is now the largest business conference in the world, with 160,000 attendees in 2015. The event brings together top thought leaders -- even Satya Nadella joined the keynote lineup last year -- representing business, culture and politics.

Dreamforce has become much more than just a business conference -- which could be a huge opportunity for Microsoft.

It's not hard to imagine that there are plenty of executives who would prefer to bypass the hype and crowds to just focus on business-technology strategy. With its success over the years, Dreamforce has demonstrated that businesspeople are willing to leave their offices to seek insight into the future of tech. An event devoted to those who drive the decisions about technology makes a lot of sense.

Potential for Partners
For the partner channel, the reaction to Envision has been mixed. As reported on MSDynamicsWorld.com, a January conference call in which Microsoft explained event changes to the Dynamics ISVs who have traditionally exhibited at Convergence turned "colorful." Reportedly, many of those sponsors have downgraded or cancelled their participation.

Longtime Convergence attendees I have spoken to remain on edge about attending Envision. With no session list posted yet, it's hard for them to know who to invite. That's a valid criticism and it seems that Microsoft could have been better prepared.

Wayne Morris, corporate vice president of business solutions marketing at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post: "Microsoft Envision provides an opportunity for attendees to hear from some of the most forward-thinking minds in business and technology, with each day featuring prominent industry visionaries and business experts who will share the latest ideas, trends and innovations." With corporate-speak like that describing an event less than two months away, it's not hard to understand why partners are cautious.

It is clear that for ISVs with functional add-ons for the Dynamics ERP products, Envision is not the right place for them to connect with their typical interest group of end users. But for ISVs across the Microsoft solution set who provide a strategic advantage to businesses, Envision has the potential to be a valuable venue to connect directly with a broad cross-section of executives.

For SIs, Dynamics VARs, MSPs and cloud partners, Envision has even greater potential -- if Microsoft can deliver high-quality content. The event could help these partners identify customers who recognize technology as an investment in the futures of their businesses. Partner leaders, salespeople and business analysts could spend multiple days talking about strategy with top customers.     

It takes a leap of faith to ask your customers to attend an unproven event in its first year. It's not cheap for you or your customers to attend Envision. But that very fact may help you determine which of your customers is willing to invest in technology for strategic advantage. Those are the customers that you want to spend time with. Sitting by their side while Nadella explains Microsoft's vision for the future of business seems like a pretty smart place to be.

Could Envision really take the place of Dreamforce? Maybe not for the hordes of thought-leadership junkies. But for serious businesspeople dealing with a very confusing and cluttered technology world, sensible guidance from a trusted source may make Envision just the right event at just the right time. 

How are you going to take advantage of Envision? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share your story.

Posted by Barb Levisay on February 10, 2016 at 4:10 PM


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