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Vista's Here, Now What?

Microsoft's wave of new products will inspired conversation in these areas: collaboration, training and business process outsourcing.

International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners

Quite naturally, the subject of discussion was the "wave" of products finally launched by Microsoft in late November. The group was even nice enough to sit through my random pontification about what I immediate impact I believe Vista, SharePoint 2007, Office 2007, et al will have on their sales.

I believe the answer is "nothing" for right now -- that is, unless they've been testing the heck of this stuff for months already. But, it will have an enormous impact on their sales dialogues.

Because the group was so, ahem, intimate (I think a lot of folk decided holiday shopping might be more scintillating than me), we had a chance to talk about three topics I walked away feeling are critical for Microsoft partners to consider during the upcoming months.

The first is something I've already raved about, SharePoint 2007. Quite simply, this technology will prompt people to think about collaboration in a totally different way. Not tomorrow or even next year, but suddenly, several years from now, the ideas beneath SharePoint will be as commonplace as search.

Related to that, I believe, will be an enormous opportunity in training. At the surface level, both Vista and Office 2007 offer up completely new interfaces that probably can't be fully appreciated without at least some kind of guided tours. One of the solution provider attending my meeting on Tuesday, Corporate Training Group of Iselin, N.J., reports that companies are sending representatives to her classes on the new wave of Microsoft technology before even committing to the products. It's their way of assessing whether it's worth the migration nightmares.

There will be an even more profound need for training, though, related to the new types of collaborative applications I mentioned earlier. You can't simply throw this stuff at people or teams and expect them magically to become productive. Over the past several years, training of all sorts has really gotten short shrift, but I think businesses are ready to spend here again.

Finally, now that these technologies are here, it's time to consider that your clients may not be willing to pay for all this new infrastructure but they may be willing to pay for a Web service built on top of it.

To me, this is an opportunity to talk to your existing and prospective customers not just about software as a service, or SaaS, but really to engage in a higher level business process outsourcing, or BPO, discussion. To me, the latter is much more exciting. Besides there is more potential revenue tied to BPO than SaaS, if the analysts are right.

What are your initial Vista discussions yielding? Shoot me an e-mail at hclancy@cmp.com. And if you're local (in the New York tri-state region), let me know "what exit" so I can hop on the Parkway and come talk to you about it in person.

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