Microsoft Selling to the Customer of Tomorrow

Microsoft Selling to the Customer of Tomorrow

I’ve had some interesting discussions over the last few weeks with individuals who have been longtime friends but will remain nameless to respect their privacy and their position.

From those conversations, what I think has become all too clear is that Microsoft, in its efforts to invent the next big thing and ensure it doesn’t get caught with blinders on again, could be outpacing its customers. The products and services that that are extolled almost daily with new, innovative features, Microsoft may have gotten caught in a sticky web of its own creation. In a sense, in an effort to deliver the most fantastic combination of modern technology and value, Microsoft is creating for a customer that doesn’t quite exist yet.

Want a good example? I can give many, but one that most recently provided a light bulb moment for me is Microsoft’s slightly new Operations Management Suite (OMS). OMS is phenomenal and provides one of the best single panes of glass to give organizations an overview of their Hybrid Cloud investments. The unfortunate thing is that no one is buying. How do I know? We recently started running promotions for an OMS eLearning series here at Penton that would be delivered by the experts in the field. Number of registrants? One (1). Why? Because, the majority of customers are still dedicated to supporting their current investments and are becoming somewhat annoyed with Microsoft trying to sell them on new technologies that frankly, aren’t quite complete yet and are definitely not in the scope of focus for the next 2 or 3 years or more.

We ended up cancelling the OMS class and upon notification of that cancellation, I was told that it wasn’t an anomaly or surprising in any way. Even in Europe, where Cloud adoption is at a higher peak frequency than it is in the U.S., customers are NOT asking for Cloud solutions. Microsoft is pushing partners to deliver on Cloud sales, yet even the banks and industrial companies are struggling to keep their on-premises infrastructure and products in-place and health. When consulting orgs trek into a European company and try to sell the Cloud, they are being met with stern opposition.

Some of those discussions I mentioned earlier were with folks in the consulting realm for Microsoft and they’re, too, finding it extremely difficult to talk customers into even looking at all this “future” technology that is being created. It’s becoming frustrating for the consultants as they are tasked from corporate to sell the future that Microsoft is creating, yet customers are wanting nothing to do with it. The Cloud has its obvious values, but it seems customers are feeling that it’s all too much, too fast. They have tasted the Cloud, like it, but prefer to take it in sips instead of perpetual gulps.

If you’re a Sci-Fi buff, you know the problem here is that there are many potential future outcomes and depending on today’s happenings, customers could launch off into a completely different direction. And, really it seems they already are. Microsoft is promoting a future of glorious expanse where business IT is automated and delivered as a utility from the Cloud. But, based on discussions with real people and those directly involved with trying to sell the vision, it seems the future is still being written.

And, this brings up a good point, and one for which I’m extremely grateful. As most of you know, I run our IT, developer, and DevOps conference, IT/Dev Connections. It’s things like this discussion that makes me extremely proud of our conference strategy and really gives our event the utmost credibility. Sure, we do have a small amount of forward-looking content, but it’s always delivered with trusted commentary on if and why it makes sense (or doesn’t) for the organization or whether it should just be avoided altogether for the time being. IT/Dev Connections focuses on what customers want and need right now, i.e., how to keep the on-premises infrastructure products healthy, manageable, and valuable to the business. It’s this type of feedback from both attendees and industry voices that caused us to want to eliminate Keynotes altogether this year. We feel that attendees are just better served through a conference dedicated to community and education than one that promotes a future that may or may not exist the way it’s being sold.

You know, I will admit that I truly love Microsoft products. I built my entire career on supporting and evangelizing them, and this goes back – wow – a little over 25 years. The majority of business runs on Microsoft products. There’s no argument there. Every time someone says, “Hey, why don’t you cover Amazon Web Services more exclusively?” I tell them “No problem – but only as it relates to working in a Microsoft centric environment.” Why? Because that’s the real world. IT organizations are fine testing the competitive waters as long as it provides value to the current infrastructure (which is 90% Microsoft). Except for some radical EDU’s, no one will be migrating a deeply integrated Microsoft infrastructure to Apple, Google, or Linux anytime soon. There will be pockets of other technologies, but only as it makes sense and provides value to the business’ bottom line.

I guess it’s good to know that once we are ready for the future it will already be heavily populated by products and services. But, if the gulf between Microsoft and its customers continues to widen it could be a very different future than the one Microsoft is building.

How about you? Is your organization like many others and struggling to maintain and manage the current infrastructure? Or, does your company have things well in-hand and ready for the future?

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