Review of Office 365 Nation 2014

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Although I am still recovering from the jet lag, my vision has cleared enough now that I can pen my thoughts on Office 365 Nation 2014 recently held in Seattle.

The event was put together by Harry Brelsford and in another way is really SMB Nation 2014, however this time the theme has been ‘rebooted’ to focus on Office 365 and the cloud.

The first thing I must do is thank Harry for the opportunity to conduct four formal and one informal session. You can download the slides from the my formal presentations here:

T106 – Coming to grips with SharePoint

T107 – The Business of Yammer

T108 – Level up with PowerShell for Office 365

T109 – Lync the red headed step child

unfortunately, there are no slides for my informal Azure session as it was mostly demos and actually went for over two hours! Thanks to all who stayed late to listen to my thoughts.

The next thing I need to do is thank everyone who attended my sessions. The first two were quite late at night, which after a long day, I appreciate you coming along and being an enthusiastic and attentive audience. I also appreciate all the great feedback and questions received in all sessions. And I really appreciate that you laughed at my jokes, corny as they were!

One of the high points of the conference for me was the number of people coming up to me in the hallways letting me know that they read my blog and perhaps a particular post I wrote had helped them. Publishing a blog can be lonely at times, sure you get blog comments but it is so fulfilling for me as a content creator to actually have someone say that what I have created has actually helped them face to face. It makes the whole creation process worthwhile and gives me the energy to continue doing the blog regularly and improving the quality and depth of what it contains.

With over two thirds of attendees attending SMB Nation for the first time it was brought home to me how many are still struggling to find their feet in this new cloud world. Everyone in attendance appreciates the cloud is here and that Office 365 is a great option but they are struggling with how to integrate that into a successful and profitable business for themselves.

The biggest reason for this struggle in my option is that fact that most vendors are still pushing the ‘Managed Service Provider’ (MSP) mantra which I believe doesn’t make a great of sense in this cloud-first world for many. It can play a part, but these days it is only a small part in a cloud business. However it seems to me that too many people have become too locked into things only working in that MSP way and from where I sit, the world is now a very different place.

In saying that, I’d really like to see business models and ideas come to the forefront that challenge that traditional notion so much so that I think I’ll post a few articles on business very soon, so stay tuned for that.

In short, I believe the path to success in many ways requires a completely new way of thinking. You don’t have to totally abandon your existing business model but you do need to challenge it. You do need to start thinking outside the box and challenge the conventions to find what works best for your business. This is where most struggle I believe. They are trying to put the round peg of the way they have always done things into the square hole that is cloud services. So to provide more light on that I promise to do some follow up posts focused on business for people.

I think that this conference had a some very high quality speakers and none more so then Tom Moen from Microsoft. I am so glad I attended his sessions and got to meet the man. I learned a lot about technology and presentation techniques from him. That alone made my whole trip worthwhile.

Of course the real value in these conferences is the hallway networking, sitting down with peers over breakfast, a coffee, dinner or a drink. It was fantastic to catch up with old acquaintances and past SMB Nation attendees. However, it was also fantastic to make so many new connections and talk with others whom I had never met before about their business and the challenges of the cloud. This is also where I learnt a lot and I appreciate every one of those interactions.

So in summary, it was a long way to travel but a real benefit for myself. I thoroughly enjoying presenting my sessions and listening to some other outstanding ones. However, most of all I enjoyed the peer to peer networking and the opportunity to be at the kick off for many along a journey to successful cloud consulting.

My hope is that Harry’s event becomes the pivotal one for SMB cloud resellers as it was for SBS resellers all those years ago, because there really isn’t anything I have seen that speaks specifically to the SMB IT reseller in the cloud space now. These are the people that manage technology for the gigantic number of small businesses out there that power the economy. If SMB’s can grow then the economy as a whole grows and everyone benefits. For that to happen SMB IT resellers need to retool their skill portfolio and a focused conference like this provides no better way to achieve that. So if you haven’t jumped on board the Office 365 Nation train, then I’d recommend it is time you did.

Well done Harry. Well done SMB Nation team. Well done everyone who attended. I’m keen to come back next year and I hope I’ll get the nod to speak again.

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