Thursday, March 24, 2005

Michigan SBS User Group Tour

Just had to give a review of last night's Michigan Small Business Server User Group Tour sponsored by Microsoft. It was part of a 14 city user group tour that has been a smashing success as it has gone around the country. This week was primarily the "Central Region" where SBS is king and we have a lot of SBS-sized partners.

I'm grateful and humbled that we had over 120 in attendance! What a contrast to starting the group 13 months ago with only 6 people in attendance. We had 137 registered which was 100% capacity for our Microsoft Office room, so it was great to see very little dropoff in attendance. And just to gloat a little we were the biggest UG tour site in the US. We definitely had great support from our leadership staff and the other members as well.

Eugene Ho, Director of Development for SBS and Derek Brown, SBS Product Manager and Marketing guru, were our guests of honor from Redmond. We also had Don Roessler from the local TS2 staff that provided insight and Aanal Bhatt, a Product Manager from the CRM team in Redmond.

The night was definitely more focused on feedback than anything else and Derek had several brainstorming sessions that allowed for a tremendous amount of participation from all involved.

Key points that I took away from the schedule of SBS. In the first half of 2005 we'll get SBS 2003 SP1 with all the included goodies and ISA 2004 for Premium edition owners. SBS 2003 R2 will be released in the second half of this year with some minor updates but well needed that include the Windows Update Services rollout for patch management. In 2007 SBS on Longhorn Server will be rolled out. No mention was made of the previously code name of "Cougar" so perhaps that codename has been scrapped for now. But obviously this will be a major rev of SBS that will focus on better and more collaboration tools and other updates.

Derek mentioned that a pilot marketing effort for SBS will be rolled out in Sydney and Toronto that focuses on really adjusting the education factor of a server based environment and how SBS can do that. It will go after the peer to peer folks initially to start to educate them on the benefits of a server and SBS their business and bottom line. It sounds great, let's see how it goes. And in the marketing campaign no terms such as "easy" or "15 minute rollout" will be used. :)

Don Roessler of the TS2 mentioned about the benefits of the new SMB PEP program for partners and the reasons why we should be a part.

Aanal did a great job of explaining CRM and reaching out to partners about the benefits and what can be done to get CRM out and rolling in the marketplace. Plus some very cool programs/specials going on right now. The biggest item that was mentioned was a new 5 step install of CRM on SBS due out for the R2 release (hopefully) of SBS 2003. Awesome news.

With that being said the questions from the majority of the partners did show a lack of understanding about many key vital areas of SBS that we need more education in. ISA Server and CRM were 2 big glaring examples of this. Also many don't realize all the partner benefits that aren't even utilized. So thus the UG comes to the rescue. Many of these questions were by those that never have been a part of our UG. It was mentioned several times that if you come to the UG, get involved and ask for this type of guidance we can cover it in the UG and then again give a united voice back to Microsoft or have more events such as last nights. We've definitely got more work to do in the UG in the coming months!

We also had some great giveaways including a copy of XP, Mappoint, Swiss Army Microsoft backpack, Tshirts, Harry Brelsford's SMB Consulting Best Practices book and of course the biggie, a for resale copy of SBS 2003 premium.

Here were some of the quotes I got emailed or heard in person. "Best Microsoft meeting I've ever attended." "That was awesome, what a turnout." "Wish we could do this more often." "I'll definitely be back next month for your meeting." "How can I start my own group? I traveled 8 hours to get here."

Overall it was a rousing success. Thanks ever so much to Microsoft and the others including the SBS Team that allowed us to make this happen. We hope to definitely increase our membership on this wild ride we call SBS. Sit down, hold on and scream a little if you like!