Envision 2016 Sessions Announced, Microsoft Pushes Partner Incentives for Drawing Attendees

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by Dann Anthony Maurno, Assistant Editor

In case you missed it, Microsoft on Friday unveiled the session calendar for its inaugural Envision conference, running April 4 through 6 in New Orleans.

As Microsoft promised in its surprise January announcement, Envision is a different animal from Convergence, which was dedicated largely to product roadmaps and features. Envision is a strategy-oriented event, aimed at decision makers.

Thus far, many sessions are planned, but most still have no speaker attached. The announced sessions will be delivered by a mix of Microsoft employees, industry experts, and sponsors. Among them:

  • Numerous State of the Industry sessions, largely delivered by solution providers. The Sports and Entertainment session will be delivered by Davide Vigano of Sensoria, Inc., about technology transforming sports; also digital media strategist Robert Tercek co-delivering a Travel and Hospitality session, alongside a Travel Weekly editor.
  • Product-specific sessions, including the entire Dynamics portfolio, but also Azure IoT Suite, Delve, Bing, Skype for Business, Power BI, etc. Of the nine AX sessions, eight are vendor-driven and one is a customer story. Azure revealed two sessions, including Cognizant: IoT retail solution (RetailMate) on Microsoft Dynamics ‘AX7’ powered by Azure and Run business apps in the cloud.
  • Business-challenge specific sessions, a good many of which are led by event sponsors and focus on their own solutions.
  • Industry specific sessions. Interestingly, there were but three matches for Manufacturing, one a State of the Industry session, the other two ISV led.
  • Leadership sessions segmented by role (Business, Finance, IT, Marketing and Sales). Microsoft will deliver a number of these, including Leadership in marketing: A marketing transformation from Microsoft and NBA team Oklahoma City Thunder uses great customer service to change business outcomes; but the session Messaging matters: The story you tell is more powerful than the thing you sell is delivered by sales consultant and author Tim Riesterer.

Perhaps the 10,000-ft nature of some sessions reflect the target attendees – C-level decision makers, versus power users, system administrators and decision influencers. As Microsoft describes Envision:

Whether you’re a business leader looking to reinvent organizational productivity and mission-critical business processes, or a sales leader looking to predict opportunity acceleration and growth, or a technology leader looking to champion solutions that ensure security, compliance and operational agility, Microsoft Envision provides the insights and strategies that will help you and your business achieve more.

Is there enough incentive for partners?

The session catalog suggests that sponsors will get their time in the sun. but what of other partners?

As we reported elsewhere, the conference is focused less heavily upon product than was Convergence, and more upon role-based networking, industry outlooks and visioneering. That, plus an expo of two days rather than four, has left partners grumbling, and Microsoft provided an easy out for those who signed on as sponsors after Convergence 2015. A typical sponsor take on Envision is that if your product does not target companies with more than 500 employees that would send a C-level attendee, sponsorship is probably not for you. Likewise, if your focus is Dynamics GP or SL.

Earlier today, Microsoft sent out a “Latest News!” memo to partners about Envision. Among the news is that 165 partners are signed on as Sponsors and Exhibitors thus far. While there was no mention of attendee numbers, the memo described “NEW PARTNER INCENTIVES to invite your customers to join you at the event.” These incentives were outlined in a Group Packages flyer, with free partner passes and other benefits to partners who drive large numbers of their clients to the show.

So, Envision appears to have considerable breadth; it will be up to partners and their clients and prospects to decide if it had enough depth, or the right kind of depth. If not, then they’ll likely conclude that their event budget is better spent at the more tech-heavy Ignite and Build, and other more specialized events.

About Dann Anthony Maurno

Dann Anthony Maurno is a seasoned business journalist who began his career as International Marketing Manager with Lilly Software, then moved on as a freelancer to write for such prestigious clients as CFO Magazine; Compliance Week;Manufacturing Business Technology; Decision Resources, Inc.; The Economist Intelligence Unit; and corporate clients such as Iron Mountain, Microsoft and SAP. He is the co-author of Thin Air: How Wireless Technology Supports Lean Initiatives(CRC/Productivity Press, 2010).

Dann can be reached at dmaurno@guidepointmedia.com.