For a very long time, Microsoft has focused heavily on ensuring that IT Pros and developers alike remained at or near the center of the Microsoft universe. After all, IT Pros help their organizations choose Microsoft products and implement them to solve business problems and developers are key to ensuring that there is a viable application ecosystem revolving around the entire product set.
However, as Microsoft moves more and more of its services to the cloud, the overall reliance on IT pros will lessen as specialized consultants handle initial implementations and then the services are pretty much hands-off from a customer standpoint. Sure, there will still be a need for some administrative tasks to be performed – such as managing policies and user accounts – but no longer will IT staffers have to be familiar with the overall system architecture and deep configuration elements of, for example, Exchange.
Now, let’s take a look at what might appear to be an unrelated decision – the elimination of TechNet subscriber downloads. For years, IT Pros have enjoyed what is an incredible and inexpensive way to learn about Microsoft’s new products and even run them in a lab without having to worry about constantly expiring evaluations. Microsoft has indicated that the company remains committed to ensuring that IT Pros are able to meet their learning and education needs through free resources, but nothing will be able to compare to the sheer flexibility that is wrought from TechNet.
Next, at this week’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), it was announced that all partner competencies in the coming year will include a cloud competency requirement. Given Microsoft’s direction, this makes a lot of sense as it’s abundantly clear that Microsoft wants to capitalize on its cloud assets.
Also this week, Microsoft announced a major reorganization of the company with an intent to blur the lines between the consumer and enterprise functions. For years, Apple has managed to worm their way into the enterprise by creating compelling consumer products that included just enough enterprise capability to be desirable as both personal and professional devices. Microsoft’s own hardware efforts have yet to enjoy measurable success in either consumer land or the enterprise.
With the coming cloud revolution, Microsoft will need to refocus its outreach efforts not on IT pros, but more on CIOs and CFOs, particularly as services become less technical and more easily directed at business problems. As has been written before, the role of IT staff members will necessarily change in the coming years to be more business-focused as organizations adopt the simplicity and hands-off nature of cloud services.
Unfortunately, many IT people, while well-meaning, remain stuck in the past and are sometimes referred to as “server huggers” because they want to keep services in-house and under their control. Although a business justification certainly needs to be developed to change the current status quo, IT pros may still attempt to hold companies back on their efforts to fully adopt the cloud. This may not be out of fear (or it may be), but may be simply lack of understanding for what cloud brings to the table.
Is Microsoft undertaking an active campaign to redirect IT staff training and knowledge opportunities in a new direction? Is the elimination of TechNet subscriber downloads one way that Microsoft instead pushes IT pros to consider deploying services into Azure rather than in their own lab environments? Personally, I believe that there is an element of reality to this supposition. By forcing IT pros out of their comfort zone and into a new paradigm, Microsoft may be pushing these IT pros to see the benefits of Azure and learn around using that platform, which will then translate into increased enterprise usage.
What do you think? Am I overthinking this or do you believe that there is an intent on Microsoft’s part to push aside the IT pro or redirect their training to new platforms?
Action Item: Microsoft shops do need to begin considering cloud options for some of their services and the pros in these shops need to be prepared to support these services and to adjust their skill sets to accommodate emerging needs that may arise as a result of these changes. Regardless of how you feel about the TechNet decision, don't attempt to escape the coming cloud wave.