I've been running internal sessions to help colleagues understand the true value that the Demo Showcase has to Microsoft Partners. On the whole, people "get it". That's not to say that they "get it" straight away, but following the chance to ask Q&A, the bright people that I work with day in day out are often firing back ideas at me as to how we could improve the Demo Showcase and drive adoption in our partner base.
I think the best example of changing perceptions came from one of our Independent Software Vendor (ISV) account managers. Having attended the session and being responsible for a selection of Microsoft partners covering the whole of the education market in the UK, the question came at the end "So is there anything specific in there for the education market segment?"
Now, to put it simply, the blunt answer is no, nothing at all - In fact, I'd be surprised if there ever is, even in the future. However, this would have been seriously missing the point. The Demo Showcase is and always will be an integrated set of core technology solutions based on the Microsoft application stack. Therefore, the possibility for a Microsoft partner focused on education (or any other vertical market) to install and integrate their application within the Demo Showcase virtual environment to enable demonstrations of solutions (and not just their applications) becomes a much more simplified thing to do.
Now, I used to work for a Microsoft ISV Partner who wrote an application which provided a Human Resource solution to their customers and I remember those days with fondness. But, one thing that I recognised when I left the company was the mentality around product development which can seriously increase costs, increase product time to market and bring about long term maintenance headaches. It went a little something like this...
I'm not saying that any decisions made were a mistake, in fact they gained the company a healthy, credible position in the UK marketplace, but the times they are a changin' and fortunately, today, an ISV has alternative options in these areas. For example, SQL Reporting Services, advancements in security integration with Active Directory (AD) and the emergence of Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies can provide an ISV with a solid, fully supported platform on which to design and build additional aspects of their application instead of re-inventing the wheel from scratch as it were.
Where does the Demo Showcase come in? As I said before, it's an integrated virtualised technology environment and as it's designed to showcase solutions, any ISV wise enough to install their application on top of the Demo Showcase would not only have the ability to demonstrate their own application but also, many of the capabilities that a business often needs to consider implementing a software solution. Imagine, the ability to create and deploy high quality reports on application x, the visualisation of a high level scorecard delivered on top of application y data, exposing core business data through portal access via application z... The list goes on and on and so maybe it's worth remembering that nobody buys technology for technologies sake anymore and if you're an ISV who feels that there could be considerable value in overlaying your custom product in an integrated demonstration environment to help your customers understand and experience how your software can improve their business, I would urge you to consider the Demo Showcase for the People Ready Business as your first port of call!
Ciao for now :)