The “Partner of the Year” awards are perhaps one of my most favorite parts of the run up to each year’s WPC.

“Why’s that, Ian?” you may ask.

It’s pretty simple, yet so rewarding (no pun intended).

Each year, I get the chance to review a batch of award submissions and get a glimpse into the amazing things you all do as our Exchange (and Lync) partners. I tell you, it is never easy to determine a winner, and that’s why we always tap a group of key stakeholders across the business to help with the judging. This year’s nominations were no exception.

I was so psyched by the reoccurring themes across entries, which highlighted not only really cool deployments, but also demonstrated your increased focused on things like replacing aging, legacy voicemail gear with the built-in Exchange unified messaging functionally. And, mobility and email archiving and discovery have joined the ranks of common scenarios being implemented for your customers.

While we are not able to give an award to every one of the “more than 3,000 nominations were submitted by Microsoft partners from over 100 countries”, I do want to take this time to thank each of you for sharing your successes with us from the past year!

Okay, on to the reason we're all here today (or whenever you ended up reading this post)!

Today we announced the winners and finalists of our 2011 Partner Awards. You can check out the official press release, but I wanted to shine an extra spotlight on our Unified Communications awards winners and finalists who’ve landed some incredible Exchange and Lync solutions over the past year.

As you’ll likely recall, we had two different awards related to Unified Communications this year:

Without further ado…

Drumroll…

Unified Communications Market Acceleration Partner of the Year Winner is infoWAN Datenkommunikation GmbH

imageinfoWAN’s continued partnership and investment has helped to further accelerate penetration of Microsoft Exchange in market and deliver significant benefits to our joint customers.

Their expertise in planning, deployment and management of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Exchange Online has helped customers lower IT costs, boost user productivity and better manage risk. infoWAN continues to drive migrations from IBM Lotus Notes to the Exchange Server 2010 and Exchange Online, delivering powerful productivity capabilities on their customers’ terms. Their Exchange investment and expertise is further illustrated through infoWAN’s deployments of archiving, security and voicemail.

Over the course of their 15 years in the Exchange practice, infoWAN has helped enable over one million Exchange seats. And in the past year, infoWAN has seen incredible growth in their business as a result of their Exchange practice and acknowledge further opportunities ahead, particularly around migrations to Exchange Server 2010.

Congratulations to Lars and the team at InfoWAN for their award!

I’d also like to recognize our other two finalists, CDW and Dimension Data, who also demonstrated fantastic market acceleration around Exchange!

Unified Communications Innovation Partner of the Year Winner is Polycom

imagePolycom’s innovative and interoperable solutions span voice, video, telepresence, services, content management, and application integration across the full suite of the Microsoft Productivity platform, including Microsoft Lync.

The Polycom voice and video conferencing solutions seamlessly integrate familiar communications tools as well as innovative personal communication features within business applications and processes. With Polycom’s suite of audio and video products that natively integrates with Microsoft Unified Communications solutions, and its continued innovation and collaboration with Microsoft enable them to deliver solutions at reduced costs with a better user experience to win mutual customer opportunities over competitors like Cisco.

Furthermore, Polycom’s Accordent solution, hosted on the Microsoft Windows Azure platform, enables organizations to rapidly and cost effectively deploy a single, secure, searchable video content management solution for all their video assets. The solution is integrated with Lync and SharePoint. Extending the UC platform and working with emerging cloud services, Polycom is improving how people interact with co-workers, customers and partners through a more effective personalized and expansive collaboration experience across global markets.

Again, we’d like to recognize the other finalists for the “Innovation” award, Jasco and Proton Media.

Congratulations to all the winners and finalists for the 2011 Partner of the Year awards! Your incredible work and investment serve as fantastic role models for our partner ecosystem, and we very much look forward to learning more about your offerings in L.A. in a few short weeks!

PS - You’ve got just two more days to tell us what you’re most excited to learn as #ExchangePartner and #LyncPartner at WPC (and be specific) on Facebook and Twitter for a chance to win a pass to “THE PARTY” of WPC. Check out my previous post for more details. We’ve seen some great commentary here, and we’ll select the top tweets and Facebook posts over the next two weeks before the main event.

Ian
Group Product Manager
Exchange Partner Marketing