By Ron Grattopp…..Well, I did a little research on “paradigm shift” and I ran across this one site, http://taketheleap.com/, with what I consider the best simple definition of it: “Moving from one thought system to another and this great quote: "...everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." [From Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search For Meaning].  Again, credit to taketheleap.com – and, btw, I found it to be a thoroughly entertaining website, hopefully you’ll have a minute to check it out as well.  So, on with the subject at hand.  As you should know, I just did a post around “Pitching the Cloud…” where I try to highlight that, moving forward in the new paradigm of cloud-based computing, partners/VARs will need to adapt their messaging, skills and solution sets, and their business models to accommodate this major industry shift.  Recently I also ran across another article from J. Peter Bruzzese called: “Will Office 365 get you fired?” that spoke to this same issue as well, and prompted me to weigh in with this post.

I’m assuming you’ve just read, or will read, Bruzzese’s post.  Interestingly, he had just been to another industry conference and had run across the issue that the title of his post calls out.  I had similar questions and input from the VARs at the Disti-sponsored conference I was at, where I presented on Microsoft Cloud technology stack and Office 365 in particular, as I noted in my last post, so I thought I’d do a follow up post to address.  Nice for us, Bruzzese also did an article some time back extolling the virtues of Office 365, called Office 365: Expect huge improvements for admins, which I call out here because it relates to the “Keep it Simple” message of the last post and also because it’s a decent overview of the Office 365 UI which more of you will hopefully now be exploring since we’ve just launched the Office 365 public beta.

So to “Cliff’s Notes” Bruzzese’s post for you (in case you didn’t read it Smile), the central issue is: “You can see how an easy-to-use solution that removes the infrastructure concerns, the clustering worries, and all the other time-consuming aspects of Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync might put some folks on edge about their role in the new environment…The idea that moving your Exchange mailboxes to the cloud will lead to the removal of an on-premises Exchange admin is not without foundation.”  And, in fact, this is a real concern IF you’re stuck in the traditional (historical) VAR paradigm of simply providing fee-based IT infrastructure support services.  But J Peter references a Mr Adam Carter (a speaker at the conference he was at), who proposed that “modern [emphasis mine] admins will have plenty of work to do…these admins can make their people more productive so that ultimately it adds to the company's bottom line. Nobody who can do that will be looking for work in the near future”.   And, make no mistake, IT support in the form of migration, integration, and on-going admin of the cloud-based solutions will not be going away – it just won’t be the same infrastructure maintenance skill set of the past.  This is what Microsoft is trying hard to help our partner ecosystem with.  I have previously discussed resources like the Business Model Transformation series, and we are trying hard to continually emphasize that skills like migration and integration expertise and business process consulting are absolutely going to be the keys to success in surviving the cloud tsunami that will follow this paradigm shift.  To me this hits at the heart of the Frankl quote above; the “attitude” is yours to choose, hence the reason for this article around the paradigm shift stuff.  And we hope you appreciate that Microsoft is trying to proactively encourage to get in front of this wave and start developing and messaging those skills to your customers now.  Yet, there will surely be some or our VAR partners who will bemoan the fact that Microsoft appears to be taking away their business, BUT, I would point out, what should be obvious, that the move to cloud-based services is not a Microsoft plot conceived to steal livelihood of partners but rather something that naturally occurs as a result of the ongoing march of technology and if we didn’t do our own due diligence to stay in front as well, then we will wind up like some of the relics of previous computing paradigms.

In the final analysis, I think J Peter summed it up very well in his article so I’ll plagiarize his wrap (with due credit of course):
“In the end, if you fix your attention in the right direction, you may not lose your position, but rather, cement it firmly. The key may not be hiding Office 365 from your employer in the false hope it will save you; instead, you'll have to become its in-house champion (if it truly benefits your company) or expert naysayer (if it truly doesn't fit).” 

And, in parting, I would call out his very last phrase about being an expert naysayer -  indeed, we think one of the prime advantages of the Microsoft platform is that we give you the choice of deployment options (on-premise as well as online), so for the customer that it really doesn’t make sense for, we have a robust and highly integrated on-premise solution to accommodate that as well, how many other cloud vendors give you that flexibility (and opportunity).

Cheers, Ron