2014-08 - Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2014 - What I learned

Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2014 - What I Learned in Washington D.C.
By Todd Ziesing, Terrace Software, Inc. San Francisco, Ca.


Last month I attended the 2014 Worldwide Partner Conference for Microsoft (a.k.a. #WPC14). It’s been a few weeks since the last day so I thought I would write up a few thoughts from the field. I have attended many, many Partner Conferences over the years and have witnessed several big shifts by Microsoft as a result. The conference this year will be marked as another one of those big shift years.

As we all know Satya Nadella was named CEO of Microsoft in February. Since that time he has aggressively moved to reshape Microsoft to bolster core assets while positioning the company for accelerated growth leveraging this next wave of technology transition upon us. This conference reflected his vision.

We have all heard the mantra of "Mobile First, Cloud First" repeatedly since February 4th. But what does it mean and how will it impact Microsoft clients and partners and competitors? WPC14 clarified this vision for me and set the stage for an updated strategy and execution to implement this vision over the coming months.

Big Themes

If I had to sum up the vision I would emphasize two key themes: One Microsoft and Productivity.

One Microsoft: The theme of One Microsoft was everywhere - at least at the senior executive levels (Turner, Nadella, Prophet). To me One Microsoft means Microsoft is the Product. Offerings like Office 365, Windows Server, Microsoft Azure, XBox Services, etc. look to me to all become facets of the Microsoft product. There were many times when we heard that ‘Product Silos’ are dead. We heard about teams being brought together and flattened out in order to deliver a more contiguous and unified experience to the Microsoft user. This is a very big change for Microsoft and it will take some time to implement. But the message seemed to be clear. Microsoft needs to deliver together - a harmonious experience - across all offerings - unified - simple - effective. And, it needs to do so across any device.

At WPC14 Microsoft emphasized that they now feel like underdogs. In the PC marketplace they have high penetration (something in the low 90%) but in the devices arena they see themselves as very under adopted (something around 14% penetration). These two statistics are stark and I think Microsoft intended to shock the audience (Partners) into action. The vision for One Microsoft - as I heard it - is to deliver the Microsoft experience across any device anywhere. If you think of the each Microsoft offering as ‘dial tone’ (e.g. Office 365, Dynamics, Windows Server, SQL Server, Visual Studio, Azure, Bing, XBox, etc.) and you extend this ‘dial tone’ to any device, any O/S, any form factor then you probably have the essence of the messaging for One Microsoft. Mobile first, Cloud first.

Microsoft’s legacy is Windows Desktop and less so Windows Mobile. I think you will see Microsoft improving the Windows experience but doing so without favoring it ahead of other O/S’s and devices. Windows will need to compete against other user operating systems - both on premise and cloud. I think Microsoft ‘dial tone’ will be release driven based on market adoption of any device and O/S. This is exemplified by looking at the market release strategies for Skype and OneNote. These two offerings are everywhere on all the major O/S’s (Windows of course, iOS, Android, Generic Browser, etc.)

Productivity: The second overarching theme was Productivity. Microsoft understands it’s assets. Core productivity tools initially delivered to the enterprise and extended to the personal space. This is a key position of strength for Microsoft and they are definitely acting to leverage this strength. Microsoft Productivity ‘dial tone’ across any device at any time - well enabled for both the work and personal realms. Satya Nadella said it very well:

"We’re going to get very focused on building out these digital work and life experiences — this next generation of productivity, broadly defined. Everything else we do supports it. We’ll build platforms in the cloud for it, we’ll build platforms in the device for it", Nadella said. “This entire notion that somehow I’ll buy my device for consumption, and personal use, and then I’ll give up that device for work and take another device, just doesn’t work. We know that. And simply saying “[bring your own device”] is not good enough,” he said. "Products should be built for both purposes" he added.

Impact for Partners

This is the vision for the Nadella era. I think it’s timely and right on point. But what does it mean for the Microsoft Partner community? I think it’s simple. The successful Microsoft Partner going forward will get behind One Microsoft and Productivity with a Mobile First, Cloud First delivery model. It means that the successful Microsoft Partner will deliver across all Microsoft bits from the Cloud (Azure) to the Productivity Worker (Office 365) to the Back Office (Dynamics) to custom applications (MSDN, Visual Studio, SQL Server, etc.). It means that Partners must cross product boundaries to cover the spectrum of the Microsoft brand. And it means that ultimately the successful Microsoft Partner will most likely add Managed Services to their Solution Offerings.

I came away from WPC14 very energized. I was not excited because it was a great event with interesting sessions and fun social moments [which it was]. I was energized because I think Microsoft has their mojo back again. Lets watch together to see if Microsoft can unfold this vision into an executable plan to make it happen. For me I think they ‘get it’ and are once again positioned to be a very strong competitor in their target markets.

July 2014 - Microsoft Surface 2 RT - A Review…

Surface 2 RT - A Great Device for Mobile Work and Pleasure

By Todd Ziesing, Terrace Software, Inc., San Francisco, Ca.

I work primarily in an office with a terrific desktop PC running Windows 7. I also travel to meet with clients, attend conferences and for pleasure.  I never liked the laptop for travel and always felt like it was too big and provided much more than was necessary for my needs.  Enter the Microsoft Surface line of devices. 

I ran out and bought a Microsoft Surface 1 (running RT) when it was first released.  I used it for a few days and then returned it.  The first version of Windows 8 was not fully baked. I really liked the Surface Concept but Microsoft missed several critical things in the first release.  I was very disappointed.

Surface 2 was announced and - guess what - I bought one as well (the RT version again with the Type Cover, a Flex Mouse and a 64GB microSD card).  This time I waited a few months to read a few reviews and see how the market responded.  This latest Surface ran Windows 8.1 Update which fixed some of the omissions and confusion launched in Windows 8.  Additionally, this Surface added a faster processor, a better kickstand, and longer battery life.

I was hesitant to jump in given my previous experience.  So, slowly I started using the device.  We had a few trips planned (some personal and some business) and I hoped that I could leave everything home and just live off the Surface 2 RT.  My first activities focused on the core stuff: email, file sharing / storage, Internet, banking, eCommerce, social networking and some entertainment.  When I started with the Surface 2 I told myself just live with what Microsoft and the Marketplace has provided and see how it goes.  I’m not normally patient so this was a bit of a reach for me - but I stuck to the program.

I got the Surface 2 setup at home with everything I thought I would need to travel successfully. It took a few days for me to feel like I had the core bases covered.  This occurred about 3 weeks before my first trip.  We were headed overseas for a couple of weeks.  I decided just a few days before our departure to take the plunge and travel with the Surface 2 RT, Type Cover and Flex Mouse.  I will note that I installed Microsoft Office for RT (runs in the Desktop area only) and I installed some core Metro Apps (OneNote, OneDrive, Yammer, Twitter, Wikipedia, NY Times, FlipBoard, Reuters, TechCrunch, Amazon, eBay, Open Table, Kayak, Flixster, Craig’s List, YouTube, Netflix, Kindle, Solitaire, Backgammon, Chess, etc.). It didn’t take me long to set everything up initially.  Each of these Apps are core to my connected existence (sad huh?).  I use all of them on all my devices (an Office PC, a home PC, a home iPad, an Android Smart Phone [Moto X] and on the Surface 2).  So, passing this test was critical to adopting the device.  There are fewer Apps for Windows RT (which is unfortunate) but there are enough for my simple life. 

Surface 2 RT does include a number of well thought out core apps.  The Metro apps for Email, Calendar and Contacts work fine.  I would not say they are the best but they are definitely in the top 10% of this segment for touch devices.  The integration with Office is very good.  We use Office 365 and OneDrive at work and all that is just about perfect.  I do use OneNote a lot. I use it on the Surface 2, on my desktop PC, on my Android smart phone and on our home iPad.  Terrific little app and ecosystem.  The Surface 2 also comes with apps for mapping, news, finance, sports, etc. using the Bing core services. There is a very capable camera with the device along with an adequate picture(s) manager.  Serious photo people will probably download some third party apps to fill this capability out.  For movies and TV there is a solid video app as well.  If you are an Xbox user the Surface 2 offers a killer set of apps and cross platform functionality for gaming, movies, TV and entertainment. 

On the Surface 2 I did experiment with the overall O/S Settings - particularly Allow Switching and Corners and Edges settings.  After going back and forth I finally settled on deactivating the App Switching and just running the Surface 2 like my Smart Phone. There is a comfort for me in using mobile devices in a more ‘modal’ fashion and using office workplace devices in a more ‘modeless’ fashion (i.e. multiple Windows operating with simultaneous task work).  For the mobile device ‘modal’ is where I feel most comfortable (perhaps because of the touch centric nature of the device) but I still try changing those settings now and then. 

So, at this point I have owned my Surface 2 for several months and I have traveled with it three times for both pleasure and work.  It did take some time for me to adjust to the peculiarities of Windows 8.1 Update and to the compact nature of the Type Cover / Surface 2 screen.  And, it took me some time to adjust my activities for the software on the device in terms of how I work.  But after a few weeks I can honestly say that I like this little machine a lot.  I’m not sure how to classify it: is it a tablet with a keyboard, is it a small laptop with touch, or is it something else.  I think it’s just a great work / mobile / travel device.  I love the size, weight, build quality and battery life.  I love the Flex Mouse when I need an external pointing device (which is not often).  I also have grown to appreciate what Microsoft is trying to do with Windows 8.1.  It has many rich operational features that help make repetitive actions on core tasks simple and fast (boy was that a surprise).  

Surface 2 RT provides kind of a unique form factor.  Alone it is a very capable touch tablet. With the Keyboard snapped in it can be used like a mini laptop.  The combined keyboard/tablet configuration can be quickly shifted to a pure tablet form factor simply by swinging the Type Cover around the unit.  So, it’s pretty versatile adapting to the situation / need.  Another thing I like about the Surface is that the Apps and Browser can be operated through keystrokes with the Type Cover.  Home, End, PgUp, PgDn, BackSpace all work well in all the apps.  And traditional Windows commands like CTRL-A (select all), CTRL-C (copy), CTRL-V (paste) all work as well.  Quite cool actually once you teach yourself how to use the device.

I don’t think the Surface 2 RT is a Laptop replacement like the Surface Pro 3.  I don’t think that was ever the design goal. I think Surface 2 RT is designed to be an inexpensive work / travel device for a mobile worker who needs to keep up with some core activities (work and personal) while on the road. 

I do think the pricing of the Surface 2 is a little on the high side (probably about 15% more than a perfect price point) but I can swallow that without regret because Surface 2 does what I want well.  One nice change would be for Microsoft to just include the Type Cover with the unit since it’s really a critical component or a fulfilling experience.

Notably, I don’t miss my Laptop when traveling.  I can get work done while traveling, I have a light device to take to meetings and I have an easy to use ‘end of day’ device back at the hotel to follow up and set up my next day’s activities. [BTW – this BLOG post was composed on my Surface 2 during a recent business trip]

The Surface 2 RT has received some mixed reviews.  I think that is because it is not comparable to other classic tablet devices (i.e. it’s not Apples to Apples - forgive the wording).  I think the inconsistent reviews may also be rooted in questions about the Windows 8.1 RT O/S: Will Microsoft stay with this for the long term?  One indicator: watch for a Metro release of Office for Windows RT. 

I would encourage any curious buyers to take a second look at Surface 2 RT and align your evaluation of the device to the functionality of the device for travel - both business and pleasure.  The lack of a deep App marketplace is a definite drawback.  For me I can get by because I use it as a Core Travel Work device and because the browser is quite capable allowing me to shift some of my App centric activity to the web.  But I would enjoy and consume more Apps if / when they become available.

I thought I’d write this little update after using the Surface 2 RT for a while.  Like I mentioned earlier this little device grows on you over time.  Be patient and keep learning about the operation of this clever mobile device and I bet you may grow to love it too. 

March 1 - Software - Terrace Exhibits at AAMGA Automation Conference

Terrace Software will join the AAMGA automation conference in Orlando, Fl on March 1st to March 4th 2014.  We will be showcasing our Sure Broker app built on the Salesforce platform for Insurance agents, wholesale brokers and employee benefits brokers.  

For more information on the AAMGA conference please visit http://www.aamga.org/events/automation-conference

2/4/2014 to 2/9/2014 - Company Bulletin: Terrace SFO Office Disrupted.

The Terrace SFO offices were closed to our staff by our building Tuesday 2/4 through Sunday 2/9.  The closure occurred due to an unexpected malfunction of the sprinkler/fire and electrical systems in the building. The disruption started with the sprinkler system on an upper floor in the building.  The excess water from the sprinkler system flows crossed the power systems for the building and all power went down.  The building closed all floors for repairs. 

Terrace’s offices were not affected by the sprinkler/power issues which caused the closure.  We were allowed to re-occupy our space and resume work effective Monday 2/10, 

We want to thank our clients, our staff, our partners and our building for their patience and all the work they did during this period to help us continue work.  It’s nice to get back to normal.

Terrace Software is proud to be sponsoring Dreamforce 2013’s Financial Services Day

Terrace will be on hand showcasing Sure Broker™ and our Salesforce consulting services. 

Sure Broker is a simple, powerful and extensible client management, policy management, commission, billing and accounting app on salesforce.com’s AppExchange. It’s designed for insurance agencies, wholesale brokers and employee benefits brokers.

Stop by and see us. Let us take a few minutes to show you how Sure Broker’s simple design and smooth flow ties front office sales and back office accounting together, so you can focus on closing more business.

Find Terrace Software @ Dreamforce 2013 on Financial Services Day

  • Wednesday, November 20th
  • Westin Market Street
  • Industry Expo 9:00am - 6:00pm, Kiosk #2
October 15, 2013 - Software - Sure Broker App is Available - Cloud Insurance Agency System

Terrace Software, Inc. today announced it has launched Sure Broker™, a simple, yet powerful cloud insurance management app, on salesforce.com’s AppExchange, empowering businesses to connect with customers, partners, and employees in entirely new ways. Sure Broker™ provides client, contact, policy and commission management as well as a full featured billing and accounting system. A complete agency backbone, Sure Broker™ can be integrated into an existing Salesforce instance or run as a standalone application. The simple design and smooth flow brings producers, client service teams and accounting departments together to address the widest range of insurance-specific sales, billing and accounting scenarios.

Built on the Salesforce Platform, the world’s leading cloud platform for social and mobile business apps, Sure Broker™ is currently available on the AppExchange athttps://appexchange.salesforce.com/listingDetail?listingId=a0N3000000B3JJIEA3.

For More Information:  http://www.prweb.com/releases/Sure/Broker/prweb11215573.htm

September 26, 2013 - Terrace Software Launches a Better, Faster and Smoother Software Client Support Portal

Terrace Software, a leading developer of enterprise software for the workplace today announced they have migrated all customer support processes to a new cloud-based help desk and customer support portal. With top-notch ticket management capabilities, customers are now able to track the progress of a ticket, right from the moment it’s opened, all the way through resolution and closure. The new system also includes integrated community forums and separate knowledge-bases so customers can ask questions, post tips, go over best practices, share solutions, workarounds and much more.

"Our move to a cloud-based, multi-branded support system gives our customers a support experience tailored just for them," said Todd Ziesing, Terrace Software’s CEO and Founder. "The new support portal’s powerful features and easy to use interface gives our support teams for each of our product offerings everything they need to deliver exceptional customer support."

Terrace’s software support portals can be found at either help.terrace.com or help.surebroker.com.


July 30, 2013 - Terrace Software Selected to Join the Big “I” Agents Council for Technology (ACT)

San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) July 30, 2013

Terrace Software, a leading developer of enterprise software for the workplace today announced they have been chosen to serve on the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”) Agents Council for Technology (ACT). Terrace will work in partnership with other technology vendors, independent agents, user groups and associations to help agents work smarter, save time and market their services. Terrace will provide technical guidance on everything from tackling mobile strategies and real-time inquiries to custom interfaces and flexible security.

“Terrace has a long history of innovation in insurance,” said Terrace Software’s CEO, Todd Ziesing. “Having released numerous software packages and completed hundreds of custom projects for many insurance customers, we’re looking forward to working alongside other ACT members to help influence the future of technology for the industry. Our goal is to help agents and carriers sell more efficiently and effectively.”

To learn more about ACT’s mission and to see an overview of the group’s 2013 agenda in podcast, visit


About Terrace Software, Inc. 

Terrace Software, Inc. designs and develops innovative software for the workplace—on premises, cloud, desktop and mobile. We offer packaged software and consulting services. Our high caliber teams understand how to swiftly advance our client’s projects from inception through deployment. We have worked in all major industries and have particularly deep experience with financial services, specialty retail, insurance and manufacturing.

Our focus is the enterprise - software which makes a business run. We know the enterprise well and chances are we’ve already solved your problem. Terrace offers software solutions for 1) eCommerce, 2) customer service, 3) agency management, 4) line of business, 5) accounting, 6) analytic reporting and 7) interface. We utilize technologies from Microsoft, Salesforce and select third party providers.

July 3, 2013 - Software - Terrace Releases Version 4.0 of ABS (our Agent & Broker Software)

Terrace is excited to announce that ABS version 4.0 is now available! ABS 4.0 contains a number of great enhancements to streamline workflows for users, including simplified client team setup and an improved installment creation process. There are over 24 major enhancements to the software in the areas of Clients / Contacts, Policy Management / Servicing,  Tasks / Notes / eMail, Document Management, Invoicing, Accounting and Reporting.  Additionally there are new / updated utilities for bulk data handling and for desktop integration (Outlook).  More information on ABS may also be found at the Terrace website at http://www.terrace.com/#insurance-agency-management.  For further information or a demo please email Terrace at contact.terrace@terrace.com. 


May 13, 2013 - Company - Terrace Launches New Website / Updated Brand Identity

Terrace Software, a leading provider of software for the enterprise launched a new website today.  The new website delivers new content for new products as well as updated information on the company, our leadership team and our portfolio of projects/products.  Visit the site at www.terrace.com and learn what Terrace is doing in the enterprise software space.