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Over his six year long tenure with Microsoft, Sajan Parihar has occupied numerous roles. His current role as the Global Product Management Director of PPM and Visio brought him to the Netherlands, where Jean-Jacques Vossen and the Mavim team had the opportunity to speak to him about his view on the future of Microsoft and the importance of partners to the Microsoft community. At the Microsoft Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) Summit for European partners, Microsoft announced the latest product road map and showcased how PPM continues to empower the needs of the modern business. According to Sajan, the PPM Summit was an opportunity not only to keep partners up to date about the latest happenings within the Project community, but also a chance for Microsoft to get feedback from PPM partners and the multitude of customers they represent. “I see partners as a priceless input channel because they can bring the feedback of hundreds of customers with them, “ Sajan told the Mavim team. “It is two-way traffic. We can share what we have going on our end, and at the same time we can get any feedback they have and that is why I’m here.” Microsoft Project has grown steadily over the past couple years, and now occupies the largest share of the market space with more than 20 million end-users across businesses of all sizes. With Office 365 and the numerous customizations offered by the extensive partner ecosystem, Microsoft Project provides an integrated PPM experience that enables consumers to customize the product to fit their specific needs. Additionally, as more businesses transition to the cloud, Project Online (built on top of Office 365) offers a solid foundation for organizations to achieve agility and scalability. “In the cloud we are innovating at a fast pace,” Sajan reported. “Back in day, we would come with a new set of features every three years. The pace has changed a lot, and that places the onus on us to keep communicating with our customers, as well as partners.”

 

“Cloud-First” Is the Future

While the conference centered on Microsoft’s traditional PPM solution, Project Online and the progress it represents clearly had Sajan excited. Echoing the oft-heard Microsoft mantra of “cloud-first”, he emphasized that moving to the cloud should be seen as a boon for the modern consumer, as much as for the business provider. He supported the declaration by noting that public cloud usage makes it easier and quicker for Microsoft to respond to customer needs. “I would definitely say you should be leading with the cloud, simply because we can meet your needs faster,” he noted. The other major concern that Sajan wanted to address was data security. While the thought of moving to the cloud conjures nightmares of a loss of data and internal control for many consumers, Sajan argued convincingly that it is worth the hassle. Because Project Online is built natively on top of Office 365, end-users can rest assured that they are already compliant with industry standard regulations. He also wanted to assuage any fears about loss of privacy. “With Office 365, you are in a really good spot. If you look at the Microsoft commercial cloud revenue, we are at around 8 billion dollars. That tells you that there is a huge momentum around Office 365, and therefore, any customer should feel good about bringing their business to the [cloud].”

 

Implementation Hurdles

When asked about the major hurdles customers face with the successful implementation of Microsoft Project, Sajan laid out two significant factors. The first is the product fit. Is this the right tool, customized with the appropriate functionalities to address all the problems a particular customer is facing? The second is change management. He also noted that due to the vast array of customizations offered by the partner ecosystem, product fit is the easier of the two hurdles to overcome. Change management, however, offers a whole other host of issues, especially regarding major transformation initiatives. Sajan suggested a phase roll-out to control the problems brought about by major transformations. “For example, you decide to begin with portfolio management. You first need to have the right processes in place for decision-making so that you pick the right projects. In the second phase, you can go for project management. Along the whole process, change management is key, because now we are introducing a more formal way of deciding how to invest [resources]. You’re also bringing more transparency to make sure that everybody knows who is working on what. It improves your resource management, and at the same time, minimizes your risk and increases ROI.”

 

 

Microsoft’s Competitive Edge

When asked to elaborate on Microsoft’s competitive advantage, Sajan had a hard time choosing just one. To begin, he noted that although Microsoft is extremely proud to have the highest market share in the project and portfolio management space, the real advantage for Microsoft comes from the drive that 20 million end-users provide. Such a large customer population encourages Microsoft to continue enhancing their product and to find innovative solutions to varying customer needs. With any project and portfolio management solution, Sajan noted that there will always be customers who need further customization. With Microsoft’s new add-in model, lots of customers and especially partners can create add-ins that provide the desired customization. One further Microsoft advantage made itself clear as the interview wore on. Sajan noted that Microsoft often won’t demo a product without a partner, because “it’s less about having only the technology—you also want to make sure you have a great partner supporting it.” He said, “I think that is one of our differentiating factors that we have such a large partner ecosystem that is deeply skilled in project and portfolio management. With partners like Mavim, we are expanding it out, to bring in the strategic piece, business process management, and combining that with project and portfolio management. You will find that our partners bring a wide-variety of tools and expertise to the table.”

 

 

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