James Chadwick
James Chadwick ISV Lead, Microsoft UK
Feb 10,2021

A blueprint for Microsoft UK partner competitiveness

2021 is shaping up to be another challenging year for UK organisations. While the pace of the UK’s vaccination roll out has created some hope for the nation’s recovery, continued lockdown measures and a new relationship with the EU means successfully navigating the road ahead remains a difficult prospect.

But as we take tentative steps towards recovery, what does success look like? It’s a question Microsoft UK tackled in depth in the autumn of 2020, working with academics at Goldsmiths, University of London to create a new blueprint for UK competitiveness, in a post-COVID, post-Brexit world.

It uncovered a £48 billion opportunity for UK firms to drive economic recovery and help build a fairer, more inclusive society, if they take small steps to enhance their competitiveness now.

Knowing how central the UK Microsoft Partner Network is in delivering the innovation organisations need to boost competitiveness, we’ve now gone a step further, by asking what role our partners can play in supporting our nation’s recovery in 2021.

The result is A blueprint for Microsoft UK partner competitiveness, a new study which reveals that the UK Microsoft Partner Network is poised to play a central role in the UK’s economic recovery.

A perfect fit

It’s an unprecedent time for our partners. Like many organisations, the current economic climate continues to be a big concern, identified by partners as the biggest barrier to future competitiveness (55 percent), above COVID-19 (40 percent) and Brexit (31 percent).

But there is hope too. More than half (58 percent) expect to see an increase in revenue in 2021, and 71 percent plan to hire new staff in the next six months, illustrating the inherent resilience of the network.

What’s more, our research reveals that Microsoft UK partners are a near-perfect fit to the new model for competitiveness that we first outlined in our 2020 report, demonstrating a striking alignment to the model in terms of technological capabilities, expertise, digital skills and agility.

This is in sharp contrast to UK organisations overall, just 15 percent of which were classified as ‘frontrunners’ in the original research – described as organisations with the necessary competitive capabilities to achieve growth in the current climate.

Clearly, many of our partners are already ahead of the game, but now is not the time to be complacent. The task now is to accelerate – and stay there. The potential rewards for doing so are compelling.

A £9 billion economic opportunity

According to our new report, the UK Microsoft Partner Network could collectively contribute an additional £9 billion to the UK economy, by making small changes to enhance competitiveness now.

To break this down, despite representing just 1 in 100 VAT-registered businesses in the UK, Microsoft UK partners could contribute 13.96 percent of the original £48 billion economic opportunity – that’s £6.74 billion – through small changes to their existing business models.

And this is just the beginning. As more and more UK businesses seek to sharpen their competitive edge through digital transformation, demand for services like cloud, data analytics and remote working solutions is increasingly outstripping supply. So, by doubling down on specific technologies and services likely to be in high demand in 2021, our partners could go beyond the £48 billion opportunity and unlock an additional £2.3 billion, largely in 2021.

In total, that’s a collective £9 billion additional revenue opportunity to support the UK’s recovery in 2021.

Crucially, this is also an opportunity that extends beyond the bottom-line. The very essence of the new model for competitiveness is that it also drives social growth for the UK, tackling pressing issues such as diversity, regional equality and digital inclusion.  For our ecosystem, this is not just the right thing to do, it will also increasingly define success or failure for us and for our shared customers.

The road ahead

To fully take advantage of this opportunity, the new report identifies clear steps for partners to take.

Within their own business model, partners should: 

  • Collaborate with other members of the Microsoft Partner Network: organisations doing so tend to perform better, with a third (33 percent) expecting to grow their revenue by 15 percent this year. As Mark Turner, Director of Claranet says, “No one partner can solve every problem alone. Sometimes we need to spot patterns and proactively get together”.
  • Invest in agility and change management: roll out MVPs to achieve support for customers, be agile, move quickly, then refine rolling out MVPs. Move to a process of iterative refinement.
  • Focus on D&I: our research shows that this remains less of a priority for many partners, listed by just four percent of partners surveyed as an area of industry expertise. Additionally, less than a third (27 percent) of partners surveyed told us they are prioritising diversity and inclusion to support their community. While it’s clear that our partners have good intentions, this must be turned into lasting action. I wrote recently about how we’re redoubling our efforts to build a more inclusive and diverse tech sector.

The research also identifies three technologies and services that partners should double down on:  

  • RPA and automation: just one in five (20 percent) of the partners we surveyed are developing new RPA products or services. This needs to accelerate if partners are to keep up with demand.
  • Data analytics: only 28 percent of survey respondents offer data solutions and data analytics as a combined service. This is a strong opportunity for growth, as customers build on their new cloud foundations to explore higher-level data capabilities.
  • Security services: currently, fewer than one in ten (nine percent) respondents provide security solutions. With the ever-expanding global cyber threat, we expect to see growing demand for security solutions in 2021.

While the true impact of COVID-19 remains uncertain, our latest research shows a promising path ahead for Microsoft UK partners that are willing and able to make changes to boost competitiveness now. A path that leads not only to a significant economic opportunity but also to a fairer, more inclusive society.

We’re committed to supporting our partners in this journey and the time to get started is now. As Elona Mortimer-Zhika, CEO of IRIS Software Group puts it “There is a window to be disruptive that we cannot miss out on. We must be innovative to stay one step ahead of the game.”

To seize the opportunity, read A blueprint for Microsoft UK partner competitiveness.