@LoryanStrant, https://www.linkedin.com/in/loryanstrant/

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This month has seen some very interesting announcements come through the pipeline. New technologies, new business opportunities, and new ways partners can work together to deliver excellent service to their customers. But what’s most interesting to me as a partner is the rapid convergence of technology we’re all experiencing.

The next frontier of computing is cloud-based, data-driven, and infinitely smarter than ever before. But what’s really driving digital transformation is how these different technologies—including AI, machine learning, mixed reality, and even quantum computing—come together to create something entirely different. Partners are no longer expected to sell repackaged versions of familiar tools or services. At this moment in time, our opportunity lies in helping customers completely transform how they do business.

What technology convergence means for businesses

If technology convergence sounds like another confusing industry buzzword to you, don’t worry. While it seems complicated, here’s what it means for your business: Convergence is the joining of industry-leading products, as with Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security in Microsoft 365 Business, or the Dynamics 365 and LinkedIn integration.

There’s a good reason for this consolidation. Every industry now is deeply dependent on technology. But as more apps and solutions hit the market, segmentation becomes a real challenge. During the past six to 12 months, even Office 365 has confused some with the introduction of Groups and the interdependence of apps. The fact is business processes are not as simple as they once were, and our technology needs to reflect that. The convergence of various Microsoft offerings provides much-needed unification and simplification.

Understanding the partner challenge

While convergence will help partners and customers be more effective in the long-term, we’ll face some challenges during this transition. Just as in the early days of Microsoft’s strategic move to the cloud, there were few partners who really “got it”—and those who did had the resources and the forethought to make the change. There are still many partners who are just beginning to understand cloud migration.

Various solutions and products share multiple workloads, with all kinds of quirks the average customer doesn’t quite understand, and which the average partner may struggle to get across. I saw an example of this in my own career, when our company was acquired by a larger company that worked in a very “old school” way. They acquired us for the advanced thinking and good things we were doing, but could never quite figure out how to use them to their advantage. And many important technologies and opportunities were lost along the way.

How do partners get ahead?

Partners regularly experience all sorts of challenges. But it’s important for us all to recognize we’re not alone in this shift. We’re a valuable resource to each other, and together we can really get ahead. It’s clear that the future of partner relationships is not as project-focused, but rather built on managed services around expertise and specialization.

Knowing that what’s right for one customer is not necessarily right for another is key. The most successful partner businesses I’ve seen are driven by a culture of consultancy. They’re one part business analyst, one part change manager. They’ve evolved to be more responsive to their customers and to the changes in the industry. Customers expect that change now. They want B2B experiences to be as easy and as personalized as their B2C experiences.

It’s not enough to sell updated versions of a 20-year-old program. Many customers still work the same way with the same tools of the past, but it’s our responsibility to help them do something bigger and better with innovative, out-of-the-box solutions. This is an opportunity for partners to be genuine, trusted advisors. But first, we need to shed the skin of previous opportunities.

How are you helping your clients do bigger and better things in this time of technological convergence? Share your thoughts with the Microsoft Partner Community here

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