Headshot of Rodney Clark
Rodney Clark Former Microsoft Channel Chief

A new year of partner success

Three businesswomen using a laptop during a meeting at work

It’s the beginning of 2022, and I’d like to wish each and every one of our Microsoft partners a very happy new year. Last year was a year of unique circumstances and challenges as we dealt with the continuing pandemic, but we’ve made it here together. We’ve kept pace with evolving customer needs and expectations by investing mightily in the Microsoft Partner Network to make the partner experience more streamlined and supportive. As I reflect on our accomplishments from the past year, I also want to share some insight into where we are today. At last year’s Microsoft Inspire conference, I shared three commitments to partners and now feels like a fitting time to check in on our progress. You’ll see that we have made some great strides, and still have room for growth in certain areas.

Commitment #1: Strengthen our digital capability

To empower you as partners to achieve more, we’ve invested in ways to make it easier for you to navigate the partner journey of building innovative solutions, going to market, and selling with Microsoft, other partners, and sellers. As part of these efforts, we have conjoined roadmaps of capability for the Microsoft commercial marketplace, Partner Center and the Microsoft Partner Network.

This work is supported by a redesigned Partner Center that incorporates more intuitive navigation and consistent organization with other Microsoft portals, including an improved visual interface that brings consistency, usability, and speed of use across Partner Center to help partners get things done faster. The signature characteristic of this was the implementation of workspaces, which is a new way of organizing assets and information by workflow. Partner Center is the central hub for partners to manage their relationship with Microsoft. It facilitates business transactions, promotes relationship building with other partners, and provides robust analytics. Implementing a structure built around workspaces allows for deeper personalization and makes it easier for partners to use Partner Center—benefits that are based in express requests from users. We will continue to make additional changes to improve the performance and reliability of each workspace.

We’ve also improved our process for validating co-sell deals by leveraging the capabilities of Partner Center to simplify the submission process and validate through automation, which will result in instantaneous approvals for most of the deals registered. Another line of validation to keep fraud out of our ecosystem is the process for completion of Employment & Business Verification that has been revamped through Interactive Vetting Experience. This feature is a step toward streamlining the operational process and providing an in-product interactive experience to shorten the resolution time for vetting.

Additionally, we’ve created the ability to schedule time with customer support agents so that partners can get the help they need at a day/time that’s most convenient for them. Partners can easily schedule an appointment assigned to a case here.

With that said, we are still hard at work improving other areas of our digital program experience to bring even more value to the customers that we serve together. Stay tuned for more announcements on our progress in the coming months.

Commitment #2: Deepen your technical capability

I’m very proud of our work to help partners grow technical skills and knowledge. We’ve committed to a 250% year-over-year (YOY) increase in spending in this area—and in some solution areas like Microsoft Dynamics and Security, we’ve achieved a more than 400% YOY increase. To give you a sense of scale, these investments are not in the thousands of dollars, they are in the millions. We’ve supported partners on their readiness journeys, building tech intensity and gaining advanced specializations, to the tune of 97,000 Microsoft Certifications in the last six months!

As I look at our progress together, we are right on track in terms of certifications and overall skilling. But our partner development opportunities also go deeper than just “skilling,” rather, we see this as investing directly to help you win more customer opportunity.

For example, we held our first ever Certification Week in 2021 to provide partners with exclusive, focused support in taking the final step toward validating their expertise with a Microsoft technical certification. And we’ll have more opportunities in 2022 for partners to get certified. These events were a great success, though we also heard from some partners that they could not afford to have tech resources and sellers out of market for a week to attend. So, we adjusted to create more flexible ways to deliver. Looking ahead, I’d like to see how we can invest in opportunities like this to create a recruitment and retention tool for each of your organizations across all the Microsoft solution areas.

Feedback I receive regularly from partners shows the skilling opportunities we’re creating has a significant impact on their teams, enabling them to grow their technical capabilities and certifications at scale in a short time frame. For example:

“We set out to have 1,000 people certified and we actually hit 29,000 certs. I think we were able to drive that many certifications because of the success of the Cloud Week format. Being able to spend 10 days split between fundamentals and tech seminars was incredibly well received.”  – Richard E. Maurno, Microsoft Global Alliance Executive, IBM

Commitment #3: Streamline engagement between us to drive profitability

By this, I mean sharing opportunities, as well as making enhancements to elements like the commercial marketplace and Partner Center that impact your choice and ability to engage with Microsoft. We’ve made some good progress in this area, and I still see more to do. Last July, we lowered our marketplace transaction fee from 20 percent to 3 percent. This reduced transaction fee helps you keep more of your margin to invest in your own growth. We also introduced a margin sharing scheme for CSPs and ISVs, which is currently in public preview and available to our partners to sell together in our marketplace. Once an ISV publishes in the marketplace, they unlock access to over 1 billion Microsoft users and over 90,000 partners in the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program.

We’re also continuing to invest in the new commerce experience, to provide a single, connected commerce infrastructure for customers, supported by guidance, capabilities, tools, and programs for partners to help customers meet their digital transformation goals. Over time the new commerce experience will result in streamlined engagements and create more surface area for partners to engage in the CSP program.

We see the successes as well as the opportunities. We will keep pushing, and we hope you will continue sharing feedback. You’ll hear more updates from us as we continue to deliver additional investment and innovations.

Through these three focal points, our partnership will continue to deepen, and we will find new ways to deliver on our commitment to our shared customers. The past year has accelerated many customers’ digital transformation, and partners play an integral role in helping customers adopt and migrate to the Microsoft Cloud. I’m optimistic about the way that the new commerce experience, in addition to benefitting the way partners do business, will give customers easier access to CSPs and simplify their overall experience working with Microsoft.

Looking ahead in 2022, here are a few things I am excited about:

General availability of seat-based offers in the new commerce experience – Earlier this week, we announced the general availability of new commerce seat-based offers in CSP. This includes Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Power Platform, and Windows 365. This evolution is part of our continuing journey to drive cloud business growth, reduce licensing complexity and costs, and be responsive to how customers prefer to purchase and partners are enabled to sell. To accelerate adoption of the new commerce seat-based offers, we’ve launched two timebound promotions that enable more favorable pricing during this transition period. The coming months will have key milestones for fully migrating from the legacy experience to new commerce, which partners can review via partner readiness and training content on the Microsoft partner website.

Purchasing guidance – As we continue to evolve the new commerce experience, we’ll optimize our purchasing motions to put customer needs first, create clarity around the purchasing motions, and recognize partner opportunity in every motion. To help create clarity, we previously shared purchasing guidance for partners and customers on the differences between the breadth, enterprise, and self-service motions, to define which is most likely to be the best fit based on customer profile. With the new commerce experience, we are working toward a single, connected platform for customers, one with an expanded offer catalog and partner support in every purchasing motion. No matter how customers purchase, they will have access to partner expertise to maximize value from their investment and the ability to scale the ways they buy. In coming months, you’ll hear more on the introduction of new commerce-specific partner incentives and wholesale pricing changes that optimize economics for partners in the breadth motion. The earliest these changes will be implemented is July 1, 2022.

Continued investment in differentiation and partner engagement through co-sell – We are investing in programs that help partners differentiate at each phase of their partner journey, from training and solution development all the way through go-to-market. As we continue to optimize the Microsoft cloud this year, the partner opportunity will also improve. Specifically, we will simplify and harmonize our co-sell programs, through which partners can jointly sell with Microsoft and with other partners. By working together, we help businesses grow essential relationships within the network and with new customers and scale our joint ability to address customers’ needs. Along with the millions of referrals that Microsoft delivers to partners each year, these key investments will lead to stronger competitive differentiation for partners to sell with us and ultimately grow their business.

Here at the beginning of a new year, I am looking forward to all that we will be able to achieve together. We will have more announcements in the coming months as we drive these commitments forward—I encourage you to continue checking the Microsoft Partner Network blog and engaging with our new offerings. Thanks for your continued partnership, I’m confident that 2022 is going to be a great year.