One of the things that may set the Seattle chapter of the IAMCP apart from other chapters, aside from the fact that we reside in the backyard of Microsoft headquarters (well, we meet at their Civica Building in downtown Bellevue…so maybe the front porch?) is the concentration of chapter members who manage the Microsoft alliance for their respective companies. Many of the local IAMCP members are former Microsoft employees, or have worked with Microsoft as a vendor or a partner for many years. This, arguably, gives us the most Microsoft experience of any IAMCP chapter.

 
Even with that extensive expertise, it is always helpful to hear from those in the know about how best to navigate the Microsoft waters, specifically, how to align your company’s product and service planning around the Microsoft product planning cycle. The planning and delivery schedules for most product teams are on the move toward an “online first” strategy. Given the shift toward the cloud, it’s becoming even more essential to understand how Microsoft operates.  Across the business, Microsoft is pushing to become more agile, and it’s critical that partners keep on top of these changes.
 
At the January chapter meeting, we heard from Barb Campbell, Microsoft Alliance Manager for Washington DC-based SharePoint ISV, Metalogix. Barb walked the group through a detailed outline of the Microsoft internal structure, helping participants to understand who they need to be working with at the corporate and field level, in the product teams, and within the many worldwide Microsoft Technology Centers (MTC).
 
For those who are less familiar with the Microsoft structure and planning cycle, here are some key takeaways from Barb’s presentation:
  • Ensure that Microsoft understands your solutions, and the unique problem areas you are trying to solve, within the context of Microsoft’s annual strategy. For example, three areas in which Microsoft is focusing this year are Windows 8, Azure, and Office 365. Be clear on where you can help Microsoft achieve their sales and partner goals.
  • Understand the scorecard and financial drivers for your local district, as each district is measured differently.
  • Get to know the account manager who owns your customer – don’t be afraid to ask who that is from the customer. You can do more to help your customer – and work more closely with Microsoft – if you have a close relationship with the account manager.
  • Be consistent with your Microsoft contacts. You own the “constant follow up” in the relationship, and should not assume that your single email to the account representative is sufficient. Always keep the customer’s name in your email subject line, keep the email body short, and always include a clear call-to-action or request so that the rep knows how to respond.
  • Always close the loop with your Microsoft contacts, letting them know the outcome of the deal, win or lose. When it’s a win, let them know “we won the deal because of x, y, and z” so that they know how to better engage with your company the next time, and in similar customer scenarios.
 
If you missed Barb’s session, you can find her slides here. And if your product and service development planning does not currently align with the Microsoft planning schedule (and, more importantly, their funding / budget schedule) then you may want to consider getting outside help. There are a number of experts out there, some former Microsoft employees, who can provide guidance on helping your company better align.
 
Reach out to your local IAMCP chapter for contacts, and get involved.​