There are many things that I enjoy about my job. One of my favorite things is meeting with you, our partners. Gaining insight into your priorities, opportunities, and challenges, and hearing your direct feedback about what Microsoft can do better to enable your success is incredibly valuable. I make a point to take a few trips every year specifically to hear this feedback from partners around the world. My last trip took me to France and Italy and, once again, I truly valued the opportunity for face-to-face connection and engaging in discussions on how Microsoft can best support you.
In France, I participated in the “Beyond Tour” in Lyon. This event gathered 44 partners who wanted to hear from the French leadership team on how Microsoft is leading the way in a mobile–first, cloud-first world. I was given the opportunity to share how the industry transformation that is currently underway will result in higher gross margin and revenue opportunities for partners selling managed services and developing and delivering unique IP and how the cloud is making it easier and faster than ever to invest in these business models.
I was impressed that most of the partners I talked to were already actively shifting their focus to building recurring revenue, skilling their sales forces on engaging in solution-scenario based discussions with customers, and working on new compensation models. As I’ve written before, I encourage partners to read the eBook that Darren Bibby’s IDC published last year on this topic; it’s a great resource to help you understand the opportunity there.
 
The day before the event, I had a couple of one-on-one meetings with partners, including a particularly interesting dialogue with Projetlys. Projetlys is a Microsoft partner focused on helping customers through their digital transformation with 50% of their customers from the public sector. They have developed a unique solution called the e-backpack. The solution targets local public servants and allows them access to all their information and data, no matter their location, with the ultimate goal of going 100% paperless.
eBackpack is leveraging Office 365 and SharePoint hosted on Azure, and public servants have been equipped with Surface Pro 3 devices. A first city just completed a pilot with 60 public servants and is ready for full implementation of the solution. This company has gone through a complete transformation over the past 15 months to fully embrace cloud solutions, and as a result, they have seen their revenue double. Projetlys is a true success story of a company that has embraced the opportunity cloud can provide.
My travels next took me to Italy, and I met with a number of partners there, including another partner who particularly impressed me. I’d like to share their story.
4ward’s mission is to use technology innovation to help their customers better compete and win in the marketplace. A longtime partner, 4ward has received numerous awards recognizing their accomplishments through their existing System Integrator, Application Lifecycle Management and Development practices. I often talk about how the cloud is breaking down these barriers, or even better, allowing partners to expand into new areas. 4ward is a perfect example of this, as they developed a new ISV practice leveraging Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and System Center.
 
The first is 4ward Cloud in-a-box, powered by Dell VRTX. This product, jointly developed with Dell, is a converged appliance (storage, network, compute power in one single appliance) that enables customers or partners to deploy a hybrid cloud in less than 2 hours. It includes a built-in “wizard” to help better leverage Azure services such as datacenter extension, disaster recovery and cloud backup.
The second product is 4ward365 – a multi-tenant, powerful, and intuitive management and reporting solution for Office 365 designed with both customers and partners in mind. It extends Office 365 administration with detailed usage reporting, delegation capabilities, and advanced management functionalities. 4ward365 helps customers and partners get additional value from their Office 365 subscriptions.
In less than a year, 4ward developed and launched two products which are sold through the partner channel as a business model. These are just a few of the examples I’ve heard from partners about how they are building and growing successful cloud businesses. Now that I have returned from this trip, I can’t wait to share my insights with my team and some of my ideas and direction on how we can continue accelerating our support to your success, be it around enablement, market amplification or engagement through our field people.
I’m already looking forward to my next trip which will be to Asia – I can’t wait to meet more partners and hear even more stories like these.