It has been a terrific summer here in the Pacific Northwest with many sunny days to keep my family outside and active. But I can’t help but be excited to get back on the road to meet with partners. The insights you share with me empower our ability at Microsoft to deliver more value and less expense to you. From New York and Beijing to Paris and New Delhi, partners have interests and issues that are worth sharing with all partners.

So as I hit the road this year, I’d like to bring you a little closer to the discussions and the themes that emerge from partners I meet. Perhaps you’re having the same experience, or maybe there is an insight you can capitalize on for your own business. There is so much we can learn from each other, and I’d like to open the dialogue.
Last week I travelled to New York City and Dallas, Texas to meet with partners. I came away with three major themes that I’d like to explore with you below.
  • There are very dynamic cloud partners growing their business by going beyond migrating customer mail and accelerating customer cloud adoption with SharePoint, Yammer and Lync.
  • Partners that are moving towards managed services and IP services are experiencing higher demand and business growth than they had in a transactional model, and they are targeting more Line of Business (LoB) leaders and Business Development Managers (BDMs).
  • Microsoft needs to keep working on improving our communications with you to help accelerate your practices through our cloud partner programs.
In NYC, the cloud was top of the agenda for most of the partners I met. A group of Azure partners were keenly focused on how they can effectively sell to LoB leaders and BDMs. I talked to a partner who is taking a strategic approach to reaching the “new customer” industry analysts are talking about. This partner doesn’t try to influence a CIO to move a big company to cloud. Rather, they go into that big company, work with a division that acts as a small company, where the LoB is often influencing business solutions that are implemented in the cloud. Solutions and agility are what these LoB customers are buying, so selling must be focused on business value.
I see this capability in many of the partners achieving the greatest success in the market. These same companies are investing heavily in developing Managed and/or IP services, which drives annuity revenue for them. I saw first-hand how partners are succeeding by putting these profitable and sustainable business models into place for the future.
Take Infusion for example. They are a global, NYC-based Microsoft partner. They focus on creating digital experiences and emerging technology solutions for customers across several major verticals. They do not sell products, they sell solutions. I saw their impressive showroom dedicated to the applications and solutions they are capable of delivering. The multi-dimensional TV on the showroom floor gives their customers an idea of how far ahead they are looking. Yes, they backend their solutions with Azure, but they focus on the customer experience. That’s a major advantage to their sales discussions with LoBs and BDMs.
And indeed it is a small world. As the Infusion team and I talked about their business, we found an old picture that dates back to when I was leading the MS Canada business and we were talking about their business. We just had to recreate it!
Partners in New York were very interested in the significant investment Microsoft has made with unlimited Signature Cloud Support for those who attain one of the new cloud competencies, coming later this month. Partners also gave me some good feedback around FastTrack and that we need to improve the communications on how this program works for customers and for partners. I shared the most current information on the program, which helps them understand the potential opportunity this represents for our cloud partners.
In Dallas, I met with partners large and small, new and long-term, cloud-focused and traditional.
It was interesting to hear the perspective of a cloud-first partner who dropped Google in favor of Microsoft. They gave three reasons:
  • Google apps had a price advantage 2 years ago. Not anymore.
  • Microsoft’s Partner engagement is superior and our partner ecosystem is robust (P2P opportunities). 
  • Product features of Office 365 and the demand in the marketplace.
We carried on the conversation about how a partner-driven, productivity and platform company has a strong value proposition for cloud-first partners. We talked about how cross-sell and up-sell opportunities are unparalleled. This was soon validated by another meeting with partner BrightStarr. They’ve built their own cloud-based intranet solution for customers. Their solution, Unily, is deployed on Office 365 and SharePoint and incorporates Yammer and Lync into one united solution that extends the collaboration and productivity of their customers. Their customers love this complete solution, unique to BrightStarr, and built on top of the Microsoft cloud platform and rich productivity solutions. They follow up this solution with strong post-deployment support. They are also a company that truly believes in the power of leveraging the P2P Microsoft network around the world.
As the week came to a close, I met with the Dallas chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP). They forward the voice and interests of the most active Microsoft partners, and I’m always pleased to talk to them about the future and hear their perspectives about how Microsoft can help them get there. I encourage all of our partners to get involved with the IAMCP Chapter in your local market.
The big take-away for me in this meeting is that it’s absolutely critical Microsoft gives partners more sales and technical training to help them accelerate their early successes in the cloud.
It was a fruitful trip and I’ll share more when I get back on the road again in early October.