Dan Truax General Manager, Partner Digital Experiences and Programs

The essential role of partners: serving our customers better, together

Partners in video call

Organizations worldwide are in a constant state of digital evolution, and as customers continue their transformation journey, they are steadily decreasing their reliance of on-premises software and increasing their use of cloud services. Our partners play a vital role in helping customers migrate to the cloud, and they also assist Microsoft with scaling our technology to meet these ever-changing customer needs. 

Our engagement framework (see graphic below) shows the different levels of customer engagement. It’s very important that we make the most of these engagements—and each one of these areas often requires multiple touchpoints with the customer, which means Microsoft partners add enormous value throughout. Let’s explore the four phases of the framework and the critical role partners play during each. 

Advise 

When you advise customers, you help them envision new solutions and validate opportunities for digital transformation. You also engage with the organization’s executives, often working with the board and CEO to help them establish a clear vision for the future.  

There are many opportunities for partners to provide advisory services for customers. For example, an Azure partner could help their customer conduct a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) assessment of cloud migration to better understand the potential cost savings of migrating workloads to Azure. 

Before Microsoft partner Olikka helped its customer Joval Wine Group with migrating to Azure, the team assessed Joval’s current environment. Olikka identified which workloads and apps were the best fit for the cloud and which should move over first. As part of the process, it also determined several servers could be repurposed or shut down, trimming Joval’s server fleet by two-thirds and dropping infrastructure costs by about 40 percent. 

Sell 

Once an opportunity emerges you move with your customer into the sell stage, where you focus on nurturing the opportunity, making a deal, transacting and providing value-add services to support the deal. If we use security as an example, we’ve found it works best when partners do a security assessment with the customer. This provides an opportunity to assist them with growing new skills, and it helps the Chief Security Officer (CSO), or equivalent, and their teams understand Microsoft security solutions, which can open additional opportunities to upsell and co-sell to that customer. 

A leading provider of medical services and product hired Microsoft partner Project Hosts to assist with improving security and compliance while developing its new global home health monitoring solution. Since the Healthcare Compliant Security Envelope on Azure solution from Project Hosts extends HITRUST certification to the PaaS and SaaS levels by design, the company could offer a turnkey solution that cut the typical investment of time and resources associated with design, implementation, documentation, and auditing required for full regulatory compliance. This resulted in Project Hosts securing and transacting the deal. 

Build 

As you move into the build phase, you’ll shift gears to building a new solution in tandem with the customer. Partners will often help with: 

  • Bringing in Windows devices and services that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have built to enable modern experiences. 
  • Leveraging your tech intensity to create new IP solutions to meet customer needs. 
  • Connecting various technologies together. 
  • Integrating and deploying the solution into the customer’s operations.
  • Extending the value of the solution throughout the customer's business.

Let’s use Microsoft Teams as an example. You can build custom solutions on top with your own IP, and show customers how they can use and integrate Teams throughout every part of their business. To do so, you might use Power Apps to build new solutions, you could drive an adoption plan, or perhaps you would work with the customer to build a business case and a consumption plan.  

Microsoft partner Valto worked with the City of London to help modernize the city’s garden management. It designed an easy-to-use, scalable, and secure Microsoft Power App solution that they completed in just three weeks, then it helped the City of London pilot and release it successfully. 

Manage 

Last, you and your customer enter the manage stage. At this point you’ll primarily be responsible for offering value-added services to the customer as they rollout the solution: 

  • Providing support to the customer. 
  • Onboarding new users and new servers. 
  • Helping the customer truly adopt and use the technology solution. 

If we use Azure as an example, during this phase you can help the customer manage, optimize, and operate their environment. You’ll likely help them with deployment and usage to increase ongoing consumption, and you might supplement with cost optimization or change management. 

Microsoft partner TwinThread implemented its Azure Machine Learning-powered Predictive Operations Center for its customer Toray Plastics. Toray uses the Predictive Operations Center to pull data from disparate sources, monitor more than 400 measures of line stability, and predict the potential causes of line instability and film breaks. The process has boosted uptime to higher than 90 percent—up from the mid-80’s—and is saving Toray hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

As I shared previously, we are currently transforming our commerce experience to deliver a better platform for our customers and our partners and to provide a consistent and simplified purchase experience with greater flexibility around how and where customers buy. A key consideration in the new commerce experience is to ensure we’re putting customer needs first, and so we’re distinguishing between large accounts and small and medium accounts, as these customers typically have different requirements.  

  • Large accounts: Often multinational accounts with multiple affiliates and multi-tenant requirements. The primary purchasing motion is the enterprise motion, where offers, experiences and economics are optimized for eligible customers with complex needs including large corporate, enterprise and public sector organizations. Partners play a key role in this motion, particularly with building, consulting, and advising our customers. 
  • Small and medium accounts: Tend to have more need for partners’ IT expertise and managed services, and they typically have fewer purchasing and deployment decision-makers. The primary purchasing motion is the breadth motion and customers are serviced primarily by partners in the Cloud Solution Provider program. Partners own the end-to-end customer relationship and have control over pricing, partner-provided support, and service delivery. 
  • Self-service: Representing customers of all sizes, large and small, individuals or individual departments. In these cases, the individuals procuring the technology know exactly what they want and how they intend to try or buy the service. Purchases are made online via a web portal or through an assisted self-service motion. Partners can provide added value on specific workloads or other advisory services.  

Customers of any size have a choice of who they engage to provide technology services and how they chose to contract those services. Partners have significant opportunities across all different sized customer accounts, but their roles differ based on customer needs and expectations.  

Regardless of size or category, all partners in the Microsoft ecosystem are laser-focused on the customer and are essential to meeting the needs of our customers as they progress through their digital transformation journey. The personalized support and guidance you provide in each stage of the customer engagement framework makes a world of difference for customers, opening a major opportunity for partners to become even more involved with this process.

I want to thank you for your ongoing partnership. I’m always so inspired to see the impact you have on our customers and communities across the world, and I look forward to seeing what else we can accomplish as we work together.