This week at Microsoft Inspire, we’ve talked a lot about the what behind business success. Satya talked about what Microsoft is building to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Judson talked about what partners are doing with customers to drive digital transformation around the world and across industries.
I want to focus on the how. How you can get there. How you can turn your great idea into a thriving business.
Your great idea is just the beginning. From there you need to define a sustainable, profitable business model and build a go-to-market plan that gives you customer reach and relevance. Great ideas need great execution to be more than just an academic exercise.
I know for a fact that no single approach will work for every partner. Some partners will focus on building a services practice, some will develop a channel, while others will take a more traditional ISV approach. However, regardless of which business model works for you, I think there are a few common threads to keep in mind. Here’s what I recommend.
Know your customer & your market
Technical expertise can only take you so far. It’s even more important to have a great understanding of the customer’s whole context. As a trusted advisor, you should know what matters to them, what challenges they’re trying to solve, and what innovations are on the horizon for that industry. One partner, Hitachi Consulting, went so far as to hire industry experts who could provide that real-world advice. This domain expertise allows them to bring a truly compelling proposal to their target customers.
Other partners rely on a customer advisory board or connections with local industry groups to build their knowledge of what customers really need. One partner I met with a few months ago even sits on the boards of his local zoo and museum to connect and network with the local business community. It’s partners like him who are building deep connections in their market that go well beyond IT.
Grow your technical skills
It’s not enough to have the vision – you also have to deliver. You need the right people with the technical skills and capabilities to deliver on your vision and overcome the challenges that come with any transformational project. And building that reservoir of talent isn’t a one-time thing. You need to make ongoing training a priority for your business because the pace of innovation is increasing and you need to make sure you’re keeping up.
One way to add expertise is through partnership. Resources like the Microsoft Partner Community, IAMCP, and Dynasource can help identify the right partner for the specific project or need. On top of that, these resources can help grow your business into new markets or new verticals through the power of a combined go-to-market effort. No one organization can be everything to everyone, but you can build an ecosystem of your own with partners whose areas of unique expertise complement yours.
Build repeatable, scalable solutions
Create a delivery and operating model that can scale. One major advantage of cloud technology is the reduced cost of delivery, but if you’re building custom, one-off solutions for every customer, you won’t be able to take advantage of this critical opportunity. Make sure your solution is repeatable, and with each project you deliver, you can reduce your cost of sale, reduce your overhead, and drive up your profitability.
It’s important to remember that you can insert repeatability into anything you do. This isn’t just about putting your packaged app into a marketplace. It’s also developing a practice with a repeatable offer, building a center of excellence around a managed service, or building a channel of your own that can scale your solutions.
Satya spoke Monday about the technology paradigm shift we’re going through right now. Things are changing quickly. Three years ago, I was talking with partners about what cloud technology is. Now, it’s nearly a given that cloud is part of your business plan. Last year, Satya talked about what’s coming next – AI, bots, the internet of things. Today, early adopters of those technologies are already moving onto their next big project.
Next year, we may very well be talking about quantum computing and DNA storage.
That means it is more important than ever to create space in your business for innovation and learning.
In the coming year, I predict that you will see great success, and that you will make mistakes along the way. You and we have to learn from both and think big. This paradigm shift means technology will be embedded into every aspect of a business’s digital COGS – our collective opportunity goes well beyond IT.
We need to think big – together – to take advantage of it.
Take a look at how one partner, Dodo Pizza, is doing just that.
To share your excitement about your big idea, connect with other partners via the Microsoft Partner Community here.