Fueling partner growth and profitability in the era of AI - Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program
Nicole Dezen Chief Partner Officer and Corporate Vice President, Global Partner Solutions
Jul 18,2023

Fueling partner growth and profitability in the era of AI

Three colleagues chat in an office environment

Today at Microsoft Inspire we announced the new Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program, the next generation of our partner program empowering every partner to deliver customer value by leveraging Microsoft AI and the Microsoft Cloud. In this post, I am providing more information on the benefits for our partners as well as the other key investments announced today, including new Solutions Partner designations, expanded ISV Success benefits, and investments in the commercial marketplace. 

Customers’ cloud adoption needs are rapidly evolving. AI is here now, and our partners are already driving innovation and transformation with customers across industries to help them realize the benefits of integrating AI capabilities into every level of their organizations. Through the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program, we’re providing partners with a comprehensive portfolio of investments for all partner business models at every stage of maturity, from startups to independent software vendors (ISVs), services to device partners. 

Understanding the AI opportunity 

Our customers are eager to experience the benefits of AI. In fact, 9 out of 10 leaders believe AI will give their organization a competitive edge. And employees are ready to embrace AI, with 70% saying they would delegate as much work as possible to AI to lessen their workloads. It’s no surprise that Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service is the fastest-growing service in Azure history, with more than 9,500 customers using the service.  In response, we have seen our partner ecosystem rise to meet this demand with 9,100 partners transacting on Azure AI, more than 2,300 of whom have transacted on the Azure OpenAI service. And the day we launched the new Build and Modernize AI Apps with Microsoft Azure specialization, more than 200 partners had already met the prerequisites for the specialization, enabling them to showcase their organization’s expertise to customers and Microsoft sellers. 

Partners who lean into this new economic opportunity are creating value for their customers, for their own company, and for the greater economy of their community or country. Microsoft succeeds when our partners succeed, and we are committed to supporting you along the way. Microsoft AI enables partners to monetize our intellectual property (IP), monetize your own IP, and monetize your services. 

  • Monetize IP: Accelerate time to market, value creation, and market differentiation by building innovative and scalable software and solutions on the leading AI platform. 
  • Monetize services: Enrich your AI services portfolio to empower customer innovation and success on the most comprehensive AI platform & ecosystem. 
  • Monetize value-add services: Reinvent your value-add services portfolio to amplify human ingenuity by partnering with a responsible AI partner. 
  • Monetize the edge: Innovate with AI-enabled partner devices powered by Microsoft AI to empower new consumer, commercial, and education experiences. 

I’m excited to see some of the ways our partners are already benefiting from this:  

“The automated training of machine learning models in Azure was particularly important to us: this makes it possible to create AI models automatically. As a result, we are a lot faster and have cut our development time down from several months to a few weeks.” – Dr. Ioannis Petrakis, IT Principal Key Expert Data Analytics & AI, Siemens IT 

“The next big expansion of our offerings will be to email applications and mobile devices — increasing the overall volume of recommendations by 100X in the next 6 to 12 months.” – Mark Alayev, Chief Executive Officer, Thread 

“We are excited to expand our 20-year partnership with Microsoft to unlock the vast potential of data and AI in this new era. Together, we empower our customers to drive business innovation, gain competitive advantage, and achieve significant ROI at scale through state-of-the-art data solutions and generative AI. With the latest Microsoft Fabric and Open AI technologies, enterprises have a great opportunity to unleash the true value of their data, automating data enrichment processes and harnessing the power of AI to propel their organizations forward.” – Niraj Parihar, Insights & Data CEO, Capgemini 

Introducing the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program 

Moving forward, the capabilities of AI and the Cloud will be integrated and inseparable. Our enriched AI services portfolio empowers partners and customers to innovate on the most interconnected technology ecosystem. 

As Satya Nadella announced today, the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program brings together everything across the entire partner lifecycle, including onboarding, skilling, go-to-market, incentives, and co-selling. Partners get all the value and benefits of the previous program, plus access to new offerings and benefits specific to AI. And there is no action for a partner to take to move to the new program — we’ve moved all our existing partners into the new program effective immediately and partners will maintain their existing benefits and designations. For frequently asked questions about the new program, visit the partner website (Note: FAQ file will download to your computer)

Powering your AI innovation 

One of the investments we made last year with partners who earned Azure specializations was the Azure Migration and Modernization offerings. Our partners led strong momentum in core migration and modernization scenarios, activating thousands of customers.  

Today, we announced a 3x investment to increase the scale and availability of Azure Migrate & Modernize and an all-new Azure Innovate investment. Azure Innovate is a dedicated, incremental $100M investment in response to the incredible demand for Analytics with the announcement of Microsoft Fabric and AI with our Azure OpenAI Service. These offerings are built to work together to address every customer’s end-to-end cloud journey on Azure. Whether partners are migrating to gain a secure and AI-ready foundation, or are ready to build their own copilot — now they have everything they need in one place.  

Other new AI-focused offerings and benefits to help partners adopt this technology to deliver customer success and in their own organization include: 

  • Build your own AI practice leveraging the new AI Transformation Playbook which provides guidance from skilling and innovating, through marketing to selling.  
  • Differentiate your organization’s AI capabilities with a Build and Modernize AI Apps with Microsoft Azure specialization to demonstrate your organization’s deep technical expertise, skills, and demonstrated customer success building intelligent apps across AKS, Cosmos DB, and AI. Specializations also enable partners to unlock co-sell benefits aligned to the solution play. Combined with the six Business Applications specializations launched earlier this year, this brings a total of 31 technical specializations in market. 
  • Tap into key marketing resources, including the new “Era of AI” marketing campaign in a box, and a suite of ready-to-go marketing assets, designed for whether you’re looking for a ready-to share marketing campaign in a box or want to customize your own demand-gen marketing campaign.  
  • Register for the Security Copilot design advisory council, a new way for partners who are interested in building their own solutions and services powered by Security Copilot to engage early with Microsoft. 
  • Accelerate moving customers’ business applications to the cloud so they can take advantage of AI guided productivity with AIM (Accelerate, Innovate, Move) and access a team of migration advisors, expert business value and technology assessments, investment offers, tools and migration support for qualified customers.  

Expanding value for all partners 

In addition to the new AI-specific offerings and benefits, we’re expanding Solutions Partner designations to provide opportunities for additional partners to differentiate their technical capabilities and demonstrate customer success:  

  • Training Services designation for learning partners who are growing the skills and capacity of our channel. This designation differentiates partners who are providing Microsoft training and helping other partners grow their expertise. 
  • ISV designations coming this fiscal year will provide a way for customers to identify proven partner solutions aligned with the Microsoft Cloud and our industry clouds. 
  • Support Services designation coming this fiscal year will provide a way for customers to identify partners with support capabilities and demonstrated customer success aligned to the Microsoft solution areas. Sign up to participate in the public preview of this designation. 

The Microsoft AI Cloud Partner program is the place for all partners to engage with Microsoft. To support our ISV partners further, today we announced the general availability of ISV Success and a new extended benefits package. ISV Success is the pathway for ISV partners within the AI Cloud Partner Program to access product and cloud benefits, demo and sandbox environments, technical consults to build and publish applications, and once published, sales and marketing benefits to help accelerate deals through marketplace. In addition, partners participating in ISV Success will also get access to GitHub Copilot as part of ISV Success benefits at the end of 2023. With GitHub Copilot, ISVs can use an AI pair programmer to spend less time on repetitive code and more time on building innovative applications. 

Additionally, as we recently shared, we’re making new strategic investments in the Microsoft commercial marketplace to help partners expand into new sales channels and markets by harnessing the power of our global reach, expedite deals with a simplified sales process, and unlock sales growth by helping customers maximize their committed cloud investments. In addition, today we also announced availability of multiparty private offers for both ISVs and selling partners, which empower them to work together to sell customized deals through the Microsoft commercial marketplace. 

Industrial metaverse 

We are also bringing the industrial metaverse to the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program. This offering, aligned to Solutions Partner designations, will be available for public preview in early 2024. To learn more about this offering and the curated learning path we’ve created to start your journey, or to sign-up to receive updates, visit the Microsoft partner website. 

For more information on all the news shared in our Inspire keynotes, read the Official Microsoft Blog post or visit the Microsoft Inspire website to join in live or catch up with sessions on demand. Whether you are a startup or a well-established global business, there is an opportunity for every partner to monetize your IP or your services to accelerate customer success through Microsoft AI and Microsoft Cloud. This is an exciting time and I look forward to how we’ll grow together in this space over the coming year.