Update on the partner ecosystem at Microsoft - Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program

Update on the partner ecosystem at Microsoft

This blog was bylined by Gavriella Schuster in her former role as Microsoft Channel Chief.

Historically around this time of the year, I like to share an update on the state of the partner ecosystem from Microsoft’s One Commercial Partner (OCP) organization. Given the impact and magnitude of the COVID-19 situation, I think now more than ever, it’s important to continue to focus on our path forward. In this vein, you may have seen the information I recently shared on resources and program updates to specifically help partners navigate through the COVID-19 world we are all now operating in.  

The Microsoft partner community is a powerful ecosystem. For decades, it has been and continues to be at the center of how we bring technologies and business transformation to customers in markets around the world. Today, Microsoft partners are playing a critical role helping companies everywhere adjust to a new way of workingThe remote-work, business continuity solutions and services they’re delivering during this global pandemic will be the foundation of workplace productivity moving forward. 

With this in mind, I’d like to share some updates on where we’re going and what we’re doing to help our partners continue to make more possible in the months and years to come. 


We support partners in several ways through our extensive technology portfolio, global reach, training and skill investments, but we are continuing to evolve how we work together in order to maximize the value of their partnership with Microsoft. Here are some of the things we’re working on:

Program updates:

  • Increased learning opportunities: We’re giving partners increased access to training, support and go-to-market services. 
  • Focus on differentiated value: Partners will have more options to differentiate their skills and expertise to customers with new competencies, advanced specializations and through the Azure Expert MSP Program.  
  • Rewarding customer success: Partners are increasingly earning rewards for driving strong results and positive outcomes for their customers, with reward models specifically designed to help build and accelerate growth. 

Enhanced tools:

  • Partner Center: Partners are onboarding this year to Partner Center, which provides a centralized experience for partners and a single place to manage their relationship with Microsoft, their customers and other partners. Streamlining a number of processes into one place makes it easier for partners to do business with Microsoft.
  • On-demand support: We’re working on new ways to give partners quicker and easier access to Microsoft support to help them better solve challenges and meet customer needs.  
  • Evolved co-selling programs: To further support our commitment to shared growth and profitability within ecosystem, partners can access co-selling programs so they can accept and share referrals from Microsoft (first-party solutions) and other partners (third-party solutions).  

These capabilities are just the beginning. They only scratch the surface, as we continue to prioritize investments that support new opportunities to position our partners for growth in the future. 

Investment strategy 

Fueled by the market opportunities we see through tech intensity, digital transformation, and the cloud, we need to continue evolving in order to meet emerging customer needs and expectations. We’re committed to investing in and delivering what partners need to innovate, grow their businesses and deliver on the promise of digital transformation for customers across organizations and industries.  

As we look ahead, here are just a few of the areas for partner opportunity we see:  

  • Teams for modern business: Now more than ever, the ability to connect remotely is vital, whether that be with coworkers, friends or family. Partners have an opportunity to support activation and usage for their customers. We’re seeing adoption and change management partners focus on extensions to further customize to their customers’ business needs.  
  • Tech intensity: Partners have an increasing number of ways they can help meet customers’ emerging needs and expectations. One is supporting their movement toward tech intensity, as organizations move past adopting the latest technologies and develop their own digital capabilities. 
  • Azure migration: The latest versions of Windows Server, SQL Server and Windows Virtual Desktop offer tremendous opportunity for businesses to secure and modernize their workloads. Our partners are in a unique position to help customers migrate to the cloud and unlock the benefits of Azure to transform workloads with the latest data and AI capabilities. 
  • Security: While the cloud has opened the door for a myriad of possibilities, it has also made security a top priority for customers. Security is engineered into our products, but we are counting on partners to help secure the customer’s environment from endpoint to datacenter. 

New offerings 

To ensure our partners have the resources and support necessary to grow their businesses, we are consistently listening to feedback and ideas. This helps inform the investments we’re making and the ways we’re evolving to drive even greater value.  

Below are two offerings we’ve recently launched:   

  • New advanced specialization: Competencies remain important for all partners, but advanced specializations provide the opportunity to further highlight technical scenarios where partners are delivering high quality services and differentiate themselves from the competition. At Inspire 2019, we unveiled five new specializations, and recently added one more to the mix on April 7. The Adoption and Change Management Advanced Specialization allows partners to showcase proven expertise in Adoption and Change Management to drive usage of Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and Yammer. 
  • New Teams Practice Development Playbook: The Teams Practice Development Playbook, launched on April 6, is designed to help partners understand the growth opportunity that Microsoft Teams provides to them as well as to their customers. Topics covered include which areas of Teams to focus on, how to cross-sell, suggestions for approaching governance, and an overview of add-ons and customizations.  

In addition, we’re proud that another one of our partners – Wipro Limited, a leading global information technology consulting and business process company – recently launched a dedicated Microsoft Business Unit (MBU).  Wipro’s new business unit will focus on the development and evangelization of solutions leveraging Microsoft’s enterprise cloud services. Earlier this year, Tata Consultancy Services and HCL announced their own MBUs. 

It’s exciting to see three new MBUs since the start of the fiscal year as it continues to affirm the benefits our partners see when they can dive deep with our solutions. 

Global partner impact 

We know that partners help make more possible. That sentiment rings especially true during the unprecedented times we’re operating in today. Every day I hear stories of partners stepping up to address scientific and business continuity needs related to COVID-19. Here are just a few: 

  • Rescale: Researchers, engineers and scientists are in a race against time, running countless computer simulations to develop test kits and a vaccine. Unfortunately, researchers often face barriers to running large-scale simulations. Rescale, a leader in enterprise big compute, has joined forces with Microsoft Azure and other tech companies to create a new initiative entitled “Tech vs COVID” that immediately offers high performance computing (HPC) resources at no cost to teams working to develop test kits and vaccines for COVID-19.  
  • BlueYonder: COVID-19 is having an enormous impact on global supply chain. There is high demand for medical equipment and supplies, and a shortage of medical parts and products. Through real-time visibility, AI and machine learning, BlueYonder’s data science team is feeding data into its AI-driven Luminate Control Tower platform to help visualize and predict current and future impacts of the coronavirus. The insight is helping governments and companies have better inventory visibility, predict shortages and adapt to the dynamic supply chain challenges. 
  • Velrada: Specially-trained Red Cross volunteers are calling Australians who are currently self-isolating, providing psychological first aid support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with Microsoft partner Velrada and using Dynamics 365 and Power BI, the Red Cross has deployed an easy-to-use platform that lets volunteers work from home as they make the calls and check on an individual’s well-being.  

These incredible stories are a testament to the impact our partners have in “normal” times and extraordinary times like we’re experiencing today. Satya recently noted that, “No one company is going to solve a challenge like this alone…Our unique role as a platform and tools provider allows us to connect the dots, bring together an ecosystem of partners, and enable organizations of all sizes to build the digital capability required to address these challenges.” 

Echoing his sentiment above, as we navigate this unpredictable environment together, I want to assure our partners that Microsoft is committed to working to safeguard business continuity and ensure our ecosystem is set up to reach its full potential. We look forward to continuing to evolve our relationship with all of our partners in the months and years to come. 


  • Microsoft Image
    Former Microsoft Channel Chief

    As a C-level Microsoft executive and thought leader, Gavriella led the global portfolio of channel partners that influenced over $1 trillion in ecosystem revenues. She brought over 20 years of leadership in digital and cloud transformation roles, driving strategy and execution spanning all aspects of business model and product development, launch, marketing, sales and partner development. Until 2021, Gavriella led global recruitment, enablement and engagement of the Microsoft partner ecosystem. As a builder and change agent, she has built and turned around businesses by inspiring a vision for future customer relevance and engaging teams in developing the roadmap.