Microsoft Partner of the Year Winners Announced

Congratulations to all the Microsoft 2019 Partner of the Year Award finalists and winners. These partners have delivered meaningful business results while differentiating themselves within the Microsoft partner ecosystem.

I’m excited to share that Competegy placed 3 Finalists this year (Competegy has helped partners win 10 Microsoft Partner of the Year awards to date).


Winning partners will be recognized at Microsoft Inspire (July 14-18 in Las Vegas). Inspire is a great opportunity to learn about Microsoft’s product and channel strategy, engage Microsoft partner teams, and accelerate your channel. Once again, there is an overlap day with Microsoft’s internal kickoff (“Microsoft Ready”).

The Inspire networking tool should go live next week. Everyone who has opted-in will be able to schedule meetings (and book meeting tables). Use the Inspire connect tool to facilitate new channel partner connections, renew existing partner relationships, and reconnect with Microsoft stakeholders. See the Maximize Microsoft Inspire article for tips on getting the most out of the event.

Maximize Microsoft Inspire

Microsoft Inspire will be held July 14-18, 2019 in Las Vegas. Inspire is a great opportunity to learn about Microsoft’s product and channel strategy, engage Microsoft partner sales teams, and advance your own channel development objectives.

Inspire is also the forum where Microsoft recognizes its most productive partners with awards. Winning a Microsoft Partner of the Year award provides credibility for customer, channel, and Microsoft engagement. Over 2,900 award entries were submitted this year (Competegy clients have won 10 Microsoft Partner of the Year awards).

I’ve attended 12 Inspire/WPC events and have always found them to be the most productive days of the year. Inspire will take you far if you prepare using the suggestions below.

Define Event Objectives

Inspire provides a host of learning and networking opportunities including keynotes, product and marketing sessions, evening receptions, regional lounges, side meetings, scheduled networking, and exhibits. Most valuable of these is the capability to set up 1 on 1 meetings with other attendees. In general, prioritize side meetings because most of the session content is available afterwards.

Recruit New Partners

There are over 40 half-hour meeting slots available and a scheduling tool (MyInspire) to locate and organize meetings with prospective partners (SIs historically represent the largest group of partners attending). If you wish to recruit new partners at Inspire, I recommend the following preparation steps:

  1. Define your target partner criteria based on the MyInspire parameters (including Microsoft competencies, company size, geography, and company type).
  2. Develop your partner prospecting pitch (including projected partner revenue). Consider a short term offer to motivate new partners.
  3. Research potential partners by mining the MyInspire networking tool and correlating with LinkedIn.
  4. Leverage the MyInspire tool to identify individuals to meet, secure meeting space (over 100 tables are provided), and propose meeting times. Contact partners outside of the MyInspire tool if you don’t get a response (MyInspire meeting messages are sometimes lost or ignored).
  5. Document key points during your onsite meeting and follow-up promptly with viable partner prospects after the event.

Exhibiting at Inspire is best if you sell to other partners. If your intent is to partner with other companies, focus your efforts on scheduling MyInspire side meetings.

See the Channel Development Best Practices whitepaper for insight on recruiting channel partners.

Refresh Marketing Plans with Existing Partners

Microsoft budgets and priorities reset July 1 (Microsoft’s new fiscal year) so Inspire is the perfect time to engage partners in context of those Microsoft directives. Meet with your existing partners at Inspire to discuss co-marketing plans and sales-coordination.

  1. Understand your own partner co-marketing objectives, budget, and campaign intentions.
  2. Identify your existing partners attending Inspire (using the MyInspire tool).
  3. Schedule onsite partner meetings to define CYH2 marketing plans.
  4. Understand Microsoft partner strategy and incentives as articulated in Inspire keynotes and sessions.
  5. Meet with partners to outline joint marketing plans.

Grow Microsoft Co-Sell Relationships

Over 4,000 Microsoft employees attend Inspire. Microsoft enterprise sales teams don’t attend Inspire itself so focus your efforts on meeting Microsoft partner roles including Enterprise Channel Managers, Industry Sales Executives, Marketing Managers, and your Partner Development Manager. Seek side meetings with product group speakers that align with your solution. If you are a managed partner, request Microsoft senior executive meetings via your partner manager (those nominations are due before June 1).

Prepare for Microsoft meetings as follows:

  1. Create pithy talking points summarizing your Microsoft fiscal year accomplishments (in context of Microsoft priorities) as well as what you want to achieve in the year to come. Your partner award nomination should be a useful input.
  2. Research relevant Microsoft attendees and schedule side meetings using MyInspire.
  3. Kick off preliminary go-to-market planning (Microsoft budgets won’t be finalized yet).
  4. Seek out and participate in side events including roundtables, meetings, meetups, and parties. Your partner manager can help identify relevant opportunities.
  5. Document meaningful conversations and follow-up.

See the Co-Selling with Microsoft Best Practices and 10 Tips for Partnering with Microsoft whitepapers for insight on maximizing your Microsoft alliance.

Learn About Microsoft Product and Channel Strategy

Use the MyInspire session catalog to determine top priority sessions to attend. Attend only sessions essential to your business (keynotes and select breakouts). Most content is available afterwards as files and/or video, so prioritize onsite meetings and set aside time to review content afterwards.

Engage presenters after their session if they are important to your business. Also look for opportunities to network with Microsoft attendees at side events. There are excellent contacts to be made everywhere at Inspire.

See the Inspire 2018 ISV Insights for key takeaways from last year’s partner conference. See the Microsoft Acronyms for Partners to decode Microsoft jargon.

About MyInspire

Unfortunately, many Microsoft attendees do not opt-in for MyInspire (they need to reserve time for their managed partners and sessions). Request Microsoft meetings well in advance through existing relationships and set meeting requests in Outlook (vs. relying on the MyInspire tool alone). The MyInspire networking app is published mid-June.

Save visits to the Expo for any meetings that fall through. The exhibitor area is typically nearby and serves as good filler for those inevitable schedule gaps.

For both Microsoft and partner meetings, have a defined “offer” in mind that encourages action. Follow-up promptly afterwards where there is partnering potential, summarizing common interests and next steps.

Next Steps

Competegy provides an Inspire Concierge Service for partner recruiting and evangelism at Inspire. Learn more about partnering with Microsoft via the Competegy ISV Strategy Blog and reach out to Larry Gregory to discuss how to optimize your Microsoft managed partner relationship.

 

Microsoft Business Applications ISV Program

Microsoft recently introduced a new program for Business Application ISVs that includes a 10-20% revenue sharing component. The justification for revenue sharing is to ensure high quality applications for Dynamics customers (through app certification) as well as to offset the cost of running ISV applications in Microsoft’s Dynamics tenant. Revenue sharing isn’t new to Salesforce partners but this is a significant departure for Microsoft which has always led with a platform pull-through strategy for ISVs.

Historically Microsoft has encouraged partners to drive usage of their cloud platforms in exchange for account management and sales & marketing support. This landed clearly with Azure ISVs (in January 2017), providing Microsoft field sellers quota recognition for selling Azure-based partner solutions. Note that Microsoft quota recognition is not paid by the Azure ISV partners but rather is factored into Microsoft’s internal quota setting process.

Microsoft announced the intention to extend field co-sell support to Dynamics ISVs at the July 2018 Inspire conference, but it did not roll out broadly due to overly narrow requirements for Dynamics embedded.

The benefits for new Dynamics revenue sharing are similar to what already exists for Azure co-sell ready ISVs (without revenue sharing). At the 10% standard tier, benefits are programmatic and better suited for small partners. The 20% premium tier offers co-sell support plus partner enablement & marketing programs. I am surprised the premium tier doesn’t include explicit marketing funding to justify the revenue share.

AppSource as a marketplace doesn’t produce substantial revenue for most partners. Enterprise customers require POCs for evaluation so are less reliant on a marketplace to make a purchase decision. Leads from “Contact Me” listings are minimal unless the partner spends substantial effort to promote the marketplace listing (instead of direct lead generation).

Salesforce has offered ISV AppExchange for many years and their revenue sharing model is well established. I suspect this new Microsoft approach will be a shock to Dynamics partners who have been championing Microsoft platforms and now feel they are being monetized. This may be status quo, but the initial reaction will be net negative.

The question for partners is whether the ongoing 20% revenue impact is something they can absorb. Another way to think of it is whether Microsoft will drive an incremental 100% company growth over the next 5 years. Partners will need to determine what the sales implications are of being an “uncertified” Dynamics application or if AppSource certification and the corresponding marketing and co-sell benefits warrant the revenue sharing proposition.

Note that some Microsoft partners are both Dynamics and Azure ISVs (they integrate with Dynamics and host on Azure). Those partners may choose to co-sell with Azure and defer co-sell for Dynamics.

The program is set to launch in July. I’m sure we’ll hear more about the program in detail at the Inspire partner conference. Inspire is also a good forum to confer with other partners on their approach.

What’s New for Microsoft 2019 Partner of the Year Awards

Winning a Microsoft Partner Award can help attract new customer prospects, add credibility to existing sales efforts, trigger new partnerships within the Microsoft ecosystem, and accelerate Microsoft Co-Sell collaboration.

The Microsoft Partner of the Year award submission tool is now available. The deadline for all entries is April 11, 2019.

The process of submitting nominations is similar as past years (providing an essay that addresses a series of questions). As usual, award categories have seen some additions and eliminations. New awards categories include:

  • Business Applications
    • Dynamics 365 for Marketing
    • PowerApps
  • Industry
    • Financial Services
    • Retail
    • Automotive
  • Intelligent Cloud
    • Mixed Reality
  • Other
    • Alliance Global ISV
    • Diversity and Inclusion

Award categories eliminated this year include:

  • Business Applications Platform
  • Open Source Data & AI
  • Partner Seller Excellence

Last year a couple awards were not eligible for partner nomination, but Microsoft still recognized a winner. It is good to see the Global ISV award back up for open nomination.

Co-Sell Ready ISVs are specifically eligible for all of the award categories except the following:

  • Intelligent Cloud: Application Innovation, Azure Influencer, OSS on Azure
  • Modern Workplace: Intelligent Communications, Modern Desktop, Project and Portfolio Management, Security and Compliance

Nominations are due April 11, award winners are notified in early June, and Microsoft recognizes the winning partners at the annual Inspire partner conference.

Over 2,600 nominations were received from 115 countries last year, so competition is stiff. Competegy clients have won 10 Microsoft Partner of the Year awards (including 3 of the current winners). If you want to improve your chances of winning an award this year, request a meeting to determine your potential.

The full list of 2019 Microsoft Partner of the Year award categories is as follows:

  • Business Applications
    • Dynamics 365 for Customer Service
    • Dynamics 365 for Field Service
    • Dynamics Finance and Operations
    • Dynamics 365 for Marketing
    • Dynamics 365 for Sales
    • Dynamics 365 for Talent
    • Power BI
    • PowerApps
  • Industry Awards
    • Automotive
    • Education
    • Financial Services
    • Government
    • Health
    • Manufacturing & Resources
    • Media & Communications
    • Microsoft CityNext
    • Retail
  • Intelligent Cloud Awards
    • AI and Machine Learning
    • Application Innovation
    • Azure Influencer
    • Data Analytics
    • Data Estate Modernization
    • Datacenter Migration
    • DevOps
    • Internet of Things
    • Mixed Reality
    • OSS on Azure
    • SAP on Azure
  • Modern Workplace Awards
    • Intelligent Communications
    • Modern Desktop
    • Modern Workplace Transformation
    • Project and Portfolio Management
    • Security and Compliance
    • Teamwork
  • Other Awards
    • Alliance Global ISV
    • Diversity and Inclusion
    • Customer Experience
    • Indirect Provider
    • Learning
    • Partner for Social Impact
  • Country Partner of the Year Awards

Writing Compelling Win Wires

Win wires are partner-confidential summaries of influential customer deals. They serve as a valuable tool in alliance relationships, providing examples of sales success and accelerating joint business development. They apply to any alliance-channel partner relationship but I’ll describe the process in context of Microsoft due to their partner co-sell focus and momentum.

Inventory Your Customer Wins

Begin by considering what recent wins you’ve closed that would appeal to your alliance partner. Look for wins with a meaningful deal size (at least $25K) in enterprise or upper mid-market customers (where Microsoft has account team coverage).

The stories should include a co-sell element, where Microsoft played a role in your sales success. You can produce win wires without that co-sell story line, but it is much better to showcase how you are working together as a team.

You will want to represent all the industries that you play in. Align with Microsoft industry terminology as appropriate (Government, Education, Healthcare, Financial Services, Manufacturing, Retail, Media, and Automotive).

Also seek stories to represent each region where you have a local sales presence. For example, Microsoft US is organized as Northwest, Southwest, North Central, South Central, Great Lakes, Northeast, New York, and Southeast.

Lastly, consider how you are showcasing each of your top product or service offerings. Plug the data into a spreadsheet and you can keep track of how well you are representing product wins across Microsoft industry and regional stakeholders.

Develop the Story

Microsoft provides an online form for globally managed partners to submit win wires, but every managed partner should generate win wires on their own. These can be in a Word or PowerPoint format. PowerPoint is easier for inclusion in Microsoft-facing presentations.

The ingredients for a win wire are below, but key to a successful outcome is using a “Microsoft voice”: write succinctly in terms that resonate with Microsoft teams.

Summarize the customer situation

In a couple sentences, represent the customer industry, size, and offerings. Company LinkedIn profiles and About Us website pages are good sources for this information.

Represent the customer problem that triggered their search for a solution. Align with Microsoft solution map terminology when describing the scenario. Be sure to highlight any competitive products that represented a customer concern. Microsoft likes competitive displacement stories.

Describe the sales process

Where did the lead originate from? This is an opportunity to showcase your marketing engine. Also identify if the lead was sourced by Microsoft (a behavior you want to encourage).

Who did you compete against? If it is a competitor that uses a non-Microsoft platform, be sure to call that out. If the competition is with another Microsoft partner, decide if you have a regular pattern of winning against that partner and want to show that you are the better Microsoft co-sell partner in your space.

What was required to win? Describe the sales process including if an RFP response or pilot/POC was required. If your end to end sales cycle is less than 6 months, be sure to call that out as it shows Microsoft sellers can invest in the co-sell relationship midstream in their fiscal year and still realize the quota recognition benefit in that year’s sales incentive check.

What other partners were involved? Demonstrate your ability to scale through channel partners. Microsoft wants partners to work together (a core purpose of the Microsoft Partner Network).

Why were you selected by the customer? This is a chance to tout your unique product features, superior sales process, and/or deep Microsoft technology integration.

How did Microsoft help advance the deal? Identify if Microsoft sourced the lead, helped overcome customer technical objections, provided strategic insight into the customer needs, or otherwise championed you to the customer.

What insights or best practices can you highlight? Microsoft is a learning organization so if there is a bit of insight to share on how you worked with Microsoft or other partners, be sure to surface it.

Who from Microsoft was involved? Identify the roles that helped you on the co-sell journey (e.g., ECM, AE, ATS, SSP, TSP, ISE – see the Microsoft Acronyms for Partners if needed). Recognize (by name) those Microsoft people that were influential.

Represent the customer benefits

What benefits were realized by the customer? Quantitative results are better than “improved productivity” types of statements. It is okay to represent forecasted $ savings or % improvements. Most projects should have some kind of expected return or benefit (revisit the customer problem statement if unclear).

If possible, include a customer satisfaction statement as a quote. This can be difficult for confidential win wires, but Microsoft loves to see evidence of customer satisfaction.

Define the Microsoft co-sell benefit

Quantify the value to the Microsoft. You can easily represent Azure pull-through if you are a co-sell partner. You can further highlight expected actual Azure consumption if your solution runs in the customer’s Azure subscription. If you are a SaaS provider, you can represent the Azure consumption the customer represents to you internally.

Add the finishing touches

Create a compelling headline for the win wire that uses Microsoft terminology (e.g. from industry or solution maps) and include a footer that highlights the document as confidential.

Taking Action

The initial win wire draft can be formed from an internal CRM record and/or email summary. You then need about 15 minutes with the internal seller to validate the story and fill in the gaps. Lastly, run the draft win wire by the Microsoft account team so they can identify things they did to advance the sale. Internal sellers tend not to make note of Microsoft co-sell contributions, but this is an important part of the story and helps raise your profile with the Microsoft account team.

Once you’ve gathered all the feedback, use the resulting win wire in Microsoft-internal meetings to evangelize the success of co-selling with your company. Also ask your partner manager (PDM or PMA) to socialize the win wire internally within Microsoft. Post win wires in OCP Catalog for further Microsoft discovery.

Writing win wires sometimes doesn’t get the attention it deserves because it requires in-depth knowledge of Microsoft priorities and terminology. Competegy offloads this task with win wire writing services. Contact Competegy to learn more.

Co-Selling with Microsoft Best Practices – FY19

Microsoft rolled out significant new co-sell incentives in 2017 along with the “One Commercial Partner” organization . These changes aligned Microsoft internal sales incentives with those partners driving significant Microsoft cloud revenue.This whitepaper provides insight into effectively leveraging Microsoft’s ISV co-sell resources (revised for Microsoft’s 2019 fiscal year). In particular, it addresses how to align with Microsoft initiatives, grow your partnership with Microsoft, and engage in productive co-marketing and co-selling activities.

Complete the following form to access this document:

Microsoft Inspire 2018 ISV Insights

Microsoft recently hosted over 18,000 attendees at the 2018 Inspire partner conference. Inspire was hosted in Las Vegas and featured an overlap day with Microsoft’s internal kickoff (“Microsoft Ready”). As usual, it was a well-executed event with amazing networking and side meeting opportunities. Registration is now open for Inspire 2019 (price goes up $300 July 27) which will again be held in Las Vegas.

Most of the Inspire 2018 session content is available online. I recommend copying the PDFs locally for easy reference and watching relevant sessions you missed from the MyInspire video library.Microsoft Inspire 2018

Last year the recurring message was about digital transformation. That is still an underlying theme, with the enabling approach being articulated as Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge. Microsoft sees IoT and edge computing as enabling tremendous Microsoft and partner revenue potential in the years to come. “Microsoft Hosting” and “Windows Embedded” has come a long way since the 2000s. 🙂

Programs

In 2012, Microsoft eliminated the ISV Competency and directed ISV partners to the Application Development Competency. I’m pleased to see the ISV Competency has returned for FY19. Note that Microsoft is requiring AppSource or Azure Marketplace listing as a Competency and co-sell prerequisite going forward. ISV partners should assess the relative value of the ISV Competency as compared to the “cloud competencies” (Cloud Platform, Cloud Productivity, Cloud Business Apps, Cloud CRM), which are eligible for Microsoft incentives.

MPN Competency benefits will be aligned with Microsoft’s 4 solution areas: Modern Workplace, Apps and Infrastructure, Data and AI, and Business Applications. Benefits will be structured as Core, Earned, and Paid (by the partner). Expect these changes to roll out later in 2018.

Advanced Specializations will be introduced for some competencies. They afford a way to differentiate on specific solution areas within a competency.

Microsoft is also creating a new program for ISVs newly entering the Microsoft partner ecosystem (ISV Starter Kit instead of the Action Pack).

Managed ISV Co-Sell

Microsoft had great success with the IP Co-Sell initiative in FY18 so they’ve extended the Microsoft field seller Azure quota offset for co-sell ready partners into FY19. Enterprise Channel Managers remain the primary “sell-with” role for partners.

Microsoft has expanded the co-sell credit program to Dynamics 365 embedded ISVs. The corresponding ISV Cloud Embed program requires publishing to the AppSource catalog, customer references, CSP direct enrollment, and co-sell target commitments.

Microsoft is expanding their industry focus in the Enterprise, with Automotive and Media & Communications getting added to the existing industry priorities (Education, Financial Services, Government, Health, Manufacturing, and Retail). Industry Sales Executives are the primary sell-with role for vertical accounts.

Microsoft will continue to invest in co-marketing and proof of concept (ECIF) funding. Submit a Go-To-Market plan to request co-marketing funds before they are fully allocated. ECIF funding is dependent upon the Azure pull-through potential (it generally requires a 20:1 return).

Top actions post-Inspire include defining your GTM and Territory Partner Plan, engage ISV Co-Sell Days, and potentially participate in Digital Transformation Academy.

See the updated Microsoft Acronyms document, revised based on the new terms used at Inspire 2018.

What’s New for Inspire Networking

Microsoft has released the “MyInspire Connections tool” which allows you connect with existing partners, potential partners, and Microsoft staff at the upcoming Inspire partner conference. This article summarizes what is new in the tool and how to use it effectively.

Microsoft’s partner conference is very efficient for organizing onsite meetings, saving travel costs and providing opportunities to connect with people you may not have a chance to meet otherwise.

As part of the conference, Microsoft provides the MyInspire Connections tool to identify attendees who have opted-in for networking. Over 10K attendees are visible now and a couple thousand more will appear in the coming weeks. You can search by name, company or a variety of attributes from attendee profiles including competencies (not verified by Microsoft), industry focus, business type, and customer segment.You identify people you want to meet, have a table assigned (or specify your own location), and the recipient will receive an email that they can accept (or ignore). Once accepted, a meeting request will be placed on your calendar. Note: the description you use in your invitation will appear in the body of the meeting request.

There are 41 half-hour spots available to book meetings Monday through Wednesday, plus 4 slots during the Welcome Reception on Sunday. The networking area isn’t available on Thursday (the departure day). Networking tables are conveniently located in the Mandalay Bay convention center. Meetings not accepted within 2 weeks get deleted (so tables are freed up for other meetings).

Microsoft’s internal sales kickoff meeting (Microsoft Ready) overlaps with Inspire this year. Microsoft staff who have opted into the MyInspire Connections tool will be available to meet Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday afternoon (although Wednesday afternoon is the most likely time they will be available). You’ll be able to meet partner roles throughout the conference so focus your Wednesday time on account and specialist team connections. This year, Microsoft employees are a separate search filter, allowing you to distinguish between partner, corporate, and field employees.

Messages can now include hyperlinks and Windows 10 emoticons (press Windows key and period key). However, the number of sent messages is limited (20 messages every 24 hours once they fix a bug). This limit is meant to deter spam and encourage wider use.

Unfortunately, messages and invitations still look like spam in email because all line breaks are stripped out. Craft your message carefully so it is compelling when all jammed together. This is a known bug and may get fixed.

Searching by business type was easier last year (ISV, Reseller, MSP, etc.). This year, there is a lot more choices (over 60). Understand the taxonomy hierarchy by reviewing your own user profile so you search by the exact partner type you are looking for (e.g., “Systems Integration” instead of “Services”).

Two critical search criteria were removed this year: Country and Company size. For example, if you are looking for a mid-sized services partner in Canada, you’ve got over 4,000 people to review. Microsoft is working to add Country back as a search filter (should be resolved this week) and I’ve requested Company Size return as well.

In sum, there are a few bugs but with less than 4 weeks until the conference now is the time to start organizing your Inspire meetings. If you have a large partner recruiting effort, stage your messages over several days (due to the message send limitations). Note that Competegy provides an “Inspire Concierge Service” which helps companies recruit partners and maximize their Microsoft connections at Inspire.

Microsoft 2018 Partner of the Year Award Winners

See the full list of Microsoft 2018 Partner of the Year Award finalists and winners at the Inspire website – including 3 Competegy clients. In total, Competegy clients have won 10 Microsoft Partner of the Year awards!

Winning partners will be recognized at Microsoft Inspire (July 15-19 in Las Vegas). Inspire is a great opportunity to learn about Microsoft’s product and channel strategy, engage Microsoft partner teams, and advance your own channel development objectives. This year there is overlap with Microsoft’s internal kickoff (“Microsoft Ready”), affording the additional opportunity to connect with Microsoft account teams.

The Inspire networking tool is slated to go live June 13. Everyone who has opted-in will be able to schedule meetings (with assigned meeting tables). The Inspire directory is the only effective tool Microsoft provides for partner-to-partner search (since Pinpoint was deprecated years ago), so use Inspire to identify new channel partners and renew existing partner relationships (in addition to your Microsoft meetings).

I’ll update my Maximize Microsoft Inspire article once the new networking tool goes live. Note that I’m offering my “Inspire Concierge Service” again this year, which helps companies maximize their value from Inspire.

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