Top Takeaways from Microsoft WPC 2016

I recently returned from a familiar 2 week tour: Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (Microsoft WPC) and Microsoft Global Exchange (MGX). This was my 10th WPC (and 21st MGX)!

WPC remains the most productive event of the year. I was managing 5 company calendars this year so it required some juggling. I didn’t get to the 280+ sessions at WPC onsite, but did review most of the content afterwards.

Worldwide Partner Conference

Consistent Vision

Microsoft is great at attaching product objectives to a customer-ready vision and cascading that down to team objectives and campaigns. As was the case last year, the 3 overarching “ambitions” are:

  • Build the intelligent cloud platform
  • Create more personal computing
  • Reinvent productivity & business processes

4 customer scenarios are affiliated with these pillars:

  • Engage your customers
  • Empower your employees
  • Optimize your operations
  • Transform your Products

Consider aligning your messaging with these themes to better integrate with Microsoft’s marketing engine for the year to come.

Microsoft FY17 Priorities

Microsoft sales and marketing objectives align with the 3 company ambitions. Consider which objectives explicitly align with ISVs:

  • Build the Intelligent Cloud encompasses Azure consumption, Enterprise Mobility Suite, SQL Server, Microsoft hybrid cloud technologies, and co-selling with marketplace ISVs.
  • Create More Personal Computing is less about software partners, dealing with Windows 10 deployment OEM/Surface sales.
  • Reinvent Productivity and Business Processes is focused on Office 365 and Dynamics 365 and relevant if you provide migration or other Office 365 enabling technologies.

ISV Sales Resources

Microsoft’s field operating model (EPG, Public Sector, SMSP, DX, M&O) hasn’t changed but ISV co-selling resources have increased, including ISV-aligned Partner Sales Executives (PSE) and Cloud Solution Architects (CSA). This year, ISVs with a co-sell status will receive explicit leads from field sellers. ISVs must have a VM solution in the Azure Marketplace and have significant Microsoft cloud pull-through to participate.

Microsoft AppSource is a new directory targeting business users. AppSource enables trial of Azure SaaS solutions (not IaaS VMs as in the case of Azure Marketplace). Unlike Azure Marketplace, Office Store, and Windows Store, the ISV actually receives the customer lead information from AppSource trials.

Enterprise Sales Alignment

Microsoft enterprise sales teams are measured on both new cloud contracts and consuming existing customer cloud contracts. Therefore, they are motivated to work with ISVs that help consume Azure resources from enterprise agreements (or drive net new Office 365 usage). High Potential (Hipo) accounts (enterprise customers representing the greatest Azure consumption potential) will have Cloud Solution Architect and Principal Solution Specialist (PSS) resources allocated to them. These are good stakeholders for Azure ISVs to know.

Interestingly, the DX organization (where ISVs are managed within Microsoft) is motivated to drive ISV SaaS solutions (because it is easier to measure their direct Azure consumption). This doesn’t match up with the field sales motivation to use VM IaaS solutions in Azure Marketplace. Note however, there is a manual “dual credit” solution to recognize ISV Azure SaaS solutions that are sold into the enterprise.

US Changes

In the US, 2 more districts (MidAmerica out of St. Louis and Financial Services in New York) have been carved out, making 15 US EPG districts total. This means new ATU and STU teams are spinning up in those areas. Other industry roles are coming back to the US market including manufacturing and retail. An additional 2 Microsoft Technology Center locations are being brought online (San Francisco and Seattle) but will be directed by the product groups, not the sales organization this year.

Where to focus

If you are a committed Microsoft ISV, take the following steps to effectively partner with Microsoft in FY17:

  • Understand Microsoft priorities and sales incentives
  • Map your solutions to their priorities and quantify your value-add (particularly in terms of Azure consumption and/or Office 365 pull-through)
  • Engage the right Microsoft stakeholders with the right message (pithy and targeted)
  • Leverage SI/VAR partners to scale your selling efforts (Microsoft doesn’t want to overwhelm your capacity to execute)

In sum, you’ll want to demonstrate how you’re driving net new Azure, Office 365, or Dynamics 365 adoption to attract meaningful Microsoft co-selling and co-marketing support. Ensure your alliance management efforts are closely aligned with your sales and channel teams so leads are pursued efficiently (and you maintain preferred partner status with Microsoft).

Microsoft WPC 2015 – ISV Insights

The Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference is an intense few days of sessions, side meetings, and networking. With proper preparation, it is a highly productive way to 1) understand Microsoft strategy & incentives, 2) nurture existing partnerships, and 3) explore new partner relationships. Attendees who registered for WPC Connect can access the whopping 301 sessions of content from https://connect.digitalwpc.com. Note that the keynotes are only available as videos from DigitalWPC.

WPC2015

Microsoft WPC 2015 Themes

Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO) set the stage on the first day keynote, describing the high-level priorities for the year to come as: 1) reinvent productivity and business process, 2) build the intelligent cloud platform, and 3) create more personal computing. Office 365, Microsoft Azure, and Windows 10 bubble up as top Microsoft priorities.

There was more sizzle to the keynotes this year with an eye-popping HoloLens demo as well as compelling demos of Windows 10 and Cortana Analytics Suite (voice navigation with Power BI). Cortana will be a key feature of Windows 10 and Microsoft committed to delivering Windows 10-powered Lumia phones.

What is a “Modern Partner”?

Microsoft paid special attention to the profitability of cloud partners, with multiple breakout sessions describing how delivering cloud services and solutions improves partner company valuation. “Modern partners” where referenced as those with >50% of their business from cloud offerings. Four business models were represented, with increasing profitability as they align with cloud delivery:

  1. Product (Traditional ISVs) – tough to get more than 20% in reseller margin and ISVs themselves facing competition from more nimble cloud ISVs
  2. Project Services (SIs) – have higher margin structure (on the order of 35%) but there’s a hard limit to growth based on employee availability
  3. Managed Services (MSPs) – structurally you can achieve a higher level of gross margin (closer to 45%)
  4. Packaged IP (Cloud ISV) – achieve even higher profit scale because developing once and selling multiple times results in low incremental/variable cost

Program Updates

Microsoft has expanded the Cloud Solution Provider program (for MSPs) to include Azure, CRM Online, and Enterprise Mobility Suite (in addition to Office 365). This will address SMB well, but Enterprise Agreements (from LSPs) are the more likely Microsoft cloud purchase option for enterprise organizations. As an ISV, you’ll have more SIs interested in cloud/Managed Service Provider licensing given Microsoft’s incentives.

Office 365 gets a new enterprise SKU (E5) which will include cloud PBX, analytics, Power BI, and advanced security. If you provide Office 365-integrated products, this represents another wave of sell-in by Microsoft resellers (and an expanded market for your offerings).

Product News

In product news, SharePoint gets new life with SharePoint 2016, Azure gets an IoT Suite, and Cortana Analytics Suite makes a play for voice-navigated Power BI. HoloLens will blow your mind, and Windows 10 will be more familiar and broadly accepted than Windows 8.

With Windows 10 being provided to most users for free and delivered as a service, app builder ISVs will have a more consistent platform to target (using the “universal Windows platform”). Microsoft expects to have 1 billion devices running Windows 10 by 2018. This broad penetration should reduce ISV development and support costs as you won’t have to test and support as many Windows platforms.

ISV Business Development

Microsoft is boosting its go-to-market support for Cloud ISVs and increasing cloud incentives across partner types. Microsoft programmatic marketing and enablement support for ISVs continues into FY16 while sales support for managed ISVs is still getting worked out (roughly entails drawing from a pool of business development managers via the assigned Partner Business Evangelist).

Key Takeaway

Time is running out for traditional ISVs. Microsoft is in year 6 or 7 of shifting its ecosystem to the cloud and has gotten sophisticated in explaining how its cloud offerings translate as financial value to partners. While cloud consumption cost and marketplace transaction fees need to be carefully weighed, the inevitability of cloud as a preferred IT platform is upon us. Leverage the profitability guidance and marketing support from Microsoft to make the transition as smooth as possible and tap into services partners that are seeking to grow from traditional consulting services into managed service providers through third partner ISV products.

Microsoft Partner Scorecard

Are you getting the most from your Microsoft partnership?  Following is a checklist to score your Microsoft partnership productivity.

Microsoft partnering resources replenish July 1 (for the new fiscal year), so rate in context of your activities since June of last year. For partner scorecard areas you don’t rate as well, consider where better alignment with Microsoft can yield material revenue results and adjust accordingly.Microsoft Partner ScorecardNote: this scorecard is designed for ISVs selling to enterprise customers (not B2C or SMB-targeted solutions).

Category/Score

1

3

5

Strategic Alliance

Managed Partner Status Unmanaged Tele-Managed Managed
DX BDM Assignment None Unnamed Identified
MPN Competency Status None 1 Gold Multiple Gold
Attend Worldwide Partner Conference No Yes, >10 meetings Yes, 10+ meetings
Invited to ISU/District Kickoffs No 1 Event Multiple Events
MSFT Advisory Council Participation None Invited Active Participant
MSFT-Internal Webcast (e.g. Academy) None 1 Event Multiple Events

Marketing Resources

MSFT Marketing Funds Received 0 <$10K $10K+
MSFT Sponsors Your Events None 1 Event Multiple Events
MSFT Integration at Industry Events None <3 Events 3+ Events
Joint Events – Customer Facing None <5 Events 5+ Events
You Sponsor MSFT Industry Events None <3 Events 3+ Events
Case Study Written by MSFT None 1 Published Multiple Published
Social Networking/Advertising Support None Single channel Multiple channels
Online video None Video you promote Video MSFT promotes
Joint Events – Partner Facing None <3 Events 3+ Events

Sales Collaboration

Customer Campaign Led by MSFT None 1 Geo Multiple geos
Customer Campaign Supported by MSFT None 1 Geo Multiple geos
Sell-To MSFT Reference Win None Can Reference Reference + Marketing
EPG Account Team Support None <5 AE/TS engaged 5+ AE/TS engaged
SSP/PSE Sales Support None Yes, <5 engaged Yes, 5+ engaged

Product and Customer Support

Development (BIF) Funds Received None <$25K $25K+
Microsoft Consulting Support No Recommended Supported
Pre-Sales Technical Support None <3 Customers 3+ Customers

How did you score?

If you scored over 70 you’re in good shape. You are probably a managed ISV tapping into of much of what Microsoft has to offer.  Add a weighting column to represent relative value and focus on high value activities that you aren’t taking full advantage of.

If you didn’t score as well, you may not align with Microsoft’s top priorities (cloud and mobile) or perhaps aren’t investing enough in alliance management and marketing.  Consider which activities represent the highest ROI and pursue those more aggressively.

Contact Competegy if you would like a formatted version of the Microsoft Partner Scorecard.

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Microsoft is Listening

This month The Microsoft ISV Networking Group has grown significantly, passing the 1,400 member mark. We have had quality discussions on cloud strategy, channel management, royalty programs, and even wearable technologies. I’m pleased to report that ISV stakeholders from Microsoft are actively engaged in the conversations.

 

Microsoft is listening

Microsoft has requested group input on their partner segmentation model and partner marketing.

  • Microsoft has evolved their ISV ecosystem thinking to include all forms of “app builders”. This includes B2C (e.g. mobile apps) and corporate IT development (for internal or customer use), in addition to the traditional ISV space (selling software to companies and public sector).
  • Microsoft provides a host of partner benefits as part of Microsoft Partner Network enrollment and are looking for ways to provide additional marketing value to ISVs. The initial group feedback has been centered on providing access to customer lists and joint webinars.

Microsoft has 2 planning cycles during the year. May-June is the annual cycle which defines fiscal year strategy (and budgets). Partners get exposed to these priorities at the Worldwide Partner Conference (held every July). A comprehensive mid-year review occurs each December, resulting in execution and budget adjustments in January.

Your input into the segmentation and marketing questions above could shift Microsoft priorities in 2015. Cloud remains Microsoft’s primary focus for the current fiscal year: ISV suggestions that perpetuate Azure consumption and Office365 sales will garner more attention and investment from Microsoft. See the Top Takeaways from Microsoft WPC 2014 for more detail on Microsoft FY15 priorities.

I invite you to join the cloud, mobile and channel strategy conversation yourself at the Microsoft ISV Networking Group.

 

How to Sell with Microsoft – Microsoft Alliance Optimization

Microsoft Corporate Customer SegmentsIf you partner with Microsoft (or other platform vendors), you are likely enrolled in their partner program and receive self-serve marketing and support benefits, but tapping into their customer sales teams can be elusive. Your mission (as a channel executive or Microsoft alliance manager) is to leverage Microsoft’s thousands of long-term customer relationship managers to shorten your sales cycle and drive tangible revenue results.

 

Have Realistic Expectations

Microsoft has over 600,000 partners, each of which would love to sell through Microsoft. Don’t expect partner program or managed partner status to result in a stream of leads – those are table stakes for being able to engage the Microsoft field. Align with Microsoft fiscal year priorities and differentiate versus competitors to cut through the noise and win your place at the customer table. This takes an ongoing investment in product development, sales & marketing coordination, and alliance management. Microsoft partner program (MPN) participation is implied, but more important is your managed partner status. You could align with the Enterprise Group, Mid-Market Team, Product Group, and other field or corporate teams. As a managed partner, you’ll be expected to report your pipeline and wins on a regular basis. Leverage that reporting effort to solicit joint selling support from Microsoft.

Optimizing your Microsoft Alliance Efforts

1. Establish Credibility

Represent your firm as a well-established, substantial business so Microsoft account teams won’t worry about you failing and upsetting their customer. Things that can add to your credibility include Microsoft managed partner status, significant annual revenue, gold “competencies” in Microsoft’s partner program, top-shelf SI partners, and unique innovation that has been validated by industry experts and customers. You’ll also want to develop relationships with Microsoft people who will attest internally to your value as a partner. This all helps to shorten the validation process for each new Microsoft person engaged. Educating Microsoft sales teams can be very time consuming so develop a pithy, Microsoft-relevant pitch deck (based on their scorecard priorities) to shorten that onboarding and get you to customer conversations more quickly. Avoid talking about how you use Microsoft-competitive products as part of your solutions (as well as for internal operations). Tell just enough about your solution so Microsoft people understand the customer value and how your offering is unique. Alignment for Microsoft’s FY15 (which ends June 30, 2015) is mostly about cloud (Azure and Office 365/PowerBI) and Windows (Surface devices, Windows Phones). Much of the Microsoft field is compensated on both traditional and cloud products but the growth expectations and quota accelerators are depending upon achieving cloud targets. You will get the broadest Microsoft support if you drive significant cloud consumption.

2. Engage Efficiently

Companies centralize the alliance management role so Microsoft interaction is consistent and efficient, but you should still educate your field sellers on Microsoft teams and motivations so peer-to-peer connections are productive. Test your “to-Microsoft” messaging with a trusted Microsoft contact before using more broadly with the field organization. Note that Microsoft segments its field sellers into enterprise (companies with over 1,000 employees = the Enterprise and Partner Group) and mid-market (organizations with < 1,000 employees = Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partners or SMSP). In addition, public sector organizations (government, defense, healthcare, education) are managed in a separate organization. Microsoft teams and tactics will vary somewhat, depending on which segment the customer falls in. Relevant Microsoft teams for your solution may include: sales (Solution Specialists, Account Executives, Partner Sales Executives), product groups (Product Managers), Technology Centers (Technical Directors), and marketing (Marketing Managers). Understand how the different teams and roles are motivated then test for alignment and sales support. Some roles tend to serve as gates (Account Executives) and some serve as accelerators (e.g., Partner Sales Executives). Engaging a Microsoft sales team should center on your value-add to the customer and Microsoft (in terms of pull-through Microsoft revenue and cloud consumption). Once you have established your relevance to the Microsoft team, review customer initiatives, budget availability, and key stakeholders for specific customers. While it can be useful to meet Microsoft people and build up your company reputation, getting to the customer is the real value. Avoid bringing a long list of customer opportunities to the table – build up confidence with 1 or 2 first and then parlay that success to other customer opportunities.

3. Actively Manage the Marketing to Sales Process

Incent your field sales organization to collaborate with Microsoft by enlisting active sponsorship from your Sales VP and continually monitor Microsoft-related pipeline opportunities. Integrate your CRM leads into this pipeline so you can represent qualified opportunities when engaging Microsoft (and hold your sellers accountable for lead follow-up and pipeline development). Do not bring unqualified or cold leads to Microsoft, asking for an introduction. I recommend piloting the Microsoft joint selling effort with 1-2 specific districts, chosen based on the experience and maturity of your field teams and proximity to your HQ resources. Leverage Microsoft to accelerate lead generation (through online marketing, events, and proactive proposals) and unblock later stage opportunities (particularly where a Microsoft technology is involved). Alliance management should include facilitating these joint marketing activities through to tracking sales outcomes (pipeline management). If you are a managed partner, document joint marketing investments and sales results expectations — setting these early will encourage clear collaboration toward goals over the course of their fiscal year and provide the basis for your “conditions of satisfaction”. Hot Tip: Generate Microsoft sales productivity faster with a Microsoft expert at your side. 🙂

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Top Takeaways from Microsoft WPC 2014

This month 16,000 people descended on Washington DC for Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference (Microsoft WPC). This is my 8th WPC and it is always interesting to see how the company repositions itself and its partners for their new fiscal year.

Microsoft WPC 2014

I attended numerous keynotes, meetings, and networking events onsite and even reviewed the 250+ slide decks. Their overarching objective was to align partners with Microsoft’s “cloud first, mobile first” world view. This is a slight shift from the “services and devices” theme from last year and gets more specific about Microsoft priorities: Office 365 and Azure cloud consumption and Windows 8 device deployment.

Office 365 has had a truly amazing run (Microsoft’s fastest growing product and $1B+ in revenue), especially considering the desktop suite was considered to be reaching maturity just a few years ago. Microsoft has activated an army of partners that sell Office 365 and extend it with deployment, project services, managed services, and packaged IP. Microsoft and IDC assert that having a smoother, more predictable revenue flow based on Office 365 recurring revenue results in higher company valuations (relative to the unpredictability of project-based consulting). One of the key WPC messages was to manage renewals (leveraging Microsoft notification tools) to keep that recurring revenue stream flowing.

Azure has been Microsoft’s cloud platform play for the past 6 years (initially announced at PDC 2008) and driving consumption is a top priority for Microsoft. This includes expanding Azure into new customer scenarios and encouraging corporate customers to utilize Azure subscriptions attached to their Enterprise Agreements.

New cloud innovations were showcased at WPC for predictive modeling (Azure ML) and tapping into the Internet of Things (IoT) momentum (Azure ISS). By 2020, IoT is forecasted to encompass 26B devices, creating large quantities of data & generating >$300B in revenue for IoT suppliers. There is clear alignment with Microsoft’s goal of providing the world’s IT infrastructure.

Microsoft’s key cloud differentiation for corporate IT includes having a common management UI, identity management, and virtualization model across private, public, and hybrid cloud implementations. Windows Server 2003 End-of-Support represents a catalyst for partners to move customers to private and hybrid cloud implementations on Hyper-V. VMware and Amazon better watch out because Microsoft’s all-encompassing, “better together” strategy has proven to work many times before.

The partner program is evolving to encourage and recognize Microsoft partners skilled with cloud solutions. A new Cloud Platform “competency” was defined to acknowledge partners with Azure platform skills. Server Platform and Management & Virtualization competencies merge to become the Datacenter competency. In addition, cloud licensing has been extended to the midmarket channel by offering it as part of the Open (SMB) licensing offerings.

There wasn’t the same level of demo sizzle this year partly because many innovations are under in the form of cloud infrastructure and Cortana isn’t ready for broad exposure. The crowd favorite was a live demo featuring Skype language translation: an English and German speaker were having a conversation in their native languages while Skype provided the real-time audio conversion. Big Data, Enterprise Social, and Mobility & Devices were the other key themes represented at this year’s WPC. There was also plenty of Dynamics sessions.

All in all, it was an efficient networking event and a great platform for Microsoft to consolidate its FY15 messaging and activate their partner ecosystem. If you work in the Microsoft partner ecosystem, it is important to review WPC messaging so your marketing, sales, and development efforts are aligned. See “Microsoft Partnership” in the ISV Strategy Blog tag cloud for more tips on working with Microsoft.

Congratulations to ICONICS (a Competegy client) for winning a Microsoft Partner of the Year award at WPC this year. Microsoft WPC will be in Orlando, FL next year and they’ve already opened registration. Perhaps I’ll see you there!

 

Recruiting Partners at Microsoft WPC

Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (Microsoft WPC) is a unique industry event, bringing 14,000 attendees together for the most efficient partner networking forum of the year. There’s value in understanding new Microsoft initiatives and resources, but those announcements and materials are available online after the event, so I recommend prioritizing partner networking opportunities onsite.

WPC is coming up soon (July 13-17). Now is the time to resolve your partner strategy, determine the partners you need, and begin your recruiting efforts. By preparing in advance, you can generate new, high-value partnerships as well as reinforce existing partner relationships during your time at WPC.

Microsoft WPC 2014

Identify Partner Portfolio Gaps

Weigh your partner needs (SI, reseller, ISV) in context of the product/service revenue they could drive. Recruiting partners takes effort so conduct this analysis up-front to determine what characteristics you seek, such as experience with specific technologies and workloads (“Competencies” in Microsoft parlance), company size, customer segment, and geographic coverage.

Define Partner Qualification Criteria

If you have a formal partner program, it is easier to scale your partner ecosystem because you have defined partner criteria and programs to land them in (see the Capacity Planning function of the Partner Mapping tool). If you’re a smaller company, consider the marginal cost of managing and supporting incremental partners. Assess expected revenue influence to determine minimum “partner productivity” criteria. This criteria might include customer referrals, marketing capacity, and revenue commitments.

Research and Engage Target Partners

Leverage Pinpoint, LinkedIn, WPC Connect, your CRM, and personal connections to identify qualified partner prospects. The intent is to test for interest before attending WPC so you can focus your on-site energies on those prospects with the greatest potential. Test and refine your messaging before reaching out broadly.

Evangelize Partners at Microsoft WPC

The WPC structured networking facilities have limitations (e.g., unable to search by geography), but is still the most efficient forum for engaging prospective partners. I don’t recommend using the meeting scheduling tool as the primary mechanism for initiating meetings. Instead, test for interest separately and schedule onsite meetings using the WPC Meeting Scheduler once you’ve determined there is interest. Don’t be surprised if a good number fall through due to last minute conflicts. Having the separate communications thread helps with follow-up.

If you’re efficient with your time and prioritize partner meetings over some sessions, you should be able to organize 40+ meetings. This doesn’t include the hallway conversations (remember the Surface purchase line last year?), exhibitor discussions, or the evening events. Attending will probably cost you $3,500-$4,000 depending on T&E so be sure to make the most of your experience by planning and executing your partner recruitment efforts early, before attendee schedules and the networking space is booked up.

Top 10 ISV Strategy Articles

As we start the New Year, I thought I’d highlight the top 10 ISV Strategy Blog articles from 2013.  Here they are, organized by Alliance Management, Partner Strategy, Partnering with Microsoft, and Cloud Computing.

Top 10 ISV Strategy Articles

Alliance Management – I spend most of my time helping companies develop and get the most out of their partner alliances.  These articles describe how to plan, assess, prioritize, and recruit key partners.

1. Strategic Alliances Assessment
2. Capacity Planning
3. Go-To-Market Solution Maps
4. Recruiting Technology Partners
 

Partner Strategy – In 2013, I built a software tool to supplement my Partner Strategy consulting work.  This tool (Partner Mapping) provides a framework for valuing a company’s partner ecosystem, plan for new partner recruiting needs, and prioritize managed partners.  It also triggered the 2013 Tech Company to Watch recognition by the Connecticut Technology Council.

5. Announcing… Partner Mapping
6. Partner Mapping Insights
 

Partnering with Microsoft – Having spent so many years leading Microsoft partner teams as well as managing Microsoft alliances on behalf of partners, I’ve developed a solid understanding of how to efficiently engage Microsoft sales and marketing resources.  Highlights for this year included a productive visit to the Redmond campus and attending the Worldwide Partner Conference.

7. Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference Key Themes
8. 10 Tips to Winning a Microsoft Partner Award
 

Cloud Computing – My top LinkedIn endorsement is for Cloud Computing (which is interesting since I have never held a technical cloud role).  However, I have managed numerous people and projects for driving cloud partner adoption, so that expertise has bubbled to the top in a sort of Wisdom of Crowds effect.

 9.  Cloud Operational Cost Factors
10. Cloud Platform Building Blocks
 

Far and away my most popular download is the Partner Strategy Framework E-Book, followed by the Partner Marketing Evidence Model, 10 Tips for Partnering with Microsoft, and 5 Steps to Implement an Effective Cloud Partner Strategy.

It has been a personally and professionally rewarding year.  I hope your 2014 is as well!

Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2013 Key Themes

If your business is dependent upon Microsoft’s product strategy and partners, attending the annual Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference is a must.  It is an efficient vehicle to connect with partners and gain insight into Microsoft’s priorities. This year 14,000 partners and Microsoft employees convened in Houston, TX to connect, align, and plan for the coming year.

Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference

Microsoft’s focus on “Devices and Services” reflects a simplification in their partnering message.  DPE (Developer and Platform Evangelism – the primary Microsoft organization managing ISVs) is laser focused on driving applications and services.  Their mission is to provide “Get-To-Market” support for apps in the Windows Store and Windows Azure.  “Go-To-Market” ISV support sits with Microsoft specialist and industry teams focused on the enterprise.

By focusing on Devices and Services, Microsoft is leveraging their competitive strength of having a common (modern) UI across phone, tablet, PC, and TVs.  This enables them to compete better with Apple in tablets and phones (where security and enterprise integration isn’t as strong) and Google (whose Android user experience isn’t as consistent). Their Services mission centers on Windows Azure and Office 365.  Both are billion dollar businesses now, with real traction.

Microsoft’s competitive advantage in the cloud is around hybrid cloud scenarios: they are in a unique position to offer public and private cloud solutions and announced further efforts to provide consistency between the two (the Azure Pack provides a Azure UI for private cloud provisioning).  This hybrid message enables Microsoft to differentiate themselves from Amazon, Google, VMWare, and other cloud competitors who focus on either public cloud or private cloud solutions.

The implication for ISVs is that you need to drive significant Windows 8 device deployment and/or consumption of Microsoft cloud services to warrant Microsoft sales & marketing attention.  Note that cloud is serving as an effective annuity engine for Microsoft so it cares less about what is running in it (gone is the .NET vs. Open Source jihad).

Microsoft identified 4 megatrends: cloud, mobility, social, and big data.  These provide customer scenarios for their varied product groups as well as context for their recent internal reorganization into 4 product divisions: Devices, Applications and Services, Cloud and Enterprise, and Operating Systems.

My favorite WPC ISV breakout sessions were the cloud business model and SaaS pricing strategies sessions.  Cloud is still a significant shift for many ISVs: Microsoft is encouraging this transition through education (e.g., the IDC cloud partner study), program changes (a new cloud track for Microsoft Partner Network competencies), and incentives (including a new 20% discount on Azure consumption for Gold Application Development partners).

The best part of WPC is engaging other partners and Microsoft stakeholders.  You can review selected highlights and the supporting social network feeds at DigitalWPC.

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