REDMOND, Wash., June 21, 2004 — Through a recent series of local events for independent software vendors (ISVs) that included stops here and in 11 other cities around the world, Microsoft continues to work closely with its ISV partners by hitting the road to outline Microsoft’s platform strategy, product road map and enablement programs.
Mark Young, General Manager for ISVs, Developer and Platform Evangelism Group.
During the road show, Microsoft officials met with more than 1,500 ISVs to reinforce the company’s dedication to providing unrivaled technical and business support as well as Microsoft’s mission to deliver the best platform value for ISVs. Microsoft’s strategy for ISVs calls for creation of additional infrastructure for technical and business enablement including program-based engagement aimed at helping partners capitalize on the opportunities in areas of growth, such as the mid-market, to gain a higher degree of success in today’s business environment.
The road show visited Munich, Germany; Paris; London; Tilburg, The Netherlands; Milan, Italy; Sydney, Australia; Bangalore, India; Singapore; Beijing; Boston; and San Francisco.
To learn more about how Microsoft plans to work closely with its network of ISV partners, PressPass spoke with Mark Young , general manager for ISVs, Developer and Platform Evangelism Group at Microsoft.
PressPass: What were the objectives of the road show you just completed?
Mark Young: The main goal of the ISV road show was to acknowledge the tremendous value and reliance that Microsoft places on its ISV partners. As a platform company, we have been working with ISVs for more than two decades. As the industry continues to evolve, we want to be sure we are giving ISV partners the support they need to be successful with the Microsoft platform. The point of the road show was to go out and interact with our ISV partners face-to-face to see how we are doing, receive feedback from our partners that we can use to improve our engagement model, and give ISVs as much information as possible to help them plan for success. The experience really underscored the critical importance of continuous feedback and partnership, which is key to improving the practices we use when working with ISVs.
When we first started planning the ISV road show, our goal was to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities facing ISVs as they set out to build the next generation of business applications on the Microsoft platform. The events gave us a chance to clearly and succinctly outline Microsoft’s platform strategy and product roadmap aimed at helping ISVs achieve a new level of specialization based on the requirements of various industries. Overall, we wanted our ISV partners to walk away from the event with a better understanding of how we can better align our efforts to develop, sell and deploy the next generation of solutions.
PressPass: Based on what you learned during the ISV road show, what are some of the key thoughts that ISVs have about working with Microsoft?
Young: First, I have to say their enthusiasm about the software industry as a whole was amazing. It was infectious and really fueled me and the team for the six weeks we were on the road. More specific to working with Microsoft, I’ve been seeing a shift from ISVs wanting to hear primarily about the development model and platform technology to wanting to hear how we can help them generate customer demand and support with sales and marketing.
ISVs in all the countries we visited told us they’re very pleased with the Microsoft platform and the customer demand generated by proven technologies such as Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Small Business Server 2003, SQL Server 2003 and Office 2003. It was also great to hear that they’re excited about the opportunities made possible by Web services and .NET.
In terms of sales and marketing, there is a sense in the ISV community that the breadth of resources available to them through the Microsoft Partner Program is unrivaled by other platform partners. The feedback was very positive about the direction we’re taking, as well as the efforts we’ve made to improve the partner experience. ISVs also wanted to hear about how Microsoft would support them in sales and marketing even if some of them compete with Microsoft Business Solutions. Many of them said they’re encouraged by the clear roadmap that Microsoft has laid out for them on Microsoft Business Solutions and the additional resources that will be available as Microsoft Business Solutions ISVs become part of the overall Microsoft Partner Program efforts. The reality is that the market opportunity for these products is incredibly fragmented and underserved and while we will compete in some areas we are first and foremost a platform company and remain committed to providing technologies for ISVs to build upon to deliver rich solutions for their customer bases.
PressPass: What does the Microsoft Partner Program offer specific to ISVs?
Young: In October 2003, Microsoft launched the Microsoft Partner Program, a worldwide initiative for all Microsoft partners. The program was designed to provide a simplified, single point of entry for Microsoft’s industry partners and to give them greater access to Microsoft’s resources, benefits and opportunities that align with the types of solutions they want to sell. A key component of the program is the Partner Competencies, which a partner achieves upon meeting a set of criteria required to specialize in certain areas of business. One of those solutions competencies is specifically for ISVs. Much like a certification, achieving that competency gives ISVs a way to differentiate themselves in the market space they serve. Overall, the Microsoft Partner Program was developed to offer all of Microsoft’s partners – including ISVs – a more seamless and efficient way of interacting with Microsoft to achieve their business objectives. We’re continuing to add new program resources and benefits to help ISVs succeed.
PressPass: How does Microsoft make sure ISVs find the right way to engage with the company?
Young: Microsoft has a long history of commitment to its ISV community, over 20 years in fact, but we understand that we can always do better at helping our ISVs more easily engage with us by bringing together the technical and business resources ISVs need to be successful with their customers. The Microsoft Partner Program is designed to simplify and streamline the ISV partner experience. In addition, we have tried to organize programmatic engagement efforts around the concept of the ISV business lifecycle. This means we are trying to tailor our programs to reflect the different stages our ISV partners go through as they build and bring to market their applications and solutions. This business lifecycle is broken down into six phases: Plan, Enable, Create Demand, Sell, Service, and Retain. At each stage of this lifecycle, Microsoft has specific program elements to help ISVs achieve success. Our goal is to help them to grow and evolve their relationship with Microsoft as their business grows and evolves.
PressPass: From a global perspective, based on the road show, what are some of the universal challenges or customer demands that ISVs are facing in the industry?
Young: In general, customers are demanding more value for their software dollars. Many customers previously suffered through long software deployment cycles along with expensive implementation contracts only to recognize modest returns. There is more urgency to get immediate value from software investments than in the past. This creates a need for application vendors to provide solutions that quickly fit within the entire set of their customer’s business processes, including those outside of their domain area. Providing these solutions will inherently accelerate impact and use. We believe there are four fundamental initiatives that ISVs should address to deliver more “out of the box” value. First, they need to be able to connect to what customers have today. The ability to offer solutions that connect to and interoperate with the customer’s existing environment is a sales and deployment challenge that many ISVs face. Closely linked to that ability to interoperate is the opportunity to drive new sets of functionality and even new sets of users from their solution’s increased reach which will lead to incremental revenue from existing customers. ISVs also want to pursue new markets and opportunities, which requires defining a clear path for delivering innovations timed with market demand. Finally, many of our ISVs face challenges related to being able to fulfill customers’ fundamental needs for solutions characterized by simplicity, manageability and security. Security is a top-level concern shared by Microsoft, ISVs and our respective customers, and it’s one that we’re working closely with the ISV community to address.
PressPass: In the marketplace today, there seems to be considerable vendor focus on ISVs. Why should an ISV consider Microsoft as a short- and long-term partner?
Young: As a platform company, Microsoft takes a multi-faceted approach that applies not just technology assets but also other key investments to help cultivate our ISV community. Our approach considers both the long- and short-term challenges facing ISVs, and addresses them through five distinct pillars. The first is the Microsoft platform, which spans development, deployment and information workers. The company’s research and development spending will approach US$7 billion this year, with a focus on broad horizontal technologies upon which ISVs can build applications that drive the most value for customers. The popularity of the Microsoft platform is the second pillar. As the world’s most popular and widely used platform, it gives ISVs the broadest opportunity for selling their applications. The third pillar is the pipeline of platform innovation, which lets ISVs tap into not only today’s platform, but also future product and platform innovations, including Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Visual Studio, Microsoft Windows and the Microsoft Business Framework. ISVs can feel confident that their investments today will carry forward with the innovation in the platform. Fourth, Microsoft empowers and prepares ISVs by offering and continuing to expand the industry’s best ISV technical enablement programs. Finally, the Microsoft Partner Program and Solution Competencies offer ISVs the benefits of the comprehensive Microsoft programs as well as access to 750,000 Microsoft partners worldwide that sell, deploy and support solutions on and around the Microsoft platform.
PressPass: What kinds of challenges are ISVs facing on a regional basis?
Young: At every event during the road show, we asked attendees to name their specific issues and concerns. Some of the more common responses indicate that ISVs share a desire to build a strong distribution channel locally and internationally, deliver quality products that offer a high level of customer satisfaction, better understand customer requirements, achieve greater competitive differentiation, increase sales, establish credibility and strengthen their brand. In response, we want to assure our ISVs that Microsoft is committed to working closely with them through programs, tools and support to address these issues in a way that is beneficial not only to the partners, but to their customers as well.
There were some differences in the issues raised by ISVs based on their locations. Attendees in Beijing, for example, rated building a distribution channel much lower than in Sydney, where it was a top issue for attendees. Not surprisingly, customer satisfaction scored consistently high across regions.
PressPass: What’s in store for Microsoft’s ISV partners over the next year?
Young: Microsoft has adopted an incremental strategy for building what we think is the best partner program in the industry. In keeping with that strategy, we’re constantly investing in additional resources for ISVs. We are excited about some additional benefits we will be rolling out to our ISV partners at the upcoming Worldwide Partner Conference that takes place in Toronto, Ontario this July. These new benefits will reflect much of feedback we’ve gotten during the road show. It’s part of how we’re continuing to refine our approach with ISV partners and striving to engage with them in more ways during the coming year.
PressPass: What is your message to ISVs who could not attend the road show events?
Young: This recent road show was just the first step. We have equipped our partner-focused field forces to continue to deliver elements of the road show presentation in all areas. In addition, we are using feedback from this tour to craft our broad initiatives for ISVs over the next year, including efforts to help ISVs address the needs we collectively outlined on the road show.
I hope that ISVs will continue to engage with us through the Web site (www.microsoft.com/partner) as well as through key events like the road show and the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. Their feedback helps us tremendously in our efforts to improve how we provide platform and business support. And I encourage all ISV partners to attend the Worldwide Partner Conference in July, which will provide news on updates to products and programs as well as opportunities for ISVs to interact with Microsoft and with each other.