REDMOND, Wash., March 7, 2005 — With increasing frequency, businesses look to their value added reseller (VAR) or solution provider to deliver a full range of solutions and proven technology expertise to meet their business needs. Independent software vendors (ISVs) have long recognized the opportunity to develop and deliver industry-specific solutions. But in many cases, a customer may require a specific vertical solution that falls outside of an industry partner’s area of expertise. In those cases, industry partners must either find a compatible solution quickly or risk losing the opportunity if they can’t meet the need. Connecting with other skilled Microsoft partners to fill solution gaps in these scenarios is critical.
To better help industry partners meet these challenges and grow their businesses, Microsoft unveiled Partner Channel Builder in 2003 and began hosting a series of structured networking events for partners. To complement these events and expand industry partner’s networking opportunities, Microsoft recently launched the Partner Channel Builder Online Tool as an addition to the Partner Channel Builder program. By combining face-to-face events with online tools, Partner Channel Builder is one of the key sales enablement benefits of the Microsoft Partner Program, helping industry partners connect with one another to form new alliances and deliver the end-to-end solutions that address customers’ business needs.
Microsoft Business Solutions partners who develop solutions for a range of vertical industries have quickly identified the opportunity Partner Channel Builder provides for them to build out their own network, or channel, of partners. Many partners who have taken advantage of the Partner Channel Builder events and online tools say the program helps them drive revenue, accelerate sales, extend the industry partners’ reach into new markets, and draw on the expertise of industry partners in complementary areas of specialization.
“Like Having Your Own Classifieds”
“As a vertically specialized ISV, I don’t sell direct, which makes locating VARs that specializes in the same vertical market essential to my success,” says Julie West, vice president of operations with WennSoft, an independent software vendor (ISV) in New Berlin, Wis. West recently profiled her company’s solution in the Partner Channel Builder Online Tool — the Web-based component of the program introduced in February — and says the tool allows her to more efficiently communicate with value-added resellers. “To find an appropriate VAR in a specific geographic area used to require several phone calls. But this tool makes communications much easier.”
WennSoft specializes in job-cost solutions for organizations in the construction industry, equipment management, and field services and work-order management for multiple industries. With 1,200 customers in 23 countries, efficient communication is critical. West says that although the Partner Channel Builder Online Tool may be new, she can already see its potential for delivering value. “We’ve put all of our data into the tool, and we plan to use it to network,” she says.
West finds the two-way model helpful. “I expect the online tool to greatly simplify and expedite how I gather information about the VARS who we rely on to sell our solutions,” she says. “At the same time, the Partner Channel Builder Online Tool will allow resellers to get better information about our company and our products, which will help them move their sales cycle along more quickly.”
Overall, West says she expects the Partner Channel Builder Online Tool will be beneficial to industry partners throughout the Microsoft channel. “This tool, with its two-way model, is making communications much easier,” she says. “It’s like having your own classifieds.”
Program Developed to Foster Community of Industry Partners
According to senior ISV program manager Chris Olson, there are more than 240,000 industry partners in the Microsoft Partner Program. Partner Channel Builder helps these partners work with the Microsoft partner ecosystem and expand business opportunities with the ability to network with other partners whose services and solutions are most complementary with their own, Olson says.
“We’re focused on providing partners with the tools they need to help drive business opportunities in the verticals of their choice,” Olson says. “Partner Channel Builder is essential to delivering on that goal. Microsoft provides the technology platform for partners to develop the key vertical solution their customers need. Partner Channel Builder gives partners a forum, both with networking events and online tools, to share information, collaborate and promote their offerings and services to other industry partners.”
The Partner Channel Builder Online Tool, Olson says, builds on the program’s overall goals. A global offering available to Microsoft Gold and Certified partners, the online tool can help identify partners based on partner type, their competency area with the Microsoft Partner Program, vertical or horizontal market focus, target market size, and geographic specifications.
“For example, an ISV partner might recognize a market for their solution in a new geographic area but lack the ability to distribute, implement and support it,” says Olson. “The ISV will be able to use the online tool to locate those skills and resources or to promote their requirements so that other partners with the appropriate skills can deliver them.”
Industry Partners Turn to Program to Build Alliances and Drive Revenue
Dwight Dowell, vice president of sales and marketing with Aspect Business Solutions in San Antonio, Tex., recently attended a Partner Channel Builder event. Held in conjunction with a convention for healthcare information and management systems professionals, the event, Dowell says, was an ideal way to learn about what other industry partners are doing.
“The Partner Channel Builder event was just for partners,” he says. “There were about 15 Microsoft industry partners at the event, and each of them had a chance to speak and tell everyone what they were doing.”
Since the event, Dowell has spoken with a number industry partners and recently forged a relationship with another ISV that had already develop a human resources portal to build an offering that will compete with a “major player” in the payroll space. “Obviously, the event was a great networking opportunity for me,” Dowell says.
Building on the Microsoft Navision platform, Dowell is working to combine what each industry partner has developed to create a human resources Intranet portal that covers benefits and payroll issues for midmarket segment businesses. “Working together, we’re figuring out a way to combine our expertise and resources to build a brand new offering that will enable us to expand our offerings in the payroll space,” he says.
Dowell says that Partner Channel Builder is helping his business do just that — build a channel. Aspect Business Solutions, Dowell says, specializes in working with companies that have 100 to 1,500 employees and that typically have two or three systems. Dowell says that his business presents Microsoft Business Solutions-Navision –a single-source solution — as an alternative to running multiple systems. “Aspect Business Solutions is building a sales department, but we’re also building a channel,” he says. “This program, for us, is a whole new channel.”
In addition to the new alliance he’s developed, Dowell has seen networking opportunities start to come in as a result of profiling his companies’ solutions in the Partner Channel Builder online tool. Although the tool has only been available since February, Dowell says he’s already had several partners contact him in order to expand their vertical offerings. “It’s a brilliant strategy,” he says. “And they’ve done a great job overall of helping business partners work together to better serve our respective marketplaces and build our own channels. The Partner Channel Builder program is a great example of Microsoft following through on what it promises.”