MINNEAPOLIS, July 9, 2005 – With an eye toward helping its industry partners expand their businesses and fully leverage the value of the Microsoft brand, Microsoft has made several enhancements to what the company considers its cornerstone for engagement with its worldwide network of partners. From special licensing plans and offers to highly customizable marketing campaigns, Microsoft continues to deliver new resources and build on the foundation of it’s the Microsoft Partner Program, which launched in 2003.
This week, at the annual Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, more than 6,500 of the company’s industry partners have gathered in Minneapolis to learn about investments Microsoft is making in its partner channel, get details on upcoming launches of products and services, attend sessions that demonstrate how these products and services can be customized and extended for a wide range of businesses, gain insight into the vision and strategy driving Microsoft’s overall partner strategy from company executives and see first-hand how other industry partners attending the event are developing solutions and explore opportunities to partner together to capture new business opportunities.
To learn more about the year ahead, the ongoing evolution of the Microsoft Partner Program, and the importance of partners to Microsoft, PressPass spoke with Allison Watson, vice president of worldwide partner sales and marketing with Microsoft.
PressPass: At the Worldwide Partner Conference 2005, Microsoft is announcing several enhancements and improvements to the way it works with its channel of industry partners. Overall, what are the goals?
Allison Watson: Our goal is fairly simple–to provide the best possible partnering experience in a program that encompasses all partners worldwide of all types, specialties and sizes. More importantly, we are committed to providing our partners with the best opportunity in the industry, period. For Microsoft’s fiscal year 2006, which began July 1, we’re deepening investment in the channel in order to help them expand their market share to meet their growth goals. We’re mapping everything we provide to partners in alignment with their business cycle to provide additional value at every stage. My team is working every day. My team is working everyday to offer world class training and resources that dramatically reduce our partners’ cost of doing business, marketing and sales resources and tools to increase and improve customer relationships, and simplified processes for working with Microsoft to provide a friction-free partnering experience.
PressPass: How do the needs of customers correlate with what Microsoft offers its industry partners?
Watson: The correlation is about 100 percent. When a business is preparing to invest in IT, they have high expectations for the partner they work with. Customers want Microsoft partners to offer solutions that meet their business problems. For partners this means they need deep and demonstrated knowledge of the Microsoft platform, the proven ability to deliver, and the skills and operational readiness required for a timely, cost-effective selection and deployment process. Customers also tell us they want a partner who goes beyond the product level and is knowledgeable and can deliver a total solution. That’s very much in keeping with Microsoft’s overall strategy to develop and deliver a new level of integration and interoperability, and our industry partners are key players in that endeavor.
PressPass: What are some of the enhancements being made to the Microsoft Partner Program?
Watson: The Microsoft Partner Program is the cornerstone of engagement for partners who work with Microsoft. The program, launched in 2003, is designed to be evolutionary so that it can change, adapt and grow according to the changing needs of Microsoft’s business partners and their customers. I’m very excited about what I believe are new technology solutions. We’ve introduced new competencies, renamed other competencies to more closely align with the area of business represented by partners working within that competency and new tools and resources to support partners. I’m very excited about the upcoming fiscal year as I believe it signifies a new level of cohesiveness in combining Microsoft’s resources and technology with the incredible depth of industry and solutions expertise from our partner to deliver even more value to customers.
PressPass: What are the new competencies available being offered to Microsoft partners?
Watson: The Solutions Competencies have been tremendously successful as they help our partners clearly define their areas of expertise in a specific solution and specializations and also make it easier for customers to find the expertise they need. The competencies also help Microsoft do a better job of delivering resources and marketing support aligned for the partners that want it. This year, we’re introducing four new competencies:
The Custom Developer Solutions competency will support partners who provide custom-built, value-added solutions that optimize customers’ business capabilities using the Microsoft platform.
The Mobility Solutions competency will support ISVs, system integrators, custom application developers and consultants, and help mobile solutions resellers extend their business models, or, in the case of infrastructure partners, build a mobile component for existing solutions.
The Licensing Solutions competency was developed for partners who specialize in the highly challenging, competitive and complex area of licensing and software asset management solutions.
Finally, the OEM/Hardware Solutions competency is intended for partners that build and promote desktop or server hardware systems and that design and manufacture hardware devices to be used as computer parts, peripherals or accessories.
We’ve also been working with partners on customer segments, which range from small business to Midmarket to enterprise. Additionally, we’ve announced the Small Business Specialist Community: this new competency-like designation, which is available for all partners including registered members, helps them underscore their skills in providing solutions and services tailored to small business customers, be highlighted on Microsoft’s Small Business Center and help customers easily connect with partners with the skills and solutions they need. The Small Business Specialist Community was created to provide easy access to software, training, and resources to help partners meet the needs of small business customers.
Microsoft is also renaming two of the original 11 competencies to better reflect their value and purpose and to offer partners an opportunity for more targeted segmentation. The former Business Intelligence Competency is now the Data Management Solutions Competency, and the former E-Business Solutions Competency is now the Business Process and Integration Competency.
PressPass: What about licensing and financing offerings. What’s new for partners in those areas?
Watson: Having a variety of financing and licensing options gives our customers more choice and helps our business partners differentiate themselves from their competitors. In fiscal year 2006, Microsoft will expand offerings to help customers more flexibly finance their total solution, which includes hardware, services and software. This will help business partners more quickly close more deals by providing streamlined programs through the expanded and enhanced Microsoft Financing, formerly Microsoft Capital. And, beginning in October, the Open Value program will provide customers with simpler licensing to help control costs and manage upgrades.
PressPass: For partners that specialize in products and services offered by Microsoft Business Solutions, what new resources are there this year?
Watson: For Microsoft Business Solutions partners, this is the year of vertical alignment. To meet customer needs and help partners capitalize on the great opportunity our goal is to align 50 percent of existing partners to a vertical solution or service by the end of fiscal year 2006. Driven by that goal, Microsoft Business Solutions will showcase several vertical-specific resources throughout the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2005, including campaigns to help partners increase sales, programs that will reduce the time required for a partner to bring a vertical solution to the market, integration that will tie products and services together to optimize for specific vertical markets, code sharing initiatives, and a certification program that will dramatically increase implementation speed while also reducing the customer’s total cost of ownership.
PressPass: How is Microsoft helping industry partners with sales and marketing support?
Watson: Effective sales and marketing are absolutely among the most critical success factors for Microsoft partners; it’s been a priority for us and I’m really excited about the new offerings. In addition to the current sales and marketing offerings, Microsoft has included a partner call-to-action in print advertising to generate sales and direct customers to partners. To help partners generate demand, we’ve developed highly flexible marketing and sales resources that align with the larger go-to-market (GTM) campaigns, which focus on customer-specific initiatives. The Partner Marketing Center will offer modular GTM and industry focused material in multiple applications, which will make creation and execution of a marketing campaign much simpler and easier. We’re also offering partners an additional way to focus their area of specialization by displaying certification and specialization logos that acknowledge their specific area of expertise.
PressPass: In terms of facilitating collaboration and “partnering with partners,” are there any changes or additions slated for the upcoming year?
Watson: Partners are telling us that 40 percent of their new business opportunities are coming from partnering with other partners. I believe the investment we’re making in collaboration tools like Partner Channel Builder, has the ability to be one of the biggest growth opportunities for partners. Partner Channel Builder is a networking tool designed to create and foster business relationships among Microsoft partners who have complementary skills and expertise. It encourages and supports collaboration among our partners to help them take advantage of new business opportunities, draw on each other’s areas of expertise in order to extend services to existing and new clients.
Enabling partners to work with each other across the Microsoft partner network results in a multiplier effect that creates tremendous opportunity. When you have 250,000 partners who each connect with four other partners, that’s 1 million connections that could lead to new opportunity. Imagine that each connection resulted in two deals; that would be 2 million deals. With 40 million customers worldwide, the opportunity for partners to work together to drive another 2 million incremental deals each year that deliver the innovative and integrated solutions today’s business customers expect from Microsoft and our partners is exciting.
PressPass: Microsoft often references its technology stack and the value of its platform. What do these mean to the company’s industry partners?
Watson: Working with our partners, Microsoft delivers a total solution for customers. Our worldwide network of business partners truly differentiates Microsoft in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace. As we’ve discussed, businesses today expect their technology investment to provide them with the level of integration required to bridge the gap between productivity tools and overall line-of-business software, and Microsoft is committed to empowering its business partners to deliver on that expectation. The overall technology stack Microsoft provides – from the platform to the most specialized and tailored business applications – offers partners unparalleled opportunity to create vertical and value-added solutions that provide a higher level of benefit to customers.
PressPass: What are some of the key product-specific resources that are available to Microsoft partners this year?
Watson: We have a significant wave of product releases scheduled for the next year and a half that gives me absolute confidence in saying that there has never been a better time to be a Microsoft partner. When you look at the next major release of Microsoft Office; the RTC Toolkit, which will be fully integrated with Microsoft Visual Studio; releases of all four Microsoft Business Solutions products and Microsoft CRM, FRx and Microsoft Retail Management System; a second release of Microsoft Small Business Server 2003; an information-worker services offering; release to manufacturing of the Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager, and a Microsoft Windows Server System offer tailored to mid-market businesses, it is an exciting opportunity for partners and great solutions for customers.