Q&A: People Ready: Microsoft Opens Worldwide Partner Conference 2006

BOSTON, July 11, 2006 – Microsoft today opened the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2006 by showcasing how innovative software and services scheduled for delivery to customers over the next 18 months will facilitate unprecedented business opportunity and profitability for industry partners. The conference, Microsoft’s annual event for its industry partners from around the world, includes three days of keynote presentations delivered by Microsoft executives and industry experts, product- and service-specific sessions, and opportunities for structured and unstructured networking with other Microsoft partners and Microsoft team members. There are approximately 7,000 partners attending.

To learn more about Microsoft’s vision and strategy for partnerships, the shift to solutions and services that are role-based and people-ready, and the wave of innovation Microsoft and its worldwide network of partners are introducing, PressPass spoke with Allison Watson, corporate vice president, Worldwide Partner Group, who recently celebrated her four-year anniversary leading the Microsoft Partner Program.

PressPass: What is Microsoft’s vision for partnering?

Allison Watson, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group

Allison Watson: Microsoft is committed to continued investment in the partner program with partner profitability as the focus. We believe that any partner of any type can, by partnering with Microsoft, extend their market reach, reduce costs, increase profitability, and deliver innovative solutions that help customers realize their full business potential.

Worldwide, Microsoft currently has more than 380,000 partners across 14 competencies, which are designations that recognize a partner’s areas of expertise and make it easy for customers to identify and connect with the partner most suited to their needs. The engine that fuels the partnerships, and the center of Microsoft’s vision for partnering, is the Microsoft Partner Program, which we’ve made considerable investments in over the last few years. The program is the company-wide, foundational approach to partnering. Our strategy for the new fiscal year is a continuation of prior years as we align the company under one partner strategy and partner promise, with tailored sales models based on customer roles. We’re sharpening our focus on investing in the partner velocity platform, tools, and guides to drive profitability against industry validated key performance indicators.

PressPass: What’s the market currently look like for partners?

Watson: Today’s businesses expect technology to work in a way that that reflects how they work. In that spirit, Microsoft has articulated its vision for people-ready software and services, which is a long-term and natural extension of our original version of unlocking the power of individuals with software. To empower our partners to bring solutions and services to market that meet the expectations of today’s businesses, we’re sharpening our focus on software that delivers in six key areas: supporting teamwork, fostering compliance, facilitating insights, providing a high degree of information visibility, helping people work at any time from any location, and enabling process excellence. To make sure that partners can take full advantage of the upcoming wave of innovation that Microsoft is delivering, we are creating what we call a people-ready channel. We’re doing this by focusing on vertical industries, rolling out a new set of customer campaigns centered on people imperatives, formalizing partner networks, and focusing on skill investments to address the growing skills shortage in marketplaces.

PressPass: How is Microsoft’s vision creating opportunities for partners?

Watson: Over the past three years, Microsoft has invested more than US$20 billion in research and development, the result of which is an unprecedented wave of innovative technology currently in the pipeline. Microsoft offerings that are currently on the market or will be very shortly include Microsoft Live Communications Server, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live, Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006, Microsoft SQL Server 2005, Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, Microsoft Windows Server 2003 R2, Microsoft Windows Mobile, Microsoft Office 2007, Microsoft Windows Vista, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, and Microsoft Windows Server System. With over 40 million small businesses and 1.5 million enterprises in the world and IT spending on the rise, there are tremendous opportunities for partners.

PressPass: How is Microsoft engaging with partners?

Watson: All engagement with partners is streamlined through the Microsoft Partner Program and our more than 4,000 worldwide partner sales professionals. Microsoft invests to support partner’s business drivers broadly with tools and resources for planning, enabling, acquiring new customers, selling and retention. We’re introducing Customer Campaigns to help our partners bring solutions and services to market that are tailored to the needs of business decision makers, IT decision makers, and the owners and managers of small businesses. To help partners make the most of those campaigns, we’re offering a variety of sales training that aligns with the campaigns. We’re helping them increase marketing skills through courses such as Marketing 101. We’re piloting online advisory services that partners can use as they put together their marketing plans. We are investing heavily in technical skills through Partner Skills Plus. Finally, we’re introducing the “Demo Showcase for People-Ready Business,” a sales tool that lets partners customize demonstrations to fit the needs and business role of the customer they’re demonstrating for, integrating the full stack of current Microsoft software and servers. Partners who have participated in the pilot have told us that they’re very pleased with the demo because it’s based on real data, so real-life processes can be demonstrated with a role-based approach. These assets coupled with profitability best practices and great business planning is a winning combination.

PressPass: How is Microsoft helping its ISV partners, in particular, prepare for the upcoming wave of innovation?

Watson: Through the next wave of innovation, Microsoft is creating unprecedented market opportunity for ISVs. Specifically for ISVs, in the ISV Competency and Empower for ISVs program, we’re making investments for them to deliver their own innovation leadership. We’ve engaged with ISVs early in our product development lifecycle through the TAP, Ascend, and Touchdown programs inside the Microsoft Partner Program, self-service resources including the Partner Learning Center and Innovation Center scale for thousands of ISVs, which helps them start to work with our software early on and realize a return on their investment much more quickly. Because of the ISV involvement in these programs, customers worldwide will have more applications available at product launch than ever before. Our goal is to increase profits for ISVs via new customers while lowering the overall total cost of a sale. We’re increasing our ISV co-marketing investment, helping ISVs increase their marketing skills, and increasing field resources. We deliver a way for ISVs to build their sales channel with resources such as the Partner Channel Builder Update, and the Partner-to-Partner workbook. For ISVs to reach globally the International ISV Portal will assist partners select the right markets, and get started quickly.

PressPass: What would you say to someone who is considering becoming a Microsoft partner?

Watson: The synergies throughout the partner ecosystem make this an ideal time to have a partnership with Microsoft. On the Microsoft side, there have never been more truly innovative solutions and services on the horizon. The investments we’ve made over the past few years are coming to fruition in a way that will lead to more opportunities for partners. And, on the partner side, we’re investing to build businesses, hone expertise, and support an environment of innovation. Microsoft’s success and the success of partners is one and the same. Working closely together, and learning from one another, I am confident that we will deliver on and exceed the expectations of our mutual customers.

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