Enterprise Partner Strategy Sets the Stage for Success

REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 5, 2007 – One of Microsoft’s biggest strengths in the marketplace over the past 25 years has been its broad and vibrant partner ecosystem. The company enjoys one of the largest partner channels in the industry, with thousands of partners worldwide deploying millions of IT, marketing, and sales professionals that carry Microsoft’s products to market.

Peter Boit, Vice President, Enterprise Partner Sales, Microsoft

The company also enjoys one of the best reputations in the industry for its partner programs, thanks in large part to its Enterprise & Partner Group (EPG). EPG continually works with partners to evaluate the effectiveness of the company’s partner engagements, and how to improve its programs to help partners grow, evolve, and address new opportunities and challenges.

Last year, Peter Boit stepped into the team’s lead enterprise partner sales role as vice president, Enterprise Partner Sales, at Microsoft. Boit has accelerated the team’s emphasis and commitment to build stronger partner alignment, deeper engagement, joint planning, and worked to implement a new road map to guide the group into what is expected to be record growth in enterprise software over the next few years, as Microsoft’s suite of enterprise products and the “software + services” paradigm begins to take off.

This week PressPass spoke with Boit about his first year on the job and his plans for the future.

PressPass: What is the state of Microsoft’s partner ecosystem? What kind of population are we talking about, and how do you differentiate them?

Boit: There are more than 400,000 partners in the Microsoft ecosystem. We have about 8,000 managed partners in the enterprise that have a partner account manager that works with them to build a joint partner business plan. Then we have approximately 90 alliances that we differentiate from managed partners because of their scale. We align with alliance partners more deeply and broadly. We commit with them on a broader set of solutions, and we’re able to engage with them across more customer types and geographies.

PressPass: How does Microsoft’s overall approach help partners in the enterprise group become more successful?

Boit: We sharply focus on the impact that people can have on business outcomes. The two things that we think are unique to Microsoft are that we deliver outstanding productivity on a personal level, and also outstanding value at a role-based level. That’s ultimately how people will see software delivering more value because it’s got to be unique to their role in the company, whether it’s a finance role, sales, marketing, human resources, or something else, and it has to allow them to uniquely execute what they need to do to be successful in their role. Moreover, our infrastructure products enable IT to provide capabilities in a secure, scalable and manageable environment, and we provide developers with the best environment and tools to deliver great applications and user experience.

The role for our partners in this landscape is to deliver the underlying value proposition of our infrastructure, productivity and development platform to the marketplace with much deeper impact. Customers get the benefit of the expertise of our partners and the specialized capabilities of their solutions working with our software to meet their unique needs.

PressPass: What are the main areas of opportunity for partners in the coming years, and how can they take advantage of that?

Boit: We’re really focused on three main areas of enterprise opportunity. The first is business applications, enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and other related areas. The second is the platform, having the tools and products associated with helping developers and IT create the best applications, whether they’re custom built or other packaged applications that ride on top of our platform. And the last is infrastructure, both in terms of business productivity across the enterprise, as well as our core infrastructure products such as Windows Server, and systems management and security technologies.

To give you a sense of the opportunity for our partners, we expect to grow at a faster rate than the estimated market rates in these respective areas over the next 10 years.

For partners, taking advantage of this landscape really comes down to being specific on the solution they want to drive into the marketplace, whether it’s oriented around infrastructure or around a line of business, and finding ways to create new value that differentiates them from their competition.

PressPass: How does the enterprise engagement model help partners deliver that value to the marketplace?

Boit: There are three core business processes – Alignment, Commitment and Engagement.

Deeper alignment is the result of dynamic discussions we have with the partner that often span over a year. It leads to a joint Partner Business Plan that is a living roadmap on how we ultimately will achieve joint success. Inside that plan is something very important that we call “Conditions of Satisfaction” — the things that will lead to high satisfaction for the partner. Our people are challenged to meet those every day.

The second is commitment. It’s not enough to have a Partner Business Plan. You have to be focused on what each party will do around driving a very specific solution. That’s where we get specific on the wins, the revenue, and the marketing and readiness investment we’ll each contribute — the levers of success for the goals that we have together. We call that a Partner Solution Plan. We do that because if you don’t sit down and actually codify this, then it’s not real.

The last is engagement. We have two ways to engage. One is at an account level and the other is on specific opportunities. Approximately 70 percent of the way we engage with partners today is based on opportunity. We want to do more at an account level, because that helps us align quite deeply and get a greater understanding of the customer’s requirements across multiple aspects of their business.

And then outside of those processes, we continually review our own performance. Did we do we said we were going to do? What’s working well or not working well? Then we figure out how to do it better the next time. We build regular pipeline and quarterly reviews into our business cycle to ensure accountability in execution. It is a commitment to our partners to continually grow stronger programs to support them.

PressPass: How does that feedback form your overall strategy?

Boit: Customers are looking for greater ability to mobilize their assets to be more competitive. Their number one asset is people. They want to know how to unlock the potential of their people, and software will do that. We believe we have the best value proposition–in terms of infrastructure, productivity, application development and our partner ecosystem–to give people the tools that will have the greatest impact on their business success.

And when you talk to our partners, they believe that too. But how do we accomplish that together? What’s the approach that will help them understand where Microsoft is going long term, so they can be a part of it and grow their business with us? How do we build a road map that is sequential and action-oriented over that period of time, to help them take advantage of the huge opportunity in IT? The program has to be predicable, consistent and transparent. We have to be very clear on what we’ll do and what they’ll do, and there has to be accountability.

PressPass: What has changed over the past year as you’ve been in this new role?

Boit: We have implemented a more structured joint business planning and review process with our partners. And we have a series of scorecards that look at both an individual level and a macro level to tell us if we’re on track.

As a company, we have released a set of products and technologies that map exceptionally well to what customers are trying to do, and we think that creates a huge business opportunity for partners. For example, with collaboration–customers are trying to figure out how to mobilize their work force to work together better. They need the software tools that enable them to strategically and reactively take advantage of their own business opportunities. We think we’ve got the best set of products and technologies to enable them to do that.

The Office System server suite offers a huge advancement here, because of what it does, and because it can be utilized across the enterprise and managed with a strong IT discipline. Any time you provision technology to be utilized across the enterprise, there is a huge opportunity for partners to implement and sell their solutions for it. And we’ve seen that in the marketplace, our SharePoint and the Office System are a couple of the hottest products out there right now.

The biggest thing that has happened this past year is that we as a company have created a tremendous amount of opportunity in the marketplace. What my team has done specifically is to put a repeatable and measurable approach in place that allows us to work with partners strategically and tactically to take advantage of that business opportunity.

PressPass: What has changed industry wide? What should partners be addressing to meet those changes?

Boit: Partners today need to be more specialized. They can’t be all things to all customers. The competitive landscape offers more opportunity for them to focus on evolving solutions and services towards a specific scenario to stand apart from competitors, whether it’s role-based for a specific function in an organization, or specific to a particular vertical. They can take advantage of the horizontal capabilities that we have in our platform, and then use their specific domain expertise to develop a specialized solution. We think that provides customers with a unique value proposition and competitive advantage too.

There’s also going to be an inflection in the industry on how customers consume the experience of software. Our approach is software + services, meaning that you provide software that’s local and takes advantage of the software experience delivered as a service.

PressPass: What’s the greatest compliment you could hear from an enterprise partner?

Boit: That they are growing their business better by being part of the Microsoft partner program. Whatever their aspirations are–whether for revenue or profit or specific growth goals–if they believe they have the highest chance of success by being aligned with Microsoft, then we are doing the right things. And at the end of the day that’s going to translate into customer value and customer success.

PressPass: What can you say about your plans moving forward?

Boit: It’s a competitive environment out there. The best channel will win, and we have to push ourselves very hard to reach even greater heights of satisfaction. Over the past year, we’ve really laid the foundation that will allow us to evolve and adapt to help our partners be successful over time. I believe that if we execute together, with partners, on our core principles, that we can both be successful as the marketplace evolves.

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