REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 14, 2008 – Security is a topic that is always top of mind for businesses, and an issue that doesn’t lend itself to one-size-fits all solutions. Finding smart, cost-effective ways to ensure that corporate data is kept secure, and applications designed to do business with partners and customers are effective, private and safe are key to many company’s success. As such, companies often turn to specialist security partners for assistance to find the right way to address issues.
The Microsoft Forefront family of security products has been designed to provide an integrated, comprehensive and simplified way to address the myriad security issues for businesses. Microsoft has worked with industry partners to help bring these solutions to customers, and works closely to ensure the product line addresses key security concerns for customers, from the deepest levels of security for applications to the network edge.
Along with evolving its product line, Microsoft has also been working to develop its business relationship with these industry partners that are so critical to the success of its security products. In July of 2007, Microsoft announced a US$50 million investment in support for its security business based on the Forefront line of security solutions – including enhancements to its partner programs. The investment is part of Microsoft’s effort to respond to the changing security environment where customers are finding it difficult to efficiently deploy and manage a multiplicity of security solutions.
Today, Microsoft announced a series of initiatives designed to further aid channel partners in designing effective, profitable business models while working with their customers to stay on top of the ever-changing security landscape.
The new incentives provide partners enrolled in the Security Software Advisor (SSA) program and the Security Solutions Competency an opportunity to supplement their revenue and earn an additional 10 percent in advisor fees. The company also released a new study it commissioned with leading research firm IDC. The study looked at 349 resellers in the United States and the United Kingdom and found that Microsoft security partners are often more profitable than partners that sell other vendors security products.
To learn more about these new investments to partner programs and the study, PressPass spoke with Microsoft Forefront Security Partner Marketing Director Mark Hassall.
PressPass: It’s been six months since you announced a set of new initiatives to respond to partner needs in the rapidly evolving security industry. What has the response been from the partner community?
Hassall:. To date, we’ve been pleased with the response. We have over 6,000 partners enrolled in the Security Software Advisor program, which allows partners to earn up to 30 percent in advisor fees when they help drive deployment of Forefront-based security solutions. And we have over 1,000 partners in the Security Solutions Competency, which is now the fastest growing competency in the Microsoft portfolio. We are committed to continued investment in our security partner programs with partner profitability as the focus. And now, with the IDC study, we can quantify this value to our partners.
PressPass: Tell us a bit about the IDC survey.
Hassall: Microsoft commissioned the survey to better understand how we can structure our partner programs and product offerings to provide the best opportunity for our industry partners. The new IDC study demonstrates that resellers and integrators can be more profitable selling Microsoft Forefront and security products compared to other vendors’ security products. The study finds that Microsoft partners that have earned the Microsoft Security Solutions Competency and/or that qualify for the Microsoft Security Software Advisor program outperform other benchmarked companies that offer security solutions on 12 of 15 of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) surveyed. Key performance metrics include:
Bottom line profitability — operating profit margins are one third higher for Microsoft partners
Business velocity — revenue growth is three times higher than benchmark companies
Business execution — revenue per employee is over $45,000 more per employee for Microsoft partners
Services fulfillment – services to product resale ratio is double the rate of benchmark companies.
The report found that these results can be attributed to a number of factors, including services opportunities, availability of qualified technical resources, process efficiencies and deeper relationships with customers.
PressPass: What are the changes you’re making to your partner programs, and how is Microsoft helping partners to continue to make money?
Hassall: The market for security solutions is continually evolving – new threats arise regularly, and our customers and industry partners need more comprehensive, simplified and integrated solutions. This IDC study shows that our security partners are finding ways to maximize their business efficiency, reduce their costs and generate profits by selling security solutions based on Forefront and other Microsoft security products. We solicited a great deal of feedback from our partners, and made some changes to our partner programs in response.
First, we’ve evolved the Security Solutions Competency so partners can be better aligned with the evolving security threat landscape and customer needs. We merged the two original specializations – “Secure Management” and “Secure Infrastructure” – into one specialization called “Secure Infrastructure”, to better reflect the accelerating integration of security with infrastructure. And we created a brand new specialization called “Identity and Secure Access” that reflects the need for specialized skills around managing user identities and secure access. These new specializations became live on November 30, 2007, and have already resulted in hundreds of new partners attaining the Security Solutions Competency.
Second, we extended the Security Software Advisor program so that more partners involved in the recommendation process and deployment of Microsoft Forefront security solutions can earn advisor fees. In recognition of the tighter integration of management and security, we extended the SSA program to include Microsoft infrastructure-related competencies, including Advanced Infrastructure, Network Infrastructure, and Information Worker (Portals & Collaboration) competency partners.
PressPass: What should partners expect and plan for in the next six months?
Hassall: Today, we announced two new promotions that will enable partners to offer customers product discounts as an incentive to switch to Forefront Client Security. The first offer is a 25 percent discount off Forefront Client Security per-user and per-device monthly subscriptions and Forefront Client Security Management Console monthly subscriptions. The second offer is a 35 percent discount off the list price of monthly subscriptions for Forefront Client Security together with standalone System Center Configuration Manager 2007 server licenses or standalone Systems Management Server 2003 server licenses. These partner-ready promotions are targeted at customers renewing an existing, or signing a new, Volume Licensing agreement after February 1, 2008, and before July 31, 2008. These limited time promotions have been introduced to enable partners to take advantage of the growing demand for integrated security solutions that are built on a common management infrastructure.
In addition we are hosting a worldwide technical partner airlift in Seattle on February 5-7 for practice leads and managers from partner organizations delivering infrastructure or security solutions to business customers. This event will be invitation-only and feature technical sessions, hands-on labs and chalk talks covering the entire family of Microsoft Forefront products, including the next generation of solutions. Partners should contact their account manager for more details. We will also be delivering five-day deep technical training for both the Forefront Client Security and Forefront Server Security line of products as well as the Forefront edge security and access products in all major geographies around the world between February and April this year.
We are very focused on making the right investments in our channel to enable our partners to succeed with the right programs and products.
PressPass: What would you say to someone who is considering becoming a Microsoft security partner?
Hassall: Investments we’ve made over the last year are coming to fruition in a way that will lead to more opportunities for partners. We’re continuing to work on new features and solutions that will be integrated into our Forefront product line. The Security Software Advisor program and the Security Solutions Competency build on these investments by enabling partners to expand their skills, deliver more high-margin value added services, and become a trusted IT partner by leveraging training, certifications and support that will help them stay one step ahead of the competition and be more profitable.
Microsoft industry partners not in the Security Software Advisor program should consider signing up and attaining the Security Solutions Competency, which can help differentiate themselves in the market. Partners should also start thinking about how they can drive revenue by attaching Forefront to existing infrastructure solutions, building Forefront into their business practices and service offerings, and looking for ways to engage with Microsoft on joint security opportunities.