HOUSTON — July 7, 2008 — This week in Houston, at Microsoft’s fifth annual Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft executives will be highlighting the important role that channel partners play in Microsoft’s customer relationships. PressPass spoke with Joe Matz, corporate vice president of the Worldwide Licensing & Pricing group, to learn more about the upcoming Volume Licensing program, Select Plus, and other plans that Microsoft has to facilitate the purchasing process.
PressPass: What are some of the key things you’ve learned about the purchasing process and the role that partners play in energizing customer relationships?
Joe Matz, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Worldwide Licensing & Pricing group
Matz: Our partners play a crucial role in the customer experience and we recognize that in most cases, especially with small and medium-sized companies, the partner is the face of Microsoft for the customer. That’s why it is so important, from our perspective in the licensing group, for partners to have a strong grasp of licensing, so that they in turn can help customers maximize their software investment.
We are constantly listening to customers about what they want from their interaction with Microsoft, and their feedback drives changes within the purchasing process. We learned that they want simple agreements and easy-to-understand terms and conditions, and now we’ve delivered that through efforts such as program enhancements, streamlined contracts, planning services and self-service tools. While many of our customers are satisfied with their existing agreements, we recognize that as technology and markets change, we need to keep pace with our customers’ changing needs. We constantly are evaluating our agreements, and are excited about the added benefits that our partners will be able to offer to customers with the introduction of Select Plus, which will reduce purchasing complexities and improve license management.
PressPass: Tell us more about Select Plus.
Matz: Select Plus is a significant development for Microsoft, and it will be available to customers starting in October 2008.
At the highest level, Select Plus is a new Volume Licensing program designed for companies with multiple business units that have decentralized purchasing, but would like the advantages of centralized purchasing — advantages such as visibility into all the organization’s volume licenses, as well as discounts based on the true purchasing volume.
We conducted extensive customer research before building this program, to find out exactly what customers were looking for in their licensing program, and this program is a response to their feedback. First and foremost, customers and partners will be excited to know that Select Plus also provides customers with the convenience of having fewer contracts to manage with a single, company-wide volume purchasing program. Select Plus will offer customers the benefits of flexible purchasing, improved software license manageability, maximized value through volume purchasing, and greater predictability and ROI with Software Assurance. As an added benefit, it never expires, eliminating the need to renegotiate and renew agreements every three years.
PressPass: What can partners expect from Select Plus?
Matz: Every year we evaluate the needs of our partners. Select Plus should really resonate with this group, as it will help them increase sales opportunities through advanced reporting capabilities. We believe that partners will also find that SelectPlus improves their customer satisfaction. For example, the program’s software license management features will give partners greater insight into the customer’s purchasing history, whether they procure centrally or through an affiliate across the globe. Partners can help their customers roll out new IT solutions with Select Plus, offering the flexibility to buy and deploy all the licensed products needed by the organization. Our research shows that providing these enhancements can significantly impact customer satisfaction and purchasing decisions. It all boils down to building the foundation for a good relationship with the customer, and I am convinced that partners will benefit from this foundation just as much as Microsoft does, if not more.
While we recognize that there is a learning curve whenever a new program is introduced, Select Plus builds on and maintains some of the favored elements of Select, including the transactional nature of the program as well as the prices and the calculations for minimum purchase volumes. At the same time, it improves on some of Select’s features as requested by customers. It eliminates the need for forecasting future purchases, giving customers and their partners the peace of mind that the customer is receiving the optimal price point without risking an extreme adjustment later on — or having the enrollment cancelled.
We believe that customers will be pleased that the price levels will remain predictable and familiar, and we are also committed to helping partners come up to speed on Select Plus’s enhancements quickly and effortlessly. To that end, we will be offering a variety of training opportunities and materials for partners over the next several months until the launch and beyond.
PressPass: Are there any other program changes on the horizon besides the launch of Select Plus?
Matz: Earlier this year we launched the Open Value Subscription program in North America, giving customers that are served by Open Value another great option for flexible and cost-effective licensing. This October we will be implementing updates across the entire Open Value program — adjustments to make the process smoother and easier for everyone involved. For example, customers will be able to “build their own desktop” with the specific operating system, client access license and Office version that best fits their business needs, rather than choosing from a predetermined set of combinations.
PressPass: Are any new announcements about Microsoft Financing being made at the Worldwide Partner Conference this year?
Matz: One of the highlights of coming to the Worldwide Partner Conference, for me, is the opportunity to hear from partners how Microsoft Financing is helping them to close more deals and grow their own businesses. Microsoft Financing has an ongoing goal to provide affordable and innovative financing programs to qualified customers around the globe, helping them acquire the IT solutions they need to stay competitive.
With that goal in mind, this year Microsoft Financing is launching six-month deferred payments through a new version of the popular SmartPay program. This deferred payments option will run from July 7, 2008, to June 30, 2009. Also, Select Plus will include a Line of Credit financing solution as part of our commitment to offer flexible purchasing and payments. For our Enterprise Agreement customers, Microsoft Financing has built in Extended Payment Terms, giving customers the choice to enroll or renew with monthly, quarterly, semi-annual or custom payments.
Above and beyond these announcements, Microsoft Financing continues to invest in our partner ecosystem to help partners effectively integrate financing into regular business practices with a full suite of sales, marketing and readiness tools.
PressPass: Moving forward, what strategies will Microsoft adopt for Volume Licensing and Microsoft Financing?
Matz: Our primary goal is to establish a relationship between our customers and partners that positions our partners as trusted business advisors. Microsoft Financing continues to expand its offerings, making it incrementally more affordable for qualified customers to implement their new IT solutions, and this past year we’ve seen substantial traction with our licensing simplification efforts.
I foresee the introduction of Select Plus as another important step toward realizing the end goal of better relationships. We recognize that it is just one step in the right direction, and not a comprehensive solution in and of itself. We’re going to continue to evolve our licensing and financing programs by maintaining a dialogue with our partners and customers, asking them for their feedback. We’ll take that feedback and make the adjustments necessary to optimize customers’ investments, increase the convenience quotient, and overall make it easier for both customers and partners to do business with us.