Microsoft’s Jon Roskill on Building Community with the Microsoft Partner Network

REDMOND, Wash. — Dec. 1, 2010 — During most of his 18-year career at Microsoft, Jon Roskill has worked closely with partners and gained a deep understanding of what partner success looks like in a global economy. Now corporate vice president of the Worldwide Partner Group at Microsoft, Roskill leads the group that manages the Microsoft Partner Program. After nearly 150 days in the position, Roskill met yesterday with a few dozen partners in a town hall setting.

The gathering in the newly opened Microsoft Store in Bellevue, Wash., was the first in a series of meetings around the world that will help Roskill drive connection with the partner community. Roskill’s goal is to provide a platform for open dialogue where he can listen to partners’ thoughts and concerns, and share Microsoft’s vision for the future and how partners can work together to be successful. With the newly revamped Microsoft Partner Network having just launched, Roskill sees now as an ideal time to discuss any additional clarity partners may need.

“Last year, Microsoft generated $62.5 billion in revenue, 95 percent of which comes through the channel or partner ecosystem,” Roskill said. “Partners are integral to the future of Microsoft and its customers. We are critical to each other’s success, and key to that success is listening to what is important to them, what concerns them and what direction they are headed in for their future success. And that’s why we’re here today, so we can continue working as we travel at lightning speed into the future together.”

Microsoft News Center spoke with Roskill to find out more.

News Center: The town hall meetings with partners are an interesting idea. Why are you doing this?

Jon Roskill, corporate vice president, Worldwide Partner Group at Microsoft.

Roskill: Community is the foundation of the Microsoft Partner Network and part of the work we do every day. We noticed through round table discussions with various partners that they are more collaborative with one another than you might expect. They often work together and share ideas on best practices and what has worked well for them. As we move toward the future, we want to amplify this for all partners and continue to strengthen these ties so the partner ecosystem can build momentum.

Town hall gatherings are one of the many ways we are connecting with this community. As part of the Microsoft Partner Network, we created social media forums on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the Microsoft Partner Member Community sites. Partners can join the network at no cost, and once they’ve joined, they can take part in conversations with other partners and experts at Microsoft about the latest technologies and trends. Partners can use these resources to stay competitive, boost their bottom line, increase connections and find the keys to unlocking greater business success.

News Center: When you look out at the next two to three years, what are the biggest growth opportunities for partners?

Roskill: Some of the biggest opportunities for partners are with on-premise products such as Windows 7 and Office 2010, both of which have had dynamite success. SharePoint Server, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Windows Server 2008 R2 also are doing quite well. Microsoft gives partners far more cross-sell/up-sell opportunities that will deliver value for their customers, strengthen their customer relationship and bring in revenue.

And we’re really on the leading edge of the next wave of innovation — cloud computing with services like Windows Intune. According to IDC forecasts, cloud revenue growth will reach $45 billion by 2013.

Some customers will only consider cloud-based solutions, so there will be opportunities for a new set of partners that we’re calling “born on the cloud.” Many customers don’t care where their software is running. They are focused on productivity and look for a solution that is faster and more cost-effective and that helps them be more responsive. That could mean running their business with on-premise solutions or with cloud services, or sometimes it could mean both.

For that reason, it’s critical that partners maintain solid expertise in the current on-premise solutions, while also developing expertise in the cloud. And for partners born on the cloud, developing a connection with partners who can offer that solid on-premise experience will give them an advantage.

News Center: What’s your advice to partners in terms of riding this next wave?

Roskill: Some partners tend to operate their business in the short term. They’re more concerned with what they’ve lined up for the next 60 days. I challenge partners to step back and think about their business, not in the next 60 days, but in the next 5–10 years.

Partners will want to ensure that they’re riding the wave of on-premise solutions and start their cloud business in parallel to begin the transition. Our partners asked for help to figure out how to dive in and be competitive and successful in the cloud. We listened and added resources for partners. Cloud services are going to change the way our partners do business, and Microsoft is committed to providing the technical and business support they need to win in the cloud now and stay competitive in the future. Whether partners are advisors or developers, Microsoft offers two ways for partners to advance their cloud knowledge and offerings, and to sell or develop on the cloud, complementing existing Microsoft Partner Network benefits. Partners can choose between the Microsoft Cloud Essentials Pack or the Microsoft Cloud Accelerate program depending on their individual business needs.

News Center: Why do customers look to Microsoft partners? Is there something that sets them apart from their competition?

Roskill: For every $1 of Microsoft revenue, partners earn $8.70. This signals the significance of our partner ecosystem and the strength of our partner network across the industry and that customers want partner engagement.

When customers contact a Microsoft partner, they know they’ll be working with a professional who has a passion for solving problems and a tendency to push the envelope on what they can do with technology. Those traits really go hand in hand. Partners are always asking themselves, “What if I tried something different with SharePoint? Could that help streamline this customer’s workflow even more?”

And the network is designed to give customers the advantage of working with a local partner while having access to global experience.

IDC found that 80 percent* of Microsoft partners earn revenue as a result of networking with their peers. In the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners alone, networking drove an estimated $10.1 billion in revenue – just in 2009.

News Center: What are your benchmarks for success?

Roskill: What I am holding myself accountable for is to listen to what customers and partners have to say and take what they are saying to heart. The changes to the Microsoft Partner Network and the Gold and Silver competencies were all born out of comments from partners and customers, and my goal is to ensure that we stay on the right track by soliciting their feedback on a regular basis.

There is a sense of accomplishment to see the community of partners and partner companies working together to develop unique solutions and solve complex issues for our customers. I want to hear from all our partners around the globe about how the Microsoft Partner Network is enabling them to be successful in ways they never imagined when first learning about the changing network. I realize that not all partners will be able to attend the town hall meetings, so I encourage them to provide feedback through the channel they are most comfortable with — commenting on my blog called Partner Perspective, or on the partner portal.

News Center: So what is the most surprising or unusual piece of feedback you’ve received since taking on your new role?

Roskill: I recently returned from a trip to England, India, Japan and Spain, where I met with partners from all over Asia, Europe and the Middle East. One of the partners I spoke with commented that Microsoft was going “too hard, too fast” into the cloud.

MNC: And what was your response?

Roskill: I told him to fasten his seatbelt. The world is moving at an unprecedented speed and together we need to embrace the changes with the cloud while balancing that with what is working today (on-premise). The predictable thing about change is that it will happen whether we are on board or not. To be successful, we can prepare for change, plan how we’ll manage change and build networks of partners that can help us navigate the complexities. Taking this approach will not only benefit our customers, it will benefit our businesses and result in our ability to continue to sustain success today and in the future.

*IDC Social Media and Partner to Partner (P2P) Networking study (June 3, 2009).

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