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What Gaps Does Microsoft Want Partners To Fill?

Understanding Microsoft's scorecard system is one way to figure out what partner deals Microsoft's sales reps currently value the most.

The second half of Microsoft's fiscal year is what most people regard as "go" time: Time to get every deal possible to the finish line.

I used to be highly critical of Microsoft's tremendous focus on this artificial deadline. I felt like Microsoft would work harder to move a deal from one month to another than it would work to actually close the deal.

Over time, I've recognized that there are only a small number of clients who execute with speed and that most will drag their feet on signing an expensive agreement until they have a compelling event. Microsoft uses promotions and discounts at the end of the third quarter in March and end of the fiscal year in June to create these compelling events.

In the channel, we feed off of these purchasing events to supply the overall project budgets and licenses we need to execute on our professional services projects. In my opinion, the best time to strike a deal with Microsoft is March. It's the end of the third quarter and a key measurement period. The teams start getting clarity on what they must do to achieve their goals in a heavily weighted fourth quarter (April to June).

Revenue for this quarter can be 40 percent or more of the company's yearly goal. Plus, March isn't as crazy as the end of the fiscal year in June -- you can still get the sales rep's attention and have time to build the business case for a purchasing discount.

In my last article, I talked about how to motivate Microsoft employees by aligning your efforts with their compensation plan. Part of that plan is called Commitment-Based Incentive (CBI). The metrics included in the commitments are based significantly on what Microsoft calls the scorecard. The scorecard is a series of metrics driven by the executive team. There can be 15 or more separate metrics for areas or products where executives would like the field to focus their efforts. Often, the focus will be on strategic products rather than more established revenue producers. A great example would be Windows Azure. From a revenue standpoint, Windows Azure is incredibly small compared to products such as Office or Exchange. However, it's incredibly strategic as Windows Azure is quickly becoming a platform play and Microsoft wants clients to grow workloads in its cloud instead of a competitor's.

Occasionally, the metrics in the scorecard are focused on deployment when clients have been dragging their feet getting new technology up and running -- for example, deployed seats for Office 365 is a critical focus area this year. Microsoft wants to ensure customers who have purchased Office 365 licenses start using them. Strong partners work with Microsoft to figure out where the scorecard is lacking and how they can positively impact the metrics. Close partners also know that money follows the scorecard.

Sales management and executive management at the field level are measured primarily in three ways: revenue, scorecard and employee feedback. Revenue is the most important. However, when your team's revenue goal is more than $100 million, an individual manager's impact on that performance in a single fiscal year can be extremely small. Scorecard performance, on the other hand, can really set one manager apart from the others.

Windows Azure is behind the scorecard in most areas of the United States, and it's no surprise that there are tons of dollars available for partners to engage with clients who are serious about taking advantage of Windows Azure. Find the metric gap and build a way to exploit it, and the rewards can be yours. Your reputation will grow within Microsoft, your leads will increase and your wins become more relevant.

The overall scorecards can change tremendously from one fiscal year to the next. Plus, focus on individual metrics can shift quickly. These shifting metrics produce headaches for partners while new programs can pop up quickly to have a short-term impact and go away just as fast.

Ask your Microsoft team how the scorecard is shaping up for this fiscal year and where you can help. Build solutions that can be jointly marketed and sold to clients in these areas and you'll find Microsoft wind blowing at your back.

More Columns by M.S. Partner:

About the Author

M.S. Partner is a pseudonym for a former Microsoft U.S. field rep who returned to the channel and writes this column to help other partners succeed with Microsoft. Let M.S. Partner know your thoughts and questions about how Microsoft works at mspartner@rcpmag.com.

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