The Changing Channel

WPC 2013: What's the Real Opportunity?

The only way to provide quality services across the Microsoft stack would be to partner with other Microsoft partners.

It's June and a Microsoft partner's thoughts turn to the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) -- the annual mecca, usually to someplace way too hot and humid, to attend sessions, get stood up for scheduled meetings, and party way too heartily. Ah, to be a Microsoft partner now that summer's here.

This Year's WPC in Perspective
Three years ago, Jon Roskill and Allison Watson had just been given each others' jobs and each was told it was a promotion. The WPC was mercifully being held in Washington, D.C., which was at least bearably humid. And, oh yeah, Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) General Manager Julie Bennani had just finished writing the new MPN guidelines and the Microsoft partner ecosystem was up in arms.

If you go back and review the observations of Microsoft watchers in 2010 to see why Redmond changed from the Microsoft Partner Program (MSPP) to the MPN, explanations ranged from the change taking place simply because Allison Watson had been "in the role" too long (eight years) to new COO Kevin Turner coming from Walmart and deciding Microsoft was spending way too much supporting small partners. Then you'll find stuff about "raising the bar."

You Can't Be All Things to All People
It's useful to remember that at the time of the 2010 WPC, the No. 1 partner in the Microsoft partner locator held 28 out of what were then the 29 competencies that partners could earn. The only competency the company was missing was "system builder" because it didn't white-label personal computers. The other factor that makes this especially interesting is that the No. 1 partner, with all those competencies, had only 17 people on staff at that time.

So how do you define "competent"?

The uniqueness clause of the MPN said that partners could use each person to earn only one gold competency, and because you needed four certified technical people to earn a gold competency, that meant you needed four for each.

The No. 1 partner would have to hire about another 90 people to maintain all those competencies.

Many smaller partners, especially in the Dynamics space, were left to choose among bad options: leaving the program, switching vendor partners or going out of business. It was not a pretty time.

You Can Provide All Things to All People
The other impact the MPN had was that it made the smartest partners realize the only way to provide quality services across the Microsoft stack would be to partner with other Microsoft partners. This was not a trivial undertaking. Partners needed to develop several new and critical skills:

  • Meeting. Some partners quickly realized that the worst time to find and evaluate a new partner was when you first learned you needed one, which was usually when a customer requested a service you didn't offer. At that point you'd be in a rush, so it was better to meet and vet partners proactively long before you needed them.

  • QA. The goal would be to determine that a chosen partner would deliver services at a level of quality commensurate with what you would deliver if you were providing the service yourself.

  • Relationship. Negotiating the right relationship became more important than ever. Lead sharing? Finder's fees? Subcontracting? There were lots of terms and conditions to consider and agree upon.

Where Does WPC 2013 Fit In?
There were more than 16,000 people attending WPC last year. Where else can you find that many Microsoft partners in one place at one time? And where else are there meeting-scheduling systems in place to facilitate your setting up meetings with them?

Put down this column, go to WPC Connect and start scheduling meetings with potential partners. A well-planned WPC is the only WPC.

More Columns by Howard Cohen:

About the Author

Howard M. Cohen is a consultant to IT vendors and channel partner companies and a board member of the U.S. chapter of the IAMCP. Reach him at


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