Dynamics Partners React to Microsoft Axing Partner Account Manager Role

Every Microsoft partner is accustomed to the July shuffle of account managers and field personnel, but the week after this year's Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) the Dynamics management team announced bigger changes.

The traditional regional partner account manager (PAM) role has been entirely eliminated in the United States, with partner engagement divided into a two-tier model -- enterprise sales and volume business.

The change doesn't come as a complete surprise to the channel, because regional PAMs had been stretched thin across mid- and upper-tier Dynamics partners. "The role of the PAM has been diminished by Microsoft over the years," notes Karen Riordan, vice president of SSi Consulting. "In the past, they had authority and could have a direct impact on our business. That has changed."

Going for the Enterprise
Microsoft Dynamics leaders have made it clear in recent years that they believe the key to increasing market share is through the enterprise. The bulk of Dynamics partners have historically focused on the small to midsize business (SMB) market. The new engagement model adds focus and resources to the enterprise space and centralizes support for volume partners.

Three central themes will drive the Dynamics partner engagement model going forward, including:

  • Nationalized and centralized management of select Dynamics CRM and Dynamics AX partners who are focused on enterprise-level customers. A team of about one dozen Microsoft sales executives will work jointly with partners on sales opportunities.

  • Presales and technical resources, some vertically focused, will be added to support the enterprise sales teams.

  • A nationalized and centralized volume business support team with technical, presales, marketing and other resources will support Dynamics partners focused on the SMB market.

"I honestly don't know if it will affect the business. Having a PAM was great, but they weren't local so it was tough to get them on the street with us," says Michael Kean, president of Altico Advisors. "We see an upside in the centralized support desk. To have dedicated Dynamics people that can help us navigate Microsoft will be very helpful. We spend a lot of time chasing down information at Microsoft and can use all the help we can get."

All the partners I spoke to agree that the annual Dynamics partner management changes have become tiresome. "Every year, they shuffle the deck. You could make yourself crazy trying to adjust to the latest and greatest," says Peter Joeckel, president of TurnOnDynamics. "I have to look at what's good for my customers and my business and ignore the plan of the day."

Why Doesn't Dynamics Rule?
Ever-changing partner engagement models do raise some questions. Why has Dynamics not taken the market share that both partners and Microsoft expected in the decade since acquisition? Is the Dynamics channel so much different than the platform partners who sell the rest of the Microsoft stack?

Joeckel voices some common questions: "The Dynamics products are great. Why are vendors like Epicor and NetSuite still in business? We should have crushed those guys years ago. How is it that everyone knows what Excel is, but not what Dynamics is?"

The push into the enterprise space is clearly Microsoft's current strategy to build market share and strengthen the brand. Highly targeted vertical solutions developed by global independent software vendors are being taken to market in a Microsoft-led enterprise push.

As to the question of whether Dynamics partners are different, the separation of enterprise and volume partners may be the last move on Microsoft's part to transition Dynamics partners to a model that more closely reflects broader partner management -- think the world of National Systems Integrators and the rest of the channel.

Not many platform partners carry only the Microsoft bag. Dynamics partners focused on SMB may be entering a new era of diversification. Those partners who want the support of a high-touch vendor, like pre-Microsoft Great Plains, will have to look elsewhere.

Overall, the sunsetting of the Dynamics PAM seems to have rattled partners less than July announcements in previous years. "I don't see this as a major change," says Kean. "They're going to continue to help us sell and they're trying to expand the brand in the market. I think we're moving in the right direction."

All Dynamics partners will benefit if Microsoft succeeds in taking the brand to a higher level. With the course set, now it's time to execute.

About the Author

Barb Levisay owns Marketing for Partners, a marketing and service delivery leadership firm for Microsoft Dynamics, SharePoint and ISV partners. She serves as the event chair on the Board of Directors for the Washington, D.C., chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners.