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Marching Orders 2016: Focus on Partner Success in Cloud

Editor's Note: Throughout the month of January, we'll be running installments of Marching Orders, our annual collection of advice and predictions from channel luminaries about what to do and what to expect in the year ahead. For this entry, we invited Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, to share his top advice for Microsoft partners this year.

Over the last year, we've made some significant investments in our channel -- in tools, resources, program updates and product offerings -- to enable partners to take advantage of the vast customer opportunities across cloud and mobile technologies. And the opportunity is huge. In fact, IDC forecasts spending on public IT cloud services to reach $127 billion in 2018.

In previous years, we've focused on moving partners and customers to the cloud. But the truth is, many have already made this transition and are already realizing many of the benefits of cloud computing. This year, we're focusing on partner and customer success in the cloud -- enabling our partners and mutual customers to harness the full value of cloud and the associated devices, data and applications to truly transform their businesses.

Here are three areas where partners can focus their energy to deliver the greatest impact this year:

  1. Build differentiated IP. You have to set yourself apart from your competitors. Successful partners are developing a culture of innovation and building annuity businesses on top of first-party IP. IP doesn't have to be an app offered directly to businesses or consumers -- there are many ways to monetize IP. To name just a few examples, you could incorporate first-party IP into managed services, you could build SaaS extensions offered as a subscription, or you could leverage a unique, repeatable methodology to enhance project services. The need to stand out isn't new, but in a cloud-first world your options are virtually unlimited, and you can bring a new offering to market quicker and easier than ever.

  2. Grow your digital marketing muscle. Customers are changing, and research shows that by the time a potential customer gets to you, they've already done their research. You and your solutions need to show up where they're looking. Knowing where to start can be difficult, but we're investing heavily to connect you with the resources that can help. New resources on Smart Partner Marketing along with a dedicated ISV portal, a new and improved ModernBiz platform, and brand-new MPN experiences are all designed to help you develop a digital marketing strategy that will get you in front of customers.

  3. Focus on customer lifetime value. Capturing new customers through scalable, online marketing is step one, but profitability isn't about the deal anymore. It's about securing long-term relationships to maximize the lifetime value of each customer you develop. We've created research-based profitability scenarios, financial models and training to help you identify the opportunities best suited for your business and your existing customers.

I'm excited by the great partner momentum we saw in 2015 -- from expanding the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program to 131 markets, to extending our Surface channel distribution from a few hundred to a few thousand partners globally -- and I can't wait to see what we will accomplish together in 2016.

More Marching Orders 2016:

Posted on January 20, 2016