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Marching Orders 2019: Remember Microsoft's Big Bet

What are the top steps Microsoft partners can take to help their businesses succeed in 2019? We put that question to top experts, including Howard M. Cohen, Senior Resultant, The Tech Channel Partners' Results Group.

It has now become incredibly easy to know how to optimize your Microsoft relationship and enjoy the best of their support and attention. Easier than ever.

From the very beginning of the Microsoft Partner Program (MSPP) through to the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) it has always been all about "The Big Bet." While the current Big Bet at any given time has changed regularly, causing partners to have to be very light on their feet, there has always been at least one Big Bet.

Smart partners kept a close eye and an ear to the ground to stay ahead of what the next Big Bet was going to be. At one time long ago it was Windows itself. At another time it was the internet and Internet Explorer. Windows Server took its turn. As it emerged, System Center occupied the Big Bet space for a while. More recently SharePoint was the Big Bet, then Office Communications Server (OCS), which would become Lync.

But now the very nature of the Big Bet has changed, and every partner's recognition of that has become an existential challenge.

When he became CEO, Satya Nadella told us flat out what the Big Bets would be for the foreseeable future: "Microsoft will be the platform and productivity company." He was referring to Azure as the platform and Office 365 as the productivity. Today, if you ask Microsoft sales "blue-badges," they'll tell you that they no longer receive compensation for on-prem anything. Just cloud. Just online services.

But it is a mistake to think that selling Azure and Office 365 will keep you in Microsoft's good graces. It's no longer quite that simple.

Investing as enormously as Microsoft has in the infrastructure that is meant to replace all infrastructure, and choosing a consumption-based pricing strategy, Microsoft has required itself to be successful or perish. It's not enough for customers to simply enter into Azure subscriptions. If they don't use the services, they don't pay. If they don't pay, those subscriptions mean nothing.

We've been down this road before, with tremendous pressure to deploy all the "shelfware" customers ended up with when signing Enterprise Agreements (EA). But in that case the software was already paid for and Microsoft was targeting renewals.

Microsoft is now targeting survive-and-thrive.

You may notice that Independent Software Vendors (ISV) who sell apps that run on Azure have become the premier partner for Microsoft. Anything that drives more consumption falls within the province of this new Big Bet.

My last several Marching Orders have focused on the importance of developing your own intellectual property (IP) for resale. If your IP requires more Azure consumption, you will find unbelievable support in marketing it from Microsoft. Truly, you may have to ask them to stop offering you more marketing programs. They shower you with love when you increase Azure consumption.

The other way to be a Big Bet Superstar is to sell and deploy anything that requires more Azure consumption. You don't have to learn how to code, or otherwise build apps. Partner with those beloved ISVs and you, too, will be a better Big Bettor.

It has never been harder to divine what the long term future looks like for the Microsoft partner ecosystem. This has been the most all-consuming change of all for Microsoft. You need to sit down with your team and talk about how you're going to plan for the future. Many ISVs are marketing to partners now to get them to use their tools to service customers, rather than sell them licenses. Which will you choose to partner with? How will you let Microsoft know that you're driving increased Azure consumption?

If you truly believe that this advice doesn't apply to you, it has been very nice knowing you.

It's that serious.

Posted by Howard M. Cohen on February 21, 2019 at 11:27 AM


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