Customers often need multiple partners. The more a customer grows, the more partners it is likely to need and have. Smart customers know that a single partner cannot do it all, and that it isn't wise to rely too much on just one dominant partner, so they end up with an ecosystem of partners in various business areas or geographies. Some partners transact goods like licenses and hardware, but most partners supply various types of services -- and their paths are likely to cross yours now and then.
Traditionally, the holy grail for partners was to become a customer's single "trusted advisor" that influences everything. Perhaps some partners still dream about that. However, nowadays there are often several trusted advisors for various parts of a customer's needs (which makes sense as partners become more specialized to be successful).
As a modern Microsoft partner, it is important to enthusiastically work together with the other partners that your customers have chosen. Collaboration between other partners that are part of your customer's ecosystem is crucial. But collaboration alone is not enough; you need to put your soul into it -- and you should encourage, or perhaps demand, that the other partners do the same. True collaboration doesn't mean complicated or costly, and it doesn't mean having meetings in which each partner sticks to their entrenched positions. Instead, true collaboration means finding the best alternative for your common customer.
I myself have been in meetings where the larger partner tries to freeze out a smaller partner by making things overly complex or trying to grab every opportunity for themselves. I've also seen partners of the same size try to win more business by discrediting each other. This isn't the way.
The best protection against losing a customer is to ensure that they're a happy customer -- and therefore it's crucial for that customer's partners to help each other. You and your team should make every effort to eliminate friction and ensure that all partners are successful. Your customer will love that approach and it will lead to more business opportunities.
So how do you make this happen? Setting up meetings once a month with a recurring agenda is a great way to start. The extent of the customer's engagement with their group of partners determines how long each meeting will take; it can be anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours. Whom to invite will depend on the nature of the engagement -- don't make the groups too large! Taking notes is encouraged but don't make it too formal. And speaking of not being too formal, it doesn't hurt to break bread together once in a while so that you really get to know each other. Familiarity is an underestimated way to success.
In these meetings, take the opportunity to discuss new services and solutions that the customer might need. Discuss it first between yourselves. If, collectively, you see a potential ROI for the customer, then present your initiative to the customer. Just remember that it doesn't hurt if the new business opportunities are evenly spread over time between the partners in the group.
And don't bill the customer for your meetings unless he asks you to do it!
Another piece of advice is to have a "hotline" so that problems in collaboration with your mutual customer get escalated to senior people that can take immediate action. There's no better way to de-escalate than to pick up the phone and talk to your counterparts. If all parties see the long-term value, then problems are often easy to resolve. And solving problems together builds trust.
Becoming a master at orchestrating partners is an art, but it reduces the risk for both partners and customers so it makes sense to invest time to make it happen. When both customers and other partners see you as easy and friendly to work with, you'll generate positive buzz that transforms into more business opportunities for your company -- and that's probably the best ROI you can ever dream of.
A successful relationship with other partners, even if it was only a mutual customer that brought you all together, opens the avenue to finding more joint customers together. After all, you have at least one success story to talk about. So go make friends with your customer's partners and build success together!
Posted by Per Werngren on May 17, 2023 at 2:48 PM0 comments
Networking and collaboration might seem fluffy; how can just talking to people be a real job? But in fact, successful partnering happens between people and organizations that trust and like each other. We see many so-called P2P efforts being wasted because there's no genuine interest from the parties involved to make it a mutual success. True and successful partnerships are created when all parties are looking out for each other's well-being and when the level of trust is high.
The networking aspect is a key component here. The channel ecosystem consists of several communities. Sometimes they intersect and sometimes they're isolated and exclusive. A community can be formal with a structured way to membership, but it is more often unstructured. Some communities are online, some are offline and many are a mix of both. Everyone that has an interest can participate.
Your customers might have their own communities, but increasingly, customers and vendors are participating in the same communities. These channel communities are the often the best way to find both partners and customers -- and they're growing in importance. If you join them, you'll need to make sure that you and your company are considered relevant. It's paramount that you contribute to these communities with true value and that you're not just pushing your own services and products.
Channel communities are a great arena for learning about key trends and different technologies, making new acquaintances and getting closer to specific industry vendors. Perhaps the most important benefit of investing lots of time in channel communities is that you will find companies to partner with -- and you might also find customers to serve. Every vital and active community has one or more thought leaders that drive the community forward. By being generous, knowledgeable and active in these communities, you can become a thought leader yourself.
It's important to constantly bring content to your community. All communities need to be fed with content, as that creates topics for discussion. You can deliver webinars that focus on knowledge-sharing. You might even be able to sponsor events at cost depending on the type/size of the community and the event. Sponsoring a get-together for a few people in a local bar is obviously less costly than a premier-level sponsorship at a big vendor's conference.
My point is, the value of a community is the sum of everyone's contributions. It's important to have a "giving" mindset and constantly strive to create value for the community. Taking an active part in communities should be a key component in every alliance manager's list of duties.
Don't limit community involvement tasks to just the alliance manager, though. Instead, make sure you do a thorough analysis of which communities you want to invest in and send the best-suited people to each community. Some communities need technical people, others need marketers and salespeople, or perhaps C-level people. For important communities, send multiple people with different backgrounds and seniority to gain the best outcomes. And don't forget, your "elevator pitch" needs to be thoughtfully written and well-rehearsed so that everyone can deliver it without hesitation. Read more in this article, "The 7 Pillars of a Strong Partner-to-Partner Relationship."
The list of channel communities is endless and constantly changing, so I'm not going to attempt to list them all. My advice is to make sure you have a structured approach and that you and your team participate in the ones where you find it meaningful. Invest a lot in the ones that are core to you -- and then add some more when it makes sense. Just remember that it will take time before you see traction, so wait awhile before you evaluate your participation. In my experience, it goes quicker in social media-based communities and takes longer in communities that meet in-person. However, the most strategic value is often in the groups that meet face-to-face and that occasionally also meet in-person.
Whatever direction you choose, making sure that you engage with various channel communities in a structured and thoughtful way is a job to be taken seriously and will give great return on investment. When you are an active and appreciated contributor in channel communities, doors will open to new partnerships and to winning new deals. In my opinion, investing in communities is the best thing you can do as a partner. Just don't forget that it is a long-haul flight.
Posted by Per Werngren on April 17, 2023 at 5:50 PM0 comments
We're now four months into the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program (MCPP), which succeeded the old Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) and went live on Oct. 3, 2022.
I have loved this evolution right from the start. I have felt for some time that the old MPN program was a bit dated and no longer relevant. Partners were constantly testing its boundaries to qualify for Gold competencies, and customers had long stopped paying notice.
The new MCPP is, in my mind, more in-tune with the times and better addresses how customers buy and consume their IT services and solutions today. I think the MCPP's six solutions areas -- Data & AI (Azure), Infrastructure (Azure), Digital & App Innovation (Azure), Business Applications, Modern Work and Security -- better frame the different practice areas that a partner of today might have in the era of cloud computing. On top of these, there are specializations and expert programs for the partners with an even deeper knowledge in certain areas.
I have been part of Microsoft's various partner program changes during my years as a channel insider, and the switch from the MPN to the MCPP represents a natural evolution. Case in point: The concept of collecting points, which is a staple of today's MCPP, comes from an older Microsoft partner program code-named "Octane" from over 15 years ago.
My point is that once in a while, Microsoft will have a discussion with its partners, the result of which is sometimes a new version of its partner program. This is a rhythm that has been going on since the 1990s. And it makes sense; it's important to always improve, making adjustments as the rest of the world changes.
When then-channel chief Rodney Clark announced the MCPP last March, some partners expressed concerns that it would be harder to qualify in the new program as a Solutions Partner compared to the old Gold qualification. I didn't see that as negative, though, because the value of a Gold competency was hugely diluted. To me, one of the main problems with the old MPN was that there was very little useful differentiation between competency levels. I personally welcome a higher bar for standards so that partners have something to strive for and customers have an easier way to determine who has true expertise in a certain field. The old program had become way too easy for the partners that wanted to become Gold-certified.
Some partners said this was a downgrade for them. They feared the cost of losing their benefits. Perhaps they also feared they would no longer have a prominent badge. There have been concerns about the MCPP from partners servicing smaller customers and who tend to be more generalists than specialists. I've also heard concerns from ISVs.
My response to those concerns is that I am certain modern partners will find a place in the new MCPP. Others partners, especially those with legacy business models, should perhaps see this shift as a wake-up call to modernize their businesses. After all, Microsoft is just trying to address the changes in the market; likewise, partners need to evolve if they want to continue to be successful.
The MCPP's six solution areas give valuable insight to business leaders in our community. Partners that invest in any of these six solution areas will stand a decent chance of being in a growth area that will help support their practices. They will also be aligned with Microsoft's priorities, which has huge value: They can piggyback on Microsoft's investments to win in the marketplace.
What we have seen in the MCPP's first four months is the same pattern we've seen many times before. As partners learn about this new version of the partner program, they start to feel more at-ease and capable of planning to obtain their new status within the revamped program. The larger partners have found it easy to make the changes, though smaller ones will need time to achieve the right number of customers, revenue and certifications to reach the minimum required partner capability score (70 points out of 100) to become an MCPP Solutions Partner. Microsoft's decision to allow partners to keep their old benefits, like Internal Use Rights (IURs), was welcomed by the partner community, as it gives partners time to qualify for their desired level in the new program.
When I talk to partners in my network from all over the globe, I sense that most of the more successful ones are on track to adapt to the new MCPP. The key is "less is more." Partners need to specialize in a certain solutions area, instead of trying to fit too many. Being specialized attracts customers who want the best partner in a certain area. It also attracts the right hires. The new MCPP is great for the partners that embrace specialization as a strategy. If you're a generalist, you will find it hard to achieve 70 points in any solutions area -- and I think that's a good thing.
What I foresee is that Microsoft and its partners will educate customers on what it means to have a Solutions Partner badge. As customers understand how it works, it will be easier for them to create a shortlist of the right set of partners to solve their challenges.
I have personally always embraced change in the various iterations of Microsoft's partner programs, and I know that each evolution creates profitable opportunities for the early adopters. This generation will most likely follow the same pattern: They will create and enjoy wonderful new opportunities.
Posted by Per Werngren on February 13, 2023 at 8:37 PM0 comments
Nobody has missed the buzz around the chatbot ChatGPT created by OpenAI. This is exciting, and acts as an easily accessible consumer-friendly showcase of what can be done with artificial intelligence.
Microsoft is clearly seeing the light around AI. It has supported OpenAI since 2019 and is now, according to the press, in negotiations to acquire a large stake in the business. We all anticipate that AI will change our world and people's private and professional lives.
AI will need lots of compute and storage power, which makes it a high-potential revenue driver for the Microsoft cloud. Automation through various robotized solutions is also part of AI -- a market that is already huge, and growing.
The great news is that Microsoft partners can benefit from this. Partners should look at this from at least two perspectives, one externally facing and one internally facing.
First, your customers are dreaming of AI-driven solutions, so your job is to help them understand what they need and to deliver it to them. They need a partner that is a trusted advisor, understands their business and can help them figure out what they need. Like car manufacturing icon Henry Ford famously said about the development of the Ford Model T, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." AI presents an important opportunity for partners to assist customers in understanding what they need and want.
The low-hanging fruit is in helping customers automate mundane, everyday tasks; gain efficiencies from higher-quality processes; cut costs because fewer people are needed; and speed up response times with better results for end customers. Automating a process that is rarely used doesn't make sense, so instead put your focus on where you will make the most impact and create the highest ROI for your customers.
Partners should consider either building a separate AI practice or mandate that existing practices make a plan for how to add AI in their offerings. This goes not only for professional services practices but also for ISVs and others.
If your business is geared toward a certain industry, you will benefit by having a deep understanding of the processes that are vital for these customers. (If you don't already have the right people for this, you should consider recruiting seasoned experts.) Microsoft Power Platform is a great set of tools when creating magic for your customers but you will need expertise in more technologies to become successful.
Reach out to your existing customers and start the conversations, document your successes and let your marketing team tell the story.
Second, implementing AI in your daily operations will give you benefits that are similar to what you aim to provide for your customers. There are many areas where you can make good use of AI internally. GitHub Copilot from Microsoft can help your software code development work by shortening your development cycle, increasing your quality and significantly reducing cost.
Other areas where AI makes sense internally are in your customer service desk (where you can use chatbots to automate part of the support conversations) and for monitoring your compute resources in the cloud and on-premises (where you can also automate many actions that need to be taken).
The cost of running your business can be significantly lowered if you embrace AI to the fullest. We all know that margins are slim, so any savings are welcome -- and huge savings are warmly welcome! Start small and experiment with AI. Build your knowledge and perhaps recruit a few experts if you don't have the right people already. Make sure that you keep AI at the core of your business decisions and establish internal processes for your senior management team to track the progress and to measure the outcome.
My core message is that you cannot afford not to embrace AI, because your competition will. AI will be a fantastic enabler. There's still time to jump on the train to the future, but some cars have already left the station and you don't want to be the last one out. As always, it makes sense to work together; discovering areas for partnering around AI is a great topic around which you can build alliances and partnerships. Good luck!
Posted by Per Werngren on January 23, 2023 at 11:29 AM0 comments
I'm often engaged in conversations with Microsoft partners around how to structure partnering arrangements -- often called P2P, or partner-to-partner, relationships.
Many partners come to me either on the brink of starting their partnering efforts and wanting to know how to build their strategy, or after they've been doing P2P for a while but don't feel that it's working for them.
I genuinely believe that partnering is a great way to drive long-term success. It involves lots of investments and time, but when you do it right, it will give you a great ROI. Partnering not only gives you additional revenue, but it also encourages you to specialize -- another characteristic that I truly believe has its merits for partners, as the days of "Jacks-of-All-Trades" are long gone.
However, if a partnering arrangement is not successful for all parties involved, then it will eventually die, either slowly (because none of the parties care about it anymore) or violently (because one of the parties says that enough is enough and just terminates the agreement). In order to build lasting P2P arrangements, you'll need to have the right mindset, be generous and look after the success of all parties.
Here's a list of what I think makes a strong P2P relationship. It's based on my experiences serving the partner ecosystem for many years, and seeing both tremendous successes as well as quite a few failures.
- Margins: It's important to have a reasonable margin that motivates the efforts around both making the sale and also managing the ongoing relationship.
- Suggested margin is 20 percent for projects/assignments for year one and 10 percent for additional years.
- Suggested margin is 20 to 30 percent for SaaS and licenses for year one, and 10 to 15 percent for additional years.
- It is important that the partner that takes the burden of doing the actual selling gets a decent margin so they can compensate and motivate their sales teams.
- Prime Partner: One of the partners should have the legal agreement with the customer. This partner is the "prime partner" (or "originating partner").
- Documentation: Always document the terms of your partnership. It doesn't need to be complicated, and the Partnering Agreement Template I've created is a great starting point (it's also an official IAMCP template). For every project and assignment, I strongly recommend that you create a Statement of Work (SoW). It's easy to forget to document the terms of doing business or to save it for later, but it's crucial when you bring in more people in both organizations, as it provides an important safety net for all parties.
- Elevator Pitch: Make sure you have a partnering-friendly elevator pitch and practice it so it comes naturally -- even if someone wakes you up in the middle of the night. You shouldn't brag about your company; instead, it should be about what you're bringing to the table in a partnership and articulated in a way so that people want to bring you in. This is art in itself; don't feel embarrassed to practice with your co-workers. Everyone in your company that has conversations with partners should use the same pitch.
- Bi-Directional: It's important that both partners strive to sell each other's services. This is not always possible, but the mindset should be to help each other's bottom-line profits. Partnerships often fail when one partner thinks they are superior and don't care for the other partner. It needs to be a two-way partnership in order to last!
- Visibility: Be proud to show the customer who your partner is and don't try to hide it. Customers love partners that bring in other specialized partners, while still taking responsibility.
- Conflicts: If a partnership is going to survive long-term, you'll need to take care of potential problems early. You'll need to measure and discuss both customer and partner satisfaction regularly so you keep your customers happy and eliminate unnecessary friction. And be generous and help each other! Remember, you're in it together.
Here are some useful assets that will help you standardize:
- The IAMCP's Partnering Agreement Template package (which includes Partnering Agreement Template Instructions, the Partnering Agreement Template and Discussion Questions for Partnering).
- The P2P Maturity Model endorsed by IAMCP and IDC.
Posted by Per Werngren on December 28, 2022 at 7:33 AM0 comments
I have been part of the various iterations of Microsoft's partner program since the 1990s. Microsoft has done a great of job of staying relevant with its partner program through the years.
Last week, the company decided it was time to make a major overhaul, announcing that the existing Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) will become the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program effective Oct. 3, 2022. More
Posted by Per Werngren on March 22, 2022 at 4:28 PM0 comments
It's now time to close 2021 and look forward to 2022. Our industry -- and our channel ecosystem -- has re-innovated itself during the pandemic, and we can take pride in having helped people change the way they work.
For 2022, the digital transformation will continue. In many ways, the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, but the opportunities are still endless. We have only just skimmed the surface; beneath are whole industries that need to transform, and partners with not only technical knowledge but also the right business acumen will become heroes. More
Posted by Per Werngren on December 22, 2021 at 11:28 AM0 comments
I got the first alert at 11:40 a.m. EST on Oct. 4 that there were problems with Facebook. As it's not business-critical for me, I didn't pay much attention -- but I did get puzzled when I couldn't connect to WhatsApp, as that is indeed a critical tool for me to interact with my different teams around the globe.
We've now learned that the outage lasted for six hours and involved not just Facebook but also services owned by it, like Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and Oculus VR. This was a costly outage for every business that depends on these services, and it shows how business-critical these social media resources have become. More
Posted by Per Werngren on October 05, 2021 at 11:11 AM0 comments
I seldom write about IT or cybersecurity, but today I decided to make an exception.
There have been several publicly known ransomware attacks recently. The attacks against Colonial Pipeline and SolarWinds were eye-opening to many. The attack against Kaseya affected, according to the vendor, 1,500 organizations worldwide. The villains found a clever way to extend their reach by attacking vendors that provide tools for MSPs. Even my local golf club got hit in the Kaseya attack.
Posted by Per Werngren on September 02, 2021 at 2:26 PM0 comments
We have all had a very different past year. We have all suffered and made sacrifices, and many of us have lost people close to us.
Yet our partner ecosystem has been highly innovative, and there has been a strong demand for digital transformation, which has benefited many of us. More
Posted by Per Werngren on June 02, 2021 at 10:12 AM0 comments
As a former president of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP), I had the privilege and honor of leading the team that took the IAMCP from four to 44 countries and reached an annual revenue of $10 billion in deals between our members. That experience gave me some visibility into what makes partner-to-partner (P2P) relationships and engagements successful.
Today's Microsoft ecosystem is highly vibrant. We see great innovation happening across the globe, which opens new opportunities. As our customers are increasingly global, we need to address how to sell and deliver to them beyond geographical borders. More
Posted by Per Werngren on December 21, 2020 at 7:21 AM0 comments
Remember when your customers had offices filled with workers and everyone had a PC on their desks? Remember when people met in person and the computer room in the basement hosted all the servers?
Most systems integrators (SIs) and value-added resellers (VARs) had a viable business with support staff onsite taking care of people and systems. Most SIs and VARs did a blended delivery, where only some of the support was delivered from a central service desk. Their livelihood was to sell hours in different packages. The Microsoft Office experience was delivered through local Exchange and SharePoint servers -- though, of course, many customers had made the switch to Microsoft 365. More
Posted by Per Werngren on November 05, 2020 at 9:44 AM0 comments