Marching Orders 2018: Market to Catch the Wave

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including ERIC RABINOWITZ, CEO/CMO, NURTURE MARKETING. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

While surfing there are three possibilities, and only one outcome is good. Be too early and you're womped against the beach. Too late and you miss the opportunity.

This year, 2018, is your catch-the-wave year. Why? The corporate tax rate is lower, the stock market is going gang busters, according to The New York Times nearly $3 trillion in profits could be repatriated, and Randstad counts a 3 million-position shortfall in IT jobs in the United States. IT spending will be increasing as many projects on hold will now be a "go project." Because IT is understaffed, your clients -- big, medium and small -- will be looking to Microsoft partners to pick up the slack.

So, here's your insight. To catch the wave, you need to be marketing. More specifically, digital marketing. Make it easy for these desperate clients to find you. Social selling, Web site refresh, pay-per-click (check out LinkedIn advertising, for example), Sales Navigator PointDrive, e-mail, SEO, marketing automation and Partner Center referrals should be your priorities.

Do it internally, or outsource it, but do it now. Avoid the womp, and catch your wave for an amazing 2018!

Eric Rabinowitz is the CEO/CMO of Nurture Marketing, a full-service marketing firm that helps companies build lasting relationships with their prospects and customers.

Posted by Eric Rabinowitz on February 26, 2018 at 12:35 PM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Join a Network for Women in Technology

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including Karen Chastain, Director of Global Alliances and Partners, Episerver. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

With women in only one of four jobs in the technology industry, it's clear that there is still a need to educate, recruit and keep women in tech roles. But talking about it is not enough. Unless companies put real time and effort into supporting the women in technology movement, they will miss out on talent needed to grow their business.

Here are two simple areas where partners can get more involved in the moment: Join a women's organization and enable women within your company.

Perhaps the easiest step is to join a women's organization. There are many active and meaningful women-in-technology networks and groups that can help you stay current on news, participate in events and be part of the movement. Many of these groups are not commitment-based and will enable you to educate yourself on current challenges, solution areas, ideas on how you can further embrace the women in your company and recruit talented women to fill roles. A few that I suggest are IAMCP Women in Technology (#iamcpwit), Microsoft Women in Partner (#mswomeninpartner) and Women in Cloud(#womenincloud).

Surely, you have some talented women in your workforce already -- don't lose them! Encourage them to get involved in the networks I just listed, start an internal women's group, and even introduce a new initiative or event with your employees.

At Episerver, we have put forward a few initiatives to help promote women in technology. I'm most proud of Digital Ninety-Nines, a podcast series that highlights the work of women who are leading digital transformation in their fields. Our goal was to carry the theme through in other ways, like our annual user conference, Ascend. At the conference, we hosted an all-women panel, including women from analyst firms, partners and customers.

So, get started today, check out the networks and groups that are available to everyone. You don't have to be a woman to join!

Karen Chastain, a proven leader in alliance management among the largest technology partners, is the director of global alliances and partners at Episerver. With over 15 years of experience in partner relationship management, building channels, strategic business planning and marketing, Karen consistently delivers results within global and cross-functional programs by building mutually beneficial relationships with partners.

Posted by Karen Chastain on February 20, 2018 at 4:23 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Resolve to Make Your Next Move

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including BARB LEVISAY, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, REDMOND CHANNEL PARTNER MAGAZINE. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

Microsoft partners are in a good place right now.

Technology spending is up. Customers are ready to embrace new technologies and are growing more comfortable with the cloud. Office 365 has hit its stride and promises even more opportunity for partners through a steady expansion of features. Everyone in your organization is probably as busy, and billable, as they can handle.

During the good times, it's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind and put off preparing for the next cycle. Profits feel good. Diverting billable resources to development is painful.

But this is the best time to make your next move: To build the differentiator that will help your organization survive when the market is saturated or technology spending nosedives.

There is no question that specialization is key to differentiation. Partners who invest in building expertise and IP in an industry or function reap rewards through higher margins and loyal customers. As the specialist, Microsoft is more likely to invite you into opportunities.

During these good times, allocate resources to prepare your business for the tougher times. The longer this upcycle lasts, the more time you have to build expertise and reputation in your segment.

Redmond Channel Partner Contributing Editor Barb Levisay blogs regularly on RCPmag.com about Service Trends and Diversity Wins.

Posted by Barb Levisay on February 20, 2018 at 4:54 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Focus on Hiring and Mentoring Women

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including JENNIFER DIDIER, CEO/PRESIDENT/OWNER, DIRECTIONS TRAINING. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

My best advice for partners in 2018, more than any other year, is to continue to target women hires and to build programs that support and mentor women in the office. As strong, resilient and loyal employees, women bring unique perspectives to the industry. We bring fresh insight into advancing the channel in new, collaborative ways. Still, we are underrepresented in the male-dominated industry. Partners must work to encourage more women to join the industry and to pursue leadership roles.

With women's contributions, the channel will continue to advance. According to WomenWhoTech.com, Fortune 500 companies that had at least three women directors saw an average return on equity increase by at least 53%, and return on sales increase by at least 42%. The return on invested capital increased by at least 66%. In today's modern workplace, women often have longer lifespans in companies than their male counterparts. They're also often more successful in initial stages. This crucial bit of insight will make the difference this year as companies work to create fresh solutions and evolve their business.

A computer instructor by training, Jennifer Didier worked in many roles in the IT field before her interests expanded into entrepreneurship and she started her own training company, Directions Training. As CEO, president and owner, Didier has built the company with double-digit growth year over year and has expanded the organization from a local to a global focus.

Posted by Jennifer Didier on February 20, 2018 at 4:33 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Bridge Professional and Personal Experiences

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including Tiffany Wallace, Vice President, Business Development, New Horizons Computer Learning Centers. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

In my 15 years as a Microsoft Learning Partner, I've watched society evolve into adjusting to and expecting what is called "instant intelligence." This adaptation is how we interact with technology professionally during the day and personally at night. This integration is made possible by the focus in all industries on machine learning. Partners need to focus on technology as an access point from the boardroom at work to the kitchen at home.

Machine learning allows us to build on the multitude of data we can now collect. As industry evolves to capture more and more data, we need to build solutions in every aspect of our lives that integrate the technology in an intelligent way.

We as partners have focused heavily on the professional aspect of how customers adopt technology in specific industries. The emerging opportunity is how we engage the customers' experience personally. How do we continue the adoption of our technology solutions in their personal lives?

Microsoft has brought us into the home with Xbox and Surface devices. What is the next access point where we can create a technology interaction with "instant intelligence"?

As vice president of business development, Tiffany Wallace is responsible for the B2B and B2C partner development, product growth and marketing strategy for over 30 New Horizons locations in North America.

Posted by Tiffany Wallace on February 15, 2018 at 8:44 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Diversify Your Microsoft Revenue

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including Matt Scherocman, President, Interlink Cloud Advisors. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

As clients move more of their revenue to the cloud, Microsoft partners need to diversify their revenue streams to continue to flourish and, possibly, just to survive.

My recommendation for 2018 is to diversify your revenue and protect your margins. We are all seeing pressures on revenue and profitability. To me it feels like this is occurring in every industry as the Internet makes geography less of a business advantage. Customers are finding self-service and research easier than ever. Among the pressures:

  • Traditional hardware and software sales are going away. So, the opportunities to make big margins on large product transactions is also disappearing.
  • Managed services revenue is declining because there are fewer servers to manage on-premises. The reliability of cloud services sets a ceiling on what can be charged.
  • Partner of Record fees continue to be changed and reduced by Microsoft. We have seen major cuts in what Microsoft calls the "rate card" again this year, and adviser fees from Web transactions were completely eliminated.

In 2018, look to make investments in new offerings. Technologies like collaboration adoption services, business intelligence, data warehousing and machine learning are just a few that are ripe with customer needs. The biggest challenge to the traditional systems integrator is recruiting talented folks who can lead these new practice areas and evolving the sales teams to be able to clearly articulate these value areas.

Matt Scherocman is president of Interlink Cloud Advisors, a born-in-the-cloud Microsoft partner based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Posted by Matt Scherocman on February 15, 2018 at 8:37 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Get Good at Change Management

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including Christian Buckley, Founder & CEO, CollabTalk LLC. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

With so many customers, and even partners, complaining about the rapid state of innovation coming out of Redmond, it's more important now than ever before that organizations take on more of an operational focus, and become experts in technology change management. Companies that can quickly assess, adapt and adopt will be the winners, pure and simple.

Christian Buckley is an independent researcher, technology evangelist and Microsoft Office Servers & Services MVP with more than 25 years of experience working with collaboration, social and supply chain technology.

Posted by Christian Buckley on February 15, 2018 at 7:50 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Engage with Microsoft

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including Vince Menzione, CEO and Founder, Cloud Wave Partners. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

As a podcast host and business consultant to organizations looking to better partner with the tech giant, I've had the unique privilege of interviewing scores of leaders in the industry, including some of Microsoft's top partners.

What I believe separates the good partnerships from the great ones is the commitment from the very top. CEO commitment, visibility and alignment to Microsoft have been a key factor in the success of many high-performing partners.

My advice to organizations looking to expand and grow their business with the technology giant in 2018 is directed toward CEOs and ensuring that these business leaders make executive visibility and engagement across the Microsoft organization a priority, while ensuring their business is aligned to the priorities and invested in programs, enablement and co-selling in order to drive a mutually successful set of business objectives.

Vince Menzione is the founder of Cloud Wave Partners and the host of a podcast, "Ultimate Guide to Partnering." Menzione's career has consisted of three successful business transformations while leading sales and channels, including nine years at Microsoft as a general manager on the U.S. Partner Leadership Team.
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Posted by Vince Menzione on February 14, 2018 at 12:32 PM0 comments


Marching Orders 2018: Investing in AI is a Smart Play

What can Microsoft partners do differently in 2018 to make a business breakthrough? We put that question to 16 top experts, including Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President, One Commercial Partner, Microsoft. For more tips on finding success in the Microsoft channel in 2018, read our full Marching Orders feature here.

More and more companies are looking to digitally transform their business with Artificial Intelligence (AI). According to market research firm Tractica, revenue generated from the application of AI software will skyrocket in the next five years. Starting at $1.36 billion in 2016, research shows AI generated revenue will see a 52% compound annual growth rate, stretching the opportunity to $59.75 billion by 2025. Microsoft's new "AI Practice Development Playbook" is giving partners the guidance they need to start, grow, and optimize an AI practice. Whether they're in health care, retail, construction or finance, the AI Playbook was designed to help companies across industries develop AI practices that set them apart from their competitors and capitalize on the AI opportunity. The playbook takes a step-by-step approach to help Microsoft partners define their AI strategy, hire and train a team, operationalize their plan, go to market, and grow their AI practice. Real-world examples show how it's done.

Customers, once unsure about AI technology at home and at work, now expect time-saving, life-improving solutions to be built into the products and services they buy. With so much opportunity ahead, now is the time to get smart about making AI part of your company's digital transformation.

Gavriella Schuster is corporate vice president of the Microsoft One Commercial Partner (OCP) organization. At Microsoft since 1995, Schuster has held top worldwide partner leadership roles for Microsoft since May 2014.

Posted by Gavriella Schuster on February 14, 2018 at 12:07 PM0 comments


Marching Orders 2017: Differentiate To Survive

What should you do to make the most of technology business opportunities in 2017? For this "Marching Orders" series, we put that question to a number of channel luminaries, including top Microsoft channel executives, consultants, Microsoft partners and other regular RCP contributors. This entry comes from Matt Scherocman, president of Interlink Cloud Advisors.

Cloud gives partners the ability to sell anywhere in the world. With that, some of our key differentiators as partners are changing in the eyes of the customer.

My recommendation for 2017 is to focus on how your business is going to set itself apart from everyone else.

Here are the simple steps:

  1. Identify why customers purchase from you already. Have you actually asked them? I can tell you that I am asking frequently and continue to be surprised by some of the answers.

  2. Identify what makes you different. Where do your approaches or methodologies stand out? Can you make your "Big Mac" the same every time from every location or consultant?

  3. Where are you going to invest? Is it in building out a SharePoint solution that targets a vertical, or an offering that has an easy-to-understand pricing model, or software you have written?

  4. How will you market your differentiator? Fundamentally, a differentiator is only important if the prospect or client knows about the differentiator and considers it valuable to their business. So, our marketing has to be in their language and has to talk about how our solutions solve their business challenges.

It used to be about having expertise available. With the Internet, however, knowledge is available at the click of a button. So, in 2017 what client business challenges will your business solve better than anyone else?  

Posted on December 30, 2016 at 7:17 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2017: Prepare for a Correction

What should you do to make the most of technology business opportunities in 2017? For this "Marching Orders" series, we put that question to a number of channel luminaries, including top Microsoft channel executives, consultants, Microsoft partners and other regular RCP contributors. This entry comes from Reed Warren, vice president of Revenue Rocket Consulting Group.

Harry Truman was fond of saying how much he yearned for a one-handed economist. He grew weary of economists offering one prognostication, then a minute later saying, "On the other hand," and proffering yet a completely different scenario.

We're going to offer a one-handed prognostication for 2017/2018 -- the market could very well see a pullback in demand, thereby setting off a technology correction.

It seems the timing is about right. We are not looking at a correction the likes of 2000/2001, or of 2007/2008. It appears to us that the market going forward will be characterized more by a sustained period of incrementalism, rather than some new significant, unforeseen innovation that reshapes the market.

The IT services firms that will prevail over the next 12 to 24 months will be the top-quartile performers possessed of an arsenal of cash, low debt and a fortified balance sheet.

In addition to a healthy balance sheet, these top-performing companies will be those that have successfully transitioned to a process orientation, and with significant IP initiatives. They have focused their business on the intersection of a technology and an industry. Having such will put the company in a better position to win over new customers relative to those less endowed, and to also be in a more advantageous position to make attractive acquisitions.

History has proven time and time again that successful companies look at recessions or pullbacks as the best time to invest in their business, such that they come out the back end in a better position than they were at the outset.

For 2017, think profit.

Posted on December 29, 2016 at 7:08 AM0 comments


Marching Orders 2017: Sell Outside of IT

What should you do to make the most of technology business opportunities in 2017? For this "Marching Orders" series, we put that question to a number of channel luminaries, including top Microsoft channel executives, consultants, Microsoft partners and other regular RCP contributors. This entry comes from Keith Lubner, managing partner at Channel Consulting Corp. and co-founder of Channel EQ.

Our company develops ridiculously good training content and programs for the channel. One of our most popular programs is called Business Guidance Selling. The essence of this course is transforming salespeople to sell outside of their comfort zones and into other areas beyond the IT department.

In 2017, your ability to excel will be determined by your ability to sell to all the other stakeholders within an organization that now have budgets to spend on your products and services.

You can thank the cloud for this shift in the market. More applications and services now exist for more people within an organization. Couple this with the cloud allowing companies to shift spending buckets from CapEx to OpEx and you create more buyers in more departments within more companies. The problem is, for the most part, partner sales teams have been focused on selling to the IT department.

To jump start your transformation and your capabilities, focus on the following in 2017:

  • Turn your salespeople into consultants. We mean this figuratively, not literally. Selling to other areas within a business is different. Therefore, your people need to think and act differently. They need to do better pre-call planning. They need to ask better discovery questions. They need to start making recommendations to the prospect on areas for improvements or cost reductions.

  • Because this transformation is not easy (but required in order to make the leap into those other areas), you need to arm your salespeople appropriately. This means training the salespeople on market "pains" and "requirements." This means educating your technical staff to ask more questions about other areas within the business. This means learning more techniques to prospect into the layers of an account.

  • The seller/buyer relationship has changed dramatically, and in order to prosper, you must come to terms with this reality. Buyers know more about your products and services before you ever pick up the phone or walk in the door. You need to differentiate and the only way to do that is to shift your mental approach to the account. Instead of pitching a product, start thinking of presenting a solution. Instead of being reactive to a prospect, become proactive in giving advice. Elevating your abilities will help you rise above the competition and keep you from falling into the control of the buyer.

Think and act differently in 2017, and you will develop more robust pipelines by selling to more people outside of the traditional IT.

Posted by Keith Lubner on December 28, 2016 at 7:43 AM0 comments