Marching Orders 2019: Transform Yourself to Transform Others

What are the top steps Microsoft partners can take to help their businesses succeed in 2019? We put that question to top experts, including Mark Rice, General Manager, Managed Services Partners, Microsoft.

As customers digitally transform themselves, all partners are also going through some level of transformation necessary to take advantage of the growing customer demand and opportunity in the cloud. The promise of the recurring revenue of long-term cloud managed services is a clear end game to their customer engagement. This is a journey, and can be looked at in three pillars: business transformation, capability transformation and sales and marketing transformation.

Business Transformation
Customers are looking for dynamic solutions focused on business outcomes from their partners, who can help them navigate the move to the cloud. But they're not just looking for partners to help navigate, they're looking for help optimizing and governing their use of the cloud. Partners who are best positioned to deliver this to their customers are those who can deliver a full customer cloud engagement lifecycle. This sounds very simple, but taking a customer from plan/design through migration, application modernization, optimization and running requires solutions, tooling, automation and, of course, a ton of talent. Partners who adapt to guide customers through this cycle will have a competitive advantage over their peers in the coming years.

Capability Transformation
Higher value cloud services are driving profitability and higher margins for partners. Many partners tend to offer basic IaaS management services, but those who can build and manage agile, cloud native apps will see margin differentiation. Many are finding that to sustain and grow margins, significant investments in IP, tools and people are needed. For most cloud partners this means striking a balance and finding the right inflection points in their businesses to accelerate transformation from existing business models to new ones, such as migrating from traditional hosting to modern cloud-managed services.

Sales and Marketing Transformation
The transformation of sales, GTM and operational excellence is a clear challenge for partners as they move to a cloud model. These range across 're-wiring' their customer management systems (automation), sales compensation models (moving from large deals to incremental consumption through new service offering penetration) and leveraging digital marketing. The shift also includes how they partner with ISVs, other services companies and even their historic competitors. However, although these changes may be challenging at first, being able to provide high value cloud offerings to customers will open up a whole new world of opportunities and profit to partners.

It is an exciting time for our partners, the business opportunity is incredible, as is the potential to impact our customers' business. Although there may be growing pains while making the necessary transformations, the impact and reward in delivering optimized cloud services far outweighs the costs.

Mark Rice is general manager for managed services partners at Microsoft.

Posted by Mark Rice on January 29, 2019 at 12:10 PM0 comments

Marching Orders 2019: Look at Azure and AppSource

What are the top steps Microsoft partners can take to help their businesses succeed in 2019? We put that question to top experts, including Toby Richards, General Manager, Partner GTM and Programs, Microsoft.

Going into 2019, we're hoping more and more commercial partners, including services partners and independent software vendors, take advantage of the Microsoft portfolio of go-to-market services. Partners should focus on attaining technical competencies and delivering validated solutions in order to remain competitive.

In the past year, Microsoft has released new programs that help partners differentiate themselves in the marketplace, including the Azure Expert MSP program, the release of the company's security competency later this year, and advanced specializations in the area of SAP solutions on Azure and Azure Stack partners. I encourage partners to take advantage of these programs that work in tandem with Microsoft to differentiate.

By going to market with Microsoft, partners will have access to new and improved partner referral and solution marketplace capabilities (Azure Marketplace and AppSource); access to the Cloud Solution Provider program that allows partners to package value-added services with Microsoft cloud platforms for fully integrated solutions; earned benefits that connect partners with regional marketing services to create awareness of new solutions; and the opportunity for connection to Microsoft sales teams through partner solution co-selling.

Creating new partner-to-partner market opportunities that deliver on integrated solutions for small and large businesses, and which address unique industry solution needs, will be a key integrator for success in the coming year. If partners use these resources to go to market with Microsoft and each other, opportunities to excel with new solution design, geographic expansion, and new business growth opportunities are sure to follow.

Toby Richards is general manager for Partner GTM and Programs at Microsoft.

Posted by Toby Richards on January 24, 2019 at 12:48 PM0 comments

Marching Orders 2019: Time is Your Top Resource

What are the top steps Microsoft partners can take to help their businesses succeed in 2019? We put that question to top experts, including Keith Lubner, Chief Strategy Officer, Sales Gravy.

Your success will be predicated upon how well you can manage your time in 2019.

Collectively, we are consumed by inordinate amounts of data, by vast arrays of communication methods, and by the demands of an "instantaneous" society. As professionals, we are being asked to respond quicker, be more thoughtful and compete in more situations.

These distractions have caused an immense amount of pressure to be placed on individuals.

The way to solve this dilemma is by being deliberate in blocking out each hour of day. The result is that you will force yourself into powerful hours of intense productivity.

The irony is that managing your time is  simplistic in nature but difficult to maintain. Most people struggle with being efficient and effective, but the winners in 2019 will master the time blocking discipline and will find ultimate productivity.

Keith Lubner is Chief Strategy Officer at Sales Gravy and Managing Partner at C3.  Keith acts as an advisor, mentor, and executive coach to several of today's leading sales and channel focused organizations on strategies, tactics and programs to accelerate growth. He is a world-wide recognized expert on sales, sales enablement, channels, marketing and leadership. His training programs and workshops have been delivered across the globe to several start-up and multi-national organizations. Keith can be reached at [email protected].

Posted by Keith Lubner on January 24, 2019 at 12:46 PM0 comments

Marching Orders 2019: Optimization and Modernization for Public Cloud

What are the top steps Microsoft partners can take to help their businesses succeed in 2019? We put that question to top experts, includingMike Harvath, President & CEO, Revenue Rocket.

The cloud is a means, not an end.

Success in modernizing IT in 2019 and beyond, through the cloud, will be driven by a complete standardization and through intentional growth strategies.

What we're seeing is that cloud adoption has been increasing at a rapid pace. According to research from Forbes and Gartner, cloud-specific spending is expected to grow more than six times the rate of general IT spending through 2020. Many companies, both large and small struggle to get the full value of this trend of moving their enterprise systems to the cloud, despite many organizations finding success by implementing specific software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions or adopting cloud-first strategies.

What we've found is that companies tend to fall into the trap of confusing moving IT systems to the cloud with the necessary transformational strategies centered around the full value of the cloud. Simply  taking legacy applications and moving them to the cloud through a "lift-and-shift" mindset won't automatically yield the benefits that cloud infrastructure and systems can provide. In most cases, that approach can result in IT architectures that are more complex, cumbersome, and costly.

The real value of cloud doesn't come from an approach that's focused on tactical decisions. Instead it's one that's part of an overall strategy that pursues digital transformation through the enablement of standardization and automation through an open API model. This strategy must be focused on aspects like developing a modern security posture, working within automated agile constructs, all the while leveraging new capabilities to drive innovative business solutions. The cloud certainly isn't a prerequisite for any of these features, but it does enforce them. Firms who embrace cloud capabilities using these methodologies will create a next-generation IT culture where the result is business growth and innovation in this rapidly evolving digital era.

Cloud solution providers such as Microsoft, Amazon and Google will appeal to many firms because of their platform benefits such as pay-per-use, scalability, network resiliency, and self-service. In 2019, we're expecting that these platforms will lead to much lower IT costs, quicker go-to-market, and better Quality of Service (QoS) when compared to traditional IT offerings.

As firms begin to adopt new methodologies in cloud optimization and modernization, there will be two major issues.

One, business applications created using the traditional IT paradigm won't automatically function with all the dynamic features of the cloud. Because of this, applications must be configured for fixed and/or static capacities in data centers.

Second, the current typical technology workforce is well versed in developing business applications in a traditional IT framework and will have to be reskilled for the trending cloud environment shift. A great example of this is IT security. Traditional IT environments are ones that adopt a perimeter-based "castles and moats" approach to security. Ideally, they should be creating cloud environments that are more like modern hotels where a keycard is necessary to access floors and rooms. Moving and migrating to the cloud, based on the traditional approach, will most definitely have an adverse impact on cybersecurity unless legacy applications are developed, deployed, and reconfigured for the new security model. As a result of the lift-and-shift dynamic, we've found that many firms are stuck supporting both their inefficient traditional data-center environments or inadequately prepared for trending cloud implementations.

Best process to cloud optimization and transformation
Perhaps the best process in executing cloud optimization and transformation is understanding the upside and investments needed.

This is because this long-term approach needs active commitment and a clear mandate from the CEO, technology leaders, and stakeholders. Specifically, there's four key points companies should address for successful cloud adoption.

1. Sourcing

The struggles are that most companies won't build their own cloud technology stack, and these same firms will find it even more difficult to maintain it. Partnering with public cloud providers and their partners through sourcing relationships in order to build/manage the cloud stack is much more practical.  By doing this, the end user clients will find that achieving success will be much more scalable.

2. The right cloud operating model

Public cloud requires IT to manage infrastructure as code, unlike most traditional operating models.

This requires software architects and engineers who understand coding, storage, and security protocols of public cloud. This equates to a massive upskilling of the infrastructure organization as well as the operating model in which they work. Specific teams need to be assigned to configure and manage the production environment, and this will be the foundation of the future cloud operating model.

3. Remediation of legacy applications

In order to align with security and capacity requirements, existing applications will need to be refactored at the infrastructure level. Security must be built into these applications, and must work in a more automated fashion, which will require significant attention from application teams. There will be challenges in this and companies can address this hurdle by creating a clear business case for modernizing legacy-applications by aligning migration schedules with major application upgrades or replacements aka modernization of said applications. Adopting foundational solutions with open API's will make these remediation efforts much easier.

4. Building IT teams with the right skills

IT and technology professionals must be able to build and code applications on the cloud in a secure and timely manner. Companies won't be able to do this without hiring and training the right cloud experts, then introducing them into development teams for retraining or upskilling their existing workforce. The expectation is that this aggressive approach will reply on commitments from leadership in the form of money and time. Typically, these types of approaches can take two to three years and that's because multiple things need to happen for cloud transformation to take place with the right people and right skillsets. This approach has significant management challenges, but with strong leadership, it's the fastest path to transformation.

We're seeing both an excitement and reluctance as many partners take the plunge into cloud. The reluctance is usually driven by concerns from a lack of buy-in, or a reluctance to invest the required resources in a multiyear effort. Conversely, organizations who embrace the new methodology of optimization AND modernization of the cloud achieve significant benefits in the medium to long term, by adopting the cloud's agile and automated operating model within their traditional IT approaches. Our prediction for 2019 as part of our Marching Orders will be that partner organizations who approach their cloud strategies this way will be ready and prepared for a very bright future indeed, in helping their clients with successful cloud transformation efforts.

Mike Harvath has spent his entire 30-year career advising partner companies on implementing winning growth strategies and facilitating mergers and acquisitions. As president and CEO of Revenue Rocket, he and his team have advised over 500 partner companies on reaching their growth goals.

Posted by Mike Harvath on January 22, 2019 at 12:01 PM0 comments

Marching Orders 2019: Leverage Microsoft Resources

What are the top steps Microsoft partners can take to help their businesses succeed in 2019? We put that question to top experts, including Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President, One Commercial Partner, Microsoft.

It's 2019, are you ready to give customers what they're craving? Customers have sky-high expectations of both Microsoft and our partners. We all need to rise to the challenge to meet customers' needs. The good news is, with our technology and your expertise, IP and services capabilities, we have the perfect ingredients for success.

In 2019, Microsoft is calling for partners to up their competitive edge through collaborative innovation as we develop even more effective resources and investments for our partners to win in the market. The demand for cloud and other emerging technology is high, and the innovations from Microsoft -- coupled with the incredible partner leadership in our ecosystem -- present both opportunity and a responsibility to delight our customers with solutions that drive their digital transformation.

The creativity of Microsoft partners never ceases to amaze me. We're seeing major trends in partners building unique value that addresses customer needs, particularly around industries and verticals. This added value is accelerating the way customers drive forward on digital transformation. In 2019, we want to make sure partners that have unique IP -- particularly ISV organizations focused on packaged solutions -- are getting their applications into Microsoft's Appsource and Azure Marketplace. Doing so makes their offerings more discoverable and helps drive the co-sell motion that connects with the full partner ecosystem. With all of the opportunity ahead of us, partners need to be where customers can see them. Change is happening. So now is the time to take advantage of the unmatched exposure available in Azure Marketplace and Appsource.

The past year has been full of fast and furious change for our partners and Microsoft, as technology and the demands of customers continue to grow. Together, Microsoft and our partners have been more flexible and responsive to the market than ever before. It's exciting to see the resulting momentum in partner engagement and co-sell; cloud adoption and spend is growing by double digits, and CSP growth is in the triple digits. But this growth can only be sustained through commitment and partnership from both Microsoft and our partners. Our unique advantage is you, and the value you bring to customers.

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 January 17, 2019 at 12:07 PM0 comments

A Dozen Tips for Partner Startups from an Investor

So you're a startup? Congratulations on a wonderful and highly exciting journey!

I have started and sold companies my whole life. Now, I focus on investing and helping entrepreneurs. Based on my experience, here's some advice from the trenches.

1. Focus, focus, focus! Don't try to do two things at the same time. I often hear excuses that developing a new offering didn't take much effort, that this might be a new opportunity, or that we got to send a bill for this special assignment. But what I really hear is that your scarce resources are being spread out, making everything weaker. As an investor, I want your core focus to be on one thing -- and if that one thing is not viable, then let's find another thing to focus on.

The jack-of-all-trades era is gone. With stiff competition and innovation on a global scale, you will need to focus on being great at one thing rather than mediocre at two things. Stick with your business idea or develop a new and better one. But only one idea at a time, please! When you become bigger and stronger, you can, of course, consider adding new offerings. But that will be tomorrow and not today.

2. Margins should be high. Great software products and great service offerings will give you a great net margin. That means that your marginal cost needs to be low. (Think of an airline selling one more seat; the marginal cost is limited to a bag of nuts.)

3. Selling should be done over the Internet through digital marketing, not by sending out bodies to meet with potential customers. Sending out bodies might work in your hometown, but it will be super hard for you to scale up and sell in other cities, counties, states and countries. If you can sell without sending out sales reps, then I will listen.

You can, of course, do this through a network of partners. And I don't like it if you have a call center doing outbound sales calls; that is just a little bit better, but not good enough. I don't mind an inbound call center helping customers with their experience.

4. A global mindset. Being able to sell outside your local market and win on a global scale has never been easier than today. This is something that you should always have in mind as you start your new venture and make sure that this is influencing your decision-making. I find many companies with great business models and wonderful offerings, but they are hard to bring to other markets. Therefore, I most often decline making an investment.

5. Subscriptions will give you recurring revenue, and that is a fantastic thing that everyone loves. It will take longer for you to get the revenue compared to selling projects or traditional licenses, but when it finally comes, it will be more robust and more predictable. And investors love recurring revenue! When you're selling your company, you will thank me for this advice, as it will give you a much higher valuation or enterprise value (EV).

6. Live the digital life and love digital marketing. I often meet companies that are in the technology space, but they do not understand the value and concept of digital marketing. They have a Web site, perhaps a blog, a Tweet now and then, but they have no plan or strategy for how to regularly create new content and make it visible to their audience. I honestly think that most Microsoft partners are better at talking about this to others than doing it themselves.

Digital marketing is an area where I always advise my companies to invest more. When you master digital marketing, you'll be king!

7. I love artificial intelligence (AI), but I want to hear a decent story. Just adding AI with no real purpose will not excite me.

But if your solution is driven by AI and this is a differentiating factor, then I will listen and fight to invest. AI will change our lives and there are many ways for a startup to leverage the AI bandwagon, so this is really an area with a great future.

8. Don't be afraid to fund your company with revenue. There is nothing bad about building revenue. When you've got revenue and you're cash flow-positive, you'll be in a much better position to talk to investors. Having customers that are willing to pay for your services is proof of what you're doing, and it will help you pay the bills and arrange external investments -- which you may not even need if your revenue is great.

9. The team is crucial for success. Many investors say that they invest in the team first and in the product second. The right team will find the right product and the right business model. It is important that the team has multiple talents and has the right combination of experience and disruptive thinking (i.e., inexperience). It is crucial to get along with each other, both within the team and with investors. Teams that don't get along well will never perform!

10. Embrace diversity. Your customers are diverse and your team should be the same. Embracing diversity will also give you access to a much larger talent pool. And you'll be in a better position to understand your customers' needs. This is especially important when entering new markets.

11. Don't forget the customer. Having the customer top-of-mind will help you become successful. If your services are highly appreciated by your customers, it will be hard to not become successful -- and satisfied customers are the best advocates to help you win new customers. Being customer-centric should be part of your DNA, and I want you to be proud of what you do for your customers.

12. Be honest; don't try to hide your problems because, eventually, I will find out. Instead, involve me in what is not working and seek my advice for how to resolve it. The true advantage with investors and what differentiates them is often the quality of their advice and the value of their networks. A fellow investor friend told me, "They will surely take your money, but what they will really value is your advice."

And remember, being a startup is a fantastic journey that will reward you in wisdom, knowledge, freedom and, hopefully, financially. And when you've become successful, don't forget to give back to new startups!

Posted by Per Werngren on October 10, 2018 at 9:42 AM0 comments

How To Overcome a Dazed and Confused Technology Landscape

The rate of cool technology is accelerating at an unbelievable pace. Across the board, vendors are developing and releasing applications and services quicker than ever before.

This amazing speed is causing two particular problems in the channel: Partner personnel are becoming overwhelmed and complexity is dictating the day.

Let's break the problems down. Because technology is so easy to spin up and spit out, more vendors are producing more applications. Couple this with existing vendors revamping and retooling their applications to fit the consumption economy, and you get a massive inflow of technology in the market.

For instance, do a search on "CRM" or "ERP," and the results produce endless options. Sitting in the reseller's shoes, it's exponentially more difficult to figure out this landscape, especially when they are trying to determine how to round out their technology portfolios. Prospects know much more now than they used to about a technology before the reseller knocks on the door, making every sales interaction much more challenging.

Secondly, salespeople are making their interactions much more complicated than they need to be with prospects. They try to deliver relevant information via a cocktail of technology platforms, campaigns, social media, chat, text or a hundred other options. While employing technology is supposed to minimize the complexity of the interaction, it actually does the opposite in many cases: It causes an erosion of any potential relationship with a prospect.

The road around this dilemma is multifold. First, how we are enabling salespeople must change. There are more and more generations coming into the workforce who rely too heavily on technology to create the connection with the prospect. Because of this, there is a widening gap in the soft skills of most of these workers. Simply put: People don't know how to speak to one another. Need proof? Next time you are in a restaurant, take notice of how many people have their mobile phones out.

To remedy this, training needs to incorporate a blend of skills that are set up in logical "pathways," making absorption of any knowledge impactful. Enablement becomes fast, as well as meaningful, as a result of this approach.

Next, platforms and systems must be used in a way so as to push relevant and thought-provoking information to the prospect, ahead of the prospect trying to find data on their own. The content needs to be "educational" in nature and not technical in design. By doing so, you start connecting to the prospect in a way that is different than the competition.

In short, combining newfound soft skills with "pushing" pertinent content is the recipe for success.

A great example of these approaches exists within a company called Garland Technology. It produces Test Access Points (TAPs) and aligns nicely to many big-name security vendors. Before Garland implemented its new partner program and portal, it mapped out what each enablement journey looked like and then linked every path to desired outcomes. This ensured that applicable skills were being taught for each partner constituent.

It also put into play "prospect pages" (a feature of its PRM) that allows its partners to deliver content such as whitepapers directly to the prospect, while tracking open rates. Gone are the days when a partner would send a PDF and "hope" the prospect read it.

So far, the results are astounding in that partners are more easily engaging with greater numbers of prospects, and metrics are showing that win rates are going up.

Lastly, organizations need to get back to the basics if they want to differentiate themselves. Simple things like picking up the phone or knocking on a few doors will go a long way in establishing deeper and more connected relationships with customers. What they are forgetting to do is simple: Connect on a human-to-human level.

Over seven years ago, I wrote the following line for Redmond Channel Partner magazine: "An uneducated reseller or a confused reseller cannot adequately sell a vendor's product line." The same holds true today.

Posted by Keith Lubner on September 12, 2018 at 10:21 AM0 comments

Make the Most of Co-Sell, But Avoid Overdependence

The huge theme at Microsoft Inspire this summer was the messaging around, and supporting evidence for, doing business with Microsoft and with fellow partners.

I have been attending Microsoft's worldwide partner events since 2002, and I remember less-successful similar attempts from Microsoft. This time, it clearly got it right.

The co-sell program is a huge success. And thanks to CEO Satya Nadella, worldwide channel chief Gavriella Schuster and others who have reshaped Microsoft, there is now a great path for partners to prove themselves and to leverage Microsoft's sales team in order to win new customers. I have met many partners that have given evidence that the co-sell program is actually working in real life, not just in theory.

With co-sell working so well, it is easy for partners to consider making this their only avenue for growing sales. But that would be a strategic mistake. I think that partners ought to view co-sell as frosting on the cake, not the cake itself.

My suggested core sales motion is for partners to approach customers directly, or indirectly through other partners, and to use co-sell as an additional opportunity. Co-sell can help you win new customers, and it can also help you win the attention of potential partners to act as your resellers and/or implementers.

It is also important to build personal relations with Microsoft's field sellers. When you get a request from a Microsoft field seller, it is important to follow up and to invest time to close the deal together. Being a great partner to Microsoft's field will pay off. You want to be easy to deal with and build a reputation for being very attentive.

Think of Microsoft's field as an ecosystem of its own. When you create mutual success, you will be able to ask for introductions to other Microsoft field sellers in the same country/region or in the same vertical. Of course, you should document your success and use it in your marketing. And saying "thank you" is never bad -- send those e-mails up the chain to senior leaders.

It is worth mentioning that AppSource is growing in importance as Microsoft's marketplace for B2B apps. It makes sense for you to make sure that you are part of it and that you optimize your presence there. AppSource is the starting point for your co-sell efforts and it also helps you get visibility from customers and fellow partners. Remember to keep your value proposition short and sweet; a maximum of 20 words seems to be what is working.

The message at Inspire in Las Vegas was loud and clear: Microsoft and partners are driving innovation, and by working together, we will achieve joint success. You could feel it everywhere -- on the big stage, in breakout sessions, in the expo hall and in casual discussions over dinner and drinks. The relationship between Microsoft and partners has never been better, and there is a great degree of optimism about the opportunities ahead.

Posted by Per Werngren on August 30, 2018 at 12:35 PM0 comments

Profiles in Partnering: The Power of P2P To Bring Income to Your Inbox

How long does an opportunity last?

Whatever answer came to mind, it's a good bet it isn't very long. You receive a call or an e-mail or some other form of request for quotation from a customer and a very, very short clock starts ticking in your mind. You need to be the first and best response to that request, because you know it's been made of others, as well.

Making matters worse, the request includes skills you simply don't have on your staff, or geographies you can't easily reach. You know you're going to need partners to get that part done, so you're going to have to find qualified partners.

How quickly should you find those partners? Immediately. Right now, if not sooner.

You're In a Rush
When are you most likely to make mistakes? When you're in a rush. And now you're in a rush to find qualified partners to help you respond to and fulfill this opportunity.

Are you a Microsoft partner looking to collaborate with another partner on a customer project? Send your details to [email protected] and we'll help you connect with other Microsoft partners.

Where will you look? Portals, search engines, lists? How long will that take? How long will it take you to get in touch with these potential partners, and to reach the right person at each company? That clock just keeps ticking louder.

How will you know how trustworthy the reviews are? How will you know how trustworthy these partners are? You'll want to talk to a few of their customers. Right -- like that's going to be easy.

Our Shortcut: The RCP2P Trust Community
Here's how you find the right partners fast.

In my first "Profiles in Partnering" article, I recalled the launch of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) and how it compelled Microsoft partners to declare their best expertise, their specialties. This was of great service to customers by providing the "best of the best" for every technology initiative. It also meant that multiple partners would be needed to perform larger projects.

Finding the right partners to work with became a challenge. You didn't want to do it in a rush, and you didn't want to choose the wrong partner. But searching for the right partner took forever.

With RCP2P, our subscribers can simply send an e-mail to [email protected] detailing the skills they need for their customer's project. Whether the work needs to be done in faraway places or requires skills you simply don't have on your team, tell RCP2P and we'll publish the need in our next newsletter, which comes out three times each week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays)!

Thousands of RCP readers will see your need and will simply respond via e-mail telling you why you should choose them to partner with. All of those e-mails are forwarded directly to you, and you pick and choose who you want to talk to about partnering on the opportunity.

Here's why you'll love using the RCP2P Skill Sharing Opportunity Accelerator:

  1. No "portals" to go checking constantly in hopes of finding opportunities.
  2. All you need do is open the RCP Update Newsletter when it shows up in your inbox.
  3. No hunting through ancient opportunities. Each only appears once because opportunities must be responded to quickly or they will be lost.
  4. All you need to do is reply to [email protected] with an e-mail indicating which opportunity you're interested in and why you should be chosen.
  5. This service costs you nothing.
  6. Opportunities show up in your inbox.

RCP readers are all Microsoft partners with extraordinary skills. This is the best community to tap into to find the kind of partner you can trust to get the job done for your customer. Give it a try!

Profiles in Partnering will regularly highlight the success stories of partners who have partnered with others to provide superior solutions to customers while growing their own businesses. Welcome to the RCP2P Program. Let's get started.

Posted by Howard M. Cohen on July 31, 2018 at 2:10 PM0 comments

Profiles in Partnering: Realizing the Goals of the Microsoft Partner Network

What's your plan for the future? If your response is that you don't have one, please remember what Benjamin Franklin told us: "Failing to plan is planning to fail." Especially now in the partner ecosystem.

Unless you're one of the few that have advanced beyond the curve, you simply cannot keep on doing what you've always done. Zig Ziglar said that "If you're doing what you've always done, you're probably getting what you always got," but even that is no longer true. Whether you still call yourself a VAR or a reseller or an MSP, you can't just sit there. Stay still at your own peril.

In 2009, the Microsoft Partner Program (MSPP) was ending its eighth year and Microsoft replaced it with the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), which was not just something you sign up for -- it was something you become part of.

For the purposes of this discussion, we're just going to focus on one component of the MPN that represented the most significant change and challenge to Microsoft partners: the "exclusivity" or "uniqueness" rule that said that each gold competency you pursued required four unique individuals to pass tests. You could not use the same people to pass test for more than one gold competency. At the time, the No. 1 partner out of the over 118,000 listed in the partner directory held 29 out of 30 possible competencies. That entire company consisted of 17 people in total. Now, with the MPN, it could possibly hold on to four if the company had nothing but techs, which was hardly the case. To attain all 30 would require a minimum technical staff of 120.

Do you think Microsoft was only interested in having large partners? Hmm. Maybe.

The architects of the MPN explained that their goal was to remove "jack-of-all-trades" partners and have everyone declare their core competencies, thus "raising the bar." This would enable Microsoft to recommend the best possible partners for each project, knowing and certifying their capabilities. Customers would most certainly appreciate having the best of the best doing the work.

To their credit, the architects of the MPN relented and gave partners an extra year to fulfill all the new obligations spelled out in the 2009 rules. Since then, the raised bar has been the rule.

How Did That Go for You?
This year, the MPN becomes a longer-lasting program than MSPP, and the more highly specialized environment created by it has become the norm. In fact, only the largest Microsoft partners, generally those at Tier I of the Cloud Solutions Partner (CSP) program, continue to be "all things to all people," while smaller partners focus on specific areas of technology.

According to Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of One Commercial Partner at Microsoft, "The Microsoft partner ecosystem has continued to expand and thrive. We have had great success continuing to grow Microsoft's business through our partners. As a matter of fact, more than 90 percent of Microsoft's revenue is supported by our partners."

As a Microsoft employee for decades, Schuster witnessed the transition from MSPP to MPN, and from being a Gold or Certified Partner to having gold or silver competencies -- an interesting distinction introduced by MPN. Her observation, after nine years of the MPN: "We understand that change is difficult. Overall, we've found that this approach has proven to be popular with our partners. In fact, we see 7,000 partners coming into the Microsoft ecosystem every month -- nearly double the rate we saw just two years ago, and now we have 80,000 partners doing business in the cloud. Customers have shown they appreciate and prefer working with partners that have proven their expert knowledge by attaining gold and/or silver status with Microsoft."

Schuster also emphasizes the need for partners to distinguish themselves from other partners by branding their offerings and emphasizing expertise. "Having a competency allows partners to offer highly differentiated value to their customers. We are optimizing our competency portfolio to help enable partners to successfully connect with and serve their market," she said.

Driving the Need for Partners to Partner with Other Partners (P2P)
One major impact of the MPN is that if you agree that customers care about gold and silver competencies, it has to take more than one partner to fulfill most large project requests (since most projects involve multiple competencies). Partners would have to partner effectively with other partners to provide comprehensive services to most customers.

Partner-to-partner (P2P) partnering has long been a major emphasis for Microsoft partners. Many organizations have been created to assist partners in finding capable partners to work with on broader projects, including:

  • The Microsoft Partner Community, a great resource for partners to connect with other partners, as well as with Microsoft contacts. The community offers answers to FAQs, forums where partners can ask for help and advice, and many other resources. There are also a myriad of community groups focusing on different technologies and business models, including hosting and open source.

  • The International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP), which also assists members in business development, offering business opportunities through partnerships with the global community of its members. IAMCP membership also allows partners to get early access to trainings at reduced costs.

  • The IAMCP also supports a Women in Technology (WIT) chapter that Microsoft highly encourages partners to get involved with in order to hire and nurture creative, innovative and hardworking women in the channel. WIT connects women in the Microsoft ecosystem and provides mutual support in achieving professional and personal goals while attracting and retaining women into IT roles.

Microsoft Inspire, the annual global partner conference that's taking place right now in Las Vegas, is also a great opportunity for partners to meet together and make connections with partners from around the world.

Those of you who have been regular readers of Redmond Channel Partner for many years know that my regular column, The Changing Channel, ended about a year ago mainly because we felt it really wasn't so much a channel anymore as it was a professional community. The channel was about moving a product from manufacturer to distributor to reseller to customer. Today's IT community is about helping organizations improve through the innovative use of technologies.

Given that we ultimately agree with Microsoft that a professional community consists more of specialists than generalists, this new blog series, "Profiles in Partnering" is dedicated to helping partners learn how to select partners, align with them, create synergies with them, and bring customers the best of the best from cohesive partnerships among the best.

Are you a Microsoft partner looking to collaborate with another partner on a customer project? Send your details to [email protected] and we'll help you connect with other Microsoft partners.

In my next post, "Income in Your Inbox," you'll learn about a new program we're introducing called RCP2P, which is a more common-sense, direct approach to making it far easier for you to find the right partners that will complete the proposals and the projects you deliver to customers with expertise and devotion to excellence commensurate with your own. Rather than depend on inconsistently maintained portals, we take the direct path right into your inbox with opportunities from other partners who need your skills to complement theirs. They've done the selling. They need you to help do the work, and they'll pay you to do it.

That's the sacred heart of mutually beneficial partnering. It is our hope to contribute to your continued growth as you wrestle with other top-of-mind issues like what you're going to do next now that there's no future in just selling stuff, and everybody and their brother-in-law is calling themselves an MSP. We'll be suggesting many viable alternatives in this blog, including advice on how to most effectively build your own channels to pave a faster path to more customers through proactive partnering.

Stay tuned, and please participate in the conversation!

Posted by Howard M. Cohen on July 18, 2018 at 2:07 PM0 comments

How Microsoft Partners Can Drive Diversity To Build Great Businesses

We all struggle with finding talent, nurturing leaders and better understanding our customers. I believe that part of the resolution for these three problems is to make a serious bet on embracing and driving diversity.

Diversity for me is about making sure that the people who are working for you, and with you, do not come in the same shape. It is about actively hiring people who do not look the same as the ones already working for you. Embracing diversity is about actively recruiting women, young people, older people, people with different faiths, people from different cultures and countries, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities.

I strongly believe in giving mothers and fathers of young children the flexibility they need so they can work part-time or work flexible hours. This eliminates a problem that, in some cases, ends in the mothers staying at home full-time and never returning to work or returning at a much lower level. A few of my best performers over the years have been mothers with toddlers who had the flexibility they needed.

By making sure that you drive diversity in your recruitment policy, you will be able to recruit from a much larger talent pool. You will be able to more easily find top performers when you fish in a larger sea than just in a small pond. You tap into a much larger talent pool!

When I was running one of the largest cloud hosting providers in northern Europe, we had an advantage over many of our competitors because we actively embraced hiring people who came from other countries as long as they could speak a decent level of English. We didn't care at all if they were able to speak our local language or not. In fact, we had 18 languages spoken in our company and, as we serviced customers worldwide, it became an advantage that our people often spoke the same languages as our customers. I believe that we sealed the deal with the iconic Italian pasta maker Barilla when their CIO visited our office and he was able speak Italian with two of our specialists and with our vice president of cloud services.

For me as a leader, it has always been more rewarding to work in environments with a diverse group of people, as it is really enriching and I learn a lot while also having more fun.

Driving diversity doesn't stop with the hiring; in fact, that's only the start of the journey. Equally important is to give equal opportunities to everyone and to have a plan for how to create more diverse leadership at all levels, including at the most senior level. Senior leaders can mentor junior leaders, and everyone should understand that there is huge value in having diverse leadership teams because they will help you better understand your customers. After all, your customers are diverse, too. If everyone looks the same, you will get fewer perspectives and views, which might harm your business in the long run.

It's not only what you say that counts. Even more important is to lead by example and make sure that you take responsibility for diversity in promotions. When you set the example, others will follow, both inside your company and in our ecosystem.

I'm not talking about salaries as that is a given. Fair compensation is about paying for performance and actively making sure that a certain group is not underpaid compared to others. It is your duty to make sure that people at the same level, with equal responsibilities and performance, are paid the same regardless of gender, culture, faith, et cetera.

Whenever a leadership position needs to be filled, you should especially look to promote someone who is different from the rest of that team. In leadership teams, it is often about actively finding women and people from other cultures/countries. Sometimes they need a little bit of extra push to be willing to take a step up the ladder to a higher leadership position, but it's your duty as a leader to make them feel comfortable and be willing to make the step.

I believe that we as Microsoft partners can step it up a notch. We can become leaders in driving diversity. Microsoft is a great source for inspiration as it has come far in this field, and it is being very proactive about embracing and driving diversity, which has paid off well for it. Let's make sure that we as Microsoft partners become equally great in driving diversity.

Who is going to thank you? Your children will thank you, your spouse will thank you, your shareholders will thank you, your employees will thank you, your customers will thank you and our society will thank you for driving positive change and making sure that we are all equal.

We can all drive diversity and the time is now to make it happen!

Posted by Per Werngren on July 09, 2018 at 2:53 PM0 comments

How to Increase Your Business Valuation

If you are a Microsoft partner looking to sell your business, you're in the right place at the right time. The most recent Equiteq survey found that Microsoft technology expertise continues to be the largest vendor capability associated with IT consulting M&A deals.

However, it's important to know that buyers today are more sophisticated, more selective and savvier than ever before. They can smell a bad deal from a long way off.

Buyers today have their antennae set on high alert for companies that fit specific profiles that are accretive to their overall valuation, and that are aligned with already-established expansion strategies and culture.

While there is no wiggle room for mistakes, many Microsoft partners already have a head start on positioning their companies to attract even the most selective buyers.

What Buyers Want
Want to see if your business will capture the attention of today's buying community? Here's a checklist of characteristics attractive to the types of companies that will pay well for what you've built. Assess your organization carefully to determine if you offer:

SMAC solutions. Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud offerings are non-negotiable -- make sure you offer solutions in these areas to attract buyers.

Depth of vertical market and domain expertise. Having a proven track record of expertise is invaluable. Strive to keep your business at the intersection of deep vertical market expertise and deep technical expertise that will service the needs of that market.

Clearly differentiated offering. Ideally, you'll want that offering positioned as No. 1 or No. 2 in the market you serve.

Double-digit annual growth. Buyers will want to see it in both your revenue and profit.

The ability to create and market IP offerings. These should flow naturally out of your specialized expertise. Future attractiveness to both technology buyers and consulting firm buyers may well depend on this.

A healthy balance sheet. You'll want to show strong retained earnings and minimal debt.

Marketable IP. Buyers will want to know that you have offerings that can drive additional service sales that are complementary to the core service being offered.

Recurring or subscription revenue. Make sure that your recurring or subscription revenue is at least 30 percent of total revenue. More is better.

A continuous stream of one new breakthrough expansion strategy per year. Maybe it's an expansion into a new geography. Or getting into a new service line. Or a new delivery system. However you do it, show some vitality.

Bold expansion strategies. Demonstrate your company's vision for the future. Is your organization caught in the grind of managing day-to-day operations, or have you positioned yourself to focus on growth?

What Buyers DON'T Want
On the flip side, the top four factors that deter buyers are:

Poor cultural fit. Why struggle to make the merger work if your employees and customers are coming in with very different expectations? It's much easier for buyers to find one where everyone's on the same page -- or at least the same book -- to begin with.

Diversity of service offerings. The more broad the spectrum of services, the less likely they are to be interested.

Market generalist focused only on technology. Today's problems are often very industry and business-specific, and so are the solutions, so deep, specialized knowledge may be more attractive. Often, buyers are looking for someone to complement capabilities they already have; broad and overlapping expertise lead them away from you.

Poor growth and profitability. Even if you have skills and expertise, buyers are looking for an extra sail, not an additional anchor. Demonstrating sound business knowledge can be as important as showcasing technical know-how.

As we said above, many Microsoft partners are already well-positioned to attract buyers. Not only do you offer solutions and expertise customers want, but you have access to the vast partner network and the resources Microsoft offers.

Continue to nurture both those partnerships and your business acumen, and one day you may well hear: "Hey there, we like the way you've built your business; we like how you've positioned yourself in the market, how you've smartly driven revenue and profit, and how you've invested for the future. We have an interested buyer. Can we talk?"

Posted by Mike Harvath on June 20, 2018 at 10:28 AM0 comments