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Microsoft Expanding In-House Cloud Deployments

Microsoft is expanding the scope of the FastTrack program and the Onboarding Center in a few ways that will further overlap with some partners' current cloud business models.

FastTrack is a benefit for new Office 365 customers with more than 150 seats who can get free e-mail migration as part of the deal. The Microsoft Onboarding Center is an internal business unit that Microsoft spun up to handle the migrations, with the larger goal of increasing customers' consumption of Office 365 licenses. Microsoft was reportedly hiring hundreds of people worldwide to staff the Onboarding Center last year.

Both programs raised concerns from partners when they were unveiled last July, although many partners became more comfortable with the changes as they learned the details of a related set of adoption offers that included substantial partner subsidy funding.

With the start of a new fiscal year this month, Microsoft on Thursday unveiled a raft of updates to FastTrack and to other partner incentives. A few of the updates fundamentally change, or at least clarify, the relationship between partners, the Onboarding Center and Microsoft Consulting Services.

First, Microsoft is renaming the official name of "Office 365 FastTrack" to the broader title of "Microsoft FastTrack." Initially, the change means Microsoft will add Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) migrations to the existing Office 365 migrations. Logically, the new name would also clear the way for Microsoft to bring other types of cloud workloads into the FastTrack program.

Next, Microsoft is adding e-mail data migration to the e-mail migration services it offered for free to Office 365 customers. With the inauguration of the program last year, Microsoft officials told partners that FastTrack would only cover low-margin e-mail migration services, and even then only for customers with relatively simple migration scenarios. Higher-margin services like e-mail data migration, identity integration, user adoption and management would be reserved for partners. Like the other FastTrack services, the e-mail data migration is only for customers with 150 or more seats.

In an interesting clarification, Microsoft notes that customer funding through a new EMS adoption offer for fiscal year 2016 will be available not only for engagements involving Microsoft cloud competency partners but also for engagements fulfilled by Microsoft's own consulting services.

Microsoft seems very aware that the new changes will be controversial. In an e-mail to RCP listing the changes, a Microsoft spokesperson said, "With a partner base as broad as ours, we recognize that not every change we make will be well-received by all partners. However, we believe that the updates we make to FastTrack and our incentives portfolio today will not only ensure success for both Microsoft and our partners, but our mutual customers as well, in today's mobile-first, cloud-first world."

One lesson Microsoft seems to have learned from the controversy last year is to communicate the changes before the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). With details released a little more than a week before the conference begins this year, Microsoft's partners can use WPC to get more detail about the programs rather than trying to piece together what is changing based on rumors and snippets of information.

Here is the full text provided by Microsoft to list and explain the changes:

FastTrack Updates:
Throughout this first year of delivery, Microsoft has continued to evolve FastTrack to ensure we can deliver the best possible customer onboarding experience and help partners build profitable practices. We quickly realized the best possible experience is one where both the partner and the Onboarding Center are working together with the customer to deliver first class services. 

FastTrack is designed to minimize the time a partner needs to spend doing the time-intensive, administrative tasks, so they can accelerate time spent selling and deploying high-value added services that can be more profitable and drive usage.

Based on feedback around how customers are adopting the Microsoft Cloud services and where they need help to more fully realize the value of their investment, today we are announcing several updates to FastTrack and our Adoption Offers.

  • Office 365 FastTrack is evolving to become Microsoft FastTrack and will include services benefits for both Office 365 and Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) customers.

  • Email data migration is now included as part of the core benefit of Office 365 FastTrack for Office 365 customers with deployments over 150 seats

  • We are expanding the Office 365 SKUs and workloads available through Office 365 FastTrack to include onboarding and migration for K [SKU]s and Non-profit SKUs as well as enterprise voice

  • For the FY16 Office 365 Adoption Offer, we are focusing on partners driving adoption of workloads which include SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, Skype for Business, Yammer, Office ProPlus, Project Online and Visio. The Adoption Offer is in addition to the onboarding and mail migration benefit, so it no longer requires customers to choose. Both are available as a customer benefit.

  • With the FY16 EMS Adoption Offer, customers earn funds on a per-seat basis to pay for qualified adoption activities by eligible Microsoft competency partners (Cloud Productivity, or Devices & Deployment) or Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS).

  • FastTrack Getting Started is a new program that helps customers get started with EMS by setting up a production ready trial, including a 90 day/250 seat trial subscription, Deployment lab environment, pre-populated end user training resources and business scenarios as well as templates. 

Incentives Portfolio:
Partner Incentives are designed to support partner profitability and growth whether partners are doing business on-premises, in the cloud, or somewhere in between. Over the past three years, incentives have increasingly focused on rewarding strategic cloud outcomes -- in FY16 nearly half of incentives spend will be directed toward cloud.

We're keeping the Enterprise, Managed Reseller, and Commercial Distributor incentives largely stable YoY.

LSP partners will see incremental investment in the Enterprise program directed at rewarding upsell revenue at time of anniversary on EAS licenses beginning October 1.

Within the Managed Reseller and Commercial Distributor incentives, we have combined the Growth and Incubation product categories into a single Strategic product category.

We've improved our Coop offering with a single Partner Incentives Coop Guidebook, which spans our SMB, Cloud, and Devices incentives programs.

Our goal is to continue advancing usage and consumption, and with new capabilities now available such as increased telemetry and Digital Partner of Record, we can reward partners driving customer success across workloads.

The Azure consumption incentive, rewarding partners for driving consumption of Microsoft Azure Services, will be available to all Silver or Gold Cloud Platform competency partners. Any partner who earns this competency will be eligible for this incentive.

The Online Services Usage incentive, previously paid on assigned seats based on the data available, will be paid on the rate card value of a customer's active entitlements. Microsoft's strategy in FY16 emphasizes the usage opportunity, so the incentives will reward increased usage across eligible Online Services workloads.

We're making adjustments to the incentives portfolio in FY16 to prioritize through-partner sales motions.

We want to maintain the Advisor Sell incentive in parity with our through-partner sales motions, but it will be reduced in years 1-3 as part of a broader shift to prioritize through-partner sales motions.

Microsoft will not renew the Channel Developer Incentives in Q2 in order to drive more cloud revenue through partners via CSP/Open than around partners via Web-Direct.

We're adding new, limited-time incentives for the CSP 1-Tier and 2-Tier Resellers designed to drive adoption of CSP.

Editor's Note: One of the bullet points originally included in the Fast Track Updates section above has been removed. The original information provided by Microsoft read: "Office 365 active usage requirements have also been adjusted from 15 percent to 30 percent to better align with cloud adoption and usage goals." Microsoft later corrected that section to indicate that it hasn't changed: "The active usage requirement for the offer is still 15 percent on a single workload."


Posted by Scott Bekker on July 02, 2015