Partner Advocate

Profitability, Skills Shortage, Solution Finder, More

The Worldwide Partner Group gears up to offer partners a slew of services to help their customers get ready for Windows Vista and Office 2007.

Remember those Columbia House mail catalogs that listed an album title followed by a handful of top hits? I feel like one of those caption writers trying to pick out the top tunes from a greatest hits release as I try to summarize a day with Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group executives.

Recently, Redmond Channel Partner Executive Editor Anne Stuart and I spent a day with Allison Watson and her Worldwide Partner Group team in Redmond. They're hitting on all cylinders up there in a lot of areas, preparing for Microsoft to roll out major products like Windows Vista and Office 2007.

We heard some new information; much of the rest expanded on themes from the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in July. The highlights:

The partner group remains extremely serious about the partner profitability push that they've been talking about all year. They're not just repeating the same message -- they've been aggressively refining what they do. For example, a high-production value booklet called the "Executive Partner Guide" on the Information Worker business may not be repeated across the competencies because partners have complained that it's too general. Instead, expect to see more targeted resources. One example: the online Partner Profitability tool, which allows partners to define themselves more precisely for tailored advice on becoming more profitable.

Meanwhile, the group is continuing the series of partner profitability studies in various competencies, a project done in cooper-ation with analysts at IDC. This month, Microsoft and IDC expect to release a study identifying the key performance indicators for ISV profitability.

The IT skill shortage is top of mind among partner executives. Just back from a Partner Advisory Council meeting, Microsoft executives were full of concern about this skills gap driven by the combination of increased IT spending and the new generation of Microsoft technologies.

Channel readiness efforts are ramping up in a big way. The wait for Windows Vista Release Candidates was a gating factor, but now preparation of curriculum and content is fully underway. Case in point: Microsoft is just starting to hand out offers to partners from its $30 million investment in the Partner Skills Plus program. Talk to your partner account manager to find out whether you're eligible.

The Partner Solution Finder is a major focus for the partner team. The online directory of partner solutions generated 1,400 leads in September from a standing start earlier in the year. That's still a tiny proportion of channel business, but you'll be hearing a lot more about Solution Finder in the future. Here's one telling piece of evidence about Microsoft's commitment to this resource: When customers visit the link provided in all those Microsoft People Ready mass media ads, they end up at the Solution Finder.

Like those Columbia House caption writers, I wish I had room and time to go into more detail. We'll fill you in online and in upcoming issues.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.