What I Learned at MS101 for Partners
At MS101, partners get a glimpse behind the Redmond curtain.
- By Paul DeGroot
- December 01, 2006
As a partner, do you ever wish that you could get past the facade that
Microsoft puts up? You probably want to sink your claws into the organization
and pull out the meaty parts, the ones that will help you succeed, the
people who can really help, information about what kind of partner music
the local office really listens to.
So do I. As an analyst who focuses entirely on Microsoft, I sit through
a lot of earnest presentations that don't really advance my knowledge
unless some unusual insight or interesting data accidentally trickles
So I was expecting to hear mostly stuff that I already knew when I attended
an MS101 for Partners session this fall in Redmond. MS101 is a partner
version of the orientation that new Microsoft employees go through when
they join the company, and Ernie Lou, of Microsoft's Enterprise and Partner
Group, helped push it into being because he thought partners could benefit
from a similar experience.
MS101 surprised me. Yes, much of it was material I knew, but many of
the presentations were chock-full of insights even for a hardened Microsoft-watcher
who has covered the company full time for seven years, with much of that
time spent focusing specifically on partnering.
The event is not only a testament to Microsoft's dogged pursuit of more
effective partnerships, but may also signal a change in attitude. Some
attendees who have worked with Microsoft for many years say the company's
transparency has recently improved dramatically. After viewing a detailed
presentation on how the field sales force is compensated, one attendee
commented that "18 months ago, getting this kind of information was
like pulling teeth."
In an intense, three-and-a-half days (punctuated with some big-time schmoozing
and partying), about 80 of us learned a great deal about the company's
culture, its general organization, its business planning tactics, the
partner program itself and marketing initiatives, such as the new Customer
Campaigns. Attendees heard from partner-facing Microsoft organizations,
such as the Enterprise and Partner Group, and got primers on licensing
and overviews of strategies for industry verticals, services and all the
major product groups.
The program also included troops from the front line of the partner relationship,
such as account managers from the field, partner account managers (PAMs)
and veteran partner-company executives, who were encouraged to spill the
beans on what works with Microsoft and what doesn't.
Finally, attendees walked away with a DVD loaded with useful materials,
such as business-planning templates and address books listing every PAM
in the world as well as the people who head various customer accounts
and industry segments. Most of this information isn't available to the
public but it's priceless for partners, and MS101 is one of the few ways
to get your hands on it.
Here are a few things I learned from MS101:
- How partners should craft their pitches to Microsoft when they want
to work with the company.
- Why it's hard to get big money from Microsoft—but how a lot
of little money can add up.
- What some of those mysterious abbreviations—such as BMO and
- How the Microsoft field is compensated and how to use this knowledge
to find the people inside Microsoft whose bonuses depend on your success.
Everyone's bonus depends on successful partners to some extent, but if
you can narrow your focus to a particular product or a particular type
of solution, you may be able to find someone whose bonus depends 100 percent
on your success in that area.
MS101 isn't free and most partners will need to pay their own way, but
you'll walk away with loads of practical advice about how to work with
Microsoft that could quickly recoup your $1,300 investment. To get in,
you'll need a PAM's name on your application. Sessions are held several
times a year, with at least one session usually held outside the United
States (there's a session planned for Rome in late February 2007, for
Attendees span the entire range of Microsoft's partner community, from
companies with fewer than 20 employees to global integrators.
Bottom line: I highly recommend MS101 for Partners to anyone who
is serious about partnering successfully with Microsoft.
Paul DeGroot is principle consultant with Pica Communications, which provides consulting services for customers with complex Microsoft licensing issues.