Channel Watch

BPOS Billing Reaction Floods In

If Microsoft doesn't get BPOS billing right, the sharks will certainly be circling.

In this space and on my blog, I've been urging Microsoft to allow partners to handle billing when reselling Microsoft cloud offerings -- especially the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). Right now, Microsoft directly bills customers. A lot of you have been writing with feedback.

One bit came from Jon Roskill, Microsoft worldwide channel chief, who responded to a blog post in which I wrote that he might be signaling that partners should stay tuned for an announcement that they'd be able to bill BPOS customers themselves soon. Roskill wrote that, right now, the top priority at Microsoft is getting the next generation of BPOS, called Office 365, out the door. Is he setting expectations that any billing changes may not be coming at least until the new version launches?

He also wrote: "From talking to partners, one of the things I've taken away is that they frequently don't understand what we have available to help them in this area of selling Microsoft Online Services while maturing their customer relationships." He went on to list marketing links that partners can use to be automatically set as a Partner of Record; a BPOS dashboard; and the ability for Cloud Accelerate partners to be set as an Admin of Record. His full response is worth a read.

Meanwhile, Jamison West, the partner who asked Roskill the famous BPOS billing question during a town hall meeting late last year, posted this comment on RCPmag.com: "I've had a lot of comments and thanks about the question, and tried to be as politic as possible when I asked it. This issue is enormous for me as a growing Microsoft partner. I need to know how they will fix this." West thinks the issue is "drifting higher and higher up the totem pole at Microsoft."

Thomas Capone, chairman and CEO of MTP-USA, took time on a Sunday to use a slick piece of technology called Pixetell to e-mail me a video response. He said: "Billing is everything; billing is critical. In the mind of the customer, he who sends the bill is the vendor. He who sends the bill is the person you're doing business with. The ability to bill a customer directly -- it's about as big as it gets. This is not up for debate."

It's not unanimous that Microsoft ought to hand over all billing to partners. Tom Updegrove of Philadelphia wrote: "As a smaller company, I like the direct billing because I spend a decent amount of time handling the invoicing and recording of payments. It takes the wasted time out of that end of my workweek. I love getting residual checks deposited in my account. I love putting Microsoft in the hot seat when it comes to billing disputes." I suspect that Updegrove's not alone, but most of the passion on this issue comes from partners who do want to handle billing.

Meanwhile, the sharks are circling if Microsoft doesn't get this right. Roskill's response prompted several responses on RCPmag.com from partners who are fans of the Google approach. And Robert Leibholz, senior vice president for sales and business development at Intermedia, e-mailed to say how Microsoft billing is helping Intermedia attract partners to its private-label cloud communication bundles.

Keep the feedback coming -- I'm at sbekker@rcpmag.com!

About the Author

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