Channel Watch

Microsoft Partner Network: Questions Answered in Online Partner Forum

In a channel network that's 640,000 strong, it's a tall order to address the multitude of questions, concerns and grievances that partners may have. Thankfully, the leaders of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group seemed eager to hear them all.

On a morning in mid-March, I participated -- along with 500 members of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) -- in an online partner forum with leaders of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group.

Microsoft Global Channel Chief Jon Roskill and other senior executives spent 90 minutes mostly fielding questions, recommendations and complaints from the partners who take Microsoft products to the field.

This is the second time I've watched or listened to Roskill interact with partners in an open forum, and both times it's been encouraging. In this session, he and his team addressed hard questions, acknowledged partner concerns, gave thoughtful answers and never ruled out changing something that's not working.

At the same time, without being defensive, they stood up for the disruptive changes in the MPN overhaul. In some cases, they did so by explaining how the changes were designed to fix issues raised previously by partners themselves, such as effectively trading the Gold Certified Partner for gold and silver competencies over complaints that the brand was diluted and didn't allow for differentiation. In other cases, they made strong cases that some common complaints overlooked substantial resources and caveats within the MPN. Such was the case with a Julie Bennani response to the suggestion that the new program favors larger partners.

I don't have the space to get into all the details of the session here, but check my blog for a series of detailed posts about different issues raised in the meeting. You'll find posts about Microsoft's plans to share more roadmap information with partners, promote gold competency partners, increase Pinpoint leads, police MPN brands and fix issues with the ISV competency and short-term incentives.

The timing of this session also made a lot of sense. It immediately followed Microsoft meetings with its Partner Advisory Committees (PACs), giving Microsoft a way of sharing, reinforcing and making public some themes of the PAC discussions.

A partner network with 640,000 members has a lot of internally competing interests in addition to the competing interests Microsoft itself sometimes has with its own partners. Microsoft executives simply can't run with every suggestion. Nonetheless, for whatever reason, the Worldwide Partner Group leadership seems exceptionally open to feedback.

In an instant poll, moderator Eric Ligman asked if the attendees wanted to have more sessions like the one in March. The response was overwhelmingly positive in the instant voting. Should more of these sessions occur, I hope even more partners will attend. Raising issues is most effective when someone is listening and, at least for the moment, Microsoft is actively paying attention.

Are you finding Microsoft to be more accessible these days? Let me know at sbekker@rcpmag.com.

About the Author

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