The Changing Channel

Partnering for Survival: Strength in Numbers for Microsoft Partners

It might be a tired cliche but it also happens to be true: You can't -- and you probably don't want to even try -- to be all things to all people.

You might remember that several years ago they changed the days on which we "fall back" to Daylight Saving Time and then "spring forward" to Standard Time. Sometime later, actually a long time later, it dawned on someone at Microsoft to check and see how the company's software would be affected by this. The news was not good.

Suddenly the alerts went out and everybody needed to have their servers and workstations "remediated" to account for the change in Daylight Saving Time. It was a Microsoft-manufactured emergency of the highest order.

The service departments of many solution providers were overwhelmed by the demands for technicians to come on-site and perform the necessary remediation to avert the impending, "Y2K-like" disaster that had been predicted. One solution provider in particular had just hired an executive away from another firm who brought with him a partnering culture that was not consistent with their own. He immediately began calling his friends to see if they could spare some hands to help with the demand. Many responded quickly and positively.

Before the deadline came, every client was completely remediated and ready for Daylight Saving Time. They were thrilled! But the ownership at the solution provider company was not. They were furious that technicians other than their own were visiting their clients. How could they assure consistent quality? What if these other companies started stealing the clients? Who were these guys, anyway? And how dare this new executive invite these competitors in?

At the end of the month, the executive showed the owners that they had just enjoyed the most profitable and lucrative month they had experienced in many, many years. He soon moved on to another company.

You Can't Be All Things to All People
It might be a tired cliché but it also happens to be true: You can't -- and you probably don't want to even try -- to be all things to all people. That effort has put many channel companies out of business. Stretching resources like that has to defocus you, and overload your resources at the same time. Worse, your customers have a harder time identifying who you are and what you do. Having too broad a selection of services can actually hurt your marketing and selling efforts.

Partner-to-Partner Partnering
Even before the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) replaced the Microsoft Partner Program (MSPP) it was very obvious that Microsoft partners would benefit themselves and their clients by partnering with each other. Microsoft is very much the exception that proves the rule. The company is almost all things software to all people. As such there are several flavors of Microsoft partner, including "classic" infrastructure partners, Dynamics partners, Learning Center partners, application development partners and now cloud partners.

These partners need each other to complete many of the things they do. For example, a Dynamics partner might be able to configure extraordinary enterprise resource planning solutions, but the client will still need a network on which to run it. The smart Dynamics partner keeps control over the project and engages the Microsoft infrastructure partner of their choice to build that network and maintain it. 

There are many ways to partner. Subcontracting, referral fees, lead sharing. Each partner must decide which is right for their company, but what should be very clear is that partnering itself is an absolute necessity for survival in today's IT channel. If you go it alone you lose a major proportion of the opportunity and revenue. Partnering with other partners creates a win-win-win environment in which all of the partners win because they sell a larger, more-complete solution and earn more revenue. The client enjoys a complete end-to-end solution, and Microsoft enjoys more license sales.

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About the Author

Howard M. Cohen is a consultant to IT vendors and channel partner companies and a board member of the U.S. chapter of the IAMCP. Reach him at hmc@hmcwritenow.com.