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The Changing Channel

Survival of the Fittest Partners: Spotlighting New Partner Imperatives

Microsoft's channel vision is changing and partners are scrambling to adapt. Howard turns the spotlight on partners that have successfully evolved their businesses to keep pace with those changes.

This month I introduce two new repeating series in which I hope many of you will participate.

Each will highlight partners that are doing it right when it comes to two key imperatives that all partners need to address in the coming months and years.

Profiles in Partnering
We speak regularly about "P2P" -- partner-to-partner partnering. Remember back in 2010 when the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) replaced the Microsoft Partner Program, which not many Microsoft partners felt needed replacing?

The big gasp in the MPN was the "exclusivity rule," a clever manipulation that said partner employees who had passed tests required to earn one gold competency could not be used to pass other tests to earn other gold competencies. Partners had to employ four unique employees for each gold competency.

The goal was to "raise the bar" and force each partner to truly specialize and focus. In fairness, the No. 1 partner in the Partner Finder at that time, which was ranked by number of competencies earned, was a company in Connecticut that held almost every one of the 29 competencies then in existence. If it was building white box computers and had the OEM competency, it would've had them all.

The entire staff consisted of 17 people. I know. I was one of them. Under the new MPN rules, that company would've had to add about 100 more people on payroll to maintain its status. Never happened.

Obviously, customers often need partners to do more than one thing, so partners needed to either grow their companies with no predictable market advance to justify it, or create partnerships with other partners holding the competencies they needed.


Want to be featured in "Profiles in Partnering" or "IP for Your Future"? E-mail hmc@hmcwritenow.com!

This new series will celebrate partners that have learned to partner proactively to produce superior projects and generate improved profits for each other and for Microsoft. It will come as no surprise that many of the partners featured in this series will be members of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP), but here's some advice you should heed before you proceed to join. The IAMCP is only as good as your local chapter. Some chapters are downright amazing, with partners partnering together and enjoying incredible success. Our first story will highlight the incredible New Jersey chapter that was raised from the ashes by one of the highlighted partners and her successor.

IP for Your Future
The second series arises from the messaging of "the new regime" at Microsoft. It's too soon to tell if the ascent of Satya Nadella to CEO of Microsoft is the harbinger of a great new time in the channel, or if all the recent articles questioning Microsoft's future relevance are still on target. But Nadella and his team have made the future clearer for us.

In his first e-mail to all Microsoft employees, Nadella declared: "At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more."

For those of you who still don't speak fluent Microsoftese, "productivity" means Office 365 and "platform" means Azure.

If you make most of your living selling servers and storage, that little twisty feeling in your stomach is totally justified. You're the ones Microsoft is talking about most when it invokes the need for "business transformation" and even makes it sound like a good thing!

Last July, I quoted Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president of the Worldwide Partner Group, explaining, "Microsoft has only one job -- to provide a platform that partners can be successful selling their solutions on."

OK, so what's your solution? If your answer has anything to do with infrastructure, go back two paragraphs and read again. It's not infrastructure. Microsoft has that covered, thank you.

The answer is that you'll need to have your own intellectual property (IP) to sell to customers to survive and thrive in the channel of the future. Where's that IP going to come from? Every few months in this series, we'll celebrate partners that already have developed and are profitably selling their own IP.

Hint: My thinking is the ISV is the partner of the future. I'm just sayin'.

More Columns by Howard M. Cohen:

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.