Microsoft Resources for Partners: An Illustrated Guide
For cloud-bound partners, navigating Microsoft's various resources can be a time-consuming task. Here are some handy maps to help you figure out where to go for what you need.
- By Barb Levisay
- March 28, 2016
Along with the internal adjustments partners are making to evolve their cloud business models, they're wading into unfamiliar waters with the latest offerings from Microsoft. Those partners venturing into the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, Office 365, independent software vendor (ISV) or Dynamics worlds have to navigate a whole new set of training, sales and support resources through the Microsoft partner programs. Even for longtime partners, keeping up with the changing landscape of partner entitlements and resources is challenging.
While global systems integrators (SIs) can afford to dedicate teams of people to navigate Microsoft, most partners don't have that luxury. To help make sense of it all, we've created maps of some of the most valuable resources for those partners enrolling in the CSP program, adding Office 365 or Dynamics to their product lineup, or joining the ranks of ISVs. Each of these product groups, driven by the cloud, has unique communities and resources that can support your transition.
To Microsoft's credit, the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) Web site holds an ocean of information, all intended to help partners succeed. Creating these charts was a bit like trying to boil that ocean. There are many more resources for every kind of partner to be found on the MPN site, and our goal is only to shine a light on some of the most helpful and perhaps hidden treasures.
The Changing Role of Field Sales and Partner Managers
For longtime partners who grew their business working hand-in-hand with a Microsoft Partner Account Manager, the transition to a self-service relationship isn't easy. Just as in every modern customer relationship scenario, online self-service is more efficient for everyone. The biggest hurdle in that transition is building trust in the resources. Over the past five or so years the MPN Web site has improved tremendously, becoming a useful hub and viable source of answers.
The roles of Microsoft employees who work with partners have to evolve in response to industry changes. A wider range of partners, accelerating product releases, and cloud licensing all require new approaches to sales and technical support. We've included the current roles dedicated to each group in the resource maps, but you can expect those to shift over time.
Simplification of channel support resources is a top priority for Stephen Boyle, vice president of the Microsoft U.S. Partner Group. In January, he announced the creation of the Partner Enablement Team. "The efforts of this team will help us implement a strategy with clear accountability to our partners in achieving our collective revenue goals," Boyle said. As part of the Partner Enablement Team, the role of the Partner Technology Strategist (PTS), who assists in presales discussions and coaching sessions alongside partners, will be centralized.
"One place for partners to go for technical enablement. A single source of all partner technical enablement for the U.S., aligned to our bold ambitions and available to partners on a geographic and segment agnostic basis," said Boyle. "Our PTSes will focus heavily on building partner capability. This is the first big step and we believe this move will massively simplify enablement for partners."
Boyle has his sights set on streamlining sales and activation for partners next. Watch the Microsoft U.S. Partner Community blog for further announcements.
Resource Maps for Partners in Transition
Partner business models are blurring. Managed services providers (MSPs) are using the CSP program to wrap support services into Office 365 licensing. SIs are becoming ISVs, turning industry-specific IP earned through years of on-premises engagements into applications. Office 365 partners are adding Dynamics CRM Online to their implementation services.
To help those partners who are fully plugged into their traditional Microsoft resources but need guidance in new cloud territory, we've created resource maps for Office 365, ISV and Dynamics partners. The CSP program flows across partner groups, but has a unique set of resources to offer. For clarity, we've grouped resources into functional buckets. In the real world, the lines are blurred and resources might serve every stage and function in your business.
Through these maps, we hope that both new and experienced partners will discover gems that help you support emerging services models. Our thanks to Boyle and his team for their review and recommendations on the map content.
ISV PARTNER RESOURCES
Microsoft clearly has a renewed emphasis on building resources and relationships with ISVs. Existing partners representing every competency are turning IP into formalized solutions. Of the four partner categories covered in this article, distilling the resources available to ISVs was most difficult, so this map should be used only as a place to start.
- The ISV and Application Builder Center, represented by the large "ISV" circle in the chart, is by far the cleanest, most navigable partner site Microsoft has created to date. Just about everything you need is within a few clicks of the homepage. Hopefully, it will serve as a model for all future partner hubs.
- Microsoft Go-To-Market Services, in the Sales & Marketing section of the chart, holds an impressive number of templates, links and resources to support ISV sales and marketing. There's even a Concierge Desk that promises one-on-one assistance.
- For those partners just getting started as an ISV, check out the business planning documents included on the Build Your Cloud Strategy page on the ISV and Application Builder Center.
- The ISV & App Builder Partners blog series written by Sharon Lee, U.S. partner experience lead for ISV and Application Builder, provides updates on resources for ISVs.
CSP PROGRAM RESOURCES
The Microsoft CSP resource center is the central hub for the CSP program. A potentially confusing aspect to the CSP program is that there are two transaction models. Partners who transact directly with their customers are referred to as Direct (previously referred to as 1-Tier), while partners who transact through an authorized distributor are Indirect (previously 2-Tier). The program is still evolving, so adjustments are to be expected.
- The CSP Frequently Asked Questions page (CSP FAQs in the chart) is a must-see for partners new to the program.
- Microsoft has invested heavily in research on requirements and opportunity for partners in the CSP business model. Partner cloud profitability guides, also known as financial models, are available for Office 365, CRM Online, Azure and more. The profitability guides provide valuable data to help you build a business plan.
- Some CSP resources, like the Yammer CSP group, are only available to on-boarded partners.
OFFICE 365 PARTNER RESOURCES
The path to all of the Office 365 resources is a little foggier. Partners need to look to both MPN and Drumbeat to find everything they need. Drumbeat is focused on training, enablement and licensing, but there are many resources on MPN that you'll need. The Cloud Solutions page on MPN is a good place to start for business model advice.
DYNAMICS PARTNER RESOURCES
For partners new to the Dynamics world, the first step is learning how to navigate a completely separate Web site, PartnerSource, which is a legacy from the Great Plains acquisition. Why PartnerSource still exists is a mystery. Microsoft discussed plans to retire PartnerSource back in the early 2000s, but that hasn't happened yet.
PartnerSource provides Dynamics ERP and CRM partners with the full range of training, sales and marketing resources, as well as customer account management. The MPN Web site includes some resources for Dynamics CRM Online, including the profitability guide discussed in the CSP section.
- The Microsoft Dynamics Community serves as a hub for support and discussion for customers and partners. It also provides forums, blog articles, how-to videos and technical support aligned to each of the current Dynamics ERP and CRM solutions.
- PartnerSource houses most of the Dynamics product sales and marketing support resources, including demos, campaigns and collateral.
- Additional Dynamics marketing resources, including the SMB-focused Modern Biz campaign materials, are available on the MPN Partner Marketing Center.
Partner Resource Maps 'Cheat Sheets'
Here are direct links to the resources shown on each of the preceding four maps. Note that human resources (such as "Partner Account Manager" and "Partner Sales Executive") are not included in these cheat sheets, since they're best contacted directly.