The Changing Channel

Partners: Forget Microsoft's 'Cloud Consumption' Directive

Howard thinks it's time for partners to treat Microsoft with the same benign neglect it shows them.

To speak with most Microsoft folks these days you'd come away thinking that this year's Marching Orders are very simple: Increase Azure consumption!

While we haven't seen the latest stats, the word around the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in July was that Microsoft had only achieved 10 percent of planned Azure consumption. The company is supposedly selling 90,000 new subscriptions every month, but subscriptions don't pay until the services are consumed. That's what you get when you use a consumption-based model.

More than ever, the question facing members of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) is whose marching orders should they really be following?

Answer: Your own.

There are still many Microsoft partners out there breaking their own collective backs to satisfy the requirements and the "suggestions" of their Microsoft contacts. They still believe there's a huge payback to being a Microsoft partner; they're just sometimes hard-pressed to explain what that payback is.

For a few years this column has been leading up to this inevitable conclusion: It's time to treat Microsoft with the same benign neglect it shows you.

It's not necessarily a bad thing!

The cold facts are that a Microsoft partnership really buys you very little these days. What used to be your Large Account Reseller partners who helped you sell Enterprise Agreements were forced to become your competitors by buying services companies to replace their lost licensing revenues.

What used to be your best Partner Account Managers are now probably your best channel reps working somewhere else. Most of the best field sellers you partnered with have been replaced with new people who will take more time to build their own base and their own value proposition.

If you're looking for early peeks at the Microsoft product roadmap there are some great resources out here in IT-journalism-land that provide better information than we ever got from inside Microsoft (see RCP's Microsoft Product Roadmap for 2016).

Bottom line is that you can be as adept leveraging Microsoft products without being a formal partner as you can slaving over courses and tests, paying membership fees and endlessly reporting. Membership is simply no longer a privilege. It's become a burden.

Try working with Microsoft the way doctors work with pharmaceutical companies. If they can show you how their products bring better care to your patients, your customers, then you'll recommend them.

If you haven't already, make this the Year of the Customer!

If you think you've already done this, then please take this little test. Open your browser and go to your own Web site. Count how many paragraphs on your Web site do not begin with the name of your company, the word "We" or "Our" or any other word that refers to yourself, and how many do. The higher number of paragraphs that do, the lower your customers' perception that you care about them and what they need.

Ask yourself constantly, "Who cares about me?" Nobody cares about you until you show them what you can do for them. Richard Losciale, president of Premier Knowledge Solutions in St. Louis, Mo., loves to point out that everyone has the same radio station, "WIIFM -- What's In It For Me radio."

To listen to Microsoft's messaging you have to come away believing that the company only cares about you and your business as a source of new "solutions" that can justify more Azure consumption. But that's really OK! Microsoft is a business that's in business to make money, just like you. Just like you, it has products it believes will deliver the bulk of the company's annual income. Just don't think that you and your business are anything more than a good path to market for Microsoft.

So get focused. It's not all about Microsoft. It's not even all about you. It's about your customer and the value you can bring them. Hint: That's all it has ever really been about!

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.