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Both Sides

Microsoft Predictions Revisited: What Came True and What Didn't

We were on the money with much of our forecast for Microsoft's FY2017, but there have been a few surprises. For starters, what ever happened to the company's "active usage" mantra?

Last July, I took a swing at some predictions on what Microsoft would do in the coming year. Some of those predictions were well informed. Some were just guesses. For some, I was on the money; others surprised me. Below are five of my predictions, and what has actually happened so far with each one now that we're three-quarters of the way through Microsoft's fiscal year 2017.

Partner of Record

"Microsoft will leave this program alone for this year."

We continue to see Microsoft make changes in this area, including the complete discontinuation of any payouts when resellers work with a client to purchase direct from Microsoft. I think this is a mistake on Microsoft's part, while the portal option is a valid one for many clients. Some transactions are too small for the provider to refer through distribution. Some clients are simply credit risks that our businesses can't take. And some customers start in the portal and then get support and assistance from a partner when they get stuck. Why not leave this as an option instead of creating work for partners to move these transactions artificially to another platform?

FastTrack

"This initiative will continue to grow in conflict with partners."

I was correct in my predictions that Microsoft would continue to expand these offerings. This year we saw more programs unveiled that are competitive with partners, including Windows 10 deployment assistance, Dynamics 365 and Teams. Watch for more coming in the future.

Microsoft Azure

"Azure will continue to be a major focus."

Azure has been a major focus this year for Microsoft. Redmond has invested in a number of resources to go directly to the customer and around the partner. Partners will need to make a big decision this year on how to play in the Azure space. The options abound from regional and national datacenter providers to Amazon Web Services.

Our business is Microsoft-focused, so Azure is our play, while we want to co-sell with Microsoft. But, from a revenue stream perspective, I'm seeing others make more money with referral agreements with regional providers. Plus, those regional players typically have more consistency in their programs than Microsoft's ever-changing ones and often provide the ability to get business back.

Integrators need to be careful that FastTrack could enter this space quickly and cannibalize their migration business.

Active Usage

"The focus on [Active Usage] will increase."

I was way off on this one. This was the year that Microsoft decided not to really care about Active Usage. Instead of being a major shift year, it has been all quiet on this front. My view is that Microsoft set reasonable goals for Active Usage and customers are naturally using more and more of the online solutions. Watch this space to see what goals are set for the new fiscal year starting on July 1.

The Hero SKU

"The Office 365 SKU that Microsoft wants its partners to lead with has changed from E3 to E5 ... Voice in the cloud and getting clients using and testing the solutions will be a major initiative."

My prediction that E5 would be a focus was correct. The biggest challenge was that Microsoft was almost a year behind in releasing the critical business functionality of call queues and auto attendant, two features that every business of size requires for their phone system.

A quote often attributed to Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates goes like this: "We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10." On some of these predictions, I think I overestimated what Microsoft could get done in a single year, but I still think the trajectory was correct.

More Columns by M.S. Partner:

About the Author

M.S. Partner is a pseudonym for a former Microsoft U.S. field rep who returned to the channel and writes this column to help other partners succeed with Microsoft. Let M.S. Partner know your thoughts and questions about how Microsoft works at mspartner@rcpmag.com.