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Microsoft Leans on Partners for Industry Cloud Efforts

Microsoft is adding three more industry-specific cloud programs to its offerings with help from its partners.

The three cloud programs, announced Wednesday, are centered on finance, manufacturing and nonprofit organizations. The programs don't necessarily bring new products to the table; they include existing Azure, Dynamics 365, Microsoft Teams and Power Platform services. However, they're notable for enlisting specialized support from partners. Microsoft adds additional value via support for "common data models, cross-cloud connectors, workflows, APIs, and industry-specific components and standards," according to the announcement.

In a video accompanying the announcement, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella outlined four principles associated with the industry cloud efforts:

  • Trust in business alignment
  • The customer's data belongs to the customer
  • Industry customization support
  • Partner support

Microsoft has "hundreds of thousands" of partners that can add support for specific industry needs, he added. The involvement of partners in the programs is a focused effort, according to Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of Microsoft's One Commercial Partner group, in a separate announcement:

We have been very purposeful in how we engage with partners across industries for these Industry Cloud efforts. Microsoft services partners, systems integrators, ISVs, and advisories all play a critical role in enabling the Microsoft Cloud for our industry customers. 

She suggested that these partners can further customize Microsoft's solution to meet the needs of "each customer's environment."

New and Coming Industry Clouds
Microsoft's three new industry-specific cloud programs are expected to emerge this year in "preview" form.

The new Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services effort is planned for a preview launch on March 31, 2021. It's initially focused on retail banking, and will include "existing and new capabilities" based on Microsoft's services, including the use of artificial intelligence and efforts to break through "siloed data," according to an announcement by Bill Borden, corporate vice president of worldwide financial services at Microsoft.

The new Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing effort is planned for a preview launch at "the end of June 2021." It's focused on things like factory agility, worker training, customer engagement and supply-chain management, according to an announcement by Çağlayan Arkan, vice president for manufacturing industry at Microsoft.

The new Microsoft Cloud for Nonprofit effort also is expected to reach the preview stage at the end of June. It will use Microsoft's services to address common organizational needs with regard to "engagement and fundraising, staff collaboration, volunteer engagement and management, and program design and delivery," explained Justin Spelhaug, Microsoft's Tech for Social Impact lead, in an announcement.

Existing Industry Clouds
Microsoft's industry-specific cloud programs are fairly new, although it's had cloud programs specific for government organizations since 2014. In addition to the new ones announced on Wednesday, Microsoft has two other industry cloud programs.

The first Microsoft industry-specific cloud program to come into existence was Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. It had its debut in May, but in October it got the commercial-release "general availability" imprimatur. This year, Microsoft is planning to add seven new capabilities to this program, along with support for eight new languages. The first new update, which will add support for "virtual health, continuous patient monitoring and care coordination," is expected to arrive in April, according to an announcement by Tom McGuinness, corporate vice president of worldwide health at Microsoft.

Microsoft also has an existing Microsoft Cloud for Retail program. It was initially announced in January during the NRF 2021 event for retailers, but Microsoft is planning a preview rollout on March 31. It's focus will be to help retailers use Microsoft solutions to get insights from "disparate customer data sources," as well as improving shopping experiences and "building resilient supply chains," explained Shelley Bransten, corporate vice president for the worldwide retail and consumer goods industry at Microsoft, in an announcement.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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