Microsoft Shares Progress in Supporting Black and African American Partners

Microsoft recently described reaching several milestones in its effort to better engage with, and foster, Black and African American-owned businesses in its partner channel.

Launched in June 2020, Microsoft's Racial Equity Initiative (REI) is a far-reaching set of directives aimed at improving diversity within Microsoft's ecosystem, from its financial stakeholders, to its suppliers, to its partners. In particular, the program is focused on improving resources, support and opportunities for Black and African American-owned business partners.

"Our job over this multi-year initiative is to work closely with our suppliers and partners to extend the vision for societal change and to create new opportunities for Black and African American firms and the communities they serve," wrote Amy Hood, Microsoft's executive vice president and chief financial officer, in a report released last month (PDF here) detailing Microsoft's REI progress throughout 2021.

Since the program's inception, Microsoft has had three overarching objectives: to double its transactions with Black and African American-owned banks, to double the number of its Black and African American-owned suppliers, and, by 2023, to increase the number of its Black and African American-owned partners by 20 percent.

According to the December report, titled "Engaging Our Ecosystem," Microsoft is making significant strides toward those goals and, in some cases, surpassing them. For instance, the company reports more than doubling its transaction volumes with Black and African American-owned banks. It has also added 250 Black and African American-owned businesses to its supply chain, a 300 percent increase.

"Since the start of July 2020, Microsoft has purchased more products and services from Black and African American-owned businesses than ever before," the report indicated.

Partner Milestones and Future Goals
The number of Black and African American-owned businesses partners in Microsoft's channel has increased by 150 percent, the report said, driven greatly by the launch in October 2020 of the Black Partner Growth Initiative (BPGI). The report describes the BPGI as "an umbrella portfolio of programs and projects" that provide access to capital, resources and training to Black and African American businesses.

Through the BPGI, Microsoft has committed $3 million in partner training programs and $20 million in financing for Black and African American partners. Also within the BPGI are a business incubator for startups and one-on-one consultations, mentorships and go-to-market support. There's also a "hybrid managed program" for partners that "are ready to scale."

In addition, the BPGI Accelerator program is set to launch this month. The accelerator program is open to a limited number of BPGI-enrolled partners for each three-month session (the initial application period ended in mid-December).

Selected partners will be provided with "the guidance of Microsoft leaders and experts through a carefully designed business enablement and tech intensive program with opportunities that will open the door for stronger partnerships across the Microsoft ecosystem, including prioritized program referrals and market opportunities," wrote Regina Johnson, strategy lead for the BPGI, in an October blog post describing the accelerator's requirements. "Through this program, you will receive group and 1:1 business advising focused on enhancing your business strategy and achieving company goals."

Through its efforts around the BPGI, Microsoft says it foresees helping over 1,000 partners "accelerate growth" over its next two fiscal years.

"Our investments to support Black and African American partner growth have created foundational learnings and structures that we hope will benefit the broader community of minority business owners and Small and Medium businesses (SMBs) as well," the report said.

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editorial director of Converge360.