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Marching Orders 2016: Flex Those Cloud Muscles

Editor's Note: Throughout the month of January, we'll be running installments of Marching Orders, our annual collection of advice and predictions from channel luminaries about what to do and what to expect in the year ahead. For this entry, Gavriella Schuster, general manager of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, weighs in on paths to success in the cloud.

Over the past year, we have seen more and more customers move to the cloud and partners adapt their business models to take advantage of the many opportunities the cloud has to offer. IDC helped illustrate the potential, citing cloud partners realized 1.6 times the recurring revenue as a portion of total revenue versus other partners.

With this business transformation, we spent last year focused on helping partners grow their cloud business and find their path to profitability. For example, we announced major changes to make our cloud competencies more valuable for our partners. We also expanded our Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, which gives partners expanded capability to directly manage the entire lifecycle of their customers' cloud subscription, to 131 markets. 

When I think about what's on the horizon for 2016, I see tremendous opportunity for partners to flex their muscles in developing new ways to solve customers' problems and to take advantage of the freedom the cloud provides in growing and scaling businesses in ways not possible before. Below are two ways in which partners can gain real momentum with their business in 2016:

Become the trusted advisor. Like all paradigm shifts, the rapid acceleration to new, more powerful technology is creating new opportunities and challenges that weren't there before, and many customers now realize they can't ignore the need to be in, or at least moving to, the cloud.

Today, customers are looking for partners to be the expert and help them understand their options. They need a trusted advisor to guide them on an ongoing basis as new technologies and opportunities arise to be successful. This requires a significant shift in how partners do business. Business models that rely on continuously securing large one-time projects to bring in a quick burst of revenue are becoming antiquated. As the cloud transforms businesses, partners are shifting more and more to managed services. To be successful today, partners must focus on helping customers build effective deployment and retirement plans, understand and help customers maximize new technology usage while minimizing disruption, facilitate overall security needs and provide ongoing managed services. Partners that successfully adapt to this new world will realize more stable, long-term revenue streams.

Look for strategic partnerships. We've seen strategic partnerships become a real game-changer for partners in the past, but a recent IDC study helped to reinforce their value. According to the study, when the right partners join forces, three things are bound to happen:

  1. They are able to build total solutions,
  2. Their business grows, and
  3. They beat out the competition.

Strategic partnerships can be effective in helping partners reach geographical markets where they may lack a physical presence or where they have language or compliance barriers to entry. Partnering can also help care for a customer's lifecycle end-to-end -- with some partners focused on front-end deployment and others on back-end support. Additionally, partnering can help identify other IP solutions that knit together a full customer solution and optimize each customer engagement or customer socket.

With cloud innovations continuing into 2016, our partners have a tremendous opportunity to help customers realize their full potential while creating new business models that drive increased profitability.

I can't wait to see what new market opportunities our partners will help create for customers and how the world will change in 2016 as a result of the technology innovations and creative implementations of our partners.

More Marching Orders 2016:

Posted on January 20, 2016 at 10:44 AM