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Partners Get Inside Track with Deployment Planning Services: Part 1

Unused Software Assurance benefits may not sound like promising opportunity, but some partners are building business by helping customers discover and implement underused assets.

Microsoft's Software Assurance Planning Services are engagements conducted by certified partners to help customers with deployment plans for desktop, server and cloud applications. Underwritten in full or in part by Microsoft as a benefit from the customer's software assurance program, the highly structured engagements are designed to help customers fully deploy the software that they own.

An Inside Track to Enterprise Customers
Deployment Planning Services (DPS) are not a volume marketing opportunity, but provide an inside track to customers who have made a significant investment in Microsoft technology -- most commonly through an Enterprise Agreement (EA). As part of their Software Assurance benefits, EA customers receive points which provide the basis for Microsoft's compensation to certified partners who deliver the DPS.

Currently, there are seven types of planning services that cover a range of Microsoft software deployments, from Windows Azure to Lync to SharePoint (the full list). The bar is set high for partners to participate in the program -- most requiring a silver or gold competency plus specific exam-based certifications. 

The benefit of participation to partners is twofold. The outcome of each DPS engagement is a roadmap for implementation which can translate into a deployment project. Second is the validation that Microsoft trusts your ability so much that it will pay you to advise the customer.

Seeking EA Customers
Since EA clients are most likely to have the Software Assurance points to underwrite a DPS engagement, partners use their contacts with Microsoft sales and LARs to connect with enterprise customers.

Sarah Woodruff, marketing manager with C/D/H, a Michigan-based, multi-gold partner, and the C/D/H sales team work with LARs to identify and educate EA customers.

"We look at what the customer owns, what they haven't deployed and what makes sense for their business. Their company goals and where they want to go." Woodruff said. "Often, customers just don't know that they have these benefits. They purchased an EA for other advantages and we ask them if they aware of the benefits to help them deploy the software they own."

For customers who want to understand the program better, Woodruff has found the videos on Microsoft's Volume Licensing site helpful.    

Open the Door
C/D/H finds the deployment planning services to be a great way to open the door with new clients.

"We encourage new clients to use the services to build our relationship," Woodruff said. "They may not be ready to commit to a $50,000 engagement right away, wanting to 'kick the tires' with us a bit."

While Woodruff does promote deployment planning services through mentions at events and survey questions, she has found that marketing DPS requires more of a one-to-one approach.  

"It makes the most sense to have individual discussions," Woodruff said. "Each customer has unique requirements, so we work with them to uncover what will add the most value to their business." 

Expanded Partnering Opportunities
Next week, we'll find out how one partner uses Deployment Planning Services as part of its joint marketing program with a LAR and training partner.

How are you using Deployment Planning Services to build your business? Add a comment below or e-mail me and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on December 06, 2012 at 11:57 AM


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