Bekker's Blog

Blog archive

Microsoft In-House Cloud Deployment Effort Gets Broader

Microsoft is making its Onboarding Center (OBC) more aggressive in its mission of converting cloud customers to active users, leaving partners for the second time in three months to figure out whether the new OBC will trample their existing business models or augment them.

Launched in 2014, OBC is an internal unit at Microsoft designed to provide free, personalized and remote services to customers to help them turn cloud licenses into active seats. Initially, the hundreds of employees worldwide in the unit provided Office 365 e-mail migrations for customers with more than 150 seats.

With a focus for this fiscal year on consumption, Microsoft's term for getting users activated and using multiple Microsoft services in the cloud, Microsoft expanded the OBC in July to cover data migrations, Enterprise Mobility Services (EMS) and enterprise voice.

On Wednesday, Microsoft unveiled another round of significant changes to OBC. At a superficial level, Microsoft is changing the name of the OBC to the FastTrack Center. The name change should reduce confusion, because the center has been delivering migration services as part of a customer offer called FastTrack.

The more significant changes are a broader mission for the FastTrack Center that includes an ongoing element.

"First, we're changing FastTrack from a one-time benefit to an ongoing benefit. This enables you to request support in onboarding new users and capabilities at any time, and as many times as needed, for the life of your subscription," Arpan Shah, senior director for the Office 365 team, wrote in a blog post for customers.

Microsoft is now sandwiching two new elements around the original migration service. FastTrack now consists of three experiences, the new "Envisioning" and "Drive Value" experiences and the "Onboarding" experience, which was the scope of the previous OBC.

The Envisioning experience through a Web site will offer resources and tools for customers to use prior to deployment. The Drive Value experience for post-deployment use will include best practices, guidance and resources.

That Drive Value experience seems like a candidate to generate ongoing outbound calls to customers from the FastTrack Center. Partners have complained that outbound calls to customers from the original OBC generated some confusion over the last year. However, the Drive Value experience is also intended to be a source of new partner business. As Shah wrote in the customer blog, "[We] will connect you as needed with qualified partners who can help you do more."

One other significant difference is that the FastTrack Center's broader mission will bring it into contact with all of Microsoft's customers. While the original OBC was intended for customers with more than 150 seats -- and the Onboarding experience continues at that seat level -- the other two services are expressly intended for all customers.

Gavriella Schuster, general manager of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, positions the changes as part of an overall demand-generation effort that will lift all partners on a wave of new business opportunities.

"These updates fully leverage the partner-led engagement model with the FastTrack Center. Partner engagement helps us drive higher customer satisfaction and opens opportunities for you to drive adoption of advanced workloads by delivering high-value services such as business process consulting, managed services, LoB integration and app development," Schuster wrote in a blog post.

The moves reinforce the advice Jon Sastre, CEO and president of ConQuest Technology Services, gave to fellow International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) in a blog post recapping the July Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC).

"The message is loud and clear, they will be doing the design and architecture and all the complex aspect of this work in addition to the commodity stuff. The even bigger concern is the relentless outbound marketing and call downs to clients offering the service," Sastre wrote of the OBC. "My big lesson here that I learned at WPC was lead with the OBC story and capabilities in your own sales motions. Let them know that Microsoft has a high volume output for mass migrations that would still dramatically benefit from your own project management, documentation, complex integration and training offering in addition to your IP as part of a real comprehensive migration strategy. Nothing that Microsoft does will ever match our speed and agility to pivot on client needs."

The FastTrack Center resources are available immediately in English. Microsoft plans to release content in November in Brazilian, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Traditional Chinese.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 07, 2015