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The 5 Stages of Microsoft Partnership

In a recent blog post, longtime Microsoft channel partner Mike Gilronan describes five distinct phases of the Microsoft partnering experience. Gilronan's slightly tongue-in-cheek analysis, loosely based on the Kübler-Ross 5 Stages of Grief model, provides some useful insights into what both new and established partners should expect from their Microsoft association.

Below is a highly abbreviated summary of Gilronan's stages: 

  • Stage One: Denial - The frustration that new partners feel learning the terminology and delivering on the "asks" from Microsoft make them question the time investment. 

  • Stage Two: Despair - The self-doubt that most partners (should) feel in delivering on the promises of a global technology leader.

  • Stage Three: Hopeful Performance - Learning, and even using, the channel acronyms, partners build confidence in their ability to become one of those recognized for competence and potential.

  • Stage Four: Soaring Execution - The exalted status of a "go-to" partner, connected at the hip through "purple badge" SMEs (virtual Microsoft employee) and earning accolades at the Worldwide Partner Conference. The partner has delivered value to Microsoft customers and is reaping rewards for the business. Personal relationships with Microsoft reps are genuine and mutually beneficial.

  • Stage Five:  Devolution/Plateau - Complacency, through lack of vision or agility, in embracing the next big thing drags down the relationship. Other partners, hungrier for Microsoft's attention, take over the mindshare once enjoyed.

Gilronan summarizes his post with two pieces of advice for partners. First, there is tangible value to be gained from the partnership by taking full advantage of business development programs and personal relationships with Microsoft field reps. Second, understand how your Microsoft benefactors are goaled and help them achieve their mandates.

The second point is mentioned often in conversations with National Systems Integrators and other successful partners when describing how they build tighter alignment with Microsoft. Microsoft hires smart, driven individuals. Your relationship with Microsoft comes down to working with these individuals. Helping highly motivated people to achieve their goals sounds like a good foundation for building the value of your partnership.

The full text of Gilronan's post is here. For those who do not have 100 percent recall of their Psychology 101 class, here's the link to an explanation of Kübler-Ross Model.

Riding on the Shoulders of a Giant
Gilronan's observations ring true for longtime channel dwellers. Most of us have experienced each of these stages, either through the journey of a single partner or through job changes within the channel. Riding on the shoulders of a giant is not for the faint-hearted, and for the uninitiated, the five stages are valuable to explain the journey. The next time your management team questions the investment into the Microsoft relationship, you may want to show them the progress you've made.

How do you build on your Microsoft partnership? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share your story.

Posted by Barb Levisay on December 11, 2013


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