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Microsoft CSP Program Demands New Mindset from Partners

Vendor programs of the past were designed to make it easier for channel partners to sell a set of solutions as one "package." While the intent of Microsoft's Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program shares that goal, this time partners have to complete the package on their own. The CSP requires a new mindset, where partners must clearly define the role they want to play in their customers' future.

For those partners used to a transactional rather than strategic relationship with their customers, the CSP program represents a transformational business model change. Microsoft's intent with the CSP program is to drive long-term consumption, which means promoting user adoption and expanding workload footprint. Those partners wishing to gain the attention of Microsoft need to develop their CSP offerings with those objectives in mind.

"CSP is the value model. You cannot view this as a transaction, like you would through a traditional disti sale," observed Ric Opal, vice president of Peters & Associates. "This program is such that you buy the technology and you control the billing. You create your special offering -- management, sensors, custom applications, development change management, custom SharePoint...whatever -- and you sell the whole value."

One of the factors that makes this transition so challenging for partners is that there is no cookie-cutter way to proceed. The services that a partner is likely to add on top of an Office 365 subscription can be as simple as adding in a monthly fee that provides the classic managed services of user support and backup/recovery. Or those add-on services can be as complex as partner-created intellectual property (IP), SharePoint deployment or unified communications. The options can be overwhelming.

"Managed services means something different to every partner based on segment or vertical or capability," Opal said. "For me, managed services means that I want to own IT operations. I want to participate in strategy and drive them to a better value prop by taking my high-end, well-trained talent and spreading them over my managed service clients. That gives my customers access to strategic technology expertise that is relevant and current. In turn, it gives me a highly utilized bench."

With no template to follow, partners have to objectively evaluate their strengths and resources and define the value add they can deliver to customers. More than just a new offering, the CSP program requires partners to design the business model that will take them into the future.

"It's incumbent on partners to offer services that are relevant to our customers," Opal said. "Figure out what your long-term value proposition is. Then you can walk it back to determine if you have the right people and processes to support that model."

With the addition of Azure and Dynamics CRM to the CSP program lineup, the options continue to expand. "With Azure, the sky is the limit. From five seats to 5,000, and across industries," Opal said. "Customers are looking for integration, mobility and security experience. These are high-value, high-margin services where customers need a partner to help them apply technology that will give them competitive advantage."

CSP is likely to be the most transformational program that Microsoft has ever offered to partners. It requires an evolution in mindset -- from vendor-driven solution packaging to partner-driven value solution packaging. A unique opportunity for partners to plan their future on their own terms.

How are you driving value as a CSP? Add a comment below or send me an e-mail and let's share your story.

Posted by Barb Levisay on November 11, 2015