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Microsoft Partner Community Site Flattens P2P/M2P World

The newly launched Microsoft Partner Community Web site aims to address the globalization of the channel, enabling unified partner-to-partner (P2P) and Microsoft-to-partner (M2P) collaboration.

As partners adopt the less geography-bound cloud business models, Microsoft has to rethink partner engagement. The Microsoft Partner Community site is designed to provide a boundary-free platform to connect partners with the people and resources they need to succeed.

The Microsoft Partner Community Web site.

Cross-Border Connections
Just a decade ago, most partners -- including managed service providers, value-added resellers, system integrators and Learning Partners -- were primarily focused on serving their local business communities. Microsoft's partner engagement models reflected that regional focus with geographically assigned partner sales and engagement teams.

With the cloud, geography is less important, which means both partners and Microsoft need new tools for engagement.  

"We're really trying to promote that cross-border connection," explained Jenny Kordell, global partner community marketing lead for Microsoft. "The way we're thinking about the Microsoft Partner Community is really around conversations. It's going to be a more fluid experience for partners."

The site, a work in progress with full-scale promotion to partners planned for the Inspire conference in July, will serve as the hub for P2P and M2P conversations. Microsoft Partner Community will be the central destination for partners, regardless of their location, to connect with other partners, find business-building resources or ask questions of subject-matter experts. Yammer discussions groups will eventually be managed through the site. Microsoft Partner Center will continue to serve as the transactional site for partners, including Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) account management and the customer referral engine.   

A key function of the Microsoft Partner Community is to promote P2P interaction. For years, Microsoft has been testing vehicles to systematically encourage P2P relationships -- without much success. Inspire (formerly known as the Worldwide Partner Conference, or WPC) has always been ground-zero for P2P activity, with local events and Yammer fanning the flames through the rest of the year.

"How do we continue to build this community on a global scale?" said Kati Quigley, senior director of partner recruit programs at Microsoft. "Locally, it still is important for people to meet face to face, but how can they have this global connection to learn from each other? That's what drove the idea of the community."

The International Association of Microsoft Partners (IAMCP) is expected to play a prominent role on the site.

"IAMCP and our other influencer partner communities will help us build that partner-to-partner connection," said Kordell. "When a question comes up, we don't want there to always be this reliance on Microsoft. We want partners to be able to help each other. To kickstart that momentum, we are including groups like IAMCP to be an active moderator and influencer within our community."

Self-Service Is the Future
The theme of self-service is consistent with much of Microsoft's recent partner program development. From Marketing SureStep to FastTrack, Microsoft is providing more tools that partners can use on their own. Concierge support services are available for partners with more complex questions, but Microsoft is trying to wean partners from their traditional dependence on field sales teams.    

"We are looking at those opportunities where we can lift overhead from the field while ensuring a great experience through the Microsoft Partner Community," said Kordell. "We are also working to localize the experience for partners, serving up relevant content based on their profile. So regardless of high or low feel touch, partners in both our emerging and developed markets can have the conversations and the relevant information more quickly."

Inspire will provide the springboard for the launch of Microsoft Partner Community. Presenters will be asked to continue conversation on the site. Community advocates representing IAMCP and Microsoft will be building on themes from Inspire to continue conversations and spark connections.

Just as partner business models are undergoing change, engagement with Microsoft and other partners has to evolve, as well. The Microsoft Partner Community is a worthy attempt to flatten the channel, helping partners in a world without borders.

How are you using the Microsoft Partner Community? Send me a note and let's share your story.

Posted by Barb Levisay on May 17, 2017