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Microsoft Partners Forge Ahead Through OCP Turbulence: Part 2

The lack of reassuring announcements from Microsoft after the sudden departure of Ron Huddleston, chief architect of the One Commercial Partner (OCP) engagement model, would have the partner community in an uproar if it weren't for their confidence in his replacement.

From the partner perspective, Gavriella Schuster never lost her mantle of Worldwide Channel Chief and her formal reinstatement will be universally welcomed.

Schuster's reputation as a good listener presents partners with a renewed opportunity to guide the future path of OCP. On the flip side, Microsoft needs to communicate the new landscape more effectively -- an area in which many felt the company was lacking the past six months. To achieve the lofty goals Microsoft has set for the channel, partners need to know how to best allocate resources and focus their energy. Sooner, rather than later.

Two channel leaders, Ric Opal, vice president SWC Technology Partners, and Christine Bongard, president of IAMCP's Women in Technology (WIT), shared their recommendations to partners and Microsoft to help the entire ecosystem navigate through the continuing turbulence of FY 2018.

"I guess one thing I would say to partners would be, you've got to be vocal," said Opal. "Microsoft cannot course-correct on what Microsoft does not know. So, I think I would be vocal in partner surveys, I'd be vocal with your PDM [partner development manager], I'd be vocal with whatever context and conduits you have. Let's celebrate the successes and let's make the adjustments needed going forward. But if we sit there as an ecosystem, and we say nothing, and we just become dissatisfied, that slows everybody down, slows our interactions with customers down."

"Our goal is to grow revenue, be profitable and service our customers. We do that with Microsoft," Opal said. "Don't be stuck in what they're doing or how choppy it is. Stay focused on customers and then look back with your Microsoft colleagues and see how far it's gone. It's gone a long way, really, since July 1. Is it perfect? No way. Is it different? Yes. Is it improved? Yeah, already better. Not done, but better."

With Schuster's leadership, there is likely to be more two-way communication on the direction of the channel. This is an important time for partners to be paying special attention to the Microsoft Partner Community and MPN Yammer to see the latest announcements from OCP.

"Whenever there is a time of change, which is going to happen, there's a lot of insecurity. There's a lot of frustration. The worst thing that Microsoft can have is for partners to be in the dark," said Bongard, who, in addition to being WIT president, is also director of partner alliances for Axispoint Technology Solutions Group (ATSG). "The best you can do to weather any storm is to have really good communication. It would be great for someone at an executive level within Microsoft to provide a monthly webinar or an update to the partner community."

Encouraging that concept, IAMCP WIT sponsored a webinar with Huddleston in November. Over 200 partners joined the call, asking more questions than could be addressed during the Q&A. Bongard, who hosted the call, said they have a list of 25 follow-up questions that will be sent to Microsoft. Hopefully, those questions will help Microsoft narrow down where clarifications of the OCP models are needed.

"I think the best way to foster better communication would be to get online and be honest. 'Hey, here's where we're at this month. These are the things we tackled over the past month that were not working great. Here's where we're at with it, and here's what we're looking at this month,'" Bongard said. "Going toward that honest approach of, 'We're doing the best we can, and here's what we're doing.' It calms people down. It will make partners feel that they are more a part of the changes and a part of a process than not."

Both Bongard and Opal are optimistic about the changes coming through the OCP engagement models. While the road has been a bit bumpy, the nature of the channel is changing and Microsoft must adapt.

"I have confidence in the worldwide OCP team, immense confidence," said Opal. "I think the reality is, we've come a long way. We must, as an ecosystem, as a partner channel and a partner-vendor relationship, we must never forget who ultimately is king. It's the client. If we stay centered on that and we stay patient, and Microsoft listens and Microsoft calibrates, I do think frankly they'll get better."

The ball is in Schuster's court now, and partners are anxiously waiting to hear how her vision of OCP will unfold. Fortunately, economic times are good, customers are open to technology investments and partners are optimistic. Now, if Microsoft and the channel can get all the oars in the water, "Oh, the places you'll go."

Posted by Barb Levisay on January 03, 2018 at 3:21 PM