Inspire 2017: Expect an industry-focused, partner-powered Microsoft

By:  Dann Anthony Maurno

Microsoft on Day 2 of its Inspire 2017 partner conference talked down the importance of out-of-the-box ERP and CRM.

“Business applications are no longer the systems of record,” said Microsoft EVP, Worldwide Commercial Business Judson Althoff in his keynote address. If anything, “They are systems of oppression.”

If the future is in digital transformation, then the future is in intelligence-driven solutions built upon ERP and CRM. But what does that look like, and how can partners deliver that?

Microsoft is hammering home a $4.5 trillion addressable market in the intelligent edge and intelligent cloud, which it puts under the umbrella “digital transformation” (see the slide below, used in both Nadella’s and Althoff’s keynotes). Its 64,000 cloud partners will find that simply being cloud or mobile is no longer a differentiator; that $4.5 trillion is for applications that deliver actionable intelligence.

No surprise in this view; but partners are telling Microsoft they need more help to capitalize upon that opportunity, writes CVP of One Commercial Partner Ron Huddleston in a blog post. Needs include building profitable businesses on new models, recognizing and responding to new opportunities, and helping identify and connect with new customers.

One Commercial Partner aimed at simplicity, focus

“We agree – we can do more together,” Huddleston wrote, and its One Commercial Partner model is Microsoft’s answer.

That “one commercial partner” is Microsoft with its re-organization. This model ostensibly brings together a highly-segmented set of partner-focused teams (e.g., in development, marketing, business development, and programs) from across Microsoft into one organization. All partners can expect the same service, regardless of size, business model, or geography.

“This organization is not just partner led, it’s partner first,” wrote Huddleston, and its mission is upon partner success and growth.

Partner-facing roles within Microsoft will serve one of three roles:

  1. Build-with, be it to build IP, a vertical practice, a new business model. The idea is to match Microsoft resources with partner needs.
  2. Go-To-Market, in which Microsoft marketing experts orchestrate with the build and sell teams.
  3. Sell-with, which necessitates the new Channel Manager role. These Channel Managers are both matchmakers and lead generators, responsible for connecting “the right partner solutions to the right customer at the right time.”

Says Huddleston of these Channel Managers:

This globally distributed force will be 100% dedicated to you and help you sell solutions built with Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Office, and Dynamics 365.

To further co-selling with partners, Microsoft is rolling out a formalized program that it calls “Azure co-sell,” with sales and marketing support for partners building solutions with Azure. Microsoft sales reps are highly motivated, with incentives of 10 percent of partners’ annual contract value for qualified Azure-based partner solutions.

Between the two programs, Microsoft claims to be investing $.25 billion.

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Six key verticals

So those are some partner resources; but, they can also expect dedicated vertical expertise as well.

CVP Toni Townes-Whitley, Microsoft Worldwide Public Sector and Industry, took the stage at Inspire to describe six key verticals the company will target near-term (see slide). Each has dedicated account teams, account execs, and industry architects, among other roles. Note that each of the six verticals will have a dedicated Channel Manager.

What do these partner strategies look like, in action?

Althoff introduced five customers during his keynote, most of which fit into the six vertical segments (e.g., beauty retailer Sephora, the South African Department of Health), and each of which involved a Dynamics ISV or IP partner.

Perhaps the most tangible – and one that best demonstrates a digital transformation – is HHPBerlin, a German fire safety and engineering firm. The company’s CEO Stefan Trüthan described knowing the technology that the company required, which simply didn’t exist for its vertical. As it was, the company clocked “thousands of meetings and hundreds of action items” on any given project, with manual, paper-based processes.

It required a strong workflow/CRM solution, which Microsoft partner ProMX built entirely on Azure with a Dynamics 365 base. The One System Dashboard delivers workflow management, faster project delivery, and product innovation; while HHPBerlin can also deliver a 3D view of project progress, and automatically generated changes to client quotes. (Engineering changes are legendarily paper- and process-intensive.)

Further, the digital transformation has enabled HHPBerlin to enter a new market with cities’ planning/permitting and emergency services departments. Its FireFramework uses a 3D building model to simulate potential fire behaviors, which both eliminates design flaws, and aids fire and rescue authorities in training and planning.

The end result was a digitally transformed customer. And Althoff described the opportunity as perhaps a preview of what Microsoft believes is the future. “Customers are becoming digital partners. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to take customer IP to the cloud,” he said.

About Dann Anthony Maurno

Dann Anthony Maurno is a seasoned business journalist who began his career as International Marketing Manager with Lilly Software, then moved on as a freelancer to write for such prestigious clients as CFO Magazine; Compliance Week;Manufacturing Business Technology; Decision Resources, Inc.; The Economist Intelligence Unit; and corporate clients such as Iron Mountain, Microsoft and SAP. He is the co-author of Thin Air: How Wireless Technology Supports Lean Initiatives(CRC/Productivity Press, 2010).