Thinking about the Partner of the Future

imageThe Partner of the Future will be different than the partners we know today.

The Partner of the Future will be focused on Solutions. Both point solutions and full blown deployments and everything in-between. This is not to say partners haven’t always focused on solutions. However, in the past there was not always an easy way for Microsoft partners to get their solutions message across. That is changing.

This post started with a focus on the Microsoft Partner Ecosystem and it is primarily still addressing that market. To that end Microsoft has a need to extend, embrace and enhance the partner model and the ecosystem as a whole.

Note: This is not the “typical” 3 E’s associated with Microsoft and partnering. Those that know the three E’s will be smiling about now.

Some of Partner of the Future efforts will come from organic growth, but a lot will come from acquisitions. As I have posted about many times over the past few years … Consolidation Continues.

Why Consolidation will Continue

Because there are a lot of point solutions that have grown up quite nicely. Thank you very much. Many of the big platform players have continued to snap up these smaller players to put them into their stable of companies. Some of these “smaller” players have thousands of employees, millions of customers (or at least users) and sometimes millions in revenue.

For Microsoft specifically the Partner of the Future (PotF) can also be called the Partner of our Future (POOF).

I break the Partner of the Future into 4 big buckets:

  • 1. MSP's
  • 2. C2 partners
  • 3. Traditional Partners
  • 4. Combined Partners

What are these 4 PotF Types?

First, there is no wrong answer or wrong path here. As people decide they are done with the rat race and they want to put their specific skills to use they may decide to create a new breed of MSP. Where MSP means Managed Services Provider. By the very definition of an MSP they deliver point solutions.

I expect there will be a lot people that decide to create an MSP to leverage their skills and the now relatively easily deployable Microsoft technologies … notably Microsoft Azure and Office 365.

  • Call to Action for Microsoft: Embrace Them. Help them understand the products and the way they can generate revenue. Microsoft’s Burke Fewel is doing a great job with his blog posts on how partners can “Enter the Cloud Business

The C2 Partners

This is what I call the partners that have found their 2nd Customer. Of course, every business needs to start with their first customer. They may be able to keep and live on the business generated by that first customer for many years. There is nothing wrong with that. However, eventually they will need to find that 2nd customer.

  • Call to Action for Microsoft: Extend Them. These are the sweet spot for Microsoft (and every other platform provider will be going after them too). These are businesses that have proven themselves and they likely at the stage where there business needs help to go to the next level. Help them!

Traditional Partners

These are the companies that have bet huge hunks of their business on Microsoft. These are the ISV’s, SI’s and Learning Partners that have spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours learning, understanding and building on the Microsoft platform.

  • Call to Action for Microsoft: Enhance Them. Let them know their investment is appreciated. Let them know their investment is not wasted. Let them know that Microsoft will work with them to create next generation solutions. Let them know where the Microsoft product stack is going. In the absence of actionable information they will seek other alternatives. They have no choice. They need to continue growing their business too.

Combined Partners

This should be pretty obvious. This can be a mashup of the MSP’s, the C2’s and the Traditional Partners. Each can bring something unique to the table. Microsoft can be that facilitating engine to make it all possible.

  • Call to Action for Microsoft: Extend, Embrace and Enhance Them! Create a place for them to work together. Create a rationalized Azure/Windows/Office Gallery for them to post their offerings. Make it easier for customers to find them through the Galleries and other means.

What is the purpose of having any kind of partner?

To be blunt … to drive more Awareness, Adoption and Revenue for Microsoft.

Working Hard to Make it Real

As the 16,000 people that attended the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) and all those that watched the livestream during or after the event learned ... Microsoft is working hard to create the right environment to enable, engage and support the Partner of the Future.

What if they get it Wrong?

Well, like with all new plans there is a risk that things do not go as planned. Also, the competition is not standing still. Much like Microsoft's need to develop a runway for small and early stage companies to build their business the other platform players are also building their own runways and ecosystems.

Of course, there are quite a few small players looking to build the next great software platform. A few that have had initial success are looking at their next trigger for growth. Think Facebook as they expand beyond a Social Media website. Think Concur as companies realize there is a better way to manage expenses. Think Infusionsoft for the way they are building business automation for the small business market.

Note: Each of the companies mentioned are not necessarily wedded to the Microsoft platform for development, collaboration, or cloud services. Therein lies the rub.

So … What if they Get it Wrong? Well, it’s quite possible that the dream of a Partner of our Future (POOF) with go up in smoke with nothing much more than a poof.

There is a lot of work ahead. As the Former CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer said about “The Cloud” three long years ago … “I’m all In” and as the current CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, reinforced at this years WPC … Microsoft is all in for Partners.

What do you think?

  • Is the Microsoft Partner Ecosystem ready for a change?
  • Will Partners embrace the Partner of our Future model?
  • Will Customers embrace the model too?

Drop a comment here on on the social media channels below.

Image Credit: Space Odyssey 2001


Jeff is an expert in the Enterprise Content Management industry. He brings over 20 years of Channel Sales, Partner Marketing and Alliance expertise to audiences around the world in speaking engagements and via his writing. He has worked for Microsoft, Kodak, K2 and Gimmal. Tweet him @jshuey or connect on LinkedIn,Facebook, or Google+

He is a contributing author to Entrepreneur, Elite Daily, Yahoo, US News and to the Personal Branding Blog.