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Microsoft channel boss ramps up spending on digital and technical support

Vendor uses Inspire event to reveal plans for next year, including a revamped deal reg and significant increases in technical skills training

Microsoft’s channel boss has outlined plans to ramp up the digital support on offer for partners in his keynote slot at the vendor’s Inspire event.

Rodney Clark, the recently installed corporate vice-president, global channel sales and channel chief at Microsoft, was keen to use his time at the virtual event to talk about the successes of the past fiscal year and the company’s intention to keep momentum going.

The firm revealed that it has 400,000 partner sellers globally and is being approached by a couple of hundred partners every day to join those ranks. The channel also influences 95% of the firm’s commercial revenue.

“Knowing that the next phase is uncharted, we have to ask ourselves: what’s next?” said Clark. “We know the world is increasingly digital, but what will the expectations look like and how does our ecosystem yet again rise to the challenge?”

Clark said Microsoft would be doing three things to help with that change – strengthening its digital capability, deepening partners’ technical capability, and streamlining engagement between the vendor and its channel to drive profitability.

The challenge was to do all of that at a time when the channel base is continuing to expand, he said. “We have 300 to 400 organisations joining our ecosystem every single day, and by the end of this year, we will be at a half a million partners that are part of the Microsoft Partner Network.

“My push now to my team and to our company is not only to be the most populous partner programme by the numbers, but to provide you the most effective digital path in the industry.”

Clark added: “It’s got to be easy, and it has to allow you to grow and accelerate your business to make this the most effective digital engine in the ecosystem. We are investing right now to rebuild deal registration workflows. We are realigning our engineering teams to bring partner and seller experiences closer together. We are applying zero trust and building automation technologies to validate your business relationship, keeping fraud away from you, and out of our ecosystem.”

On the technical front, Clark said it was important for the channel to stay one step ahead of customers and be in a position to take the lead on digital transformation projects.

“We are increasing our FY22 investment in skilling by more than 250%,” he said. “This includes deep technical training through things like cloud weeks, virtual hands-on labs and digital technical skilling content that’s on demand. This is all aimed at helping you build capability by solution area, and by industry.”

Clark said Microsoft was focusing on growth areas, including business applications, because all the major analysts were forecasting that area to grow significantly. Low code, security, Azure data analytics and artificial intelligence were other areas of growth.

On the company’s third ambition of making life more streamlined for partners, he said it had more consulting and managed services offerings that could be sold directly to customers as well as through CSP resellers, to support those that wanted to influence deals but lean on the vendor for delivery.

He also indicated that Microsoft’s lead generation efforts were primed and ready to be shared with partners, adding: “We have over four million customer leads and ‘ready to buy’ status that are created by you, with a half million of those leads delivered from our sellers to you.”

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