Microsoft responds to feedback with partner programme enhancements

It’s been six months since its cloud partner programme launched, and in that time the channel has shared its views with the vendor

Microsoft has updated the channel on its Cloud Partner Programme, six months after it was introduced, indicating that it has responded to feedback and is continuing to roll out enhancements.

The vendor also took the opportunity in its State of the Partner Ecosystem update to discuss the impact its artificial intelligence (AI) strategy was having on the channel, with it clear that AI is seen as a way to make life easier for customers and partners.

In terms of the cloud programme, Julie Sanford, vice-president of partner go-to-market, programmes and experiences at Microsoft, said “partner feedback has resulted in key programme changes” and it was introducing fresh designations that partners can line up behind.

One of the biggest changes when the programme was launched last October was the decision to move away from gold and silver badges to six solution partner designations. These include modern work security, infrastructure, digital and app innovation, and data and AI.

“With the Cloud Partner Programme, we now have a single, unified motion that allows us to go to market in harmony with our partners like never before. The Cloud Partner Programme is a community of homes for all partners. We’ve intentionally structured the programme to strengthen the ways we work together with partners and to provide the offerings, tools and benefits that support each partner’s business model and growth aspirations,” said Sanford.

In the past six months, there has been plenty of feedback on the programme from the channel, in response to which the vendor has tweaked some of the original plans and made enhancements.

“Since the launch last October, we’ve received significant feedback from across our ecosystem, which has resulted in programme changes to better serve our partners. For example, the solutions partner designation for business applications was updated to include paths for enterprise and SMB, helping partners get the recognition for the work they do with customers of all sizes. In December, the month after the change was implemented, we saw a 76% jump in the number of partners qualifying for that designation, and an additional 51% growth in January,” said Sanford.

There were also more calls for help with co-selling, so Microsoft has provided distributors with more visibility of how their target reseller markets are faring.

“Overall, based on partner feedback, we’ve made partner programme adjustments in almost every solution area to ensure recognition of the impactful outcomes that our channel is delivering to our mutual customers,” she said.

The vendor used the partner update to indicate that it was adding more “homes” that partners can identify as part of the enhancements planned for fiscal 2024.

“We have a new home for partners who focus on the support needs of our small and mid-sized customers. This is about creating a trusted ecosystem that customers can rely on to provide outstanding customer support outcomes. We see this as a huge growth area for our partners,” she said.

Also coming are homes for those that specialise in delivering training and skills support and ISV partners.

The vendor was also keen to talk about how its recent launch of more AI tools on Azure would help drive more growth for its channel.

Nicole Dezen, chief partner officer and corporate vice-president for global partner solutions at Microsoft, said the firm was committed to aligning partners with customer needs and the latest changes supported that ambition.

“We believe digital technology plays a powerful role in driving the world’s economic output. This is the core thesis for how we operate as a company. But it’s actually not enough. As we drive global economic growth, we also commit to creating a more inclusive, equitable, sustainable and trusted future. And as we enter the age of AI, our mission and our commitment matters more than ever,” she said.

“Our partners and customers are turning to Microsoft to lead the AI transformation for a new era and we have the track record to help them do it,” Dezen added.

“Microsoft is the best partner for growth. We hold ourselves accountable to enable partners to build healthy, sustainable businesses. We are invested in partner growth and profitability for every $1 of Microsoft revenue. Our services lead partners make $7.63 and our software partners make $10.11. Now more than ever, partnership with Microsoft is making it possible to grow businesses faster,” she said.

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