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A failure to communicate

Billy MacInnes comments on Microsoft's recent price rises, which have not gone down well with the public sector with the channel getting some blame for not communicating the issue

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

People of a certain vintage will recognise those words from one of Paul Newman’s finest films, Cool Hand Luke. If you haven’t seen it, I can heartily recommend the film for Newman’s performance (and that of his co-star George Kennedy) as well as a number of indelible scenes, including the boiled egg eating competition.

Anyway, I’m reminded of the line above, uttered by the captain of the prison wardens to Luke when he talks back to him, by a story on the MicroScope website concerning Microsoft’s recent price increases.

The story reveals that the public sector IT lobby group, Socitm, was not best impressed with the price increases or the threat of further price rises if customers failed to sign up to the new regime before next month. Socitm has called for the increase to be delayed until March next year.

But it’s not Microsoft I’m put in mind of here, or its public sector customers, but the people stuck in the middle, that’s right, the resellers. Why? Because Socitm seems to make a point of highlighting the role – or lack thereof – of resellers in the Microsoft price rise saga.

“Communication (via resellers) of changes needs to be improved in the future to help customers understand change and impact, so that they could plan for it in a timely manner,” Socitm states.

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.

But that doesn’t mean public sector customers should be following the captain’s example and hitting resellers for it. After all, it’s not the channel’s fault. Resellers didn’t decide to adjust prices for the vendor’s licensing programmes and “make price adjustments to on-premises and cloud products” in a way that was designed to “highlight the benefit of our [Microsoft] pricing for a cloud-first world”.

It wasn’t their decision to increase commercial prices of Office 2019 by 10% or to raise the price of Windows 10 enterprise to match the price of the Enterprise E3 scheme.

It might be fair to say that resellers and channel partners would be expected to help communicate these changes to customers in a way that made sense to them but, and it’s a big but, resellers could only do that if the vendor (Microsoft) had done a good job of explaining the changes to them. If it didn’t, that makes it hard to attach blame to resellers.

In any case, improving communication of the changes via resellers does not really imply that resellers are at fault. It’s the communication via them that’s the problem. Which means the problem is with the message, not the messenger.

Ultimately, the failure to communicate is not down to the reseller but the vendor. It’s just that the reseller, stuck in the middle, is often easier to blame.

This was last published in December 2018

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