Microsoft Australia has continued the rollout of its new channel program by adding a solution provider agreement (SPA) for MBS partners, and Business Solutions has become the ninth competency in its partner program.
The Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) software group includes Great Plains, Navision and Microsoft CRM products.
Microsoft Australia’s partner group director, Kerstin Baxter, said that once current contracts end in June, MBS partners — 60 of whom are in Australia — would have 12 months to meet the competency program requirements, allowing them to earn reward points and get access to beefier technical support.
This phase of the program rollout comes in the wake of MBS growing pains.
Hiccups in Microsoft’s efforts to work with its channel partners are continuing to hurt the software vendor’s US sales in the business applications market it is trying to crack.
When the company recently announced its quarterly results, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), John Connors, had some harsh words for the MBS group.
While there were no complaints about sales abroad, MBS in the US was having trouble maintaining its relationship with partners such as VARs, according to Connors.
“We aren’t having very good US execution,” he said.
MBS CFO, Kevin Mueller, attributed the problems to short-term integ-ration issues merging Microsoft’s traditional channel with the Great Plains Software and Navision A/S channels it inherited when it bought those companies.
The addition over the past year of new personnel managing the MBS channel had also contributed to problems, he said.
Baxter said the Australian model had run smoothly thanks, in part, to the reliance on five set partner account managers who ran the show.
Unlike the US experience, the merging of the internal sales and marketing team had gone off without a hitch.
Baxter said Microsoft Australia managed to maintain continuity in its relationship with partners.
“In the US many have changed jobs or been placed in different parts of the sales team, but we’ve encouraged our partner account managers to stay in the role,” she said.
In addition to reward points and technical support, Baxter said MBS partners received access to training tutorials in all service plans, along with a consultant resource centre that provided tools, templates and methodologies and best practices in peddling Microsoft products and services.
“The program will let MBS partners distinguish their business based on expertise providing ERP and CRM solutions,” she said.
The good news was that it reached the smaller fish in the sea [the SMB and mid-market], as well as the large enterprise players, giving the little guys a place to grow, Baxter said.
The SPA offers MBS partners a new model in which program engagement, services and benefits are separated from reseller terms and conditions.
“This will provide more uniform terms and conditions,” she said.
The SPA included distribution rights for MBS ERP software and services for those not offered in volume licensing or exclusively through distributors.