What One Commercial Partner means for the Microsoft channel

What One Commercial Partner means for the Microsoft channel

Industries take centre stage as Redmond rings internal changes to better serve evolving ecosystem

Judson Althoff  - EVP of Worldwide Commercial Business, Microsoft

Judson Althoff - EVP of Worldwide Commercial Business, Microsoft

Microsoft has shed light on the channel implications of sweeping internal changes within the organisation, outlining the benefits of the new One Commercial Partner business.

Launched in February, the new division combines partner teams across the company, and is headed up by former Salesforce supremo Ron Huddleston.

Huddleston is widely credited with playing a major role in building the AppExchange marketplace at Salesforce, alongside launching the software giant’s cloud-based channel, OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and ISV programs.

Following a brief round of clarification on the opening day of Microsoft Inspire 2017 in Washington D.C. by Huddleston, Microsoft delved deeper into the channel implications on day two, outlining future opportunities for partners.

Looking ahead, the new-look program will focus on six priority industries during the next fiscal year, spanning financial services, retail and manufacturing in the commercial space.

Furthermore, within the public sector Microsoft will expand its presence across government, healthcare and education, rewarding industry-focused partners along the way.

“We'll develop mastery skill in these six industry areas,” Microsoft executive vice president of Worldwide Commercial Business Judson Althoff said.

“We're going to build solution maps with your intellectual property that's wrapped with your services, to bring hosting capabilities that you bring to bear, ecosystem-led.”

At the highest level, Althoff said Microsoft is simplifying segmentation and becoming “far more nimble”, enabling the business to place the right resource, in front of the right customer, at the right time.

“The first thing that you need to know about the new commercial model is that we're aligning all of our account team units around the world by industry,” he explained. “We will develop that subject matter expertise, the better ability to serve our customers digitally."

Althoff said Microsoft’s go-to-market strategy will focus across four key solution areas, spanning modern workplace, business applications, apps and infrastructure, alongside data and artificial intelligence (AI).

“The second thing you need to know is that all of our specialist technology units around the world will be aligned by these four solution areas," he added. "We're focusing on where the customers want us to be and adding technical expertise to bring their vision to life.”

Thirdly, Althoff said plans are in place to build a formal customer success organisation, stemmed from learnings with cloud and data solution architects over the past few years.

“And we're now adding that capability across all four solution areas so that we can drive modern workplace business applications, apps and infrastructure, data and AI solutions to life,” Althoff added. “Think of these folks as non-billable resources that you can partner with to help customers get real value out of the cloud solutions they've acquired.”

Delving deeper, Microsoft is also bolstering investment in inside sales capabilities, in a bid to bridge the vendor’s extensive marketing assets, its Global Demand Centre and all of the campaigns that come from it with partner opportunities.

“This organisation will feed leads to you to help drive us towards that total addressable market,” Althoff explained. “And the final thing you need to know is that the One Commercial Partner is critical to our success in the enterprise and in the small, medium and corporate space and that we will always be a partner-led, partner-first company.”

As explained by Althoff, the One Commercial Partner organisation is structured around three key areas - Build-with; Go-to-market or Sell-with.

Toni Townes-Whitley - CVP of Worldwide Public Sector and Industry, Microsoft
Toni Townes-Whitley - CVP of Worldwide Public Sector and Industry, Microsoft

“Our build with organisation is going to be aligned by you,” Althoff explained. “If you want to write code with us, if you want to build services, if you want to actually go and deploy these things and create value with customers, host them, create managed services, we want to build with you.”

The move represents a shift in thinking for Microsoft, as it moves away from using traditional channel acronyms and definitions, such as value-added reseller (VAR), system integrator (SI) and cloud service provider (CSP).

“If you want to build with us we're going to build with you,” Althoff added. “This organisation will be organised by partners.

“And when it comes to selling with you, we're going to sell with you the same way in which we're organised, by industry and by segment. We're going to develop rich solutions that serve our customers well.”

Industry alignment

Labelled as “industry focused, partner powered”, the prioritised industries will form the backbone of Microsoft’s channel efforts in the year ahead, with sales, engineering, business development and marketing divisions also aligned from an internal perspective.

“To understand a customer you have to understand the industry they're in,” Microsoft corporate vice president of Worldwide Public Sector and Industry Toni Townes-Whitley added.

“You have to understand what they're trying to disrupt, you have to understand what their competitive environment is, what their market is, you've got to speak their language and you've got to start with your customer language and translate back to your product portfolio.”

According to Townes-Whitley, industry alignment will be delivered through four key drivers, including partner model, new industry-dedicated roles, tools and resources as well as industry solutions.

“It’s important to know what we're building together towards an industry,” Townes-Whitley added. “It's important to know that we're selling together within industry capability.”

To supplement this change, Microsoft will introduce dedicated channel managers to each of the six prioritised industries around the world, in a bid to bolster engagement levels with partners during the last mile of execution.

Furthermore, new industry-dedicated roles will see a departure from old-school Redmond thinking, with Microsoft never previously having account teams aligned by industry.

“These customer-facing account teams, account executives, account managers, account business architects, industry architects are all aligned to a single industry so that we drive that focus and drive deeper acumen across,” Townes-Whitley added.

“Take Solution Map, that's going to be a tool that we use across engineering, sales and marketing to lay out your solutions against the line-of-business needs of our customers.

“And we're going to build all the way through those maps reference architecture so we know how to plug and play our technologies with your technologies to meet the customer demand.”

With Solution Maps set to become a standard form of engagement for Microsoft going forward, beyond tools and resources, industry solutions will also take centre stage.

“Many of you have IP and services that are driving towards these solution areas,” Townes-Whitley added.

James Henderson attended Microsoft Inspire as a guest of Microsoft.

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