Microsoft is continuing to roll out a host of new tools and partner program updates as partners navigate their way through the tumultuous business climate brought on by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
New tools on offer include an enhanced Partner Centre, which provides a single place for partners to connect with other partners, Microsoft and customers. In addition, there is further on-demand support and evolved co-selling programs that mean partners can accept and share referrals from Microsoft (first party solutions) and other partners (third party solutions).
The vendor is also increasing access to training, support and go-to-market services, along with new competencies on the line, advanced specialisations and the company's Expert Program.
Additionally, Microsoft has indicated it will put an increased focus on rewarding customer results and achieving positive outcomes rather than relying on a model that is purely based on financial metrics.
“These offerings only scratch the surface as we continue to prioritise investments that support new opportunities in order to position our commercial partners for growth in the future,” Microsoft One Commercial Partner vice president Gavriella Schuster said.
Schuster has moved to assure partners that the company remains committed to working to safeguard business continuity and ensure the ecosystem is set up to reach its full potential.
“We look forward to continuing to evolve our relationship with all of our commercial partners in the months and years to come,” she said. “I think now more than ever, given the impact and magnitude of the COVID-19 situation, it’s important to continue to focus on our path forward. I’m proud of the work Microsoft is doing and the investments the company has made to support our customers and partners during these challenging times.”
Microsoft has made an effort to be on the front foot when it comes to managing its partner network amid the COVID-19 crisis, constantly evolving its incentives, programs, training and issuing competency extensions across specific product portfolios such as Teams and Azure. It has also postponed Microsoft Partner Agreement implementation plans. This is in addition to ramping up online training and certifications, backed by improved access to digital marketing resources.
Microsoft Australia One Commercial Partner Leader, Rachel Bondi, said the company is continuing its investment with partners in areas such as digital experiences in the way partners interact with Microsoft, while rolling out new specialisations and competencies.
According to Bondi, Microsoft is also assisting with training, development and accessing certain skills across Microsoft itself and other partner organisations -- taking a bigger initiative in partner-to-partner collaboration.
Recently, Microsoft announced a new specialisation on Adoption and Change Management. It's a different approach for Microsoft, with the specialisation focusing on partner expertise and how partners are driving the usage of Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and Yammer.
“We’re responding to customer needs,” Bondi told ARN. “There’s a huge demand when it comes to remote working and there’s been a huge level of interest in what we can do for first responders.
"A number of partners are considered an essential service for keeping healthcare workers on the frontline, helping researchers develop COVID-19 therapeutic and vaccine work, as well as the education from home initiatives. We have seen a huge demand there and they’ll continue to be important," she added.
Education, training and tapping into and sharing skills across the board has been an area of high-demand, with Bondi encouraging collaboration between partners.
“We’ll continue to announce more training availability online, certification, providing as much financial support for skilling during this time and offset a number of costs for courses through our education suppliers like DDLS,” she said.
On top of this, Microsoft is also increasing partner incentives across its technology stack, such as Teams.
“We’re also making sure our incentives are supporting our partner profitability and where customer demand is currently sitting,” she said.
Bondi expressed there was a huge amount of collaboration taking place particularly as customers are asking partners to deliver projects not in months, but within days and weeks.
“We started a community chat about a week ago where we asked partners to come together to share their human capital, their talent -- and that has been a tremendous win,” she said.
One example of a speedy customer deployment involved Velrada which deployed Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power BI for the Australian Red Cross.
The project was deployed within a week and will see specially-trained Red Cross volunteers work from home, making calls and providing support for individuals while they’re in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the past, they would’ve given volunteers spreadsheets, which are very one directional," Bondi said. "But now they’re able to provide a digital loop of feedback into the Red Cross and also state organisations to get a pulse on what’s happening.
“Even the volunteers working from home are having to do things in a way that keeps information secure and private, and the Red Cross have been working on making sure they’ve got the technology foundations in place to support this.
“The most interesting thing is they did this in one week. Customer demands are just-in-time and it’s been fantastic to see how partners are able to quickly deploy these solutions and have such great impact," she added.
Another project noted by Bondi involves global partner BlueYonder, which is using real-time visibility, artificial intelligence and machine learning within its Luminate Control Tower platform to help visualise and predict current and future impacts of COVID-19 on the global supply chain in terms of medical equipment and supplies.
BlueYonder’s data science team is helping to provide government entities and companies with better inventory visibility, predict shortages and adapt to supply chain challenges. Next step for BlueYonder is the supermarket space and helping supermarket operators effectively manage their supply chain demands.
Microsoft's move to ramp up initiatives aimed at helping partners navigate the current climate comes as other vendors, including SAP, Dell and IBM implement measures to help partners manage during the pandemic.