Microsoft is increasing its investment in partners by $US200 million to $US1.7 billion this fiscal year and has earmarked more money for co-marketing campaigns, the company has announced at its second annual Worldwide Microsoft is also repackaging and expanding its services offerings for partners in an effort to better cater to systems integrators, resellers and independent software vendors, or ISVs.
The extra financial resources will be used so Microsoft can better support its partners.
The vendor's plans included additional technology specialists in the field who could help partners with things such as joint demonstrations to potential customers, general manager of partner sales and marketing at Microsoft, Don Nelson,said.
"This is a continued investment to deliver a core value to partners," he said.
All Microsoft partners will benefit from the budget boost, though a slightly larger portion of the money would go to benefit partners who sold
Microsoft Business Solutions products, Nelson said, without giving specifics of how the money would be divided.
Microsoft Business Solutions sells enterprise resource planning (ERP) products.
In addition to increasing its partner budget, Microsoft has instructed its subsidiaries to reallocate 35 per cent of their budgets for direct marketing to joint marketing with partners.
This was a substantial change for some Microsoft subsidiaries, especially in Europe, but it was not a big shift in other areas, including the US, Nelson said.
Partners should not see the reallocation of marketing money as the establishing of a money pool they could draw from to pay their marketing expenses, he said.
"This isn't a check that we're writing for partners, it is a cooperative effort with them," Nelson said. "Rather than Microsoft sending out a piece of direct mail to a potential client, we would be sending it out mutually with a partner so that a partner is engaged from the [start]."
Microsoft sells most of its products through partners.
The company's partner program has about 800,000 members worldwide, with about 40,000 at the elite Certified and Gold Certified levels, according to Nelson.
The increased investment was no surprise for a partner-centric company such as Microsoft, a research vice-president at Gartner, Michael Haines, said.
For partners, it was critical that the money was spent well, Haines said.
"The fact that a lot of that investment is going into field resources is really important," he said. "That is one of the things channel companies are looking for."
Partners were also eager to get more joint marketing opportunities, Haines said.
The overhauled services offerings will be available to partners of all sizes, including ISVs, systems integrators and resellers. Microsoft will offer access to its experts and tools to help partners develop on the Microsoft platform or implement and support Microsoft products. The offerings come in the form of two plans, Microsoft Services Partner Advantage Standard and Microsoft Services Partner Advantage Plus.
Microsoft had offered services to its partners in the past, but the company had sold these mostly to global partners, a Microsoft product manager, Thomas Dawkins, said.
"We have never been able to market services to our smaller partners, so that is what we are doing," he said.
Partners can use Microsoft's services for their own benefit or subcontract to Microsoft when working with a customer.
"We would expect this to be an asset for system integrators and ISVs," Dawkins said.
Microsoft appears to have successfully repackaged its service offerings to complement a partner's own expertise, Gartner's Haines said.
"Many partners have their own unique practices and services, but there may be some client requirements for extra services," he said. "The partner can walk away from the deal, or actually bring Microsoft services in as a subcontractor and still manage the services engagement."