How Microsoft Plans To People-Ready Its Partners

Partners will play a key role in Microsoft's new people-ready business strategy, says Allison Watson, vice president of Microsoft's worldwide partner and small-business group. Following up on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's announcement on Thursday about the software giant's new people-centric focus, Watson says Microsoft has several initiatives to help partners deliver the people-ready messaging and solutions.

"The people-ready vision is not only for Microsoft to create opportunity, but it's also about creating opportunity for our partners," Watson says, adding that this people-centric strategy is not exactly new to partners. In fact, they have been hearing about it since the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference last year.

"We started the push by presenting to partners the importance of people being at the center of how Microsoft delivers value in research and development and for customers," Watson says.

Alan Kahn, managing director at InterDyne, a New York-based business solution provider, says the visibility around people-ready and what Microsoft is doing to deliver new products will be key to his business.

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"We expected more awareness in the marketplace now that Microsoft is in the business solutions arena and is investing heavily to deliver in the upper-midmarket and even enterprise," Khan says. "We've made a habit of replacing tier-one applications with the Microsoft Dynamics products--we've done PeopleSoft replacements, JD Edwards replacements--but I'd love for Microsoft to be invited to the game more often when those companies are first sitting down thinking about what to buy."

He adds that Microsoft's products, such as Dynamics and Great Plains, have been in the marketplace for years and are recognized among traditional midmarket companies, but the larger midmarket companies may not be as aware.

"An awareness campaign like this around people-ready, if it includes some strong messages that are widely publicized around Dynamics, it will be important for the tier-one and upper-midmarket customers," Khan says.

To help partners deliver this message, Microsoft is launching a solution-finder tool connected directly to the site. The tool profiles 4,000 partner solutions, their availability and vertical-industry focus.

"We're saying if you want to get people-ready, get it from our partners, here are our partners," Watson says. "So far, we've had over 12,000 searches in our beta-testing of the tool over the past two weeks."

Microsoft is also investing in partner training around the people-ready message, with the goal of training 200,000 partner employees during the next 12 months.

"The training component will support partners by helping them clearly tell the story of people-ready," Watson says, adding that the training assets will be available on Microsoft's online partner-learning center.

Channel-building will also be a key component of building out the people-ready strategy for partners, says Watson.

"In addition to being able to tell the people-ready story, partners also have to be able to deliver," she says. "In order to deliver, they either have to have the skills on their own or they need to put together the right number of partners to present [so the customers they are calling on can see] those skills will come together."

To do this, Microsoft has launched a channel-builder online tool to match partners with each other, ISVs, services partners and more.

"We are providing the tools to train partners to deliver the people-ready message and supporting them with compelling evidence about why customers who invest in this outperform customers who don't," Watson says. "We want them to know how to live and breathe this message and successfully sell their offerings to customers."

InterDyne's Khan says these tools are very important, as the "world of Microsoft in business solutions has gotten so big and there are so many products and companies." He adds that sometimes it's difficult for customers or partners to determine which are viable.

"For Microsoft to step forward and get all of that information into a place everyone can access and know these are products customers are using and they're satisfied, that's a big step," Khan says.