XChange 2010: Microsoft Targets Cloud Partners With BPOS Incentives


Fred Studer, general manager of Microsoft's Information Worker group, said the new incentives show Microsoft is serious about the cloud and it wants to fuel partner success. The new incentives come after CEO Steve Ballmer last week outlined Microsoft's overall strategy for cloud computing.

To help on-board partners, Microsoft has launched a cloud-focused partner Web site for partners building or extending cloud practices. Dubbed QuickStartOnlineServices.com, the site offers partners access to cloud assets such as marketing plans, marketing templates, call scripts, and other customizable marketing materials. It also offers tools such as an RFP template, business plan building tools, migration tools and tips on how to deliver in cloud environments.

Additionally, Studer said, Microsoft will match marketing funds for partners of Microsoft's SaaS application suite, Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS), up to $1,000 to kick start demand generation. Through June 30, Microsoft will match up to $1,000 in partner investment in the Online Services Ready-to-Go Marketing program. The campaign is to assist partners in ramping up their Online Services business and drive marketing efforts such as teleprospecting, events, Web casts, search engine optimization, and other demand generation activities.

For partner-led opportunities, enrolled Online Services Partners can earn $500 for each new customer win of up to 25 seats through June 30 with services and migrations to BPOS or stand-alone products, with the exception of Office Live Meeting. Studer said if a partner signs 10 customers, each with more than 25 seats, they can earn an additional $5,000.

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Those cash offerings are on top of the 18 percent of first-year margin and 6 percent of margin for each year the partner remains the partner of record for that customer, Studer said.

Studer added that each solution provider also gets a chance to test online services with 250 free seats for internal evaluation. After a year, the free seats can continue if partners sell two or more opportunities of BPOS within that year.

Studer said the new incentives are designed to help partners learn about BPOS, use it and understand how to sell it while being incentivized to close deals and build a marketing pipeline.

Microsoft's overall cloud strategy focuses on three key tenants: mobility, social computing and data, Studer added. Microsoft wants to offer partners and its customers a choice on whether they embrace those tenants on-premise, outsource it, put it in the cloud or use a mixture of the three.

"There shouldn't be a technology ultimatum," he said, adding that partners should start evolving to the cloud with training to gain an understanding. "You don't have to do an all or nothing."

Studer said the new programs around BPOS jibe with Microsoft's cloud push, which he said will boost the number of Microsoft developers working on cloud computing in some way to about 90 percent in the next year, an increase over the 70 percent working in the cloud now.

Still, however, challenges exist.

"This cloud thing is still nebulous," Studer said. "(Partners) want us to help them understand what we define as cloud."

Meanwhile, partners are moving from on-premise sales to monthly annuity payment models and Microsoft will help the partners migrate customers as they transition. Studer added that Microsoft will enable partners to add services revenue alongside their POS sales and add customization.

Overall, he said, Microsoft is looking to "prime the pump" for partners looking to take advantage of opportunities in the cloud and the new incentives around BPOS will get the conversation started.

"If you're not talking cloud you're not going to be in the game in the long term," he said.