Microsoft Puts Partners On Front Lines Of Office 365 Support

Microsoft is giving partners that sell Office 365 and its other cloud apps better insight into how the services are performing for customers, so they can get out in front of problems when they arise.

Microsoft's Office 365 Partner Admin Center, launched Tuesday and slated for worldwide availability in the next few weeks, lets partners monitor the health of Office 365 apps and take the lead on service requests for customers, Adam Jung, a Microsoft senior product manager for Office 365, said in an interview.

While partners have been playing the administrator role for Office 365 customers for some time, partners told CRN that Microsoft's tools haven't been easy to use. For example, partners had to manually search for customers by domain name, which is tedious and time consuming.

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With the new Partner Admin Center, partners are given a single list of all the customers they're managing, which speeds up the support process, Jung said.

Partners can also handle administrative tasks on customers' behalf and see the health status of the Office 365 apps they're using. When customers run into trouble, partners can create service requests for them and keep track of Microsoft's progress in fixing them.

"This is important because partners want to know if they can be helpful and solve problems on behalf of their customers," Jung said.

Reed Wilson, founder and president of Palmetto Technology Group, a Greenville, S.C.-based Microsoft partner, told CRN the Office 365 Partner Admin Center will make it easier to manage large numbers of customers.

"We've used tools like Twitter in the past to find out about service issues," Wilson said. "That's easy to do when you have just a handful of customers, but not when you have hundreds or thousands."

The takeaway here is that Microsoft is leveraging its partner community to be more proactive about supporting cloud apps. Instead of learning about service disruptions from angry customers, partners can quickly figure out when things are wrong and explain what's happening to customers.

Cloud outages are a fact of life, but one big mistake vendors make is not communicating with customers when issues arise. Microsoft has at its disposal one of the largest partner communities in enterprise technology, and this looks like a great way to take advantage of this asset.