Channel programs News

Microsoft VP: Program Changes Allow Partners To ‘Differentiate’

Wade Tyler Millward

“It is a big shift going from gold and silver competencies aligned [to a model] to the six solution areas. But the opportunity that gives us … that’s how Microsoft goes to market,” Microsoft partner VP Julie Sanford told CRN in an interview.

Recent changes within the Microsoft partner organization and the newly introduced Microsoft Cloud Partner Program – with new partner designations that replace gold and silver – are all part of an effort to meet the needs of various partner business types and better align partners with how Microsoft goes to market and how customers buy from the tech giant.

That’s according to Julie Sanford, Microsoft’s recently installed vice president of go-to-market (GTM) programs and experiences, who spoke with CRN about the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program (MCPP) – which replaced the Microsoft Partner Network effective Monday, Oct. 3.

“It is a big shift going from gold and silver competencies [to a model] aligned to the six solution areas. But the opportunity that gives us … that’s how Microsoft goes to market,” Sanford told CRN. “It’s how we design our products and innovations. It’s how we design our business models, our pricing structures, our own internal sales plays. And so, by partners understanding and being able to align themselves to the specialties that they have, we can support them in a way we never have before.”

[RELATED: Microsoft Cloud Partner Program Launches, End Of Silver And Gold]

What happened to Microsoft Gold and Silver?

Sanford’s promotion from the role of vice president of GTM strategy programs in the Global Partner Solutions organization was announced this summer.

Microsoft described her role as an assumption of responsibilities previously held by former channel chief Rodney Clark.

Clark’s other responsibilities went to David Smith, vice president of channel sales. Microsoft named Nicole Dezen its top channel executive, giving her the title of chief partner officer.

The new partner organization brings “all of our programs, capabilities and investments across one group so we could have a full left-to-right view of that and, more importantly, in service of all of our partner types,” Sanford said.

In September, Microsoft published a report on the state of its partner program – one of the largest in IT at 400,000 partners employing 22 million people worldwide. The report revealed that most partners employ multiple business models – reselling, selling services or selling their own software – but that software-led partners have a higher revenue multiple and higher gross margins than services-led partners.

Sanford said that services-led partners are still important to Microsoft.

“MPN [Microsoft Partner Network] was really pivoted towards our services and solution partners,” she said. “And the new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program will continue to do that through the evolution of these solution areas. … We want to make sure that the new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program does a better job of including all of our partner types.”

When asked if she has a message for partners who have had difficulty adapting to all the Microsoft partner program changes this year – including the roll out of Microsoft’s new commerce experience (NCE) – Sanford said that she appreciated partners and encouraged them to continue providing feedback to Microsoft.

The company is listening and was adjusting the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program rules before the launch to make sure it set up partners for success with customers, she added.

“Working with all of our partners—regardless of Gold, Silver or as a network member—they all have the opportunity to look at where they are today, build a path to the solution area designations,” Sanford said.

“And absolutely, we believe that’s the way to build success for them with the investments we’re making across the entire life cycle. And then being able to stack benefits as they move and expand their business across solutions areas, if that’s what they desire to do.”

Here’s what else Sanford had to say.

Wade Tyler Millward

Wade Tyler Millward is an associate editor covering cloud computing and the channel partner programs of Microsoft, IBM, Red Hat, Oracle, Salesforce, Citrix and other cloud vendors. He can be reached at

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