Microsoft Channel GM Eric Martorano Talks Cloud At XChange

Eric Martorano, general manager for Microsoft's partner sales, told a packed hall of solution providers gathered to hear Microsoft's keynote on Monday morning at XChange that this is "the start of a new era" for the software giant.

Four years ago, Martorano for the first time talked about revenue opportunity from the cloud on the stage at XChange.

"I kept telling them the cloud is coming. Well, it's here. It's mainstream," he said.

Related: XChange 2014 Coverage

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He told attendees he's in awe of what the industry has accomplished since then.

But Martorano also told his company's partners that it's likely 30 percent of their businesses won't exist in the same way they do today five years from now. Solution providers need to continue focusing on transforming their businesses, just as they did in embracing the cloud, he said.

The Microsoft "partner of the future" is engaging customers "extremely well" in four spaces: transactional, project-based services, managed services, and apps and IP.

"There's even greater opportunity for our partner ecosystem as they try to find a way to add incremental value across all four of those," Martorano said.

Martorano held a discussion on the stage with Steve Ellis, executive vice president of Infusion, a systems integrator with 600 employees around the world focused on delivering seamless and creative engineering services with Microsoft products.

Ellis told the crowd that Infusion's approach has become to show users what the end result is going to look like, "to show them that innovation is absolutely possible. It's not something they need to be afraid of; it's something they could embrace."

Business for the $100 million national Microsoft solution provider that won the software giant’s 2014 application development award will be up about 20 percent this year.

Ellis told CRN after the keynote that the depth and breadth of Microsoft's technology and best-in-class partnering program and strategy has been key to Infusion's success.

"They have the best partner strategy," he said. "They really embrace Infusion; they really leverage us. We fill in their gaps and we are a great team together."

The strength of the Infusion model is constant, iterative development around user experience. "That message is resonating with our customers," Ellis told CRN. "It is not about having that big-bang approach. It is about taking on these programs, delivering incremental functionality and delivering, delivering, delivering."

Ellis said his company's focus on delivering rapid, iterative solutions is on end-user experience breakthroughs that are powering the sales growth. "Our customers don't want to do monolithic projects where they invest a year of their time and money and then fail or don't deliver to the expectations they have set," he told CRN.

"They want to try things differently. They want to try an iterative approach that embraces technology and delivers change. They need someone to show them how to do that so they can adopt those practices internally. That is where Infusion comes in," Ellis said.

On the other end of the spectrum of Microsoft partners, Rick Kreiser, president of Carney's Business Technology Center, has been in the business 35 years, focusing on providing solutions for mostly small businesses. Kreiser started in Bakersfield, Calif., with two Selectric typewriters and a Thermofax, he told CRN.

"It's interesting to see them change. It seems [like] it takes Microsoft a few years to get a business plan right in my view," Kreiser told CRN.

The launch of Office 365 struggled out of the gate -- partners needed a better and a more predictable margin, Kreiser said.

Now, Microsoft is "on a great track," he told CRN.

Martorano spoke of the four "megatrends we see today:" mobility, social, cloud and big data.

"The world is changing, so is Microsoft. Along with our partners, we're uniquely positioned to be successful in this world," he told attendees.