Microsoft Channel Chief: Office 365 Fast Track Services Are Not Going To Eat Partner Business

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Microsoft partners have nothing to fear from the Office 365 Fast Track program update that's going into effect next month, Microsoft channel chief Phil Sorgen told CRN in an interview earlier this week.

Microsoft will provide free remote "onboarding" services to customers that buy 150 seats or more of Office 365, as part of an update to its Office 365 Fast Track program starting next month.

Microsoft will also offer customers free email migrations to Office 365 as part of a special "adoption offer" that runs from Sept. 1 to March 31 of next year.

[Related: Microsoft Exec Discusses Plan To Offer Customers Free Office 365 Migration Services]

This last part has many Microsoft partners upset because they charge money for their email migration services. But Sorgen told CRN that Microsoft will only do email migration work that can be easily automated and done remotely.

Anything more complex than a basic email migration will still be handled by Microsoft partners, Sorgen said. In these cases, Microsoft will provide funding to customers to defray the costs of the partner engagement.

Microsoft partners can get $15 per seat for up to 1,000 seats and $5 per seat after that, with a cap of $60,000 per customer.

"For our partners that qualify for the adoption offer, we think this is an accelerator to advance the sale and opportunity and deployment with customers," Sorgen said. "We think these funds will contribute to the deployment they will do with customers."

Even if the customer chooses the free email migration, Microsoft will still try to get them to work with a partner, according to Sorgen.

"Our goal is for every customer that allows us to attach a partner, we will attach a partner," Sorgen told CRN. "We will be regularly asking to attach a partner to the customer, because there is only a subset of tasks we can do."

David Greve, national director of Microsoft cloud strategy at Perficient, a St. Louis based Microsoft partner, is optimistic about the opportunities the Office 365 Fast Track will generate for his firm.

"The new Fast Track offer will greatly benefit customers interested in the self-service approach, with guidance from Microsoft," Greve said in an email. "Fast Track certified partners benefit from Microsoft’s endorsement and marketing efforts as a partner-of-choice who can further assist customers needing additional support due to project complexity or lack of staff to deliver deployment."

The Office 365 Fast Track changes stand to impact Microsoft's "born in the cloud" partners the most, as many of them got into Office 365 early on and have made significant investments in building services capability.

"Microsoft’s service can onboard 75 percent of customers that have worked with partners in the past for simple identity and email migration," said one partner, who didn't want to be identified. "Sure, this helps partners with no deployment services like large account resellers, but this does not help born in the cloud partners."

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