Cloud Partners: Microsoft Partner Program Is Transformative--

Microsoft's partner program is putting the fire into partners to transform their business with robust sales growth in the fast moving cloud market.

That was the message from a trio of Microsoft's best and brightest partners at the Best of Breed Conference who took to the stage Tuesday in a Masters of Cloud Transformation panel discussion hosted by David Geevaratne, co-founder and president of New Signature, Microsoft's 2014 U.S. Partner of the Year.

"It is 100 percent transformative," said Steve Ellis, executive vice president of Infusion, a Toronto, Ont.-based Microsoft partner, speaking about the software giant's cloud partner program. He called the Microsoft partner program the "best partner program" bar none from any vendor that he has ever worked with in the technology business.

Ellis credited the Microsoft partner program with helping Infusion drive sales growth at "20 [percent] to 25 percent clip" over the last several years with net new accounts up 30 percent this year.

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What's more, he said, as Infusion has partnered closely with Microsoft in the cloud its cost of sales has declined, with Infusion selling more repeatable solutions. "When you sell repeatable solutions, you are able to better deliver those solutions so the overages you might incur on a project are reduced."

Another plus for Infusion: Microsoft's "competitive appetite to win" in the cloud business. "They may not always get it right the first time," Ellis said. "But I want to bet on a partner that has the long game in mind and has the hunger and competitiveness to win every single time."

George Hammerschmidt, COO of Nortec Communications Inc., a Falls Church, Va., Microsoft Gold partner, said the Microsoft partner program has "set his company on fire."

"They force you to adapt and get ahead of the curve," said Hammerschmidt, referring to Microsoft's drive to push partners to break new technology boundaries.

The danger of the solution provider business is the tendency of some partners to fall into a "lifestyle" business model, said Hammerschmidt. "Microsoft isn't in the lifestyle [partner] model [business]," he said. "It is transformative. It forces the issue." Hammerschmidt said his cloud business is up with a double digit increase in managed services growth even as Nortec's overall business will be down about 10 percent as the company makes the move to cloud.

The cloud business transformation has disrupted the entire company, he said.

"It disrupted the engineers, disrupted the sales force, disrupted the client, disrupted the partnership," he said. "Disrupted is a bit of an understatement."

Jeff Meyer, co-founder and CEO of InfraScience, an Alpharaetta, Ga., Microsoft 2014 Partner of the Year Award finalist for cloud in the small and medium business market segment, said the Microsoft partner program has been a spark plug helping drive his company's cloud business to as much as 50 percent of his sales.

"The Microsoft partner program is exceptional," he said. "I have never seen anything like it with any other organization we have worked with."

Meyer said he started the cloud transformation with Microsoft five years ago and every year InfraScience's sales have been up anywhere from 20 percent to as much as 60 percent. He said the cloud transformation has sparked sales in every segment of InfraScience's business with hybrid cloud environment integration.

"It has created a lot more services opportunities for us," he said.

Meyer's message to other partners: the cloud business is "here now, it is real, it is happening." He said one of the keys to his company's success with Microsoft is hitting aggressive sales targets. "As partners we have got scorecards too [in the form of sales targets]," he said. "We make commitments to Microsoft. That scorecard transforms you. You have got to hit that goal if the partnership is important to you and you want to be successful."