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Microsoft Exec To Partners: Good Job Selling Cloud Services, Now Let's Drive Consumption

Microsoft partners have done a good job over the years in making the transformation to selling cloud services, and at XChange 2015 Microsoft's Eric Martorano says the goal now is to drive more consumption.

Microsoft partners have done a good job in making the transition to cloud computing, and now it's time for them to drive more consumption of cloud services, according to Eric Martorano, the software giant's general manager of U.S. partner sales.

"I think the channel has done a good job of working through this transformation," Martorano said in a keynote Monday at the XChange 2015 conference hosted by The Channel Company, publisher of CRN. "One challenge in the partner community is the need to drive more deployment and consumption of the technology by selling experiences."

Many Microsoft partners are making money from transactional and project-based services, but ones that can deliver managed services and repeatable intellectual property can separate themselves from the pack, Martorano said.

[Related: Microsoft To Provide Free Onboarding Services To Enterprise Mobility Suite Customers]

Martorano said a potentially big money-maker for the channel is Enterprise Mobility Suite, a licensing bundle launched last year that includes Windows Intune, a paid version of Azure Active Directory with advanced features, and Azure Rights Management Services.

New Signature, a Washington, D.C.-based Microsoft partner that invested heavily in the cloud five years ago, has steadily expanded the scope of its Microsoft business in order to stay ahead of the competition.

David Geevaratne, chief sales officer at New Signature, said in the keynote that his company is now selling application services and line-of-business solutions using Microsoft's CRM, SharePoint and Project offerings.

New Signature familiarized itself with these products by taking advantage of the internal use rights Microsoft offers channel partners. Combined with guidance from Microsoft's field teams, this made for a smooth transition to selling sophisticated cloud solutions, said Geevaratne.

"It comes down to creating a unique solution that is transformative for customers and accelerates their growth," Geevaratne said.

New Signature, Microsoft's U.S. Partner of the Year for 2014 and 2015, was able to consolidate from four different data centers down to one by investing in Microsoft Azure, according to Geevaratne.

Geevaratne said Microsoft's Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, which launched last year and lets partners maintain a direct billing relationship with customers when selling Office 365, is another big competitive differentiator.

"The holy grail for New Signature is being able to sell customers a solution without them realizing they are consuming Office 365," said Geevaratne. "If I'm doing my job correctly, the customer comes to me, and I'm keeping other partners at arm's length."

David Powell, vice president of TekLinks, a Birmingham, Ala.-based Microsoft partner, told CRN after the keynote that owning the billing relationship is crucial for his company.

"The CSP program lets us take Office 365 or Azure and bake it into solutions," Powell said. "Then we add some additional features and take it to market, and it's still on the customer's bill."


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