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Partners Talk Value-Added Services Opportunities As Microsoft Adds Windows 10, Dynamics 365 Migrations To FastTrack

The FastTrack on-boarding program, which offers partners and customers tools, best practices and direct support from Microsoft engineers, now incorporates the latest operating system and CRM/ERP.

Microsoft incorporated Windows 10 and Dynamics 365 into FastTrack Monday, telling partners the on-boarding program would help them drive profit in engagements deploying those products.

The addition of Microsoft's latest operating system and cloud-based CRM/ERP offering (both in preview mode now) to FastTrack complements the existing support for Office 365 and the Enterprise Mobility Suite in the program.

FastTrack was introduced in 2013 as an on-boarding service to speed sign-ups and deployment for customers moving from on-premise software to Office 365. The program was then expanded, and today facilitates cloud migrations by delivering to partners and customers free migration tools, best practices and access to a team of Microsoft engineers staffing a division called the Onboarding Center.

[Related: Microsoft Upgrades FastTrack To Help Partners Accelerate Cloud Adoption]

"Overall, FastTrack helps partners capture more of the high-value service opportunities, as well as receive greater margin and recurring revenue streams, that great businesses are built on," according to a blog post from Niamh Coleman, director of partner business strategy at the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant.

"The role partners play in the expansion of FastTrack is critical, and the business opportunity is very real," Coleman said.

A unique aspect of the component focused on Windows 10 migrations, Coleman said, "is that deployment planning and service delivery is provided through partners."

"We are also making it easier for customers to find great partners to assist in their deployment directly through the FastTrack portal," she said.

Reed Wiedower, chief technology officer at Microsoft partner New Signature, Washington, D.C., said the program will be useful when performing migrations to Dynamics 365.

"Dynamics customers, partners and Microsoft often perceive implementation to be complex enough to warrant taking a lengthy, measured approach to on-boarding," Wiedower said.

That intricate process creates divergent methodologies, and customers might experience substantially different approaches when engaging different partners, he said.

"With FastTrack, much of that initial approach is standardized, so customers and partners can focus on business outcomes, rather than on internal methodology details," Wiedower said.

By helping customers on-board more reliably and quickly, FastTrack will help them take advantage of the many capabilities of the Dynamics 365 platform sooner than they would otherwise, and free partners to showcase their own IP, often around industry verticals, for a more compelling value proposition, New Signature's Wiedower said.

Pete Zarras, CEO of CloudStrategies, a Cedar Knolls, N.J.-based Microsoft partner, told CRN it's no surprise to see Windows and Dynamics 365 added to FastTrack, as the program is maturing and providing "some solid value for clients."

Zarras said he has at least one client who immediately could take advantage of Windows 10 FastTrack services.

For Dynamics 365, he's still waiting to hear if the current 150-seat requirement — a fairly large deployment for that product — for Microsoft to provide migration services will be maintained.

Microsoft also said it is upgrading the FastTrack program for the 4,000 customers who use it monthly for Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility Suite by adding support for the Microsoft Teams collaboration platform and new resources and remote guidance available directly from Microsoft's FastTrack engineers.

Not all partners were ready to immediately endorse the updated program. One solution provider, who's preparing to scale a Windows 10 migration practice, told CRN he needs to learn more about the details before feeling comfortable with it.

"When end users see 'free,' that automatically sets the price. I want to know how much will Microsoft do versus what they expect the partners to do," the partner told CRN.

But, the partner added, expansion of the program will focus the channel on the value-added services they can provide.

"Microsoft is really trying to pad down any speed bumps that it takes to get to the cloud and if migrations are part of that, they'll do it. The landscape's changing and we have to continually figure out how to add value," he said.

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