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Distributors Help Partners Clear Microsoft NCE Hurdles

Wade Tyler Millward

TD Synnex, Ingram Micro and Pax8 have provided office hours, training and other services to prepare their partner business customers for Microsoft’s New Commerce Experience.

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Distributors have stepped up to help Microsoft partners grappling with the New Commerce Experience (NCE) platform Microsoft launched, which is aimed at simplifying the purchasing and managing of software licenses for solution providers.

TD Synnex, for example, has created a competency to train its employees and partners on how to help partners use NCE.

“If you look at LinkedIn, you‘ll see hundreds of badges now appearing with TD Synnex-certified NCE because we actually built an entire course,” said Reza Honarmand, senior vice president of global cloud hyperscale at TD Synnex, which is based in Clearwater, Fla., and Fremont, Calif. “We will put them through an examination. We certify our people, so they understand the tool, the process, the commercial aspects of NCE. So far, we have over 300 of our colleagues who have passed it. We’ll have 800 of them that will have it.”

[RELATED: Microsoft 365 Monthly Pricing Backlash: Solution Providers Petition Against ‘Punitive’ Fee]

TD Synnex is also training partners on how to manage subscriptions through NCE, said Honarmand. “Once you understand how to drive it, how to manage it, then actually it becomes a standard process,” he said.

Victor Baez, vice president of global cloud channel sales at Irvine, Calif.-based Ingram Micro, has done more than 15 webinars with partners globally in six languages, reaching more than 13,500 attendees and more than 30,000 viewers on demand. Ingram Micro has NCE-focused content available for co-branding and partner-branding to help partners when they talk to customers about NCE-prompted changes.

About 200 partners have signed up for one-on-one consultations with Ingram Micro employees in the past two weeks, according to Ingram Micro. The company offers office hours, monthly channel talks and has more than 100 Ingram Micro employees in weekly calls and trainings around NCE. The company even has a dedicated hotline for partners, the Ingram Micro Cloud NCE Advisory.

“We enhanced our platform – we went live in October across 26 marketplaces around the world with some functionality of NCE,” Baez said. “And then we‘ve been doing a ton of migrations. We have our own migration tool for Azure NCE that we’ve had live for quite a while, and we‘ve been helping partners migrate their subscriptions from CSP (the Cloud Solution Provider program) to NCE. So we’ve been busy.”

All Azure NCE transitions for Ingram Micro are done as of Feb. 1, according to the company.

At Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Pax8, the company has held office hours and monthly NCE calls for partners, said Nikki Meyer, Pax8 vice president for the global vendor alliance. A recent session attracted 1,500 attendees with 1,800 questions submitted online within 30 minutes.

Meyer told CRN that Pax8 has also advised its partners on ways they can adopt NCE without breaking the bank.

“We worked closely with one of the partners who was on a [Microsoft 365] E3 subscription,” Meyer told CRN, “and when we took into account the incentives that were going to be in place after March, the way that incentives are paid up, we took into account the price increase and how that was going to land, also looking at how they actually used their license – we recommended that they actually went down to business premium and essentially we were able to save them $100,000. And that‘s between the savings on the price and also the additional incentives.”

Pax8 is working side by side with partners to not only migrate to NCE, but then to manage the platform going forward, said Meyer.

As part of NCE, once a subscription is purchased, customers and partners have 72 hours before they are locked into certain terms, according to Pax8. Customers must stick the partner they bought the subscription from and partners must stick with the distributor they bought from.

According to Microsoft: “After that first 72 hours, no cancellation is possible; the partner will continue to be billed for the remainder of the term or will not receive a prorated refund if the subscription was billed up front for the entire term.”

The 72 hours also includes weekends and holidays, according to Microsoft.

That distributor lock-in makes it imperative that managed service providers choose the right distributor from the outset of the licensing process, said Meyer, because they could “be locked into an annual agreement with very little flexibility to no flexibility to move.”

Partners must make sure they are teamed with a distributor that “can provide the services and offerings that they need to be able to accelerate their business,” said Meyer. “So not just around the cheapest partner to go through now, but really making sure that they‘re getting those value-added services.”

Meyer said that she appreciates the hardship NCE creates for smaller service providers that have to make heavy investments into changing their business.

“MSPs are constantly trying to transform their business and also add additional services,” she said. “This isn‘t just a distributor or indirect provider. If they’re working to deliver these extra services, it’s very difficult to actually get customers to come over to them based on service and that it doesn‘t just start becoming a price war.”

She continued: “It is such a significant change to so many people‘s business that those that are in the true SMB (small- to medium-sized business) space of smaller businesses, they’re feeling the pinch more because they feel that their entire business is at risk. The resources and investment they‘ve had to do is significant. One thing I think that we’ve learned over the time is not to not to diminish how big that change actually is.”

While change is hard, Ingram’s Baez and TD Synnex’s Honarmand told CRN, they are confident that Microsoft service providers will see the long-term benefits of NCE after making the short-term changes.

“There is the short-term migration, which is painful,” Baez said. “But the fact that you can do so much more on Microsoft‘s platform is a long-term positive for the channel. I do believe that Microsoft is doing everything it possibly can to simplify how you go to market as a Microsoft channel partner. And NCE is that answer, is that platform that helps you get there.”

“We want to acknowledge that our partners are having some challenges with the NCE launch -- this is a huge global change, and challenges can always be expected,” Honarmand said. “At the same time, we’re pleased with the responsiveness of the Microsoft hypercare of the NCE, which gives us confidence we will get through this change quickly.”

Wade Tyler Millward

Wade Tyler Millward is an associate editor covering cloud computing and the channel partner programs of Microsoft, IBM, Red Hat, Oracle, Salesforce, Citrix and other cloud vendors. He can be reached at wmillward@thechannelcompany.com.

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