Microsoft Inspire 2022: Chief Partner Officer Nicole Dezen Says It’s ‘Never Been A Better Time’ For Partners

'With increasing customer demand, our R&D (research and development) investments and go-to-market capabilities, we will help you unlock new opportunities for growth,’ Microsoft Chief Partner Officer Nicole Dezen says.

Nicole Dezen, Microsoft’s new chief partner officer and corporate vice president of the Global Partner Solutions organization, addressed the company’s 400,000 partners publicly for the first time this week during Microsoft’s annual Inspire event to discuss partner opportunities in hybrid work and cybersecurity.

Dezen also touched on new investments in partner enablement while staying away from the controversial rollout of Microsoft’s “new commerce experience” campaign and the accompanying 20 percent premium on monthly commitments of popular software packages from the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant, including Microsoft 365 (M365).

“There's never been a better time to be a Microsoft partner,” Dezen said during one of her talks Tuesday. “With increasing customer demand, our R&D (research and development) investments and go-to-market capabilities, we will help you unlock new opportunities for growth.”

She continued: “Microsoft is the best partner for growth. Betting on the Microsoft Cloud positions you to win in the market. We are the platform for growth and the open cloud platform of choice. We have the most valuable ecosystem and tech for partners to differentiate and advance your own values, and we're committed to helping you thrive and grow.”


What Did Nicole Dezen Say During Microsoft Inspire?

The monthly premiums have proved concerning for some partners who allege the premiums push customers into annual commitments, preventing customers from leaving partners they don’t like and leaving partners on the hook for paying Microsoft if a customer goes out of business or doesn’t need as many licenses during the annual term.

Dezen succeeds Nick Parker, taking his former Global Partner Solutions corporate vice president title and adding the chief partner officer title. Parker was promoted to Microsoft president of the Industry & Partner Sales (IPS) organization.

In a statement to CRN, Microsoft explained that the chief partner officer title is broader than the “channel chief” title formerly held by Rodney Clark, who left Microsoft earlier this year for Johnson Controls.

Clark’s responsibilities have been split into two roles – the new vice president of channel sales role held by David Smith and the new vice president of go-to-market (GTM), programs and experiences role held by Julie Sanford.

Smith “will focus on sales and business growth with our channel partners,” according to Microsoft. Sanford “will be accountable for partner programs and GTM engines.’

Smith previously held the title of vice president of U.S. partners. Sanford previously held the title of vice president of GTM strategy and programs.

Dezen discussed the upcoming Microsoft Cloud Partner Program, the renamed Microsoft Partner Network debuting in October. She didn’t mention the controversial partner capability score that will determine who is a Microsoft “solutions partner” and who receives new Microsoft specializations – which replace the classic gold and silver Microsoft designations.

“You can differentiate your company with a specialization, the highest technical accomplishment for a solution area,” Dezen said. “This creates incremental value to customers as they search for the right partners to meet their transformation needs.”

During his own keynote address this week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella appeared to reference the upcoming partner capability scores that will determine who receives specializations.

“We want to be the best partner for our partners, and we are investing in your success,” Nadella said Tuesday. “We are committed to helping you better meet customer needs by helping you gain specializations in deep technical training across all the solution areas I’ve talked about today.”

Dezen said that Microsoft is investing in more workshops for partners, including ones around hybrid work-related services and security-related services. An update – dubbed “Project Orland” – to Microsoft’s Partner Center is also expected to enter public preview in October for Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program participants.

“We’re also seeing continued strong growth in co-sell, with $33.8 billion in annual contracted value and 35 percent revenue growth since we launched the co-sell program in FY (fiscal year) ’18,” Dezen said.

Dezen also provided an update on Microsoft’s Black Partner Growth Initiative, which has more than 1,000 partners. Microsoft has issued more than $10 million in working capital loans through the initiative, plus provided executive training and mentorship, Dezen said.

Here’s what else Dezen said during Inspire 2022.

Her History With Microsoft

It’s been an absolute privilege to do the jobs that I’ve been able to do here at Microsoft and to lead such phenomenal teams. My Microsoft journey started in our enterprise commercial business working with one of Microsoft's global customers.

And from there, I moved to Redmond (in Washington state, where Microsoft is headquartered) to join our device partner business. And I've worked in our partner business ever since then, with roles in Redmond, Singapore and in the U.K.

Leaving the device partner business for the past two years has just been an amazing experience. I'm so passionate about our partner ecosystem and how I can help our partners envision their business in new ways, while at the same time providing unparalleled empowerment and support through their adoption of Microsoft technologies so that they can deliver the best solutions to our customers.

Now, as you know, I'm a big believer in the power of mentoring and coaching. I’m really committed to being an ally and an advocate using my voice to strengthen our industry's commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Throughout my life. I've really benefited from having mentors. (Microsoft President of the Industry and Partner Sales Organization Nick Parker is) one of them. And those are people that saw things in me that I didn’t even see in myself yet.

Those mentors helped me recognize my strength and guided me through really challenging situations and helped me to achieve so many of my big goals.

And finally, while this sounds pretty simple, I believe fundamentally in Microsoft's mission of empowering others. And it’s at the forefront of my professional vision as something that guides my journey as a leader every single day. I am surrounded by so many wonderful, empathetic and creative people who really deliver powerful impact to our partners and to our business every single day. How can I not be inspired by that?

Microsoft’s Evolving Relationship With Partners

From the beginning, Microsoft has been a partner-first company. And as Microsoft's portfolio has grown, we’ve really increased our focus to best ensure that our partners can access all of the innovation we create through our R&D (research and development) investments as well as to deliver their own services and solutions on top of that innovation.

Our priority with partners is to ensure that they can build profitable, durable businesses on our platform, and that the combination of our investments in R&D and go-to-market are unique differentiators for our partners.

Finally, customer need is at the core of the work that we do with our partners. This ensures that the solutions that we build, market and sell together are serving customer needs in a way that no one else in the industry can. And we do this across all of our solution areas and all customer industries.

What’s Top Of Mind This Year

I’m really excited about what lies ahead in our fiscal (year, or FY) ’23 for Microsoft and for our partners.

Our strategies and priorities are the foundation for how we grow and scale this partner ecosystem. And I'm really committed to helping our partners realize the full potential of opportunities that are available to them when we work together.

For me, what's most top of mind and fiscal ’23 will be continuing to deliver impact to our partners in three unique ways.

First, by delivering cloud innovation. Through the Microsoft Cloud, we provide the most comprehensive end-to-end tech stack with lasting impact for our partners in support of their customers’ digital transformation.

Second, enabling go-to-market scale. With the unique Microsoft go to market approach, partners can quickly scale with Microsoft’s 35,000-plus global sellers and through our commercial marketplace that connects millions of customers around the world.

And finally, offering differentiation. Microsoft provides trusted partnership, unique technical extensibility, a secure foundation and the broadest business model for partners to build differentiated solutions to support customers. I am so ready for FY ’23 and really excited to be accelerating the business with our partners.

Why Microsoft Is The Best Partner For Growth

I'm honored to be the chief partner officer for Microsoft. Let me tell you why. The creation of the role of chief partner officer reflects the unique breadth, scope and scale of Microsoft’s partner ecosystem.

We are deeply invested in your success, and I'm committed to ensuring that we deliver on that promise. The investments Microsoft is making and partners create new possibilities for you and more value for customers.

Today, I'm going to talk about how the key differentiators of the Microsoft Cloud translate to business opportunity for you and the investments we’re making to help you unlock growth.

First, I want to offer a heartfelt thank you to our entire partner ecosystem for what we accomplished together in the past year. As announced in our Q3 (third fiscal quarter) earnings, we continue to see strong cloud results with $23.4 billion in Microsoft cloud revenue and 29 percent growth in server products and cloud services.

And the performance across our solution areas was fantastic – from 35 percent revenue growth in Dynamics 365 to the incredible results in Windows products and cloud services revenue growth.

This demonstrates the customer engagement with Microsoft cloud services and how we can work together to provide solutions that meet their needs.

We're also seeing continued strong growth in co-sell, with $33.8 billion in annual contracted value and 35 percent revenue growth since we launched the co-sell program in FY ’18.

We could not have accomplished all of this without you. Thank you.

Our ability to cosell together is what makes our partners – plus Microsoft – the most powerful asset in the industry.

I believe in empowering people and driving growth. What that means for you is that we want to empower each one of you with the capabilities, resources and industry depth to best serve customers. And we will invest in your profitability and growth. This is what partnership means to me.

When I think about our unique value, it comes down to three things. First, we deliver cloud innovation. Through the Microsoft Cloud, we provide the most comprehensive end-to-end tech stack creating value for partners and customers.

Second, our go-to-market engine enables you to scale your solutions to more customers around the globe. What's unique is the access you get to our more than 35,000 global sellers and our commercial marketplace.

The tools, resources and support we provide to deliver digital transformation for our shared customers, as well as our ability to innovate and drive world impact is unmatched in the market.

Third, the Microsoft platform enables you to differentiate through our unique technical extensibility, world-class tools. foundational security built into every product and platform we deliver and a partner-centric approach.

There's never been a better time to be a Microsoft partner. With increasing customer demand, our R&D investments and go-to-market capabilities, we will help you unlock new opportunities for growth.

Microsoft 'Here To Help’ With Hybrid Work

Rapidly evolving customer needs create even more demand for you to deliver value, and we're here to help.

Earlier we heard Nick (Parker) talk about 'the rooms of the house’ to look at how we sell across solution areas and to whom we sell.

So let's look at how we unlock this business together in one of the 'rooms’ – modern work. This room includes capabilities like collaboration, converged communications, and cloud-enabled devices.

As businesses embraced the demand for hybrid work, it created greater need for technology solutions. Hybrid work continues to dominate every customer conversation as organizations plan their strategies to adapt, thrive and innovate their work culture.

As we've learned over the past couple of years, making hybrid work actually work is challenging. And you as partners have made this happen for our customers.

Our programs, investments and incentives help you seize this opportunity. First, the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program (the renamed Microsoft Partner Network, debuting in October) is anchored in our solution areas, allowing you to achieve a solutions designation in modern work. This shows customers that you have the technical capabilities and proven customer success in providing the solutions and services.

Additionally, you can differentiate your company with a specialization, the highest technical accomplishment for a solution area. This creates incremental value to customers as they search for the right partners to meet their transformation needs.

Our No. 1 investment in modern work is workshops. In FY ’22, we had over 15,000 customer engagements. And in FY ’23, we will continue to scale this to help you drive growth in hybrid work, converged communications, employee experience and cloud PC.

In addition to incentives, we're happy to announce that Project Orland is scheduled to enter public preview in October to all CSP (Cloud Solution Provider program) partners.

Project Orland provides proactive and data-driven customer lifecycle management capability to help you manage customer opportunities, better support retention and grow your business with Microsoft 365.

Microsoft And Cybersecurity Partners

Next, let's take a look at another 'room of the house’ – security, which is top of mind for every organization, particularly those undergoing digital transformation.

Satya (Nadella, Microsoft CEO) shared some of these statistics earlier – cybercrime is now expected to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. This is more than triple the $3 trillion cost a decade ago.

For many organizations, it is no longer 'if,’ but 'when’ they are a victim of cybercrime. The comprehensive security compliance and identity solutions from Microsoft empower you as our partners to solve security challenges for customers of all sizes across all industries on any cloud and any platform.

That's where Microsoft’s end-to-end security solutions come in – the most comprehensive security portfolio in the industry. Microsoft is the only cloud provider with native multi-cloud protection for the industry's top three cloud platforms.

Like with modern work, partner workshops for security have been a very successful investment to help partners drive new business growth. We had 5,000 customer engagements during FY ’22. And in FY ’23, we will expand the security workshop motion to enable all of you to reach hundreds of millions of our Microsoft 365 customers to help them protect their environments.

In addition, our customers have been asking for help in upskilling their security technical staff and managing their security environments. So in FY ’23, we will continue to invest in security partner readiness and manage security partner go-to-market.

Investment In Partner Incentives

In FY ’23, we’re positioning you for growth by prioritizing investments that enable new business, incentivizing partners to deliver strong results for customers and making it easier to work with us.

We will focus on helping you meet customers evolving needs while driving business growth and profitability.

To help partners develop winning solutions, drive profitable business and stay ahead of customer expectations, we support you in providing innovative, customer-centric, trusted solutions.

We do this with several core investments in incentives, tech skilling, our partner programs, ISV (independent software vendors) success and the commercial marketplace.

When it comes to partner incentives and investments, we are evolving the portfolio to provide a predictable experience that helps you deliver exceptional value to our customers.

We're focusing on three design principles. Incentives and investments are aligned with our commitment to the cloud and partner opportunity across our six solution areas.

Partners have tremendous potential when leading with value-added services and simplicity is essential.

We are listening and incorporating partner feedback into our strategy and plans to improve our partner incentives and investments. We're working to better delineate our breadth and enterprise motions with customer choice at the heart of everything we do. And we’ll share more on this in the coming year as we continue to evolve this to reward growth.

Microsoft And Tech Skilling

Next, our customers are increasingly technical and to stay relevant, we need to match that level of tech intensity. This is why we're on a multi-year journey of continued increased investments in tech skilling to deepen your technical capability.

This includes in-depth technical training through things like cloud weeks, virtual hands-on labs and digital technical-skilling content on demand – all designed to help you build capability by solution area and industry.

Microsoft sees the value of investing in our ISV partners, and we're embedding the ISV Success program as core to the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program to provide a clearer simplified pathway. It offers tailored support as partners develop, extend and sell Microsoft cloud solutions.

Finally, to accelerate the go-to-market motion for partners. we're investing in comprehensive resources, including the Microsoft Commercial Marketplace, where you can reach Microsoft customers around the world. including over 95 percent of the Fortune 500.

You will be able to simplify sales, reduce deal cycle times and customer acquisition costs, and unlock growth by reaching new geographies and new sources of budget.

We're prioritizing investments to help you address customer cloud migration needs, create growth for you and drive your profitability. Of course, you’re going to hear optimism from me about the opportunity we have together. But what I'm really excited about is what analysts are saying.

A recent IDC (International Data Corp.) study on the Microsoft ecosystem value highlighted that partners that co-sell with Microsoft grow faster. For example, in 2021, Microsoft co-selling partners achieved nearly double the revenue growth of partners that don't co-sell. And partners who bet on Microsoft grow faster and generate higher margins.

Microsoft Partners And Social Impact

I'm so proud of Microsoft’s commitment to enabling inclusive economic opportunity and a more sustainable future. We all have a role to play and there are so many ways to get involved.

Through the Microsoft 'Build for 2030’ initiative, we're enabling partners to build and bring solutions to market in support of gender equality, accessibility, sustainability, nonprofits and communities helping to advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

I look forward to seeing you at the next global partner hackathon this September and seeing your innovations that will make a difference.

To support increasing demand for social value procurement and supplier diversity, we're making it easier for customers and Microsoft sellers to discover diverse and social impact tech suppliers in our ecosystem through Marketplace and referrals.

We’ve rolled out the ability for partners to provide social impact and diversity business attestations across 16 countries. And you can now share that information through Partner Center.

We're committed to improving representation in our partner ecosystem. Two years into the Black Partner Growth Initiative, we’ve grown this community to more than 1,000 partners, issued more than $10 million in working capital loans and provided executive training and mentorship to partners.

When we do this together, we can drive change at massive scale and have lasting impact. I welcome you to join us in our journey.

I'm going to close where I started. Microsoft is the best partner for growth. Betting on the Microsoft Cloud positions you to win in the market. We are the platform for growth and the open cloud platform of choice. We have the most valuable ecosystem and tech for partners to differentiate and advance your own values, and we’re committed to helping you thrive and grow.

The last few years have taught me a lot about the power of technology and what it can do when backed by determination, empathy and grit. I'm so encouraged by our potential to deliver big impact for the world through technology.