Microsoft State Of The Partner Ecosystem: 5 Things To Know

‘We have a very rich roadmap ahead,’ Microsoft Chief Partner Officer Nicole Dezen tells CRN in an interview.

More partner access to cutting-edge artificial intelligence, new partner designations and improvements to the commercial marketplace were among the biggest announcements from Microsoft on Wednesday as part of its annual “state of the partner ecosystem.”

The announcements come about 10 months into the tenure of Nicole Dezen as Microsoft’s first-ever chief partner officer. Dezen also holds the title of corporate vice president of the Global Partner Solutions organization.

“We have a very rich roadmap ahead,” Dezen told CRN in an interview Wednesday. “What partners will continue to hear from us is more innovation, more capability, more skilling. More resources to help them go to market with us.”

[RELATED: Microsoft 365 Copilot Brings Generative AI To Teams, Word And More]

Microsoft Updates Partners On AI, Marketplace, Designations

Dezen said during Wednesday’s event that the vendor is investing more “partner growth and profitability.” For every $1 of Microsoft revenue, services-lead partners make $7.63 and software partners make $10.11, she said.

She also advocated for partners to explore co-selling opportunities with the vendor. In 2021, Microsoft co-selling partners achieved nearly double the revenue growth of partners that didn’t co-sell with Microsoft. Partners who co-sell with Microsoft grow faster and generate higher margin, she said.

“Now more than ever, partnership with Microsoft is making it possible to grow businesses faster,” she said.

Here’s what you need to know.

New Business Applications Partner Designations

Microsoft now has 28 technical specializations available for partners as part of the system that replaced the classic gold and silver badges for partners.

Microsoft has expanded its designations to include more options for Microsoft Dynamics 365 business applications partners and independent software vendors (ISVs).

The four new business app specializations are finance, sales, service and supply chain.

New designations are in pilot and should be generally available (GA) in Microsoft’s 2024 fiscal year, which starts in July.

One is a designation for partners who focus on support services for SMBs. A second upcoming designation is for learning partners who package and provide Microsoft courseware. Since July, Microsoft has seen partners attain 350,000-plus certifications, according to the vendor.

New ISV Designations

New designations for ISV partners include finance, retail, security and marketing and sales. The designations are meant to help ISVs stand out based on industry, use cases and line-of-business imperatives, according to Microsoft. These will launch in Microsoft’s 2024 fiscal year.

Microsoft’s ISV Success program is in public preview in all countries and offers ISVs access to product cloud benefits, demonstration sandbox environments, technical consultations for product development and GTM assistance, according to Microsoft.

Thousands of ISVs have used these benefits and expanded packages are expected to enter GA during the summer.

Multiparty Private Offers In Marketplace

The commercial marketplace multiparty private offers Microsoft plans to launch in the spring with limited access will allow partners to add custom payouts and sell to Microsoft customers through the marketplace, according to the vendor.

The goal is to simplify the selling process, according to the vendor. Customers will have the option to spend against their cloud consumption commitment with Azure intellectual property (IP) co-sell eligible products and services.

Partners will also gain the ability to transact containers and virtual machine (VM) software reservations through the commercial marketplace “in the coming months,” according to Microsoft.

On April 19, Microsoft will hold a virtual Commercial Marketplace Impact Event for diverse and minority-owned partners and ones with “social impact solutions” such as ones focused on accessibility, nonprofits and sustainability. The event aims to educate partners on growing through the commercial marketplace.

GPT-4 In Azure OpenAI Service

Microsoft’s foray into generative AI is an opportunity for partners and customers to address issues in labor supply, supply chain and security, Dezen said during Wednesday’s event.

ChatGPT in Azure OpenAI Service allows partners to build predictive models, improve decision-making and automate processes, according to the vendor.

Generative pre-trained transformers (GPT) is part of the technology powering generative AI software tools by Microsoft-backed OpenAI, including text-generator ChatGPT and image generator Dall-E.

It is also part of the technology behind AI in Bing and Microsoft 365 Copilot.

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced preview access for GPT-4 in Azure OpenAI Service. On April 1, Microsoft will start billing at the following prices:

*For GPT-4 8k context, the prompt cost is 3 cents per 1,000 tokens

*For GPT-4 8k context, completion is 6 cents per 1,000 tokens

*For GPT-4 32k context, the prompt is 6 cents per 1,000 tokens

*For GPT-4 32k context, completion is 12 cents per 1,000 tokens

Microsoft Promises It Is Listening

During Wednesday’s event, Julie Sanford, vice president of go-to-market (GTM) programs and experiences, gave an update on the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program (MCPP), now six months into its current iteration.

It went from 18 silver and 18 gold competencies to six solution partner designations – business applications, modern work, security, infrastructure, digital and app innovation and data and AI.

Sanford said that Microsoft is listening to partner feedback as it works on the program.

In November, Microsoft introduced paths in the business apps designation for enterprise and for SMBs to help partners differentiate themselves to the two groups.

In December, Microsoft saw a 76 percent jump in the number of partners qualifying for that designation and an additional 51 percent growth in January, Sanford said.

In November, based on partner feedback, Microsoft updated Partner Center so that partners can connect with the Microsoft field sellers and account team that covers a customer the partner is engaged with.

In February, Microsoft gave distributors including TD Synnex, Ingram Micro, Arrow Electronics and Pax8 greater access “to make targeted investments” with their partner-customers “in areas of technical skilling, new customer acquisition, solution deployment and activation.”

In the summer, Microsoft introduced certifications for partners in 16 countries, including the U.S., to mark themselves as diverse and minority owned. Today, more than 1,500 partner businesses use the certification, Sanford said.