5 Key Statements From Microsoft Channel Chief Rodney Clark At Inspire 2021

Clark, who was named Microsoft channel chief in April, spoke about offering partners an ‘effective digital path,’ investments in partner technical capabilities and key partner opportunity areas during his Inspire keynote Wednesday.

Fresh Inspiration

At Microsoft’s Inspire 2021 partner conference this week, many solution providers are hearing for the first time from the company’s recently appointed channel chief, Rodney Clark. A 23-year Microsoft veteran, Clark moved into the role on April 1, succeeding Gavriella Schuster. Clark, whose other title is corporate vice president of global channel sales at Microsoft, is scheduled to give a series of talks at the virtual Inspire 2021 on Wednesday and Thursday—starting with his keynote address at the start of the conference Wednesday. During the keynote, Clark discussed a range of topics including Microsoft’s efforts to provide an “effective digital path” for partners and Microsoft’s investments around partner technical capabilities—as well as the investments and partner opportunities in areas such as Azure data analytics and AI, business applications and security.

What follows are five key statements from Microsoft Channel Chief Rodney Clark at Inspire 2021.

‘Effective Digital Path’ For Partners

During his Inspire 2021 keynote, Clark said that his “push” to his team and to Microsoft overall is to provide partners with “the most effective digital path in the industry.”

“It’s got to be easy, and it has to allow you to grow and accelerate your business,” Clark said, before detailing Microsoft is implementing “to make this the most effective digital engine in the ecosystem.”

“We’re investing right now to rebuild deal registration workflows. We’re realigning our engineering teams to bring partner and seller experiences closer together. We’re applying zero trust and building automation technologies to validate your business relationship, keeping fraud away from you, and out of our ecosystem,” Clark said. “Later this summer, you’ll see new work surfaces in Partner Center that provide a consistent way to navigate, as you set up and delegate access for your teams and organizations to be more productive. We’re also investing in frontline support teams and piloting ways for you to schedule sessions with our experts at a time that’s most convenient for you and your team.”

The bottom line, he said, is that “we are committed to making digital engagement an easy and value-added experience” for partners.

Investments In Partner Technical Capabilities

Clark said he has also heard partner feedback that growing a partner business in 2021 requires “help from Microsoft to expand into additional technical areas of specialization.” Customers that solution providers are working with are “already on their digital path—they’re already on that journey, and they’re hiring their own app dev resource,” Clark said.

“Our customers are increasingly technical—and to stay relevant, we need to match that same level of tech intensity,” he said. “This is why we’re making investments to deepen your technical capability. We’re increasing our FY22 investment in skilling by more than 250 percent. This includes deep technical training through things like ‘cloud weeks,’ virtual hands-on labs and digital technical skilling content that’s on-demand. This is all aimed at helping you build capability by solution area and by industry.”

Business Applications

In terms of specific areas of Microsoft investment and partner opportunity, Clark pointed to the company’s business applications segment.

“We’re doubling down in areas like business applications including Power Platform. And here’s why: the business applications addressable market is projected to be over $100 billion,” Clark said. “When you factor in the broader services for business apps, the projected opportunity will reach $582 billion by 2023 according to Forrester. Layering Power Apps on top of that, during that same time according to Gartner, there’s an additional $40 billion of addressable market in low-code apps alone, that will generate over 2X the opportunity in services.”

Azure Data Analytics and AI

The second area of investment cited by Clark is in Azure’s data analytics and AI capabilities—“which we all know is foundational to digital transformation,” he said. This effort will include helping partners build more capabilities with products including Visual Studio and Power Apps to meet customer demand for more cloud apps and workloads.

“Part of this investment is fueled by the digital app innovations that are driving customer and ISV engagement across apps and workloads for the cloud,” he said. “This investment helps with building on your existing capabilities in Visual Studio, in Azure, in Power Apps, leveraging GitHub.”

During Inspire, Microsoft announced that Azure Synapse ecosystem partners now can include their solutions directly in a new partner center that’s accessed from Azure Synapse Studio. Azure Synapse is an enterprise analytics service that accelerates time to insight across data warehouses and big data systems. Azure Synapse Studio provides a workspace for data prep, data management, data exploration, data warehousing, big data and AI tasks.

Security, Compliance and Identity

The final investment area cited by Clark is in security, compliance and identity. “Investments in security, compliance and identity become critical to our overall growth,” he said. “We’ll provide you with the building blocks of security, compliance and identity—from training to solution development, all the way through to go-to-market as a foundation of your growth.”

Microsoft will also expand its competencies and add advanced specializations to provide “foundational-level knowledge” of security and compliance offerings,” Clark said.

“We’re expanding our competencies to provide that foundational level knowledge of our security and compliance offerings,” he said. “And then beyond that, we’re providing new advanced specializations for those who are further along in your journey.”

Ultimately, “these skilling initiatives represent our expansion of the channel’s technical acumen,” Clark said. “And at the same time, we stand behind you—badging your verified expertise that keeps you on a path to greater specialization.”