5 Key Channel Takeaways From Judson Althoff And Toni Townes-Whitley At Microsoft Inspire

How To Grab A Slice Of A $4.5 Trillion Pie

Judson Althoff, executive vice president of Microsoft's worldwide commercial business, and Toni Townes-Whitley, Microsoft's corporate vice president for industry, on Tuesday used this week's Microsoft Inspire partner conference to outline how the company and its partners are evolving to meet fast-changing customer requirements.

Althoff, quoting from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's Monday keynote, said there is a $4.5 trillion opportunity available to the IT industry related to the intelligent edge and pervasive intelligence, fueled by the cloud.

"It is, in fact, a new opportunity for all of us. Rest assured that [our] strategy is fueled by this opportunity," he said.

Althoff and Townes-Whitley then went on to outline changes to Microsoft's channel program that reflect new priorities they said will impact how partners together with the company approach customers.

Turn the page for five takeaways from the new channel program.

Priorities, Priorities, Priorities

Partners looking to transform their businesses to meet the new opportunities need to start with the data, which requires having a deep knowledge about their customers' businesses, Althoff said. "Customers are asking us to understand their business and marry our technology to help them with their business," he said.

Microsoft is responding by helping partners develop expertise in six priority vertical opportunities:

-- Financial services

-- Manufacturing

-- Retail

-- Education

-- Health

-- Government

New Commercial Model

Althoff (pictured) said that Microsoft was introducing a new commercial model that changes how it interacts with its partners. That new commercial model aligns account teams by industry, with all specialist technologies aligned to either enterprise, small business, medium business or corporate customers.

The company is also building a formal customer success organization across all four types of businesses to help drive new opportunities, he said.

Microsoft is also investing heavily in its inside sales organization to match its capabilities to partner opportunities and feed leads to its partners, Althoff said.

He also committed Microsoft to being a partner-led organization and will align with partners to help them build code and develop programs, go to market across all industries, and align with partners across all industry segments.

Aligning Programs To Business Needs

Townes-Whitley (pictured) said she is focusing on how to make industry content relevant to Microsoft's new channel program changes to better match those changes to business outcomes.

Townes-Whitley outlined the scope of several of the opportunities for partners.

She cited a Deloitte and Visa study which said that technologically-adept "digital natives" will drive financial services spending of $900 billion by 2025, much of which is for services that have not been previously available.

Townes-Whitley then cited the work of education researcher Shift Happens which found that 65 percent of today's students will have jobs that do not yet exist and said many of those jobs will require skills that have yet to be created.

"That's the future, and that's the opportunity," she said.

Program Changes That Based On How Partners Interact With Industry

Microsoft's investment in industry-focused success starts with a partner model that is characterized by how partners interact with the industry, Townes-Whitley said. This includes the introduction of a new dedicated channel manager role at Microsoft based on their interaction with the six priority industries outlined by Althoff, she said.

Microsoft's account executives are being aligned to one of those six industries as a way to drive activity around those industries, she said.

The company is also bringing partners new tools and resources to meet the needs of those industries. These include solution maps which can be used across engineering, sales, and marketing personnel to aligned with customer needs and design reference architectures; a "Book of Dreams" that aim to look at the future of those industries; and playbooks aimed at how to meet the needs of both customers and partners.

Industry-Focused Solutions

Each of the six priority industries will be broken down into specific industry-focused solutions, Townes-Whitley said. In the health care industry, for example, Microsoft will help partners develop programs for nine focused solutions for the health care industry, including care coordination, clinical analytics, operational analytics, mobile care worker, patient engagement, virtual health, medical data storage, remote patient monitoring, and health-focused cybersecurity.

Having specific solutions for the six priority industries is key to measuring how far along the journey to customer success Microsoft and its partners have gone, Townes-Whitley said. "We want this to be an industry-standard experience," she said.