Microsoft’s intelligent cloud and edge focus coupled with its differentiation and scale have “exploded” opportunities for partners and are driving their success, according to Nick Parker, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Global Partner Solutions.
“What we give them uniquely is this ability to take our innovation … and differentiate their own solutions,” Parker said. “Scale … is where we really see us sort of turbocharge these go-to-market offerings. They’re building solutions, getting them to market quickly with familiar and easy-to-use platforms. That‘s really what’s fueling so much of our success right now.”
Parker moved into his newly created role a year ago when Microsoft formed the Global Partner Solutions organisation to bring together all of its intelligent cloud and intelligent edge commercial partners under one team: managed services partners, systems integrators, independent software vendors (ISVs) and device partners. In the past, when Parker served as corporate vice president of consumer and device sales, the device partners were managed separately from the others.
Four executives now report to Parker: new channel chief Rodney Clark, corporate vice president of global channel sales; Takuya Hirano, vice president of global systems integrator sales; Nicole Dezen, vice president of device partner sales; and Casey McGee, vice president of global ISV sales.
Here are some of Parker’s boldest statements about Microsoft’s partner strategy from his interview with CRN.
We see the world transforming. We see people‘s experiences empowered by technology, and we see the digital transformation that’s happening everywhere—in work life, home life and, of course, in the world around us. We see that really being powered by this intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge.
In my house, the intelligent edge is my two daughters playing their Xbox, connecting with their friends in the cloud between their online schooling—or my wife, who‘s a doctor, connecting with her patients two days a week in telehealth calls. That’s all edge and cloud coming together in these seamless experiences that really empower the end-to-end experience that we want for a business or home or obviously anything. And, for so much of what we do, it’s the PC connected to all of the things that matter right now with the incredible new growth that we’ve seen, and PCs being the window to the world that we now live in digitally. That’s the kind of worldview we’ve got.
We package all of our innovation or our products and services into these solution areas … and this has just generated such massive opportunity—massive opportunity really for customers and individuals to get access to this technology in a very digestible, easy-to-use way and … the partner opportunity to extend those platforms, extend those capabilities and give it to the customer. That‘s the basis of the opportunity that we see.
What Microsoft delivers to partners
High on the model, really what we give our partners as part of that, obviously is the innovation … the products, the platforms, the capabilities that our partners can take, make their own and use in their unique ways to meet the unmet needs of customers, and then, obviously, drive their own differentiation, which is the second thing we give them—the extensibility, the openness of our platforms to build on top.
They get the scale of Microsoft. We have a very broad footprint in terms of our sales and marketing professionals around the world, as well as our ability to engineer with the partners their solutions. What we give them uniquely is this ability to take our innovation—obviously, the innovation is the core—and differentiate their own solutions. Scale … is where we really see us sort of turbocharge these go-to-market offerings. They’re building solutions, getting them to market quickly with familiar and easy-to-use platforms. That‘s really what’s fueling so much of our success right now. It’s humbling to see our results, knowing 95 percent of everything we do comes through partners, and how partners have innovated and differentiated to give us this incredible success.
The partner program evolution during Parker’s Microsoft career
I actually started in the team that runs what is now the system integration partners. I‘ve got a very good view of what’s changed in 21 years, having been in it originally and now back to lead it.
The biggest thing is the change in the portfolio. Twenty-one years ago, the portfolio was pretty small. In fact, I was one of the early pioneers of the SQL partner business, and that was big news because obviously, up to that point, it was largely Windows Office and Windows Server. The portfolio now is a little bit bigger, so you can‘t do the product training in the car from Seattle to Redmond, which is a 20-minute drive. You kind of got to drive across the country to hear all the products.
And then the depth of what I would call the partner capability is also huge. It‘s what’s just been so tremendous to see—the innovation and the commercial businesses that partners have built on our platforms. And that is very significant: The breadth of the portfolio of solutions that our partners do as well as their services, and then the global reach and scale is very big.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s influence on partnering
Satya really did establish our worldview as being the intelligent edge and the intelligent cloud—from the smallest units of compute, IoT, all the way up to what you could almost consider infinite-scale computing with the cloud—and then making that very accessible and very usable through our partnerships and through our partner solutions.
The intelligent edge and the intelligent cloud thing is really what‘s exploded the opportunity for our partners and also our differentiation because we can help our partners build a solution. Let’s talk about a health-care solution. We can help our partners build a medical device that works on the hospital network with data that gets into the hands of physicians all the way through to the back-end data moving to the cloud—secured, trusted in a reliable way—and then return that as business insights. End to end, a partner can build a solution all the way through that with Microsoft technology using our open tools and our open repositories.
If you think about the offers we have for those partners and developers, and then obviously with Git and GitHub—that‘s Satya’s approach: this intelligent cloud, intelligent edge, open system, enable people to innovate end to end. That’s just been phenomenal. And, of course, some very storied partnerships that we’ve built even deeper with these co-engineering partnerships, where we build things together for multiple years, sharing platforms and customer centricity. That’s been what’s really opened the partner opportunity.
How ISVs fit into Microsoft’s strategy
ISVs are critical to our strategy. I kind of think of it in three layers. One, clearly for all of our platforms, ISVs extend those platforms, and they really differentiate those platforms in the ways that customers want to use them—whether you think of our IaaS or our PaaS or our SaaS services. Just take something like Teams. You can integrate with Teams. Teams can be integrated in applications for workflow, other than the voice, video, chat that we know and love. You see this much more as a platform that ISVs can integrate with.
The second is industry depth. Our ISVs are absolutely critical to solving customers‘ deep industry needs. If you’re in financial services, you’re in manufacturing or retail or telco, it’s the ISV that takes Microsoft’s platform into that deep industry relevance. That’s a key part of our mission to help those businesses, but also a key part of our commercial goals is to get that scale through industry depth that our ISVs give us, as well as cross-industry.
Finally, the scale that we drive through our sales team is exponentially increased when you think of those ISVs being driven through our system integrator or service partner partnerships. Microsoft‘s scale, our ability to help the ISVs get distributed and help the ISVs engage in sales, is also significant. But I would say our scale comes as much from Microsoft employees as the exponential effect of the scale of our other partnerships.
We are increasing the amount of effort and resource on ISVs. As we go into … FY ’22 [in July], you‘ll have seen a big ramp in the ISV wins and the co-sell success we have, and we’re just going to continue full steam there. It’s a great way for us to provide scale, and … it’s the ISVs’ success that has been very front and center with cloud adoption. So it’s good for customers, it’s good for our ISV partners and good for us. It’s no secret that we’re incredibly proud of the ISV partner success that we’ve had and our ISVs have had, and you’ll see many announcements as we make more of those joint engineering partnerships and then these go-to-market partnerships with ISVs.
The Microsoft Partner advantage
All cloud platform providers are looking to provide innovation and ultimately sales scale. I would … feel very, very competitive with our position with Azure as our cloud platform, which has more regions than any other partner and clearly incredible growth at the moment. Our scale, again, because of our broad portfolio and our broad partnership base—as much with our system integrator partners and our services partners—is very competitive.
And I would say that, because our portfolio does go from edge to cloud—on one side, we‘ve got IoT … we have our phenomenal PC business that’s a platform for many, many partners, all the way through to our hybrid server business and then cloud—our end-to-end technology portfolio that we have for our partners is better. And our ability to enable them to differentiate on each of those platforms is very broad. We provide more opportunity to our partners than other cloud providers because of those things.
Microsoft’s commercial marketplace: AppSource and Azure Marketplace
You should think of it as one marketplace with two storefronts. We‘ve seen tremendous adoption from our ISV solutions. And, in many cases … it could be a services partner that wants to package IP [intellectual property] to a certain set of customers in a certain way. That’s critical to all of our partnerships—this ability to build solutions for customers to find, try, use and buy the solutions.
They‘re changing ways that customers want to buy. It enables not only you … to do that in a very digital commerce-centric way, but also if our partners want to engage with customers in a more custom way, they can also do that using that same capability. It’s critical, and it’s a key part of our strategy in the world today to make sure that we do have those capabilities for our partners. And it’s, of course, exponential growth.
It‘s key and front and center to what we do, particularly as we see customer demand for the products be very much more about as-a-service, subscriptions and the way people want to consume products and services. With the huge growth of digitized products and services, marketplaces … will be absolutely critical. It’s a key piece of investment and innovation as we continue to bring more features that partners need and that customers like. So, front and center, critical to the strategy and, of course, it scales with both solutions coming in, as well as it being a very successful sales and marketing engine that essentially is for our partners to enable their success as well.
[ISVs can opt to make their products available to managed services partners in Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider Program through the commercial marketplace. ISVs select the specific partners and geographies they want to make their products available for partners to resell and bundle with their managed service offerings.]
Microsoft financing larger customers’ cloud migrations
In many cases, where a customer sees the benefits of the cloud and wants to do an on-premise-to-a-cloud migration, there is a list of things that need to happen for that to be successful. You obviously have a partner—a system integrator, there might be a software partner in there—and the customer looks at it and says, “OK, I would like some help migrating. I would like some help with the application provider that‘s being migrated.”
In those cases, we often work with the customers and the partners to invest in the resources to do those migrations. We would invest based on the customer-driven demand—‘I really need help with my data estate. I really need help with my data warehouse in Microsoft. If you could work on helping us with that along with the application provider along with the system integrator, we’d like to do that.’ In general, absolutely, we look to help customers with our partners do these migrations.
On the role of Microsoft consulting services
MCS is an incredible enabler. I see MCS’ role absolutely to help partners.
MCS is very close to our product groups. And so, particularly for new products, MCS can help build patterns and practices and architectures that our partners can use to reduce risk in their implementations because they‘ve obviously got those practices.
We‘re also happy to help out our partners in their on-job skilling or on-job training. We have great relationships with our SIs and MCS, where the SI says, ‘Hey, I need some of these skills, I’d like [MCS] to work side by side with my consultants or my service professionals’—knowledge transfer help or it may even be to actually help on the customer side.
Finally, MCS provides a really good role with and to our partners in very deep engagements, where a partner may say, ‘Hey, I want to actually have MCS on site, leading this piece of the engagement or working with us on this piece of engagement.’ So I actually think it‘s a pretty constructive relationship.
Working under Nadella and helping partners
Being empowered to be the learn-it-all and not the know-it-all has been phenomenal for the culture. Particularly for someone that sits at the nexus of our partners‘ intellectual property and everything that they know and experience on a daily basis, I think it’s so opening in terms of the opportunity. It’s tremendous.
That‘s just one of the cultural changes that I think has just been so empowering and refreshing for everyone. It’s all about the openness and intelligent cloud, intelligent edge, which makes the market opportunity massive. Rather than just about the products that you build, it’s about how your partners can build products and listen and understand them, and that’s the unlock.
When you truly listen and you truly understand, you have deep empathy at a human level and also at a business level. That goes through our culture and how he‘s building and changing the culture internally, but also how we think about our partnerships and our customer relationships. It’s that deep understanding of where someone else has got opportunity to achieve and do more that actually can help fuel us to direct our software or go-to-market capabilities to help them and, of course, that gives great scale.