Microsoft has launched a swathe of new offerings for its channel community as it looks to aid partners during the COVID-19 pandemic including a unique change management specialisation.
The company’s commercial partner corporate vice president Gavriella Schuster told CRN Microsoft was launching new offerings for training, differentiated value and customer results.
In addition, the vendor has announced new “advanced tools’ for partners including a new portal, support and co-selling programs.
“Before COVID-19 was on anyone's radar, we had done a ton of work on how we wanted to strategically add value to our platform, and invest in the programs and opportunities to help our partners so that they would have a simpler experience,” Schuster told CRN.
Microsoft Australia chief partner officer Rachel Bondi added that the new change management specialisation the vendor launched was a result, in part of feedback from partners.
Bondi stressed the certification was not about the IT department, it was about the people and leaders in an organisation.
“I'm just thrilled that this new specialization is coming because partners want that specialization and that knowledge. I think it's the first time we've actually had something like this."
Schuster added that to achieve the specialisation, partners would have to provide evidence of activity in assisting customers with change.
“Partners simply apply and share with us the things that they've done then when they meet the qualifications, meaning they have the people on staff, they have this methodology, they have a certain number of customer proof points, then we go ahead and approve that.
“That becomes a way for other customers to find them."
As part of the new initiatives, Schuster said partners will now have increased access to training, support, and go-to-market services.
Microsoft will give partners options to differentiate their skills and expertise to customers with new competencies, advanced specialisations, and the vendor’s Expert Program.
She added that partners would be rewarded for driving strong results and positive outcomes for all types of customers, moving away from past reward models based purely on financial metrics
Teams will be key
One of the key changes comes from Microsoft’s Teams platform which Schuster highlighted in a blog post.
“We made a big investment in teams. We had done a lot of work to skill up our partners around Microsoft 365 and teams and it was good because the demand has been pretty overwhelming at this point.”
To increase adoption the vendor is offering its collaboration tool free for six months.
“Our partners have responded by enabling our customers to get up to speed using teams using and capitalising on those free trials.
“What we wanted to do is put more cash in the hands of our partners as they help customers through that. So we added incentives so that, as partners were out there supporting our customers they are still able to get some compensation for doing so.”
In addition, Schuster highlighted updates to Microsoft’s virtual desktop solutions and security offerings which she said was so critical to the new way businesses had been forced to operate.
We had fortuitously been working on a lot of those core solutions with our partners already. This crisis has really brought us all together to accelerate bringing those to the market,” She said.
“The key is that when we look at the things customers are going to need and our needs right now, it is remote work, security, business continuity and cost savings.”
Collaboration is the future
Schuster went on to say there was a real need for collaboration within the channel.
There are some partners who are overwhelmed with this right now, right partners who are focused on those remote work solutions are being overrun and don't even have enough staff to keep up with the demands that they have with customers,” she said.
Then there are other partners who were maybe on different kinds of solutions, like longer term migration solutions or data center migration solutions where they were required to be more on site [in the past], and they have staff that are underutilized.”
“What we've been able to do through the partner network is to connect those partners to be able to use some of the underutilized staff of one partner to help manage the business of some of these partners who are getting overrun.”