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Microsoft WPC 2014: How Microsoft invests in its partners

On Day 3 of the WPC, Phil Sorgen laid out Microsoft's four principles for investing in its partners -- developing and delivering products and services; creating markets; enabling partner success; and focusing on sales and marketing execution.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On Day 3 of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) 2014, the only blues in the Vision Keynote address was that of amazing blues artist Buddy Guy, who performed onstage. Phil Sorgen, the corporate vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group, led the morning keynote with an outline of how the company invests in partners to help grow their combined businesses.

He addressed some investment specifics around four key pillars -- developing and delivering world-class products and services; creating markets; enabling partner success; and focusing on the last mile of sales and marketing execution with partners.

Fundamental to the way Microsoft works with partners is the first pillar -- developing and delivering products and services -- the channel chief stated. He pointed out Microsoft spends $1 billion annually in R&D, with fiscal year 2014 being the company's biggest innovation year ever.

"There's a reason I start with this pillar … If we stop building world-class products that our customers want and that you can build a business around, the next three pillars don't matter," said Sorgen.

To help partners find success, he said Microsoft embeds the partner opportunity in every product and service it brings to market and backs that up with the introduction of new programs, business models and licensing models.

For the second pillar -- creating markets -- Microsoft is investing in programs and campaigns to drive partner growth.  A new campaign coming to market on August 1 is the Modern Biz demand generation campaign -- a multimillion-dollar global campaign that features cross-product solutions targeting the small and medium-size business (SMB) space.

"Leads generated through these types of campaigns will be routed to Pinpoint, to local teams and on to our partners," said Sorgen to the Microsoft WPC audience. Pinpoint is a Microsoft marketplace where business customers can find partners.

In September, Microsoft will roll out a new release of Pinpoint that's easier to use and navigate, said Sorgen. Pinpoint will also have improved search relevance that leads to higher-quality referrals. The referrals are being integrated into a new lead management dashboard where partners can track their progress. Microsoft is also introducing a new seller dashboard to help with sales, he added.

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The channel chief urged partners to update their profiles with regards to current qualifications and differentiated value.

The third pillar -- enabling partner success -- is where Microsoft pulls together its global reach and a partner's unique value  via the Microsoft Partner Marketing Center. The Partner Marketing Center is a platform for branding, customizable demand generation and marketing materials to help partners generate more business.

"What's new in the Partner Marketing Center is that it's fully integrated into the MPN [Microsoft Partner Network] and it's been expanded to 26 languages and 52 locations around the world," said Sorgen. Further expansion is in the works, he added. The Partner Marketing Center is designed to help partners reduce costs and generate business.

At the core of the fourth pillar is the Microsoft Partner Network, where Microsoft invests to help partners with their business. The company's goal is to deliver tools to partners so they can work at the pace of change happening in the industry today. Sorgen told partners about a dedicated site on the partner portal for profitability in the cloud and announced a new eBook on cloud partner profitability that Microsoft launched with IDC. The eBook is available on the portal, he said.

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Is Microsoft's commitment to the channel stronger than what it was last year?