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Microsoft identifies digital transformation opportunities

For Microsoft, digital transformation provides a large, growing market for its partner ecosystem. Specific opportunities include cloud migration, AI and virtual desktops.

Microsoft executives cited a range of digital transformation opportunities for its partner ecosystem, with demand speeding up in fields such as cloud computing, AI and e-commerce.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said partners have an opportunity, if not a responsibility, to help organizations reimagine the way they operate and embark on "building the future." Speaking at the virtual Microsoft Inspire event, Nadella said the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated long-discussed technology trends. Microsoft on Tuesday outlined its fiscal year 2021 partner agenda, citing "purpose-driven digital" as the next step forward.

Satya NadellaSatya Nadella

Nadella suggested a greater percentage of CIOs now plan to step up their public cloud investment than before the pandemic began. He said it is becoming critical for customer organizations to adopt AI, a belief that partners such as Accenture have also expressed. Banks, for example, are harnessing AI to manage risk, he noted.

E-commerce amid the pandemic has been "pushed forward multiple years," according to Nadella, who cited contactless shopping and curbside pickup initiatives.

Teams among digital transformation opportunities

Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of the One Commercial Partner organization at Microsoft, provided more specifics around the partner opportunities that Nadella outlined in broad brushstrokes.

Gavriella SchusterGavriella Schuster

Schuster encouraged valued-added resellers (VARs) to go "all in" with Microsoft's Teams collaboration platform, PowerApps and Microsoft Dynamics Business Central, a cloud-based ERP offering. VARs can also run customers' backups in Azure, she added.

Hosting and outsourcing partners that already provide managed services can help customers transition to the cloud or add Azure with hybrid services, Schuster said. She cited Azure VMware Solution, which moves VMware workloads to Azure, and Microsoft's data center migration program, noting partners can support customers on the migration path. Azure Arc, a hybrid cloud platform, offers hosting and outsourcing partners the ability to provide consistent management and governance across customers' hybrid environments. Additionally, Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), Microsoft's virtual desktop infrastructure product, offers another opening for partners, given the rise in remote work, she added.

Meanwhile, systems integrators, MSPs and Azure Expert MSPs can continue to tap the Azure Migration Program, which provides guidance and tools for customers establishing cloud environments. Schuster cited new workloads such as WVD. Azure Migration Program is now the lead migration offer for WVD, according to Microsoft.

Midmarket customers really need your help right now.
Gavriella SchusterCorporate vice president, One Commercial Partner organization, Microsoft

Telecom partners, Schuster added, have an opportunity to integrate their voice services with those of Teams.

In general, Schuster urged partners to grow practices in WVD and data analytics/AI.

Midmarket SOS

As for customer segments, Schuster encouraged partners to look after midmarket organizations, particularly those that haven't adopted remote work technology or automated operations. "We talk a lot about the importance of digital transformation in the enterprise," she said, noting midmarket companies are no less reliant on IT.

"Midmarket customers really need your help right now," Schuster told partners.

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