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Microsoft Inspire 2017: Microsoft streamlines its channel approach

Microsoft is looking to make things easier for its partners through newly introduced incentives for its internal sellers, among other initiatives.

Microsoft is taking steps tidy up its channel clutter, as it seeks to simplify its partner engagement and go-to-market approaches.

At Microsoft Inspire 2017, Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president for global partner channels and programs at Microsoft, said the company's channel effort is going through a digital transformation of its own, as it rethinks programs, offers and licensing. Various channel accoutrements have accumulated over time.

"We really haven't cleaned the closet out in over a decade," Schuster said, perhaps channeling a bit of Fibber McGee and Molly, the protagonists of the eponymous golden-age-of-radio series and four movies, who perpetually battled an overstuffed closet.

Schuster outlined several initiatives intended to make things easier for its partners. In field engagement, Microsoft will divvy up the duties once assigned entirely to partner sales executives between account managers and channel managers.

She said partner sales executives had been overburdened with the responsibility to help partners build their businesses, train their personnel, co-sell, understand the market opportunity and bring partners together with field sales personnel. The reassignment of duties -- channel personnel wearing fewer hats -- will promote more constructive discussions between Microsoft and its partners and promote business-building activities.

In addition, Microsoft's sales personnel will be given incentives based on the total contract value of every Office 365 seat a partner sells through the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. And a new ISV Cloud Embed program encourages Microsoft's sales team to sell partner solutions. ISV Cloud Embed lets partners embed and build upon Microsoft's business applications services, such as Dynamics 365 and Power BI. Microsoft will offer discounts of up to 50% on its embeddable offerings. Embedded solution transactions will also flow through the CSP licensing model.

Schuster also reiterated Microsoft's plan to pay its sellers on the basis of Azure consumed revenue. She said that shift will align Microsoft's sales force with channel partners. Customers consume more Azure services when a channel partner is involved in the transaction.

"When you sell an Azure solution and Azure service, the consumption is four-times higher," she said. "They [Microsoft sellers] will want you in every single deal."

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