Microsoft partners get tools to sell SaaS

Houston – Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) made some highly expected channel program changes at its Worldwide Partner Conference on Wednesday that are intended to support the company’s software plus services effort.

Microsoft channel chief Allison Watson said software plus services is creating a new economic business model for solution providers and the company is boosting channel resources to help partners evolve and become more profitable with this opportunity.

According to Watson’s figures, the total software market is US$77 billion and it is growing at 10 per cent per year. She believes at this rate it will reach a total of US$94 billion in three years. About 24 per cent of that market will be services, and one out of every three customers will evaluate software as a services as an option during this period of time, she said.

Partners will now have access to interactive toolsets specific for the software plus services transition. Those include case studies, analyst-led videos and a profitability modeling tool.

The modeling tool provides profit and loss scenarios based on Microsoft supplied estimates and benchmarks that will factor in revenue, operational costs, margins and cash flow.

One of the biggest goals Watson outlined for Microsoft channel is connecting customers with partners.

“We need to attract more customers,” she said. “In the last 12 months we’ve got 2.4 million visitors to the solution finder (portal) and 6.5 million searches for partners and 250,000 leads came from this.”

Watson told the more than 7,000 worldwide partners attending, of which 140 are from Canada, that she wants to double the amount of leads to 500,000 in this next 12 month period.

To that end, Microsoft has introduced PinPoint, a unified online business portal for SMB customers and partners. Customers searching PinPoint can find technology solutions from Microsoft partners along with a way to interact with them.

For Brian Bourne, the president of Toronto-based CMS Consulting, the challenge of being a Microsoft partner is having customers find you.

“There is too much partner dilution (in the Microsoft space). There are so many partners. Anyone with $2,500 can become a partner and with that you get more than $2,500 in software. So what Microsoft is doing with the partner program is trying to sort the partners out from those who are committed and deliver quality to those who just signed up,” he said.

The company also announced Digital Forum, a Web site where partners can showcase their innovation to customers and other partners through online videos along with software plus services-level training in 10 languages, launching this August.

“We are also providing an assessment tool for knowing what stage a customer is at…better licensing to help with quoting…support for fast SLA so that partners can be ready in front of the customer,” Watson added.

Eric Rutten, president of WolfBridgeTSS of Mississauga, Ont., describes the new program changes as fine tuning.

“I think it will help. For example, BI (business intelligence) is a new competency and it will allow a partner to differentiate. Right now I am a BI partner and the competency title is data management, but what does that really mean? Being specific you take that out and it will help clarify it for partners and those who are looking for these specific competencies,” Rutten said.

He added that providing more tools is a good indication of the company becoming more accessible to partners. “They give you want you need and want, and through the portal it’s a lot faster than before,” Rutten said.

Bourne said that the new additions to the partner program will help customers get a better view on who is a more committed partner and enable them to connect faster to partners.

*CDN‘s full Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2008 coverage:

Microsoft Canada addresses the IT skill shortage
Microsoft adds partner cash to SaaS offerings
Microsoft partners get tools to sell SaaS
Channel gets a JumpStart on Forefront security offerings
VARbose: Streamlining of Microsoft licensing programs is overdue

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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