Microsoft’s Willis: How Partners Can Capitalize on Digital Transformation
Microsoft‘s David Willis is an anomaly. While he’s been at the company for more than a quarter century, most recently as corporate vice president for Microsoft’s U.S. One Commercial Partner (OCP) group, he retains a sense of humility. He also has a clear vision that partners are key to the company’s success and readily admits that it’s only with their help that Microsoft can achieve its stated mission: “to empower every person, every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
Willis says Microsoft has done three distinct things to help itself and its partners capture their share of what he says is a $1.7 trillion digital transformation opportunity.
That includes the 200-person team to enable partners technically, the marketing team it’s put in place to help partners drive business at scale, and the way it’s changed compensation for its own sales team to encourage co-selling with partners.
Willis is referring to the new co-selling “Channel as a Service” program in which Microsoft compensates its own field sales personnel for helping close sales of partners’ services. It seems illogical for Microsoft to compensate its salespeople when there’s no additional revenue for Microsoft itself. The motivation can be found in the fact that the program started with a community of about 3,000 independent software vendors (ISVs) to compensate them for driving applications that run on its Azure cloud computing platform.
Quid Pro Quo
Clearly, while Microsoft continues to report sales of tens of thousands of Azure subscriptions monthly, this program indicates that Azure is yet to reach its consumption targets. Since Azure uses consumption-based billing, no revenue is realized until services are consumed. This remarkable program, as well as the other significant programs Willis describes, indicates they still have a long way to go. Perhaps a very long way, given the extreme measures they’re employing to drive increased Azure consumption.
The takeaway for partners is, as always, to never be naïve when managing their Microsoft relationship.
Don’t forget that Microsoft is a business that is in business to make money. While executives like Willis are sent out to evangelize the great things Microsoft is doing for partners, it’s important for partners to keep in mind that this is a quid pro quo. The more you find ways to benefit Microsoft, the more ways it will work with you.
The most successful Microsoft partners have always been those who understood the two-way nature of the relationship. They remained mindful of the big bets, Steve Ballmer’s term for the company’s current major focus, which has been Azure consumption for a few years now. They bring Microsoft field people into accounts to earn the same coming back from them. They give so they can get.
Willis is encouraging partners to join him in becoming customer-obsessed and taking conversations beyond technology to focus on developing a thorough understanding of each customer’s business and the challenges they face so they can empower each customer to do more.
Slogans aside, the shift from on-prem to cloud didn’t precipitate the focus on selling solutions. Those joining the original Microsoft Partner Program (MSPP) and its successor, the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), have always been referred to as solution providers. Back in 2011, a Microsoft executive acknowledged that many partners define solution as …