Julie Sanford and Nicole Dezen offer a State of the Partner Ecosystem update as AI demand soars.

Kelly Teal, Contributing Editor

March 20, 2024

6 Slides

Microsoft AI Cloud partners are about to get some advances and see some changes.

On Wednesday, the software giant debuted several new designations and upcoming opportunities as part of its annual State of the Partner Ecosystem update.

“We want to make sure that the partner program is agile enough to meet the needs of both our customers and the market,” Julie Sanford, vice president of partner go to market programs and operations at Microsoft, told Channel Futures. “We need to make sure the program is being agile enough to deliver benefits, skilling and offerings to our partner ecosystem so they can capitalize on all of that opportunity.”

Microsoft's Julie Sanford

We take a deep dive in the slideshow above, but first, the news around Microsoft AI Cloud partner program advancements comes as Microsoft has launched a division around consumer − not channel − AI. Mustafa Suleyman, the cofounder of Google’s DeepMind group, has joined Microsoft as CEO of a new organization called Microsoft AI. The unit will focus on consumer opportunities for Copilot, Bing, Edge and more.

To be sure, AI is, as Nicole Dezen, chief partner officer and corporate vice president of global partner solutions, put it, “a defining technology of our time. Over the past year we’ve begun to see how it can unlock profound possibilities for individuals, organizations and society — and it’s clear that we have only scratched the surface.”

Dezen is attributed as the author of the March 20 State of the Partner Ecosystem 2024 blog.

Indeed, the onslaught of AI, particularly generative AI, has challenged partners, including managed service providers. And right now, across the board, partners are struggling most with understanding AI’s use cases — by industry, enterprise size and by role.

“So, we’re continuing to increase the amount of scenario-based material,” Sanford said.

Above we outline how much Microsoft AI Cloud demand has grown; how partners may hone their AI skills in fresh ways; what’s in store for partners who offer services and/or target SMBs; and more.

About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC.

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