Microsoft Inspire 2020: 'Adapting to Support Our Partners' in New Normal

Microsoft customers: the new partner?

Lynn Haber

July 21, 2020

4 Min Read
Football Kickoff

The Microsoft Inspire 2020 digital event kicked off Tuesday with a flurry of news across Azure, M365, Security, and Teams. The virtual partner conference runs July 21-22.

Microsoft sees the core priorities for partners and customers over the coming year as those that focus on remote work, business continuity, security and cloud migration. The pandemic forced the company to pivot and rethink its direction for the next year. The latest product enhancements and services aim to better assist partners to help their clients establish a more secure footing operating in the new business normal.


Microsoft’s Gavriella Schuster

“When we think about what’s next, our mission and vision for our ecosystem hasn’t changed, but we’re adapting to support our partners as they service customers in this environment,” Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president, Commercial Partner at Microsoft, said in a news briefing. “We’re creating a model that enables partners to manage and master their own digital transformation and the digital transformation of their customers. So we’re streamlining and optimizing the partners engagement with us.”

What’s New at Microsoft Inspire 2020

There are four specific customer and partner enablement announcements at Microsoft Inspire 2020:

  • Azure Lighthouse security enhancements. These include Azure Multi-Factor Authentication and Azure Privileged Identity Management Support.

  • New Microsoft Azure Center of Excellence and App Innovation Practice playbooks. These playbooks, which are now available, are new to the Cloud Practice series.

  • New Lenovo managed services suite. These IT services target SMBs and aim to maximize their Microsoft 365 cloud-based tools. There are two offers – Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) Managed Services and Endpoint Managed Services. CSP Managed Services will be available this month. Endpoint Managed Service availability is slated for October.

Helping Partners

Schuster talked about how Microsoft is helping partners. One, among many efforts, is modifying Partner Center as the hub for Microsoft partners. This makes it easier for partners to do the work that’s relative to the pandemic. New dashboards make it easier for partners to see the status of payouts, payments, customers and usage.

Microsoft also created a set of Power Platform Connectors. The software giant previously offered APIs to integrate with its CRM system. But based on partner feedback, Microsoft changed course.

Recent changes in the marketplace simplify onboarding, uploading and validation.

Microsoft has been busy helping partners run their businesses while helping their customers transition to remote working. For example, the company created six-month trials across multiple parts of its portfolio. This allows partners deploy customer solutions without worrying about paying for the service at that time.

Microsoft Teams Online Usage Incentive is an example. Other COVID-19 changes include extension of timelines around partner agreements, competencies and other administrative issues.

Partner Program Changes

Don’t expect to hear about any major changes to the Microsoft Partner Program at Microsoft Inspire 2020. The company announced the big ones in April. Schuster wants partners to stay focused on …

… running their businesses.

“We’ve been minimizing big changes. But we have quite a bit of work going on with advanced specializations to help partners to increase the technical intensity of the business and get economic credit through a credential so they can differentiate to customers,” she said.

Looking forward, Schuster’s focus is on partner success.

“Understanding what changes that we need to make in this environment to continue to help partners succeed. At Inspire, I’ll be joining a number of partner-led sessions to better understand where our partners are and what they need,” she said. “I’m trying to connect with as many partners as I can personally to hear firsthand how their business is going, what support they need and what we can do. Streamlining, simplifying and putting as much into a remote capability as I can to help partners with their own business continuity.

Another priority for the global channel chief is to help partners to take advantage of this time to morph their own business. Microsoft is running virtual workshops for partners about selling, bringing their employees back to work, and how to optimize their productivity, for a few examples.

The Changing Partner Landscape

Schuster also talked about how the partner landscape is changing. There’s been a huge influx of technology and service partners, previously referred to as ISVs. These partners work on cloud service applications and participate in the Microsoft Azure Marketplace. Microsoft created Solution Workspace for these application builders. Here, they learn how to use and embed Microsoft technology. The vendor also offers Practice Development Guides. The guides provide best practices and reference architectures for integrating the technology with their own.

Customers are reshaping the Microsoft partner ecosystem. Schuster said that many customers registered for Inspire, the company’s partner event.

“I don’t know if they’re interested customers or are they customers who are thinking about becoming partners,” she said. “We’ve had customers realize that as they build out their digital transformation and build technology, they can sell that technology. They join us in the network to co-sell their technology to other customers; that’s been a fascinating turn.”

There are more MSPs in Microsoft’s partner network, an increase which might reflect changing business models for existing partners. But Schuster confirmed that the company is seeing more organizations that didn’t see themselves as Microsoft partners move in and offer managed services.

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About the Author(s)

Lynn Haber

Content Director Lynn Haber follows channel news from partners, vendors, distributors and industry watchers. If I miss some coverage, don’t hesitate to email me and pass it along. Always up for chatting with partners. Say hi if you see me at a conference!

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