Top Exec Vows Record Investments in Microsoft Partner Ecosystem

“We’re investing more in partners across the company than ever before," the company says.

Jeffrey Schwartz

July 15, 2021

5 Min Read
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MICROSOFT INSPIRE — Microsoft is making record investments to enable its partner ecosystem. So says the top executive who oversees global partnerships.


Microsoft’s Nick Parker at Inspire 2021

Nick Parker, Microsoft’s corporate VP for global partner solutions, made the bold claim Wednesday on day one of Microsoft Inspire.

The increased investments began July 1, the start of Microsoft’s fiscal year 2022.

“We’re investing more in partners across the company than ever before,” Parker said in a keynote session at Microsoft Inspire, the company’s annual global partner event.

The software giant is hosting Inspire virtually for the second year in a row.

High-Growth Opportunities

Parker signaled that Microsoft is prioritizing its investments in programs that support high-growth opportunities. Accordingly, he said Microsoft is increasing incentives in those areas to motivate partners to achieve strong results.

“We will continue to grow our investments in partner incentives in our go-to-market areas, year over year, with a focus on value-added elements such as activities, workshops and customer adds across our solution areas, with four times the growth from fiscal year 2021 in these investments.”

For example, Parker said Microsoft is increasing its incentives for partners who build solutions for its new industry clouds. Among the industry clouds Microsoft has launched so far: retail, health care, manufacturing, financial services and nonprofit.

Another key focus — partners who build solutions based on Microsoft Viva, the company’s new employee experience solutions. Parker said Microsoft is maintaining the core investments in its Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, but is increasing its commitment to the company’s Co-sell with Microsoft initiatives.

Microsoft has more than $22.1 billion in contracts resulting from the co-sell program, according to Parker. That’s based on more than30,000 applications and services published and more than 4 million monthly active users since fiscal year 2018, he said.

“We’re investing heavily in our ISV partners and our system integrator partner capacity and capabilities,” Parker said. “And the SMB and SMC segments remain top priorities for us.”

Boosting Technical Skills and Digital Engagement


Microsoft’s Rodney Clark at Inspire 2021

Rodney Clark, Microsoft’s new channel chief, who reports to Parker, explained how the company will invest in enabling partners. One priority is boosting partners’ digital capabilities. Microsoft will provide partners with “turn-by-turn directions across digital experiences to navigate the path of building, going to market and selling with Microsoft through our partner network,” Clark said.

The second priority is providing partners with deeper technical capabilities.

“This is about matching the needs of our customers by investing in, and accelerating our joint capability,” Clark said. “It also means getting you more industry-focused and industry-aligned with our key solution areas.”

Clark also said Microsoft is investing in streamlining engagement between …

…the company and its partners to increase profitability. An example of this is Wednesday’s announcement that the company is reducing the 20% fee it charges partners for solutions sold through the Azure Marketplace and AppSource, to 3%. It also includes the rollout of the new Microsoft Partner Center.

Clark said 300-400 partners join its ecosystem every day.

“By the end of this year, we’ll be at a half-million partners that are part of the Microsoft Partner Network,” he said. “We’ve got 30,000 new offers deployed to AppSource and Azure Marketplace, with over a quarter-million leads coming into the profiles that our partners – you all – have created.”

‘Most Effective Digital Engine’

Given those statistics, Clark said Microsoft must make providing a digital platform of engagement a major priority.

“My push now to my team, and to our company based on June’s feedback, as well as based on your feedback, is not only to be the most populous partner program by the numbers, but to provide you the most effective digital path in the industry,” Clark said. “It’s got to be easy, and it has to allow you to grow and accelerate your business.”

Clark outlined several short-term initiatives to accelerate digital engagement. Among them is rebuilding deal-registration workflows, re-aligning engineering teams to bring partners and sellers closer together, and building automation capabilities that apply zero-trust security to validate business relationships, while “keeping fraud away from you, and out of our ecosystem,” he said.

Later this summer, new work surfaces will appear in Microsoft Partner Center that provide a consistent way to navigate. This will make it easier for partners to set up and delegate access for their teams, Clark said.

“We’re also investing in frontline support teams and piloting ways for you to schedule sessions with our experts at a time that’s most convenient for you and your team,” he added. “The bottom line is, we are committed to making digital engagement an easy and value-added experience.”

Technical Competence

Clark said Microsoft is increasing its investment in providing partners with deeper technical skills by 250%. This is necessary, because as customers become more technical, partners must do the same, according to Clark.

“To stay relevant, we need to match that same level of tech intensity,” he said. “This is why we’re making investments to deepen your technical capability.”

Technologies and solution areas Clark’s team is doubling down on include business applications including Power Platform and Power Apps. Another key focus is Azure Analytics and AI.

“Part of this investment is fueled by the digital app innovations that are driving customer and ISV engagement across apps and workloads for the cloud,” Clark said. “This investment helps with building on your existing capabilities in Visual Studio and Azure and Power Apps leveraging GitHub.”

Microsoft is also investing in providing technical skilling in security and compliance. Clark said Microsoft is expanding its competencies with both foundational training and advanced specializations.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Jeffrey Schwartz or connect with him on LinkedIn.


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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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