Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program Launches with New Enablement, Benefits

Chief partner officer Nicole Dezen declares “FY24 is the year of the marketplace.”

Jeffrey Schwartz

July 18, 2023

4 Min Read
Satya Nadella talks Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program at Inspire 2023

As Microsoft embeds artificial intelligence into every product and solution it offers, the company is priming its go-to-market ecosystem with its new Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program. Microsoft chairman and CEO Satya Nadella (pictured above) announced the new program on Tuesday during the opening keynote at the annual Microsoft Inspire partner conference.

Partners already certified in the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program, which the software giant launched last year, are automatically enrolled in the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program, which provides training, additional partner designations and other enablement capabilities. The three additional partner designations include Learning Support, Industry Specializations and the ISV Success program introduced last year.

The new program aims to equip Microsoft’s entire ecosystem of channel partners, including VARs, MSPs, systems integrators, ISVs and digital natives to offer Microsoft’s emerging new AI offerings and to leverage its underlying platform.

“It’s really exciting to see us completely revamp the investments, the incentives, so that you all can really take advantage of everything that the AI age has to offer and drive both business growth for yourselves and, most importantly, value for our customers,” Nadella said. “And this is going to span everything. It’s going to be about partners who are startups, ISVs and system integrators of all sizes and across all industry segments.”

Nadella cited forecasts of AI technology boosting GDP growth by 7-10%, which could amount to at least a $7 trillion upside.

Here’s our most recent list of important channel-program changes you should know.

“We are already as an ecosystem participating in a $4 trillion opportunity that could, in fact, grow by another 50%,” Nadella said. “So that means approximately $2.5 trillion of additional TAM is going to be addressable by all the innovation across our partner ecosystem. So there’s no question the opportunity is tremendous.”

The New Program

Nicole-Dexen-corporate-VP-and-ms-chief-partner-officer-at-Inspire-2023.jpgDuring the opening keynote session, Microsoft chief partner officer Nicole Dezen said the program is an expansion of the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program, launched in October 2022. While the launch of that program created a new partner life cycle that includes onboarding, skilling go-to-market incentives and co-selling, “our new Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program has all of those benefits plus access to so many new offerings and capabilities that are specific to AI.”

Dezen said the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program has all of the benefits of the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program but provides access to new offerings and capabilities specific to AI.

“Just as AI capabilities are infused throughout our portfolio, our AI benefits are wired throughout our program,” she said.

Microsoft has already moved those in the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program into the new program, effective immediately, she added. It requires no action by the partners who will maintain their benefits and designations.

The program will also offer partners the Microsoft Customer Engagement Methodology (MCEM). It is a process that connects Microsoft sales, support, industry solutions delivery and partners across five sales stages. Microsoft released a playbook for MCEM that’s available for download.

“We are launching MCEM for partners to extend Microsoft sales methodology into our partner ecosystem,” Dezen said. “For all of us to align on how we bring our solution plays to market together is going to enable us to speak the same language to customers, and just go to market in harmony.”

Year of the Marketplace

Microsoft also announced multiparty private offers, which enable partners to collaborate on deals utilizing the Microsoft commercial marketplace. Dezen also announced the general availability of the ISV Success program.

“[Fiscal year] 2024 is the year of the marketplace,” Dezen said. “We’re making a series of strategic investments that are going to unlock as your IP co-sell benefits, and we have an awesome multiyear road map.”

Besides the release of multiparty private offers, Microsoft has updated some of its criteria for eligible Azure solutions.

“These changes are going to help you expand into new sales channels,” she said. “And they’re going to unlock sales growth by helping customers to maximize their committed cloud investments.”

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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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