Microsoft to Partners at Inspire: Teams a 'Must-Win' in Competitive Industry

Microsoft is making Teams more extensible and ramping up on partner enablement.

Jeffrey Schwartz

July 24, 2020

5 Min Read

When it comes to Microsoft Teams meetings, the company’s message this week was clear: it intends to win.

The software giant gave that directive to its partners and field sales force at its respective Microsoft Inspire and Microsoft Ready conferences.

“First and foremost, we have to win with meetings,” said Nicole Herskowitz, general manager of the Microsoft Teams marketing group. Speaking during a Microsoft Inspire session, Herskowitz said Microsoft gave that same mandate to its salesforce at its Ready event.

“In the world of remote and hybrid work, keeping employees productive, connected and safe is the top priority for our customers,” she said.

It was a theme consistent in all talking points during the fiscal year kickoff that came from the top.

COVID-19 and Microsoft Teams

CEO Satya Nadella emphasized the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the growth of Microsoft Teams.


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

“The past few months have served as the largest at-scale experiment the world is seen for remote work,” Nadella said.

There are now 75 million Microsoft Teams subscribers, according to the company. That’s triple the number than at the beginning of the pandemic.

Keep up with resources for supporting partners and customers during the COVID-19 crisis.

Over the past few months, Microsoft said 34,000 customers moved to Teams to enable their remote workforces to collaborate. From the outset of COVID-19, Microsoft has studied the rapid rise of Teams and the Microsoft 365 platform. Its studies led to its understanding of meeting fatigue, which prompted new Teams features such as Together Mode. Set to roll out imminently, Together Mode aims to reduce fatigue by making large group meetings appear more natural.

Making Teams Meetings More Extensible

Teams now is evolving into a digital workspace for collaboration, incorporating more tools for communications and sharing information.

“We also know that while meetings are important, they take place in the context of broader collaboration and workflow,” Nadella said. “Teams, the hub of teamwork in Microsoft 365, helps people to be more productive and collaborative before, during and after meetings.”

To make Teams more extensible, the company will bring more of its own apps into the workspace. For example, Microsoft is readying its new Power BI app for Teams to let meeting participants collaborate on data visualizations.

Likewise, Microsoft is working with ISVs to provide meeting extensibility. The company announced its first six Teams Meeting Extensibility Partners, including surveyors Polly and Open Agora, virtual recruiters Hire Vue and iCIMS, and whiteboard collaboration provider Miro.

“We expect that there will be a lot of creative ideas here for really making the most out of meetings,” ecosystem marketing director Mike Ammerlaan told Inspire attendees.

Power Platform

Microsoft is extending its Power Platform tooling to Teams, making it easier for partners customize to extend the meeting environment. The new Power Platform for Teams will let partners embed apps, workflows and create chatbots in Teams.

The Power Platform is for those with minimal or no development skills. It includes tools that let them build these apps with …

… little or no code.

“Anyone can create an intelligent app right inside of Teams,” Ammerlaan said. “And we’re making it easy to create intelligent chat bots with seamless access to power virtual agents.”

Microsoft announced Power Virtual Agents, enabling partners to create bots that can automate the answering of common questions. Also in the pipeline is Dataflex, which will bring relational data storage to Microsoft Teams. Also, Microsoft is enabling apps developed with the SharePoint framework to work within Teams.

“We’re making it easier to bring those applications inside of Teams where they can go get used,” Ammerlaan said. “If you know some SharePoint framework developers, we’re also offering those applications in the [Teams] store and making it just more ubiquitous.”

New Partner Enablement for Teams

Uriel Rootshtain, Microsoft’s director of modern work field and partner marketing, outlined new incentives for partners extending Teams for customers.

First is virtual training. Intended for partners who understand the basics of Teams, these are half-day events offered throughout all time zones and in eight languages.


Microsoft’s Uriel Rootshtain

“Our virtual partner boot camps will afford the opportunity to go deeper and interact with our technical experts,” Rootshtain explained. “And for advanced partners, we will offer virtual instructor-led training to help you prepare for certification.”

Over the past few months, Rootshtain said Microsoft has launched four new modern work advanced specializations and will soon release a fifth for developing custom Teams solutions.

“These advanced specializations are only available to gold certified cloud productivity partners and differentiate our best partners who have deep expertise and a proven track record in a particular area,” he said.

Second, Microsoft is extending its Cloud Accelerator program launched last year, encouraging partners hold workshops for customers.

“You went out and delivered thousands of workshops that positively impacted millions of users,” Rootshtain told partners. “So this year, we’re doubling down and asking you again to leverage these workshops to help customers understand how they can use Teams to enable remote and hybrid work scenarios with a specific focus on meetings, calling and the development of Teams apps and solutions.”

Partner Incentives

Finally, Microsoft is building on a program launched last year for partners to earn incentives by claiming individual workloads.

“Already the customers you have claimed to this program account for 38% of the total Teams commercial usage,” he said. “And that contribution is growing every month.”

This year, he said Microsoft will “triple down” by letting partners claim Teams at the sub workload level.

“This means that you’ll be able to claim Teams Meetings, Teams Calling and Teams Apps and Solutions as three separate workloads,” he said.

The change goes into effect Oct. 1. Rootshtain said it “will significantly increase your opportunity to earn usage incentives for Teams.”

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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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