Microsoft Move Gently Shoves Partners Into Cloud Age
In the latest sign that managed service providers (MSPs) still dragging their feet on cloud offerings risk obsolescence, Microsoft this week announced it will retire certain partner competencies that are inconsistent with customers’ growing demand for cloud products and services.
During the next 18 months, the Microsoft Partner Network will do away with recognition of competencies like customer relationship management (CRM), midmarket solutions provider, hosting and distributor.
Instead, partners will be steered toward newly developed or existing competency categories that emphasize cloud-related skills and expertise.
In a blog post announcing the changes, Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Group general manager Gavriella Schuster said that customer expectations of technology have changed.
“They’re looking for instant, on-demand delivery that’s cost-effective and provides a fast ramp to results without compromising quality,” she said in the blog. “Customers are turning to the cloud to meet these expectations.”
In a recently released eBook, Microsoft cites IDC research projecting that greater cloud spending – which includes SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, and cloud-related professional and managed services – will more than triple, exceeding $500 billion by 2020.
The research also found that nearly 80 percent of businesses are already making significant use of cloud technologies or plan to deploy to a cloud in the coming year.
Just 8 percent of businesses said they had no plans to pursue cloud solutions, down from 21 percent in 2014.
“Many solution providers wait until their customers are ready before investing in an area of technology,” the eBook states. “With the majority of customers now adopting cloud services, it’s critical that partners adapt to stay relevant to their customer base.”
Microsoft’s move offers stark illustration of the kinds of once-critical technology roles that are being disrupted by the rapid adoption of cloud.
Among the more interesting components of this week’s announcement is the “Interactive MPN Evolution Guide,” an online tool that allows partners to enter their obsolete competency, answer a few questions and generate suggestions for new competencies they should look to pursue.
For example, entering the retiring “distributor” competency directs the user through a series of screens that eventually offer one of three areas of focus: Usage of Office 365, providing Azure solutions or CRM Online.
Selecting “CRM Online” results in a recommendation that the user consider the “Cloud Customer Relationship Management Competency – distributor option.”
The recommendation is accompanied by the following information:
“The CRM market is growing fast – the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online installed base grew at 2.5X in 2015 Q4, and revenue nearly doubled. This competency will help you capitalize on this growing market.”
Users can then select one of two buttons marked “Tell me more” and “I’m not sure this is the right fit for me.”
In a way, Microsoft’s approach could represent both the nurturing hand and swift kick in the pants that some MSPs and other channel companies need to jump-start or add urgency to their move toward cloud-focused businesses.
“We recognize some partners may need to make changes to adapt and that changes like this take time,” Schuster said in her blog. “The 18-month transition period has been designed to give those partners the time needed to develop capabilities in cloud solutions, expand or build new practices, and transition into the competencies that will align your expertise to your customers’ needs.”
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