The head of Teams Phone gives his take on partner prospects for Copilot and more.

Moshe Beauford, Contributing Editor

March 14, 2024

5 Min Read
Microsoft Copilot opportunities for partners, CP Expo
Left to right: Channel Futures' James Anderson and Moshe Beauford with Microsoft's Teams Phone Director of Business Strategy Kevin Peters at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, Las Vegas, March 13, 2024.

CHANNEL PARTNERS CONFERENCE & EXPO — Microsoft Teams Phone director of business strategy Kevin Peters took to the keynote stage at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo on Wednesday to discuss recent changes to its offer and the benefits of that offer extend to the channel partner community. 

"Microsoft just launched several new features over the last year, like November when we announced our shared calling features, which allow customers to enable additional users they would not have been able to previously because of the need for the number of minutes they were going to use and to justify a migration cost," Peters expressed, kicking off 25 minutes of all things Microsoft Teams-related. 

That would have left them behind on legacy systems, the Microsoft executive noted.

"We also announced Teams Phone mobile, and in January we announced our frontline worker phone SKU," Peters told Channel Futures. 

It appears Microsoft did so to address the opportunity before it by way of frontline workers — a close to 3 billion-worker prospect, according to workplace.com.

"There is a huge number of frontline workers around the world, and they have different needs, different requirements and value they can get out of a phone solution," Peters shared with event-goers.

As for the opportunity for partners, Peters said there is plenty to spread around, noting that Teams Phone and Meeting can be easily identified in the opportunity the channel can go after now, asking, "What can I do now?"

Peters shared that Microsoft doesn't see enough "capturing of the full white space and the full licensing and enablement."

For him, this translates into partner prospects, as they may not all have Teams Phone enabled. 

Partners can and should go after this business, Fusion Connect channel leader Jeff Wiinnett told Channel Futures this week. It can only work to the channel partner's advantage, calling it as easy as having a "simple conversation."

It's a conversation Peters from Microsoft said will amount to a "conversation that could not only increase your bottom line but decrease your customer's total cost by moving away from point solutions and into a centralized platform with Microsoft Teams handling your all your phones, meetings and rooms."

Microsoft Copilot: Where the Partner Opppurtunity Lives  

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced a revamp of its Copilot offer, something the software giant markets as partner-friendly. 

In January, it launched several updates to the artificial intelligence-centric (AI) tool.

With partners mostly expected to make money on AI on adjacent services, Peters believes the value partners deliver to customers is invaluable, adding that customers need many components to guarantee a prosperous AI journey. 

There's another way partners come into play, the Microsoft executive noted.

"Customers first need to be prepared, and partners have to go through to make sure they have security and compliance processes in place to meet data restrictions," Peters said. "The last thing a customer wants is for its generative AI to gain access to everything, and people who shouldn't be reading a particular thing can read it."

While away from his office, Peters said he clears his calendar and relies on Copilot to catch him up when he returns, providing him with summaries of his instant messages, meetings and missed emails, even highlighting deliverables and parts of the meeting that mentioned him.

Furthemore, he said, "It can give me a list of action items, decisions made, and even bold their name next to anything they need to do."

Peters advocated for partners deploying this process internally to assist in organization-wide productivity boosts.

While there are obvious ways partners will make money around AI, things like managing security and compliance and extensibility, Peters argues, it is these integrations and the data gathered from, let's say, a contact center integrated into Microsoft Teams where making money on AI comes into play.

"There is a huge amount of opportunity there," he said.

Microsoft Copilot, Consolidation and More

With so much unified-communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) consolidation underway, Peters said the need to have funding for generative AI is what drives vendor consolidation in a world where the company hopes Microsoft Copilot gets deployed throughout the business landscape at large. 

"When we look at enterprises, we know that 83% of enterprises aren't creating new spending this year, but they are planning to buy AI," Peters told a room full of channel partners. 

Diving Into the Microsoft Partner Program

Peters said that Microsoft makes many investments and resources in its partner community, adding, "If you want to learn how to use Microsoft Copilot, all you have to do is ask it how to." 

More critically, Microsoft supports all partners through the entire go-to-market motion.

"It is critical that we support every step of the way and that you don't go to a portal with two one-pagers," he added. "We have extensive data and pitch decks our partners can use, and as we learn things within Microsoft, we're good about taking those things back to our partners, and we usually hear those things first many times from our partners."

Along with partner development managers to help partners grow and learn how to navigate Microsoft, Peters noted that Microsoft brings partners in early into the process so they can gather their feedback. 

"We're not only investing in pilots and proofs of concept that take the risk off partners, but we're also investing in the partner with our early adoption."

Voice Remains Imperative to Microsoft

In addition to Microsoft Copilot, Microsoft focuses its efforts on enabling voice, another area Peters accepts partners can earn higher profit margins. He believes Direct Routing, Operator Connect and other ways of facilitating voice with Microsoft Teams play to the partner's advantage.

Several companies in the partner sphere − such as Fusion Connect and SIPPIO − already are betting on Operator Connect. They leverage various aspects of the Microsoft experience and enhance it with differentiators.

With limited calling options on the Microsoft side, Peters said it is partners who pick up the slack.

"We have a heavy reliance on our operators to provide the road our calls ride on," Peters told Channel Futures, calling them a "critical portion of Microsoft's phone vision."

Moreover, Peters noted that Microsoft has invested a lot on the calling front as well, so partners could have more resources when going after business in direct-routing-as-a-service (DRaaS).

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About the Author(s)

Moshe Beauford

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Moshe has nearly a decade of expertise reporting on enterprise technology. Within that world, he covers breaking news, artificial intelligence, contact center, unified communications, collaboration, cloud adoption (digital transformation), user/customer experience, hardware/software, etc.

As a contributing editor at Channel Futures, Moshe covers unified communications/collaboration from a channel angle. He formerly served as senior editor at GetVoIP News and as a tech reporter at UC/CX Today.

Moshe also has contributed to Unleash, Workspace-Connect, Paste Magazine, Claims Magazine, Property Casualty 360, the Independent, Gizmodo UK, and ‘CBD Intel.’ In addition to reporting, he spends time DJing electronic music and playing the violin. He resides in Mexico.

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