Overhauling its 20th-century “silver and gold” partner categories to meet the demands of rapidly evolving digital businesses, Microsoft has recast its new partner program around customer-centric solutions and industry-specific capabilities.
Every major cloud provider has been aggressively enhancing and expanding its partner networks and offerings as the booming market for cloud services has created an enormous need for extended ecosystems. And while Microsoft has pioneered some high-value go-to-market innovations over the past few years, its “silver and gold” partner categories were definitely a throwback to the ’90s.
Under the new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program led by Chief Partner Officer Nicole Dezen, Microsoft is focused on helping partners “grow your business at the scale of Microsoft” — now there’s a promise that’s hard to resist! — by enabling them to:
- “Tap into the largest technology ecosystem”;
- “Innovate on the most-comprehensive end-to-end cloud platform”; and
- Work with a well-known and “trusted” vendor that’s had a massive partner network for decades.
The new program is built around six “solution areas” from which partners can choose to specialize: Data and AI, Infrastructure, Digital and App Innovation, Business Applications, Modern Work, and Security.
Those are great categories and certainly address the core needs of business customers that the partners will be selling to, but I believe the real innovation in this program will come from the new opportunities for partners to push more deeply into the red-hot area of industry-specific solutions.
Here’s an excerpt from a blog post by Chief Partner Officer Dezen:
“While the initial set of Solutions Partner designations is geared towards partners who sell services, we are working on creating additional industry designations for partners who build software as well. At Microsoft Inspire this year, we also announced that we’re adding industry designations to differentiate solutions based on partners’ demonstrated performance with customers, technical maturity, and customer success. We’ll be prioritizing industry designations anchored on the Microsoft Industry Clouds and aligning across both the Solutions Partner and ISV programs.”
It’s no longer sufficient for the world’s top cloud providers to create great technology and then recruit partners to sell it. Instead, the new model is for both the provider and the partner ecosystem to be fully committed to driving innovation and growth for customers at every level of engagement required by those customers.
And the new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program feels like a nice big first step in that direction for the world’s #1 cloud provider.