Navigating Microsoft – Preparation Leads to Opportunity

Microsoft is a very large and complex organization that can prove difficult to navigate from a partner perspective.  While aligning a go-to-market plan with this behemoth organization can often seem daunting, it can also be very fruitful for the bottom line.  Fortunately, once a firm grasp of how to best work with the company exists, Microsoft is actually very “partner-friendly” to help overcome these complexities.  A successful partnership begins with fundamental planning, assigning the right resources, and sticking to the strategy.  Here are few tips for a sound, sustainable Microsoft partner plan:

Aligning Priorities

It is critical that plans with Microsoft align with a partner organization’s overall goals and investments.  However, it is equally important to ensure there is synchronization with Microsoft’s initiatives for the current and upcoming fiscal.  By paralleling Microsoft’s key initiatives, it will be easier to articulate and deliver solutions that will help the company meet its goals—which will make them more likely to dedicate resources to invest in a partnership.  While that may sound obvious, experience tells us otherwise.

Finding a seasoned Microsoft alliance manager can be a tremendous benefit in this process.  A sound pro will have deep organizational knowledge, relationships across the company, and a detailed understanding of how to partner.  They are key to relationship-building and will typically serve as a partner’s “voice” inside of the multinational giant, as well as their voice back to the partner.

Understanding the Rhythm

In order to collaborate and thrive with Microsoft, it is first necessary to grasp their go-to-market approach and prioritization.  The good news is the company is unlike many large corporations in that they are very public about disclosing their plans and priorities.  There are specific times and places throughout the year when Microsoft shares this information with partners.  Partners that calibrate their strategic plan to Microsoft’s “rhythm of the business” (ROB) will be better-positioned to take advantage of business opportunities in a systematic and consistent way.

The Microsoft “ROB”:

  • Microsoft Fiscal Year (FY), July 1 – June 30.  All budgets and field activities align to these dates and are key from a planning and engagement perspective.
  • Priority Setting Meetings (PRISM), primarily occurs in their Q3.  This is when business unit and field executives gather to discuss strategic priorities for the following FY.  The output of these meetings is a Worldwide Sales and Marketing Memo (WWSMM).
  • WWSMM is an internal memo released in late Q3, early Q4 timeframe.  Each business group releases a memo that typically includes the following – mission; customer and market insights, growth drivers, and key themes; next FY priorities and go-dos for field and segments; scorecard – metrics and key leading indicators to be measured.
  • Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) – WPC is the annual event, usually the second week of July, where Microsoft shares the next FY priorities to partners from around the world.
  • Microsoft Global Summit (MGX) – MGX is the worldwide internal sales meeting, typically the week after WPC, where the Microsoft field meets and dissects FY priorities and field go-dos.
  • Other Microsoft events – Based on business alignment, there are other events throughout the year that could also prove beneficial. A complete list is available on their website:

Mapping to the Organization

To maximize opportunities, it is essential for partners to map to the Microsoft “machine.”  For instance, if technical enablement is needed, Engineering and the Developer Experience (DX) Groups are the appropriate route.  In contrast, go-to-market support would take place within specific business functions and operations groups either at the global level or the corresponding subsidiaries.

Microsoft is currently organized by the following segments, divided into engineering groups and business functions:

Engineering Groups:

  • Applications and Services Engineering Group :Microsoft Office, Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, Yammer, Lync, Skype, Bing, Bing Apps, MSN and the Advertising platforms and business group.
  • Cloud and Enterprise Engineering Group: Azure, Windows Server, SQL Server, Microsoft Dynamics, Active Directory, System Center, Visual Studio and .NET.
  • Windows and Devices Group: Microsoft Edge, Minecraft, Halo, Surface, HoloLens, Lumia and Xbox.
  • Technology and Research: Technology and Research, including Microsoft Research, Trustworthy Computing and Technology Policy

Business Functions:

  • Business Development Group: Key partnerships, especially innovation partners (OEMs, silicon vendors, key developers, Yahoo, etc.) and broad work on evangelism and developer outreach. DX, corporate strategy and the business development efforts formerly in the business groups are part of this group.
  • Corporate, External, and Legal Affairs Corporate Strategy & Planning: Cross-engineering and cross-business strategy, execution and planning initiatives, with an emphasis on opportunities that span product and engineering boundaries

Finance Group:
All product group finance organizations.

HR Group

Marketing Group:
Global product marketing, advertising, brand, research and communications functions for businesses and consumers.

Worldwide Sales, Field Marketing, services, support, and stores as well as IT, licensing and commercial operations.

Growing for the Future

Because of its large scale and complexities, partnering with Microsoft can be a very challenging proposition.  By understanding how they operate and planning accordingly, they can become a powerful ally that provides tremendous value to a partnership.

These best practices should be considered an initial starting point towards establishing a strong foundation for a successful and profitable engagement.  Most importantly, however, a proven Microsoft alliance manager can serve as a valuable resource to develop this plan, navigate the nuances of working with Microsoft and liaise between companies.

With a solid plan and an account lead, a partner can be well-positioned for a lasting relationship with our friends in Redmond.

This content originally ran in Channel Partners Online, Channel Partners, 

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