What was once an army of 640,000 solution providers that went to market with all the subtlety of a shotgun is slowly but surely being honed into a much more fine instrument.
At the close of 2012 Microsoft has made great strides transforming how it takes its wares to market through the channel. According to Jon Roskill, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, Microsoft has spent much of the last year helping partners get accredited around specializations that not only help Microsoft better understand what each partner can really do, but also more effectively allows more partners to collaboratively market their respective skills sets together versus always competing with each other.
Most recently, Microsoft realigned some of those competencies to better reflect changing market dynamics. As such, the Desktop competency is becoming more oriented around Device and Deployment, while the company has created new competencies for Microsoft Digital Marketing competency, Collaboration and Content and Application Development. In addition, Microsoft has renamed the Identity and Security competency, which is now known as the Identity and Access competency.
Microsoft has also expanded the benefits of its Cloud Essentials program to give partners access to 25 software licenses of Microsoft Office 365, Windows Intune and CRM online that they can use internally, while also launching Cloud Deployment, a program designed to help partners to build a cloud deployment practice around Microsoft Office 365.
Roskill says more than 61,000 partners are active Cloud Essentials partners and more than 5,500 partners actively sell Microsoft cloud services every month, more than doubling the number of partners selling Microsoft cloud offerings in the last 12 months.
The rise in the number of partners specializing in a given area coupled with increased comfort with cloud computing both inside and outside of Redmond, suggests that the Microsoft channel as a whole is becoming more mature. How that increased sophistication will manifest itself on a practical level in 2013 remains to be seen. But the one thing that is for certain is that Microsoft’s most successful partners are going to be the ones in the top five to 10 percent of the Microsoft channel that specialize in areas related to specific business or technology outcomes versus those that are merely one out several hundred thousand Microsoft partners that too closely resemble each other.