August 29, 2019

The five attributes of successful Microsoft partners

By David Willis

One of the questions I get asked most often is “What does it take to be a successful Microsoft partner?”

In response to this, our US OCP Leadership Team got together and came up with a set of the top attributes of our most successful partners, based on what we’ve learned from observing and speaking with partners who have achieved sustained, high business performance. Over the years, we’ve noticed commonalities in how these partners operate their businesses and work with us at Microsoft. While this is clearly not an exhaustive list of everything our top partners do to perform at a consistently high level, these attributes definitely make a difference.

We shared these five attributes during the US Area General Session at Microsoft Inspire, where we had some of our top partners describe first-hand how they operate and how they apply these attributes as part of their business.

Based on what we’ve heard, the five attributes resonated with many of our attendees. In fact, a number of partners approached me after the event to discuss how their organization stacks up against these qualities.

Unfortunately, not all our partners could be with us at Microsoft Inspire. So, my leadership team and I are going to publish a series of blog posts exploring each attribute in more depth.

I’d like to kick-off the series with a short recap of the five attributes along with some of the partner examples we discussed during Microsoft Inspire. You can view the complete US Area General Session, featuring the five attributes, on-demand here.

Five Success Attributes

Customer Obsessed

I admire companies that are fanatical about customer experience and success. Customer obsession is the foundation of being a great partner. It’s about deeply understanding your customer, their pain points, and the value they want to deliver to their customers. Customer obsession is also about understanding how a customer measures success, including their stated objectives and unarticulated needs. And then being maniacal in helping your customers achieve their business outcomes. During the general session, Alex Brown, CEO of 10th Magnitude, a three-time Partner of the Year Award winner, shared three customer obsession tenets: understand, listen, and anticipate to help your customers gain a competitive edge.

Differentiated Value Proposition

Having a clear, differentiated value proposition is about understanding what you do better than anyone else on the planet. Clear differentiation in the marketplace is key to standing out among the millions of partners offering technology products and services worldwide. Your value proposition must be something you can easily explain and is well-known and understood by your team, as well as the customers and partners you do business with. We heard how Microsoft partners Axioma and Health Catalyst differentiate themselves by creating transformative solutions in the financial and health care industries. We also learned about Rackspace’s secret to standing out as a managed services provider through differentiated customer service.

Alignment with Microsoft

This success attribute is critical to successful partnering with us. Aligning with Microsoft requires a deep understanding of our overall strategic vision and direction. It’s not necessarily about running a Microsoft-only business, though we certainly appreciate that. It’s about finding the key areas where your business goals and our business goals align and focusing on those areas for mutual benefit. Having a growth mindset is essential, just like our 2019 US Country Partner of the Year Award winner Quisitive. Their CEO, Mike Reinhart, talked about the company’s phenomenal growth and how they successfully align with Microsoft. Some key takeaways: understand what the various partner programs are and how you can leverage them to help your customers achieve their business outcomes.

Leverage the Ecosystem

As mentioned throughout Microsoft Inspire, from Satya Nadella’s keynote to the US Area General Session, there are millions of partners around the world. The most successful partners collaborate to solve real business problems and drive outcomes for their customers while expanding their capabilities and growing their business. Leveraging the ecosystem is about focusing on customer outcomes, looking for complementary solutions with other partners, and delivering value together. We’ve created new tools that make Partner-to-Partner (P2P) collaboration and co-selling more powerful. During our US Area General Session, we saw how CDW connected with Microsoft ISV’s Veeam and Citrix to collaborate on new customer solutions and accelerate their businesses.

Culture Alignment

One of our core values at Microsoft is having a growth mindset – we want to be “learn it alls” instead of “know it alls.”  We’re focused on creating a culture that brings everyone along as we learn and includes perspectives that reflect the diversity of our customers around the world. That’s what building a culture of inclusivity is about, and it’s a journey we’re on.  We see a growth mindset and a focus on diversity and inclusion in our most successful partners as well. One of the areas of inclusivity we’re focused on is gender parity. And a key effort around that is the community-led Women in Cloud initiative. This global movement supports female technology entrepreneurs in capturing the $B’s in cloud opportunity by providing access to resources such as funding and investments, mentorship, and more. At our Microsoft Inspire event, Women in Cloud co-founder Chaitra Vedullapalli talked about the growth of the movement and how it’s enabling the next generation of female entrepreneurs.

There you have it – a summary of the five attributes of our highly successful Microsoft partners. You’ll be hearing more about these success attributes from the rest of the US OCP Leadership Team in the coming weeks. In the meantime, be sure to check out the US Area General Session or watch some of the 400+ Microsoft Inspire sessions available on-demand.

Watch these videos to hear directly from our partners how they embrace the 5 attributes of success.

David Willis leads the US Commercial Partner business for Microsoft Corporation. In the role of Corporate Vice President, David and his leadership team are responsible for Microsoft’s US Partner business including strategy, management and overall Partner ecosystem health. The Partner group works with US Partners to develop strong practices aligned to Microsoft’s workload and industry priorities, and delivers these solutions to Customers to help them maximize business benefits from their investment in Microsoft technology. His organization is comprised of Partner Management, Channel Management, Go-To-Market (GTM), and Partner-facing Technical Specialists and Architects. 

David joined Microsoft in 1992 and has held a variety of senior sales and marketing leadership positions.  Prior to his current role, David was Corporate Vice President for the US Small and Mid-Market Solutions and Partners group (US SMS&P). David was responsible for a large team of sales, marketing and partner management professionals serving Microsoft’s business customers and vast Partner community.  David also held the positions of Vice President of US Dynamics and Vice President of the US East Region for US SMS&P after moving to the US from the Canadian subsidiary. In the Canadian subsidiary, he held a number of positions that included Vice President, SMS&P Microsoft Canada, Director of the Canadian Partner Group, and Region Director for the Canadian West Region, amongst other roles. 

Prior to joining Microsoft, David had been in the technology industry for five years holding leadership positions in sales, marketing, and partner management roles. David holds a Bachelor of Economics degree from the University of Western Ontario.

Other posts you may like

US Partner Success Attribute #1: Why being customer obsessed is critical to shared success

US Partner Success Attribute #2: Having a Differentiated Value Proposition

US Partner Success Attribute #3: Alignment with Microsoft

US Partner Success Attribute #4: Leverage the Ecosystem

US Partner Success Attribute #5: Culture Alignment



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