Streamlining the channel

As Microsoft continues to shake up its partner channel, Channel Middle East talks to Doug Kennedy, vice president, Microsoft Dynamics Partners, about what these sweeping changes mean for partners in the Middle East region.

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Streamlining the channel Doug Kennedy
By  Manda Banda Published  January 24, 2012

As Microsoft continues to shake up its partner channel, Channel Middle East talks to Doug Kennedy, vice president, Microsoft Dynamics Partners, about what these sweeping changes mean for partners in the Middle East region.

Channel: Talk us through Microsoft Dynamics channel activities and overview in the Middle East region?

Doug Kennedy: The last quarter was a very busy one as we kicked off our fiscal year with our Worldwide Partner conference in Los Angles- US, then last month we had the Gulf annual partner conference which was held in Dubai. During the global partner conference, there were five Gulf partners who won worldwide awards called ‘Dynamics President Club’ and ‘Inner Circle’. During our Gulf event, we presented our top performing partners in six categories: Sales, Pre-sales, Implementation, ERP, CRM and Vertical offerings. During these two events we shared with our partners our new Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) strategy, benefits and requirements.

Channel: What is the current state of Microsoft Dynamics’ channel in the Middle East region?

Doug Kennedy: I was pleased that five of the Gulf partners reached the top 5% of the worldwide Dynamics channel a status called ‘President Club’, and we had two Gulf partners reaching the ‘Inner Circle’ which is for the top 2% of Dynamics partners. Their performance is benchmarked against revenues, customer satisfaction and technical certifications. Our managed partners’ revenues in the Gulf region grew double digit versus the previous year, which is a solid performance in a market that was growing a single digit according to IDC. This year we are planning to avail more than 6,000 man-hours of training to support our partners with their growth and specialisation plans. This is on top of the online training programmes that are delivered through our partner portal, a multi million dollar investment and we keep on increasing the number of courses that are available for our channel partners in the region.

Channel: What has been you partner approach and engagement model for the region?

Doug Kennedy: It is very simple as we conduct our business 100% through our partners. Our channel is very important because we do everything through them. For example, in marketing we deliver most of our events in cooperation with our partners. We work closely with our partners who are mapped to our focused industries and we support our partners to deliver state of the art solutions to our customers.
In early October, Microsoft Gulf launched the annual Dynamics Partner Academy (DPA) which includes soft skills training like marketing, leadership, implementation methodology and pre-sales, as well as the technical courses for our new products like Dynamics CRM2011, Management Reporter, and Dynamics AX2012 which will all be delivered to our partners before end of December. We are currently planning for the courses in the other half of the fiscal year which will end by June next year.

Channel: Microsoft Dynamics recently streamlined the partner programme encouraging more specialisations and domain expertise. How is this being implemented in the Middle East?

Doug Kennedy: We started working with our partners nearly two years ago towards vertical specialisation, and we shared with our partners the vision nearly one and half years back. The main changes revolve around allowing the partners who are more focused and specialised to earn more from selling and implementing Microsoft Dynamics. The smaller generic partners who are not planning to grow will either earn less margin or they can move to a referral model that we have put in place. We also ensured that partners must have the proper certifications to be able to maintain their partnership and servicing our customers. We are coming from a model where the majority of our partners are in the Gold status. This will no longer be the case. After putting the necessary measures we recognise that only the top 20% of our partners will reach the Gold status. . For example, our partners will be able to reach ‘Gold Certified in ERP Competency’ and specialised in ‘Process Manufacturing’.

Channel: What have been the main changes to the enhanced programme and what is expected from channel partners going forward?

Doug Kennedy: The two main changes are: putting in place more incentives for partners who will deliver the required growth and limiting the small ‘opportunistic’ partners who are not investing in the partnership with Microsoft Dynamics. The channel partners will need to focus on their core competencies and continue their investments in marketing, pre-sales, sales, and delivery skills. On the ERP front, we are segmenting the market into either SMB offerings or enterprise offerings. The first is focused on customer acquisition and repetitive delivery for similar customer requirements, and the latter is focused on enterprise customers with sophisticated industry requirements.

Channel: What is the main motivation for introducing role-based learning paths and how does this differ to how you used to approach partner training?

Doug Kennedy: The learning plans are built in visual diagrams to help illustrate the total picture and let you zoom easily to the path of choice. These learning plans will help the partner to focus on specific goals and access the training they need to gain in-depth product knowledge and obtain the relevant certifications. By becoming trained and certified in various disciplines, the employee can document their knowledge on Microsoft Dynamics and showcase their expertise to our customers. All plans are divided into four tracks: Application, Technology, Development and Reporting Design. Each learning plan provides a training path. The learning plan contains a special blend between instructor led training, online training, white papers or learning manuals.

Channel: What’s Microsoft Dynamics’ cloud strategy and what role are your channel partners expected to play in this cloud journey?

Doug Kennedy: Today we are offering CRM solutions in the cloud through our partners. We have two types of partners: the telecom providers who serve as the hoster and CRM ISV who build industry templates on Microsoft CRM and avail these templates in the cloud on top of the hosted CRM. In addition, Microsoft CRM Online is available in the US and it is expected in the Gulf region after the launch of Office 365. Today, many of the CRM Online partners have registered their solutions and industry templates to the CRM Online Marketplace. Building Intellectual Property (IP) on top of CRM is very important for the transition to the cloud.

Channel: There is no denying that cloud computing presents skilled partners with business opportunities. How is Microsoft Dynamics helping its partners to move to the cloud and to be profitable players there?

Doug Kennedy: The cloud is a fundamental shift in culture, as it is a shift in delivery and in approach. It is a shift in mindset led by a strong desire for all of us to have access to the information we want when we need it most, anytime, and anywhere. Microsoft partners who want to increase profits require developing a better business model that will have tremendous and sustainable upside long term. Therefore Microsoft put together an extensive profitability guide that guides our partners towards the cloud journey. This guide is helping Microsoft partners understand the key success factors for their transition to the cloud, in particular, when selling or delivering business application services and solutions.

Channel: What does the launch of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 mean for your channel partners in the Middle East region?

Doug Kennedy: We are very excited about Dynamics AX 2012 with a new and modern architecture, and more than 1,000 new features specially designed for the large enterprises. We believe that Dynamics AX2012 will be more relevant to the Middle East enterprise segment and the group of companies who are geographically dispersed. We have enhanced the industry capabilities to deeply cover key verticals.

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