RealTime IT News

Microsoft Lends a Hand to Partners

Microsoft wrapped up its Worldwide Partner Conference 2005 on Sunday, sending partners home with promises to make their lives easier.

The company reorganized around industry verticals to help partners connect better with Microsoft resources, potential customers and partners. Redmond will provide direct access to the same sales tools and competitive data that its own direct sales force uses.

Microsoft will introduce four new Microsoft Solution Competencies later this year, backing them up with simplified membership, expanded support and training resources, as well as enhancements to online tools and infrastructure. It said that the new competencies reflected a deeper focus on verticalization for Microsoft -- and it hopes partners follow suit.

Executives highlighted Response Management for Partners, a Web-based tool it rolled out earlier this year. The confidential service lets Gold Certified and Certified partners escalate Microsoft-related customer and partner issues directly to the ears at Redmond.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told conference attendees that Longhorn and Office 12 would create new opportunities for partners. "Office will be able to be really a part of the fabric of every business process and interaction around the globe," he said.

Ted Dinsmore, a managing partner with tech consulting firm Exertus Partners, said the mood at the conference was positive. In his view, the reorganization will go a long way toward improving communications with Redmond and increasing opportunity for partners.

"Getting partners aligned to Microsoft and getting messaging to Microsoft so they can understand it is a hard thing," he said.

Dinsmore, who is co-author of Partnering with Microsoft, said that the company's verticals had been a bit fuzzy. By putting vertical specialists in each of the areas, then linking them to geographic areas, he said, "you can bring all the specialists you need all together under the vertical."

But partners should be prepared for tightening prices, he said, as Microsoft continues to lower the cost of its own software.

"Microsoft generally undercuts their competitors," Dinsmore said. "You want them to be more cost-effective than their competitors, but you have to watch out that it doesn't knock your own costs too low."