Microsoft Prepares for Exciting Launch Year: Notes from the Worldwide Partner Conference

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Last month, members of the Metafile team made the trek to Toronto to participate in the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) along with more than 16,000 other Microsoft partners. Representing nearly 95 percent of Microsoft’s revenue stream, the Microsoft partner community is a thriving and ever-evolving ecosystem of innovative companies that are working to provide customers of all sizes with the valuable technology they need to thrive and compete.

As Microsoft’s largest event, WPC attracts partners from around the world creating an electric atmosphere. With topics like Windows 8, Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics and cloud computing on everyone’s mind, we were eager to hear what Microsoft had to say about the technology that makes up the foundation of our businesses.

Launch Year

This year represents Microsoft’s largest and most impactful product launch year in the company’s history, with Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Office 2013, SharePoint 2013 and Dynamics ERP Online all slated for release during Q3 and Q4 of 2012.

For partners like Metafile, this presents a variety of opportunities and challenges, and more than ever, there is pressure to stay as informed as possible in order to serve as a reliable and knowledgeable resource for customers. For a one-stop resource on the status of the product launches, we at Metafile keep an eye on The 2012 Microsoft Product Roadmap, which is consistently and accurately updated by Redmond Channel Partner’s editor-in-chief, Scott Bekker.

Microsoft Dynamics

At WPC, Microsoft announced significant updates to the ways partners can make money on Dynamics ERP and CRM products, including new partner incentive models on Dynamics CRM, Dynamics CRM Online, Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP and Dynamics NAV.

One of the most significant changes for partners in the Dynamics space is the expansion of Microsoft’s pay-for-performance incentive policy to cover Dynamics CRM and Dynamics CRM Online products. Through this incentive, partners are encouraged to drive sales and expand their customer base, versus simply maintaining the current stable of customers. While this incentive is already available for Dynamics ERP applications, the expansion drives home Microsoft’s message to partners: growth is crucial and will be rewarded.

Also, partners who sell Dynamics AX will see a dramatic change in the compensation process, as AX will soon be available on Enterprise Agreement (EA) in Volume Licensing. According to Doug Kennedy, vice president of Microsoft Dynamics Partners, "With ERP, it's an indirect model, partners take a discount of the licensing. As AX moves into EA, the [Large Account Reseller] handles the transaction. The ERP partner then needs to claim a CSA [Custom Support Agreement] fee instead of taking a discount on the licensing."

What does this mean for AX partners? Microsoft recognized that the CSA fees will reduce the level of revenue that partners typically see from discounts, but that this model will drive sales and momentum in the enterprise.

Doug Kennedy also shared that there has been an increase in the number of ERP technical competency certifications required in order for Dynamics AX resellers to qualify for Microsoft Partner Network Gold status. According to Kennedy, while the gold competency in Dynamics ERP requires six engineers, those partners interested in selling Dynamics AX in the enterprise will need 15 certified technologists. With this move, Microsoft is again encouraging Dynamics partners to up-level their skills and qualifications in order to thrive in the Microsoft ecosystem.

With regards to Dynamics NAV and GP, Microsoft is planning to launch a simplified subscription pricing program later this year that will include a pay-as-you-go model for on-premises, as well as cloud-based deployments.

Cloud Computing

At Microsoft Convergence 2012 earlier this year, Microsoft made an announcement that the entire suite of Dynamics products will eventually be available as cloud-based services running on Windows Azure. As we expected, this became a significant focal point at WPC, as partners of all types were encouraged to take a thoughtful approach towards cloud services.

During one panel discussion that we attended featuring Microsoft Vice President of the US Partner Group Jenni Flinders, Gartner Analyst Tiffani Bova and Joe Panettieri, editorial director of the popular blogs The VAR Guy and Talkin’ Cloud, the panelists discussed the need for partners to embrace cloud computing and incorporate it into their business model. With the upcoming availability of cloud-based Dynamics solutions, it is more essential than ever for partners to develop a cloud practice, or they run the risk of becoming irrelevant.

As is the case with MetaViewer Cloud, cloud-based ERP solutions offer businesses unprecedented flexibility and allow them to simply subscribe to the solution for a low monthly fee per user, freeing up their IT staff from the burden of maintaining and upgrading on-premise technology and reducing costs.

As expected, WPC proved to be a valuable experience for our team and the Dynamics community as a whole. The upcoming year is sure to be a game-changer for partners of all shapes and sizes, and the innovation within the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem is sure to be an exciting opportunity for us all.

 By Nick Sprau, Metafile Information Systems

Nick Sprau is VP of sales and marketing at Metafile Information Systems, a paperless ERP solutions provider for accounts payable, accounts receivable and human resources document management and workflow technology.

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