Microsoft takes channel leap of faith with empowering Office 365 plans

"That's certainly the hope," smiled Julia White, Microsoft's Office general manager, when asked if WPC 2014 will provide the channel community with greater motivation to resell Office 365.

A dumb opening question to such a Redmond high-flyer maybe, but White, who is fast becoming one of the fresh faces of a bold new Microsoft, understands the partner perspective entirely.

"The Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider program is a huge deal for our partners," said White, speaking exclusively to Techday.com at WPC 2014.

"At this stage a lot of partners are still processing what it means for them but it is by far the biggest leap we have made in empowering the channel to be the trusted advisor with their customers, it's what they have been asking for."

Speaking following news the program will allow partners to own 100% of the customer lifecycle, serving as the only contact for all customer needs, in a complete shift of control - White is unwavering in her belief that by WPC's end, when the hundreds of sessions have finished, partners will rejoice.

"I couldn't be more excited with the program and it's great to be speaking with partners as they figure out what this means and why it's a big step in the right direction.

"Since we launched Office 365 partners have always asked for this and while it's been a journey, we've now delivered."

A key driver in the revamped Microsoft of the past six months, White believes the program helps "remove the friction" for partners, ensuring they are getting the most of their Microsoft cloud solutions.

"We want to make something that is fantastic but from a channel perspective it's crucial we remove any roadblocks or barriers when it comes to sales," White adds.

"I'd say this program has been two years in the making, following a lot of listening and then figuring out how to act on our partner feedback.

"Sure it's been a journey but our vision has never changed."

Starting with Office 365 and Windows Intune, the program will eventually cover all Microsoft cloud services, with Redmond renewing its focus for partners and customers to purchase, deploy and use Microsoft solutions.

As reported by Techday on Day One of WPC 2014, along with waiving first year entry into silver cloud competencies for partners, Microsoft aim to enable partners to use such cloud services to help increase their "personal credibility" through individual experiences.

"It's a known fact that if you experience technology first-hand you're better placed to sell it," adds White, alluding to the company's decision to enhance the internal use rights for both Office 365 and Azure.

"A change in internal use rights will make it easier for partners as their sales people can now be even more compelling, which goes back to my first comments about removing obstacles for partners."

Office for iPad...

Unsurprisingly, the growing interest in Microsoft's Office for iPad service is causing much debate amongst the partner community.

With 27 million downloads in such a short period of time, fielding questions regarding Microsoft's cross-platform Office version is commonplace for White, who insists Office for iPad is simply one of many Office platforms.

"We tell the whole value of Office 365 and Office for iPad is one of the apps which come with the subscription," White adds.

"There are no specific support practices in place with Apple however as it's our job to ensure the channel is fully equipped to sell every flavour of Office, irrelevant of what it is.

"We've enjoyed a great response to the app and it's exciting to be in a position to constantly respond to feedback and make changes accordingly - such as the implementation of print into the app."

Centre of the universe...

For many, Office is positioned firmly at the centre of the Microsoft universe, both in the present and going forward.

Enjoying triple digit year-on-year growth since 2009, the momentum is clearly there, and despite joking that Office is clearly the centre of her own universe, White was quick to acknowledge that the division still remains part of the bigger Microsoft picture.

"There's no question that from a revenue perspective Office is a hugely important division but it's one of many important divisions which make up Microsoft," she adds.

"Office is one of a handful of crucially important businesses driving revenue for the company but of course we are counting on the division to push new growth.

"I think it's because Office is our most mature cloud service so in terms of leading our partners to a cloud-first world then yes, absolutely Office is a key part of that strategy."

Internally speaking, White and her team - including three Kiwis - refer to Office 365 as the locomotive, such is the division's ability to churn out revenue.

But when the dust settles in Washington D.C., and the partners head back to their far away lands, White remains confident both she and Microsoft have done enough to re-energise the market and kick-start an Office 365 boom - as Redmond's journey to the cloud goes up a gear.


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