With over a year under her belt as One Commercial Partner Business Applications business lead at Microsoft, Cecilia Flombaum shares what trends she’s seeing work for Microsoft Partners, challenges Partners are encountering, and advice to help Partners of every size take advantage of Microsoft’s strategy and the opportunities that lie ahead.
Dynamic Communities, Inc. (DCI): How are you seeing Partners act or react to Microsoft’s Digital Transformation strategy? Are they trending one way or the other?
Cecilia Flombaum (CF): My favorite thing I notice is the new things Partners can do for their customers. When Partners can deliver true business process innovation AND digital transformation for their customers, it’s an exciting thing!
The Partners we see doing this are those who are expanding their offerings across applications within the Microsoft Business Applications solutions, including Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales, Business Central, Field Service, and more. There are Partners coming from the old sales force automation world looking to expand into customer service. There are Partners who traditionally sold Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement applications who are now looking at Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations (F and O). There are Partners selling Finance and Operations who are now looking into Dynamics 365 for Talent. There is a lot of crossover happening, and when Partners can scale to offer more than one application, not only does it solidify their relationship with their customers, but it also grows their revenue.
For example, one of our Partners from Australia is building on the latest version of PowerApps. It took so little time to build a robust and complete solution for enterprise marketing resource management; they’re seeing an immediate ROI because of that shift.
DCI: What sort of challenges are Partners encountering when attempting to adopt different and more workloads?
CF: There are two main challenges we see Partners struggle with:
1. Growing Pains—As with any change, being able to fulfill projects successfully and deliver on our collective promises continues to be a challenge for Partners. Think about the pressure of keeping up with constant innovation and the implications on skills and delivery. It’s not an easy adjustment, but it’s the new normal in the world of cloud.
2. Capability—Similar to the prior point, Partners are also finding it difficult to keep a constant focus on staying current and up to date with our innovation. We innovate at a faster pace now than ever before, and it’s tough. It involves building the right skills—marketing, sales, consultants, architects, developers—all of which are affected by constant evolution of value propositions and technology innovation that go into our products every month. The culture of learning in our Partners is evolving, and it’s no longer about going to a class every six months. They need to stay current every week so that they can deliver to their customers.
DCI: What specific pillars should Partners focus on to keep pace with the transformation that Microsoft is going through and be ahead of the game to take advantage of the huge opportunities ahead?
CF: There are three main pillars:
One: Understanding Microsoft’s value proposition within the business apps industry along with what differentiates a Partner’s business in what they can offer Microsoft. When Partners can see how their unique offering aligns with Microsoft’s vision, true customer value is a result.
Sometimes a Partner brings an industry-specific offering, or application, or domain expertise. All of which adds to the collective strengths of what Microsoft and the Partners bring to the table.
Two: Building the right skills inside a company is critical, and that’s across the board: sales, marketing, and delivery. Partners with high level of discipline in these three areas are keeping pace with innovation and translate that into customer success. They need to know and plan how to market their solutions and differentiate their solutions in the market as well as keep current in their implementation-related skills.
Three: That brings me to the third pillar, and that’s delivery of customer success. What matters in the end is customer outcomes, outcomes that are long-lasting. Partners can align with Microsoft’s value proposition and market/sell their solution, but ultimately, they still have to deliver on that promised value. This is the end goal: the ability to deliver customer success.
Cecilia Flombaum keynotes eXtreme365 Austin. You can register here.
DCI: What are some ways Partners can meet these pillars?
CF: My best advice for Partners going through this transition is a continuous focus on bringing junior resources into a company. You drive growth through a constant pipeline of talent and constant hiring so that through constant selling the company grows sustainably. It’s critical to take a proactive and mindful approach to growth. Partners are MOST successful when they encompass it all: keeping pace with Microsoft’s product evolution while adding capacity to delivery teams.
Partners should utilize what we have to offer at Microsoft: our online training delivery platform. But it’s also a crucial time for Partners to invest in workshops and virtual training, plus conferences like eXtreme365 and User Group Summit.
DCI: Any final thoughts to share with Partners who are struggling to find their next step?
CF: There is no ONE recipe for successful growth. You don’t have to become proficient at every single product in the portfolio. Every Partner has an expertise and differentiation. That expertise gives you the clues to what is your natural next step. When you focus on how to enable and realize your customers’ ambitions with your unique expertise, you’re on the right path.