Is Microsoft Missing the Point of the Channel?

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

Microsoft is pushing more and more SAAS products in its quest to derail Google, but will those products derail Microsoft’s channel partners also?




 It has been one launch after another as Microsoft hurls software-as-a-service missiles at companies such as Google and others. It started with expanded offerings under Office Live and now has culminated in the announcement that Sharepoint, Exchange and other products will be added to the barrage.

While Microsoft must take on Google to ensure its long-term market dominance, the company is glossing over the fact that its new tactics will have a lot of collateral damage, or worse yet - Microsoft’s partners will be hit with friendly fire. The sad part here is that Microsoft doesn’t even realize that. Take a look at one of its latest press releases, "Partners Embrace Huge Opportunities in Software plus Services Era," and it becomes clear that Microsoft thinks it is helping the channel by offering software direct to the business user!

The simple fact of the matter is that Microsoft is on the verge of offending its army of channel partners with the misconception that just because the company has SAAS offerings, the world will beat a path to its door. What Microsoft has missed here is that most solution providers are looking to increase their own revenue streams, build ongoing revenue and establish long-term customer relationships. Microsoft’s approach is to throw the meat on the customer’s table and let partners scrounge around on the floor for scraps.

If the company wants to truly trump Google, it is going to have to leverage its channel partners – instead of making the same mistakes that Google is by alienating the partner community. How can Microsoft build its success via the channel? Simply put, allow channel partners to sell those SAAS solutions, allow channel partners to handle any billing associated with those SAAS solutions and allow channel partners to co-brand those SAAS solutions. The co-branding element should be a no-brainer; instead of offering Microsoft SharePoint Online, a partner could offer "PartnerNameHere’s SharePoint Online powered by Microsoft." That will keep the partner’s name in the mix, establish who owns the client and build that long-term relationship that solution providers need to survive today.

As for the billing, support and other elements, I’m sure a company such as Microsoft could whip up something real quick and work with its current stable of distributors to make that happen. Microsoft may be launching missiles at the competition, but figuring out how to work with the channel doesn’t take rocket science.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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