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Acer America
Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.

Location

333 West San Carlos Street
San Jose, California 95110
United States

WWW: acer.com

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January 21, 2022 |

Microsoft Channel Chief to Unhappy NCE Newcomers: “We Are Listening”

In a Q&A during yesterday’s SMB TechFest event, Rodney Clark (pictured), acknowledged that Microsoft’s New Commerce Experience is forcing CSP program members through a lot of change quickly, and said “a little bit more help” is coming.

If you’re one of the thousands of channel pros in Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider program struggling to understand and adjust to the New Commerce Experience (NCE), the revamped set of rules, prices, and incentives for selling Microsoft 365 and other cloud solutions that Microsoft is rolling out now, you’re apparently in good company.

“Wow are we getting a lot of feedback on New Commerce Experience,” said Rodney Clark, Microsoft’s recently appointed channel chief, at the first SMB TechFest event of 2022, held online yesterday. He’s well aware of what’s driving all that input too.

“It’s a lot of change,” he says. “It’s asking partners to do things differently, to recognize revenue in a different way, to set up and manage their CSP relationships in a different way.”

Clark made those and other comments during a wide-ranging conversation with Dave Seibert, CIO of Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider IT Innovators and host of the SMB TechFest series. As Seibert and Justin Gilbert of security vendor and cloud distributor Zix discussed during a recent episode of the ChannelPro Weekly podcast, CSP members transitioning to NCE must master new prices, new contract options, and new sales incentives, make difficult decisions about adapting to all those changes, and ultimately re-platform their entire Microsoft 365 client base.

According to Clark, Microsoft has heard the many partner grievances about that process loud and clear. “We are listening, and it’s reflected in a lot of the programs that we have in place, and even a lot of the adjustments that we make to those programs,” he said.

Indeed, in response to widespread partner complaints, Microsoft has already relaxed several of the deadlines and milestone dates announced last year when it first informed CSPs about the switch to NCE. Other revisions may be coming soon.

“For the most part, the ecosystem and the partners are ready to push [into NCE], but they’re telling us we need to give a little bit more help,” Clark said. “We’re investing to ensure that that we do just that.” 

Just the same, Clark made clear, Microsoft can’t and won’t accommodate all of the requests CSP partners are making. “Listening to feedback doesn’t always translate into making the adjustment on every single piece of feedback that comes in,” he said. 

For all the pain it’s creating at present, Clark continued, moving CSP partners to NCE, which Microsoft has been gradually introducing to other parts of its cloud business for some three years, is a critical part of bringing consistency to how users buy and pay for online solutions. 

“We have multiple systems and multiple dashboards and ways that partners come in, and ways that customers experience Microsoft through our partners,” he said. “[NCE] is basically aimed at bringing all of that together.”

Clark also addressed partner dissatisfaction with Microsoft’s online commercial marketplace, which includes both the Microsoft AppSource site for business solutions and the Azure Marketplace site for ISV applications. The complexity of such portals has kept many partners from utilizing them to generate leads.

“If we want to engage and we want to engage at scale, we have to make our marketplace easier to use and access,” Clark said, adding that Microsoft has already taken steps to make the platform more affordable. “To encourage partners to use and leverage marketplace, we lowered our fees from 20% down to 3%, and as a result, we’ve seen accelerated usage and accelerated adoption,” he said.

Updates are coming as well to Microsoft’s “co-selling motion,” Clark hinted. First unveiled in 2017, the co-sell program aims to help channel pros collaborate with Microsoft’s internal salesforce on joint opportunities by crediting sales of partner solutions against an account rep’s quota. Clark wants to make participating in co-selling easier for smaller partners.

“[We’ll] have a way to engage that breadth of our ecosystem on co-sell in a very clear way,” Clark said, noting that Microsoft will “have more to share externally shortly.”

Deepening engagement with SMB partners in other ways has been a priority for Clark since he stepped into his current job last March. 

“One of the realizations that I’ve had over the past year, and this is even prior to me coming into this role, is that we can gain greater traction if we increase our focus on the breadth of our ecosystem,” he said. Clark cited Microsoft’s “scaled manage” team, which maintains digital ties with partners who would otherwise have no contact with the company, as an example of the kind of program he wants more of.

“My job as I look forward is to continue to invest in partners, to help them grow their business,” he said. 

Other speakers at yesterday’s conference included security expert Joy Belinda Beland, who discussed partners opportunities in CMMC compliance, channel strategist Jamison West, who spoke about the emotional side of selling a small business (a topic he covers in greater depth in a recently published book), and consultant James Kernan, who outlined 10 steps for growing your company.

Additional SMB TechFest events are scheduled for April 14th, July 21st, and October 20th. The July show, like this week’s, will be virtual, but the other two will be held in-person in Anaheim, Calif.


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