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Incoming Channel Chief Says “There’s Never Been a Better Time To Be a Microsoft Partner”

Speaking at this week’s Inspire conference, newly named Chief Partner Officer Nicole Dezen highlighted opportunities in the Microsoft cloud rather than controversial topics like the New Commerce Experience and forthcoming partner program changes. By Rich Freeman

Stepping into a newly created post at a time of change and controversy, Microsoft’s incoming channel chief introduced herself to attendees of the company’s Inspire partner conference, held online this week, on an upbeat note, stressing the money to be made selling cloud solutions rather than the disruptions created by the ongoing overhaul of Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program and the forthcoming relaunch of its partner program.

“There’s never been a better time to be a Microsoft partner,” said Nicole Dezen, who was officially named Microsoft’s first-ever chief partner officer last week, in an Inspire keynote address yesterday. “With increasing customer demand, our R&D investments, and go-to-market capabilities, we will help you unlock new opportunities for growth.”

Dezen succeeds Rodney Clark, who unexpectedly left Microsoft in May to become vice president and chief commercial officer of Johnson Controls. In his 15 months atop Microsoft’s channel, Clark led the rollout of the New Commerce Experience (NCE), a sweeping set of revisions to rules, prices, and incentives for selling Microsoft 365 and other cloud solutions. A persistent source of frustration among partners, NCE was not a significant topic of discussion during yesterday’s keynotes.

Clark also spearheaded the creation of the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program, which will succeed the Microsoft Partner Network in October. The new program replaces the familiar Gold and Silver levels with two designations, Solutions Partner and Specialist, which members qualify for based on their “partner capability score,” which measures their success at adding new customers, driving increased cloud usage among existing customers, and earning certifications.

The program also replaces the Microsoft Partner Network’s 19 competencies with six solution areas, a transition that will ultimately benefit partners by aligning them more closely with Microsoft’s in-house sales organization, according to Dan Rippey, the company’s director of partner programs.

“[We’re] making it easier for you to go to market and sell with us, because our programs now represent the way we go to market and sell as a business,” he said. “These two motions are now identical, with no need for a translation dictionary between your business and ours.” 

Reiterating guidance offered earlier this year, Rippey also noted that Microsoft Cloud Partner Program members could either embrace new benefit packages tailored to their business focus or continue receiving the benefits they earn now.

“Microsoft is making multimillion dollar investments in the channel, increasing benefits across almost every program,” he said. “We’re also enabling every single Silver and Gold partner to retain the legacy benefits that you’ve come to rely on today.”

Alluding to partner requests and complaints, Dezen suggested that sales incentives in the new program remain open to adjustment. “We are listening and incorporating partner feedback into our strategy and plans to improve our partner incentives and investments,” she said.

Dezen also discussed new partner resources set to arrive in Microsoft’s 2023 fiscal year, which began this month, including more Modern Work Workshops, ready-made offerings aimed at helping partners deliver customized plans for adopting Microsoft 365 and Microsoft security services to end users.

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