Building partnerships on a foundation of trust

IAMCP international president Sarika Malhotra discusses the association’s work, its relationship with Microsoft, how it helps Microsoft customers and its plans for the future

Building partnerships on a foundation of trust

Tell me more about IAMCP’s history, the range of partner organisations that belong to the association and the industry segments they support. 

The International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) is a professional, high-trust organisation dedicated to helping its members navigate the Microsoft ecosystem and maximise their business potential. Through partner-to-partner (P2P) engagement, member advocacy, inclusiveness and education, our members can grow their business and are able to execute on a business strategy that helps customers reap the manifold benefits of digital transformation. 

IAMCP not only nurtures partners’ connections to Microsoft but more importantly serves as the ‘Voice of the Channel’ into Microsoft, aggregating suggestions and helping the channel to better understand and align with the various programmes that partners can use to build their business. 

Globally, our members serve clients across the main business segments and cover most, if not all, industries and our member’s clients include Fortune 500 companies. The association was founded in 1994 and is organised in chapters across three main regions: Americas, APAC and EMEA. 

For Microsoft end users, where does the IAMCP proposition add most value? how might those operating in both enterprise and public sector settings usefully connect with your member companies? 

Over the last decade, the technology landscape has been evolving at a mind-boggling pace, but more recently, the pandemic has really accelerated this evolution, bringing to the fore the need for an IT service provider to be not just a vendor but a true business partner.  

As a business decision-maker, you now need to not only ensure that you’re working with someone you trust, but it is also very important that your partner constantly keeps abreast of changes and evolves their services and offerings to align with this huge evolution we are all witnessing.   

I listed trust first because, as technology firms, we are often given the ‘keys to the kingdom’ and there needs to be explicit trust between the client and service provider.  

Our member organisations are highly engaged with Microsoft, constantly learning and expert collaborators. Collaboration and partnership are built on the foundation of trust and by having a P2P mindset, it allows our partners to focus on providing the best and most complete solutions to their clients.  

Let me provide an example of this collaborative mindset. When building a house, you would ask a plumber to carry out the plumber, a joiner the joinery and carpentry and an electrician for the electric works. Each tradesperson focuses on what they do best and a general contractor ensures the work is performed in harmony.  

It works much the same with our member organisations with one typical exception, the general contractor is one of the specialists. While some have more than one speciality, it’s more likely that the security firm will work with another partner to implement a customer relationship management solution, for example. By doing this, each partner organisation builds expertise in their field and can stay up-to-date on the latest innovations.  

You assumed the role of international president earlier this year. What are your primary aspirations for the months ahead and what new innovations are you hoping to bring to IAMCP during your tenure? 

My primary aspiration is to create more value for our members and enable them to achieve more with their customers.   

One of the key reasons that partners come to us is to find ways to grow their business through P2P engagements. To further this motive, we seeded the concept of Partner Opportunity Groups (POG) – groups of specialised partners who focus on solutions for a specific industry or technology platform. As an example, a POG for manufacturing would include partners who have either great domain experience to offer services to customers in that industry or they would have ready-to-use solutions that help solve some key pain areas for that industry. As a start, we piloted our first set of POGs in the Americas and these have been hugely successful. We are now actively working towards expanding these globally and creating close-knit groups of partners that work together on opportunities providing highly specialised business and technology solutions to customers. 

Another area we feel where our members need help is to keep abreast with the lightning pace at which Microsoft is moving and introducing products, services and benefits for customers and the partner community. We started Quarterly Partner Briefing (QPB) events virtually last year while I was in my previous role, and it was widely appreciated by partners. The Microsoft leadership team extended their support with active participation to make it a huge success. I aspire to grow this event further and ensure that we bring a wealth of knowledge and an active platform for collaboration for our partners to enable partnership opportunities, education and close interactions with the Microsoft leadership.  

Two years ago, the International Board entrusted me with the task of introducing the philosophy of diversity and inclusion to the partner community, a subject extremely close to my heart. I had the privilege of setting the ball in motion, aligning with Microsoft and promoting this whole new concept amongst the IAMCP members. Nothing gives me more pride and satisfaction than the fact that today the global partner community is successfully sensitised to the importance of adopting this philosophy and many partners have made it a bedrock of their businesses. I believe diversity and inclusion are a journey and not a destination. We still have a lot more to do and I am fully committed to lend my support and active participation to further reinforce this philosophy amongst our partners and community at large. 

During the past 18 months, how has IAMCP empowered its members and what benefits have members leveraged? 

Our organisation has had to adjust like most other businesses as we moved to a completely virtual operating model. We implemented Microsoft Teams globally and conducted the majority of our business and engagements via the platform. With this transition, our members have gained valuable user and implementation experience that has helped them build solutions for their clients.  

Two benefits of this model are the fact that we have much higher engagement throughout the organisation across all geographies and that we now collaborate in ways we never used to in in-person environments. This is foundational experience for helping clients in different segments and industries respond to the pandemic while also creating a roadmap for coming out of it. 

Tell us a little more about IAMCP’s relationship with Microsoft. Where are your members powering the Microsoft technology stack and what advantages are end users gaining from the relationships you are nurturing? 

Our relationship with Microsoft has never been stronger. We are working closely together to ensure that partners have access to development roadmaps, skilling opportunities and can channel the client voice directly to Microsoft. The open dialogue and interaction that we share with them allows us to identify issues, suggest solutions and work collaboratively to bring the best solutions to the marketplace, something every business leader wants and expects.  

End users are reaping the benefits of working with partners that have in-depth understanding of the technology stack, how it works and are connected with the product teams and solutions architects. The conversations we’re having with clients aren’t simply about moving workloads from on-premises to the cloud, but envisioning what work looks like three to five years from now, and making it happen. 

On the partner side, we have all known that Microsoft Azure is an answer waiting for a problem. Add that to the evolution of Teams, Microsoft’s Power Platform and Dynamics, and we’re seeing end-to-end business solutions develop at a record pace with a shortened time to implement. It’s a great time to be an end user! 

All partnerships benefit from regular meetings and the opportunity to exchange ideas and information. How are you embracing opportunities to gather virtually, and what events are you planning over the coming months that might help business and civic leaders? 

Our global community engagement has gone through the roof because our partners are bridging distance and language barriers with technology. This is relevant to clients because you can work with a partner that is the best fit for your company, regardless of location, and still have a local presence through partnering – it’s incredible. For example, we had a German partner with a client in Wisconsin looking for some local ‘boots on the ground’ to be present during the go-live portion of the project. 

The German firm could have flown team members out to help, however, that would have incurred considerable costs to the client. Instead, the German partner used the global network of IAMCP to identify three partners with the capabilities and resources to service their client and selected the best fit. That’s an often-overlooked value of this organisation – the fact that we’re built on the currency of trust gives Microsoft partners a competitive advantage and their clients an exceptional experience.  

With regards to upcoming events that we are planning, I am excited to announce our first-ever, client-facing conference. Partners will deliver thought leadership and solutions by business segment and industry. The idea is to create an immersive experience for decision-makers that helps them envision the future of work to drive business outcomes. 

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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