Leveraging the changing role of technology to deliver new value

As businesses settle into new working practices, Nick Parker discusses Microsoft’s new partner programme, its bold sustainability goals and the role of digital events

Leveraging the changing role of technology to deliver new value

The working world is changing. We caught up with Nick Parker, corporate vice president of global partner solutions at Microsoft, to find out how the global technology leader is adjusting its practices for its own purposes, and for its partners and customers.  

Tell us a little about your role at Microsoft – what’s your background, how long have you been with the corporation and what are your main objectives?
I have been at Microsoft for more than 22 years, starting as the director of systems integrator partnerships in the enterprise team. I have built and grown several global scale teams and businesses focused on customer value through partnerships, across technology partners, PC, server and internet of things partners and channel ecosystems. As the corporate vice president for global partner solutions, I am currently accountable for the teams driving the commercial partner business, focusing on accelerating partner growth and success by building and selling world-class solutions with partners, while driving value for our shared customers. I’m fortunate to lead a worldwide team that drives end-to-end execution of commercial partner strategies and programmes internationally, thus delivering Microsoft Cloud revenue through and with independent software vendors, global system integrators, devices partners, and services partners.  

What are the main changes being planned for the new Microsoft Partner Program and can you tell us more about how they might affect the Microsoft customer experience?
At the ‘State of the Partner Ecosystem’ presentation in March 2022, we announced the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program – the first major evolution of the Microsoft partner programme in 15 years. It is designed to create new opportunities for partners and customers and best represents the ongoing transition of business operations to the cloud. Our intention is to ensure our partners are best positioned to succeed. We are taking the step to invest in our ecosystem to deeply integrate with new capabilities and respond to how customers now buy and use Microsoft technology – enabling digital transformation and supporting partners so that they can meet customers’ evolving needs within the continued evolution of the customer journey.   

Microsoft is committed to investing in, and building, our partners’ technical capabilities and helping them differentiate, scale their solutions through our go-to-market engines, and leverage our channel to deliver customer success. To that end, we’re re-categorising how we measure partner success with the partner capability score focused on proficiency in six solution areas aligned with the Microsoft Cloud: Data & AI (Azure), Infrastructure (Azure), Digital & App Innovation (Azure), Business Applications, Modern Work, and Security.  

Customers can better understand a partner’s capability score through two qualifying levels: the solutions partner designation and specialisations/expert programmes. The partner capability score evaluates a partner based on their certifications, added customers, successful deployments and overall growth. Microsoft is investing in ongoing partner benefits to ensure that every partner has a chance to continue growing and accelerating in the competitive cloud market. We are helping partners gain specialisations and deep technical training across solution areas.  

The new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program gives customers an easier way to identify partners with technical capabilities, knowledge and a history of delivering innovative solutions in specific areas. The new programme designations and naming will take effect in October 2022.  

Over the past few years, Microsoft has been working hard to deliver new tools that can aid worker productivity and connect service providers with their customers. Where do you see the next 12 months taking us on our road to a full recovery from Covid-19 restrictions and what is the Microsoft strategy when it comes to delivering a diverse array of industry-specific solutions?
We have seen a wave of digital transformation that has affected every industry. The pandemic has introduced new business modes such as contactless pick-up and virtual healthcare. It is no longer enough to simply adopt technology; we must now build and grow new solutions. We are working closely with our partners to deliver innovative cloud solutions that are helping customers in healthcare, retail, manufacturing, financial solutions, and non-profits to overcome unique business challenges by addressing these four principles: business model alignment, customer ownership and control of data, industry customisation, and unmatched partner ecosystems.  

Microsoft industry clouds build on our solution areas and provide tools and templates to help increase partners’ speed to market for their industry-specific applications, devices and services. Innovation is the key for partners to differentiate their solutions and scale go-to-market offerings.  

As we have this conversation, preparations are well under way for Microsoft Inspire. In recent times, the in-person event has been replaced with a digital counterpart, as will be the case in 2022. What advantages do you feel a digital gathering can offer delegates and what can we expect to hear when the event kicks off on 19 July?
The digital aspect gives us the incredible opportunity to include partners from around the globe. This level of inclusion and scale is a big benefit of digital events, and we appreciate the opportunity to have this direct connection with so many of our partners. We saw record numbers of attendees and sessions in 2021, so we will continue to offer registration at no cost to attendees.  

Microsoft is privileged to have an incredible partner ecosystem that thrives with the responsibility of delivering innovative solutions and services to businesses and local economies. Given the virtual component, we are eager to see our partners from around the world participate.  

Leading into Inspire, we will announce our annual Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards and celebrate the winners and finalists at the event. The awards recognise outstanding successes and innovations from across the diverse, global partner ecosystem.   

As we all come to terms with the impact of Covid-19 there are other equally important challenges to be addressed too, not least when it comes to the subject of climate change. Microsoft has a strong track record when it comes to putting sustainability at the heart of the conversation, with strategies such as #BuildFor2023. Where do you think the main sustainability focus will be as we move into the second half of 2022, and how will Microsoft work with partners to drive further innovation?
Our goal isn’t just to become more sustainable; we want to help every organisation on the planet to do the same. We’re intentional about recognising partners that enable a more sustainable and equitable future, empowering every person and organisation to achieve more. Our partner ecosystem has the responsibility of helping customers transition to net-zero emission and we help them achieve their sustainability goals through Microsoft Cloud, Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, data and artificial intelligence.   

That is why, through the Microsoft #BuildFor2030 initiative, we aim to accelerate innovation and collective impact with our partner ecosystem, helping to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. With Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, we help customers aggregate sustainability data in an actionable way, thus providing accurate carbon accounting, measuring performance against goals and enabling intelligent insights for organisations to take more effective action.   

No matter where an organisation is in the sustainability journey, our partners’ devices, applications, and services can help them to minimise their environmental impact, deliver new value, accelerate business transformation and achieve sustainability goals.  

Microsoft has bold sustainability goals leading up to 2030 and you can get an update on our latest progress in the 2022 sustainability report released in March. 

Like the rest of us, you’ve had to acclimatise to a new normal of hybrid working brought about by recent events. What lessons did you learn whilst working from home during the lockdown period and how have you adopted technology to preserve personal productivity whilst maintaining a healthy work-life balance?
Over the past two years, we have seen the world transform. We’ve seen new experiences empowered by technology and new scenarios enabled by innovation. This is especially true with hybrid work.   

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid work, which means we need flexible strategies by providing the right collaboration tools and spaces that simplify communication. Microsoft Teams and Viva are great examples of services that help employees to stay connected and keep their well-being top of mind. Personally, I’ve gained new perspective on productivity through the pandemic while recognising the power of connection. Technology plays a key role in connecting our employees around the world.   

Organisations have decisions to make about how to leverage technology to improve their workflows and empower their teams, such as making office time worth the commute, enabling collaboration, or giving them the flexibility to work on their own terms. These are the new expectations people have for the workplace. Microsoft wants to enable people to do their best work.  

This article was originally published in the Summer 2022 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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