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A passion for partners: in conversation with Nicole Dezen

A passion for partners: in conversation with Nicole Dezen

The new chief partner officer highlights the value of the Cloud Partner Program in navigating challenges

Andy Clayton-Smith |

Partners are becoming an increasingly important part of the Microsoft offering, as exemplified by the firm’s new partner programme. We talk with recently appointed chief partner officer and corporate vice president of global partner solutions, Nicole Dezen, about the new programme, the values which have driven her career and her new role.

Whilst you assumed your new role recently, you have been at Microsoft for some time. Tell us a little about your career to date and the path you have taken to reach your current position.

I originally joined Microsoft in 2007 after several years in the telecommunications industry and time as CEO of two tech start-ups in California. It’s an absolute privilege to do the jobs I have been able to do here at Microsoft, and to lead such phenomenal teams. My Microsoft journey started in our enterprise commercial business, working with one of the firm’s global customers. From there, I moved to Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to join our device partner business, and I have worked in our partner business ever since then with roles in Redmond, Singapore and the UK. I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to live in three vastly different geographies. Prior to my current role, I led the device partner business for three years, working with the teams that build, market and sell our edge and cloud solutions with partners all over the world.

What’s the significance of the chief partner officer title? Is it simply an evolution of previous channel chief positions or does your new role aim to fulfil different objectives?

I am so grateful for my career at Microsoft, and I am humbled to be in a role that has been in my plan for several years. The chief partner officer role is not an evolution of the traditional channel chief. Instead, it is designed to send a very clear signal to our partners that Microsoft is deeply committed to and invested in partner success. It conveys the unique breadth, scope and scale of our partner ecosystem, and illustrates the Microsoft focus on partners. I feel a huge sense of responsibility to our partners. I am passionate about our partner ecosystem; partners are on the front lines every single day, delivering differentiated services and solutions to businesses of all sizes, all around the world. I feel accountable for ensuring that they get the best from Microsoft, so that they in turn can provide the best to customers.

This year, Microsoft has made some significant changes to the way it engages with its global partner ecosystem. What will the new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program (MCPP) look like and how will the new structure help customers to better understand the complex relationship between Microsoft and its closest commercial allies?

We officially launched the MCPP on 3 October 2022 and I’m really proud of how we evolved the Microsoft Partner Network after nearly two decades in the market.

The three guiding principles for the new programme are customer success, partner differentiation and cloud innovation. Aligned with the launch, our initial six Solutions Partner designations also became generally available on 3 October 2022. These designations are anchored on the Microsoft Cloud and aligned to commercial solution areas and how Microsoft goes to market.

I am also excited about a couple of key parts of the MCPP – the ISV Success Program and the new industry designations, both which will launch officially later this financial year.

The ISV Success Program is the pathway for independent software vendors (ISVs) within the MCPP. It allows them to build across the Microsoft Cloud and gain access to cloud sandbox and developer tools, curated resources and community events. In addition, we are adding new industry designations for ISVs, which will differentiate solutions based on their demonstrated performance with customers, technical maturity and customer success. We are starting with healthcare, retail and financial services. They will help ISVs to differentiate their solutions to customers by industry-specific scenarios and broader technology and line-of-business capabilities.

I am very proud of our early results, which signal that our partners are excited about this programme and the investments we are making. More than 3,500 partners attained Solutions Partner designations on day one and others are continuing to do the same. There’s also huge value in the MCPP for customers. It gives them the ability to more easily find uniquely qualified partners that specialise in the cloud solution areas they need. And MCPP allows partners to differentiate themselves in a competitive market to customers. 

In April 2022, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke about the importance of nurturing both the well-being of individual employees and the productivity of an organisation. How do you think commercial and civic leaders need to adapt traditional perceptions of the employee/boss relationship to truly put the workforce at the heart of their operations?

Business decision-makers need to adapt, lead with empathy, listen, be curious and create clarity. I believe in empowering people and driving growth. For my team, this means that we intentionally focus on culture, how we show up for one another and how we learn and grow. This commitment is so important to my leadership team that we made it a part of our annual priorities for the organisation. I feel a similar responsibility to the culture in our partner ecosystem. I want to empower everyone with the capabilities, resources and industry depth to best serve customers. At Microsoft, we are committed to investing in partner profitability and growth.

A Conversation with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

At Microsoft Inspire 2022, Satya Nadella highlighted the important role of Microsoft and its partners in helping businesses in all industries do more with less

For me, driving growth is much more than the quantitative things we typically measure in the business. It’s also about the strategies we build with our partners and across organisations in Microsoft to identify ways to improve innovation, differentiation and leadership in this business.

As the year draws to a close, we continue to see economies worldwide impacted by political instability, ongoing rises in energy prices, and an ever-present pressure upon manufacturing and retail supply chains. How will Microsoft support its enterprise customers in the months ahead, and how will partners play a part in driving ongoing innovation and growth through these difficult times?

It's important to acknowledge the impact that the last couple of years has had on people, businesses and governments. This new hybrid life has taught us so much about different ways of working, the urgent need for digital transformation and the opportunity that technology creates to solve problems. The agility and acceleration that technology enabled during the pandemic sets us up well to respond to current challenges.

Currently, we are in the midst of a period of historic economic, societal and technological change. And as our CEO said earlier this year at Microsoft Inspire, for all the uncertainty we continue to see in the world, one thing is clear: organisations in every industry are turning to Microsoft developers and IT professionals and their digital capabilities to help them do more with less, so that they can navigate this change and emerge much stronger.

I’m proud to be a part of the work that makes it possible to do more with less. This means less time, cost and complexity but with more innovation, agility and resilience. It’s also important to clarify that doing more with less doesn’t mean working harder or longer; we have learned that approach is not going to scale. As an organisation, we are working on better ways to help our customers and partners to apply technology to amplify what they can do, and ultimately, what an organisation can achieve amidst today’s constraints. 

Over the past few years, we have talked extensively about digital transformation. In today’s macroeconomic climate, it is more critical than ever to deliver on the digital imperative for every organisation. In the Global Partner Solutions organisation, we have an amazing ecosystem of partners that are helping our customers do this with the Microsoft Cloud. No other cloud offers the best-of-category products and the best-of-suite solutions, and our ecosystem of more than 400,000 partners is really something to be proud of.  

And finally, as this issue of the magazine is published, we’ll all be preparing for the holiday season. What relevance does this time of year hold for you and how will you be celebrating? 

The holiday season is really special for me. It represents a time for deeper connection with family and friends – something we’ve come to appreciate even more with the challenges of the past few years. It’s also a time to rest, recharge and reflect, which is so important for all of us. So, I’m looking forward to some downtime, celebrating Hanukkah with my family, and expressing my gratitude for the amazing people in my life.

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

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