Reimagining a culture of innovation with Microsoft

Reimagining a culture of innovation with Microsoft

Sarah Muckler-Visser tells us how Microsoft is helping firms to drive digital transformation

Elly Yates-Roberts |

“Microsoft has been talking to our customers and partners about digital transformation for a very long time,” says Sarah Muckler-Visser, global director of Microsoft’s Go-To-Market (GTM) with partners strategy. 

Digital transformation continues to be a priority for enterprises, and Microsoft is enabling this via its partner network. “The depth of our cloud offerings and breadth of our technology portfolio give partners the power to build innovative products and services that enable virtually any scenario or function, for any customer, anywhere,” says Muckler-Visser. 

“The speed and pace of innovation and digital transformation have been phenomenal over the last year, and especially in the last six months,” adds Muckler-Visser “Partners are striving to meet customers’ emerging needs and expectations at an ever-increasing rate, and this has resulted in a dramatically accelerated need for always-on digital marketing.”

Muckler-Visser says that when partners co-market with Microsoft, they are able to increase their effectiveness, alignment, success, and profitability. Partners get access to customer-ready campaign materials, customisable marketing resources, on-demand training, marketing programmes, referrals, and various additional forms of expert guidance and support.

“These opportunities let partners benefit from the brand trust of Microsoft while also building trust with their customers and driving digital transformation,” she says. 

“The Go-To-Market programme is designed to provide partners with everything they need to build a strong marketing engine,” continues Muckler-Visser. “They get marketing and campaign content, marketing technology, and the support and resources to amplify their solution and power their business. To meet the wide range of our partner needs, these resources are available in 10 languages to help localise partners’ co-marketing message. 

“Our digital experience is available to all members of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN). This gives you 24/7 access to a comprehensive library of solutions and content that are easy to discover, manage, and share with customers and prospects in just a few clicks.”

While the global coronavirus pandemic has deeply affected all industries and nations, Microsoft and its partners have been working behind the scenes to keep essential services operating during these challenging times. 

“A lot has changed in the last six months,” says Muckler-Visser. “In many ways, it’s been the most challenging year in our lives, and that has brought unprecedented change for our customers and partners supporting them. We’ve seen partners act in truly heroic ways: supporting first responders and healthcare and front-line workers. We have partners supporting schools that suddenly had to deliver education remotely. I am so proud of Microsoft’s response to these situations during these unique times. The partner ecosystem always steps up to address the changing needs of our customers, and we saw examples of this throughout the industry during this pandemic.”

“What we’ve learned during this time is that our partner ecosystem is remarkably resilient,” she notes  “Microsoft is committed to helping our customers respond, recover, and reimagine their business and our partners are absolutely critical to these efforts.”

As in-person events were cancelled, partners had to quickly pivot their marketing strategies to stay connected to their customers. Despite brick-and-mortar retail demand falling by 90 per cent, research company TrustRadius found that software spending will likely increase by 40 per cent. 

“Market forces are clearly accelerating the need for always-on digital resources that are scalable and customisable,” says Muckler-Visser. She sees an opportunity for Microsoft to go beyond offering a portfolio of GTM resources and deliver a co-marketing model that fully harnesses the scale of the MPN to drive demand and revenue growth.

“To compete successfully in the market today, trust and credibility are critical,” she says. “Conflicting news, predatory marketing, pricing, and general anxiety are affecting consumers and business owners in a big way. This does create an opportunity for companies, like Microsoft, that communicate with honesty and integrity. We feel very proud that partners and customers consistently see Microsoft as one of the most trusted brands in the world. Relationships built on trust are at the core of our partnerships and allow us to co-create, co-innovate, and collaborate. It really is a ‘better together’ story.”

As partners and customers worldwide come to terms with the effects of Covid-19 and work to optimise operations for this new environment, Muckler-Visser believes that there are a few solutions areas that will offer the biggest opportunities for driving digital transformation in the year ahead: remote work, business continuity, cloud migration, and security. 

In terms of remote work, she sees the value that Microsoft Teams can offer as a customer connection tool. “It is the hub for teamwork in Microsoft 365 and the key to driving collaboration across organisations,” she says. “For example, Teams is the secure platform that many hospitals are using to implement telemedicine during the pandemic and to collaborate with colleagues locally and around the globe.” 

Business continuity has fully entered the common lexicon in recent months as organisations strive to maintain operations, and the cloud is enabling it. “Customers need to keep their business up and running and cannot afford to be shut down because no one is on site to manage servers and workloads,” says Muckler-Visser. “They need to be able to adapt as conditions change – quickly and cost-effectively. As such, moving to the cloud is no longer a question of if, but when. More than 95 per cent of the Fortune 500 use Microsoft Azure. Customers are learning the many advantages of moving to the cloud including cost savings, scalability, security, and flexible integration.”

While businesses have increased their use of the cloud to allow their staff to work from anywhere, the shift has highlighted the need for robust security measures and solutions. “We know that bad actors are out there and it’s more important than ever to maintain a safe, secure environment,” she explains. “Lax security can result in company and customer data being compromised, phishing scams and other costly security breaches. 

“We have ready-to-go 12-week campaigns available for all these priority solution areas,” she says. “These resources save our partners time and money.”

But there are other technologies that empower organisations to deliver products, and the messaging around them, to the right customers at the right time and place. “In a world where more and more customer decisions are based on online information, it’s critical for our partners to power their marketing through data and automation,” says Muckler-Visser. “That’s why we are investing more than ever before in providing digital marketing content that can be easily co-branded and customised to drive and accelerate demand across every stage of the customer’s decision-making process.”

For example, customer relationship management solution provider Nimble used Microsoft’s GTM services to give customers a scalable solution while supporting business growth. Switching to the Azure platform allowed the firm to integrate its solution with the Microsoft tools and products their users were already comfortable with. As a result, Nimble was able to increase net-new accounts by 20 per cent, average account size by 22 per cent, and retention rates by 25 per cent. After just one customer webinar, it saw a 75 per cent increase in the number of product enquiries.

Driving customer acquisition for its partners has been, and continues to be, one of Microsoft’s main objectives. 

“Partners consistently tell us that securing new customers is their top priority and that they value vendors who can stimulate market demand and deliver programmes that drive cost-effective customer acquisition at scale,” explains Muckler-Visser. “Their priority is our priority. And, with over half of customer engagement interactions occurring online, our focus over the next 12 months can be summarised as ‘digital, digital, digital’.”

In line with this, Microsoft is delivering a robust set of digital campaigns aligned with key solution areas, including Azure, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics 365 to enable its partners to drive demand more efficiently and effectively. It is also offering a comprehensive set of sales plays and partner-demand generation campaigns to help partners drive leads. 

“Collectively, these and other investments will deliver scalable automated marketing approaches and data-driven services that help partners deliver their messages to the right customers at the right time and place.”

Partner perspectives
We asked a selection of technology providers how they are working with Microsoft to drive efficiency, empower workforces and increase profitability for their customers. Below are extracts from their responses, which you can read in full from page 64 of the digital edition of the Autumn 2020 issue of The Record.

Paul Scholey, international senior vice president at BlueJeans by Verizon, says: “At BlueJeans, we decided to apply our expertise in unified communications interoperability to develop a Microsoft-certified ‘gateway’ that connects legacy room systems to Teams.”

John Silvani, president and CEO of Gravity Software, says: “Gravity Software is the only accounting application built exclusively on the Microsoft Power Platform and offers unique capabilities to our customers that help drive strong financial results.”

Michael Randrup, managing director at ClickLearn, says: “At ClickLearn, we enable the successful user adoption of Dynamics 365 solutions by supporting each of the phases of a Change Management strategy.”

Chris Parker, senior product manager at Sharp, says: “At Sharp, we’re harnessing the power of Microsoft technology in order to give our customers a more collaborative and productive meeting environment, whether they’re working from home or in the office.”

Melissa Topp, senior director of global marketing at ICONICS, says: “ICONICS has developed solutions that integrate with Microsoft technology to meet today’s unique operational demands while limiting potentially harmful contact.”

Rob Doucette, vice president of product management at Martello Technologies, says: “As more businesses move to the cloud to offer greater flexibility to their remote and distributed workforce, IT teams often find themselves lacking insight into the performance of services and applications.”

Dan Finn, director of strategic accounts at Synergy Technical, says: “To help facilitate rapid change for our customers, we designed the Transformation Accelerator Workshop.”

Greg Charman, vice president of solutions and services at Kelverion, says: “Automation has become a hot topic in recent months and is a key component of successful digital transformation.”

Taras Young, marketing manager at CompanyNet, says: “The Microsoft Power Platform gives organisations a powerful new way to create stable, secure and easily maintainable apps that interact with the rest of their Office 365 digital workplace.”

Justin Anovick, chief product officer at Episerver, says: “Episerver works with Microsoft in multiple ways to deliver efficiency for mutual customers who need to keep their websites running at peak performance.”

Jeremy Payne, vice president of marketing and alliances at Enghouse Interactive, says: “Microsoft has been an integral part of our own internal cloud strategy for some time. We have leveraged Office Communicator, then Skype and now Teams as part of our internal and external unified communications strategy, alongside Office 365 and Azure.”

Hervé Danzelaud, head of alliances and channels, North America at Freshworks, says: “Freshworks is partnering with Microsoft to bring to market technology solutions that enable employees to perform their jobs effectively.”

Peter Hobor, chief technical officer at Geomant, says: “Our Buzzeasy Customer Interaction Platform natively built on Azure gives a reliable, scalable basis for organisations to succeed through effortless customer interactions even during the pandemic.”

Alex Burton, product vice president at Nintex, says: “Built on Microsoft Azure, the Nintex Process Platform helps global workforces drive results and meaningful change with easy-to-use and powerful digital process automation software.”

Chris Dobkins, president and CEO of Njevity, says: “Built on Microsoft’s Dynamics GP, PowerGP Online empowers its users to work anywhere with an internet connection and with the peace-of-mind of world-class security.”

Martin Renkis, general manager of global cloud solutions physical security at Johnson Controls, says: “For more than eight years, the Cloudvue enterprise security platform has counted on Microsoft Azure to deliver secure, reliable and fast operation of our platform through worldwide data centres to exceed the demanding requirements of our global customers.” 

Travis Rickford, corporate accounts manager at Henson Group, says: “Henson Group, like many other companies, has been using Windows Virtual Desktop built on Microsoft Azure to quickly provision and scale virtual desktops and applications faster than was previously possible.”

Patrick Osterhaus, chief technology officer at Protera, says: “Massachusetts-based Altra Motion had been running SAP Business Suite on HANA on Protera’s private cloud since 2015.”

William Bain, founder and CEO of ScaleOut Software, says: “The Microsoft Azure cloud and the suite of Azure IoT services, such as Azure IoT Hub, provide the elastic, feature-rich computing platform our ScaleOut Digital Twin Streaming Service needs.”
Anders Løkke, senior director of strategic alliances at Pexip, says: “Not only have we seen two years’ worth of digital transformation happening in two months, but we have also witnessed a massive cultural change in how businesses envision their future.”

Paul Clark, chief technology officer at CloudCall, says: “Covid-19 has significantly impacted how companies operate and it’s unlikely that we will ever completely revert back to the old business model where everyone worked in the office full time.”

Beatriz Oliveira, founder and CEO of BindTuning, says: “Crafting Teams Apps from our extensive library of popular web parts, provided our customers with a consistent and engaging interface of content, dramatically improving the digital workplace experience.”

Chris Hill, regional vice president of public cloud for Barracuda Networks, says: “Barracuda’s latest example working with Microsoft technology is the introduction of its Barracuda CloudGen WAN service.”

Andrea Ruosi, CEO of AX for Pharma, says: “AX for Pharma is playing a vital role in helping [health and life sciences companies to find a vaccine] by providing a suite of fully integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions that these organisations can use to ensure the uninterrupted supply of medicines for patients around the world.”

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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