Powers Unfiltered

An entrepreneur’s journey into grid computing and partnering with Microsoft, by John Powers

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Partnering with Microsoft — the myth of a single point of contact

November 28th, 2006 · 9 Comments

I had another of my favorite type of interactions with a stranger from Microsoft (or a contractor thereof) this morning.  “Rachel from Microsoft” called me to tell me of many exciting opportuntities surrounding the launch of Vista, Office 2007, and Exchange Server 2007.  We get such calls every week or two, which is fine — sometimes we learn of good opportunities for training, or opportunities to participate in Microsoft events of one sort or another, and so on. 

But my favorite part of this call was when Rachel informed me of a new “single source for all information regarding…” and I didn’t even hear the rest I was laughing so hard.  I believe I now have over a dozen humans at Microsoft who are my “single point of contact” for X, and a dozen or more URLs (past and present) that are my “single source for all information” about Y. 

It’s tempting to blame Microsoft for this, but they’re just trying to be responsive to a chorus of lazy partners.

I hear Microsoft partners whine (and yes, I’ve done it myself) about how big and confusing (and confused!) Microsoft is, and Microsoft hears this and thinks “well, what can we do about it?”  Throughout the organization, well-meaning individuals and teams think “Ah ha!  We’ll just give our poor partners a Single Point of Contact to help them navigate the many options we offer, and that will help them out.  That will make us more accessible.  That will make us more partner-friendly.  That will make them happy!” 

Come on.  Digipede is a fairly small company, yet I bet we have over 200 non-trivial personal relationships with Microsoft.  While the idea of a single point of contact may be appealing to some people (hell, if Microsoft wants to give me a full-time administrative assistant who works on the Redmond campus, who am I to argue?), it’s also unrealistic — and inefficient.  

Far better is to talk to people you know and trust, meet more people, figure out which ones have interests in common, see whom you can help and who can help you, and repeat.  In the rest of the world, this is just called “networking,” and it’s not viewed as some painful burden — it’s a way to build worthwhile relationships, in business and in life.  If you’re not good at it — don’t take it out on Microsoft.

So Microsoft (are you listening, Allison Watson?), don’t give us any more single points of contact.  First, you can’t — you’ve proven that over and over.  Second, we don’t want them.  Give us good networking tools, so we can discover the people and resources that can improve our relationship — to your benefit and ours.  Microsoft is brilliant at this in person (e.g. at events like the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, or better yet at Channel Builder events), and inexplicably inept at this online (e.g. at partners.microsoft.com, or worse yet at the online Channel Builder).  And yes, if anyone’s listening, I’d be happy to make (many) suggestions.


Tags: Entrepreneurship · Events · Partnering with Microsoft

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 marc // Dec 2, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    Referenced this post on my blog

  • 2 steve clayton // Jan 20, 2007 at 11:49 am

    great post and very fair comment. here in the UK Partner Group we’ve been working to try to forge a closer relationship with partners through trying to help them get to know more people within the group and using blogs and Partner-TV (http://blogs.msdn.com/ptstv/default.aspx) to put a human face on the many contacts partners are likely to have with our group. Hopefully we can extend this type of thing worldwide so would love to hear what you think. Great site btw…I’m going to point Mike Pallot in our group your way as he works on HPC.

  • 3 john // Jan 23, 2007 at 3:36 am

    Now THAT’s what I’m talking about. Thanks, Steve! Let’s hear it for the UK — and for isolated efforts in the individual regions in the US, and anybody else within Microsoft trying to use 21st century tools for community building. And yes — please point Mike Pallot my way.

    The human-to-human work Microsoft does generally hits the mark — for example, I was at a partner-to-partner “speed dating” event today organized by Suzanne Levine of the Northern California partner organization, which was excellent. The idea of building an online community through blogs and Partner-TV is great — and far more likely to succeed than trying to use centralized command-and-control database-driven tools so popular with the Microsoft Mothership. I fear that there’s somebody on the SQL Server team whispering to the Partner Program people “if only you get the table structure just right, a community will emerge.” This mentality has plagued the Microsoft Partner Web Site for years, and while there have been some improvements, those improvements are more in operations than mindset.

    Much, much more of this another day…

  • 4 Chris Garza // Feb 13, 2007 at 10:31 am

    This is so true and a terrifically articulate post. We are creating some solutions around Microsoft’s Unified Communications products. Does anyone have some best practices they can share? Any “networking” we can do on this subject is greatly appreciated.

  • 5 steve clayton // Feb 28, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    thanks for the kind words guys. we’re trying to spread the blog/video blog word out around the partner world and I can assure you that Allison is aware of this post and listening :)

  • 6 Christian Longstaff // Feb 28, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    I work for Steve Clayton as one of the people who have said “Ah ah” and part of the team who run the Partner-TV blog… to compliment this, a small team of us in the UK Partner Group have created a solution to help find; use and leave feedback for some of the benefits you receive as a Microsoft Partner… it’s not publically released yet but we are looking for a few Partners to start using it to to collect some feedback to try and make it mainstream. If you are interested, please let me know.

    I look forward to hearing from you if so.


  • 7 john // Mar 1, 2007 at 6:02 am

    Christian — YES, I am interested! Email or post to let me know where to find this tool.

    (I think it’s official — the Brits get it. I have to find an excuse to get over to the UK this year.)

  • 8 Todd Weatherby // Mar 5, 2007 at 1:43 am

    Hi John…I work on Allison Watson’s team in Redmond, Washington, USA. We were discussing your blog post here recently. We’re interested in ways to improve networking for Microsoft partners…particularly on-line networking services. Specifically, we’re continuing to invest in the MSPP partner portal, including features such as MSPP Channel Builder which you mentioned. https://partner.microsoft.com/US/program/40015789

    We’d be interested in the top 2-3 most valuable and most practical ideas for improving on-line networking. In the spirit of on-line communities, blogs etc, we would like to use this forum to discuss this w/you and your readers and see where the conversation goes. Thanks for the dialog! – Todd

  • 9 Juha Harkonen // Sep 15, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    John, Microsoft probably has the widest official web precense from all the vendors. If you want to partner you can start with:
    – partner.microsoft.com
    – microsoftstartupzone.com
    – or http://www.microsoft.com/dynamics
    /partnersource if you are Dynamics partner

    But I do agree that social networking could be better enabled within the community.

    – Juha

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