Qualities of a Top Microsoft Partner
*This article first appeared on ERP Software Blog
In our business of consulting, there are a plethora of Microsoft Partners, vendors and service providers – actually over 640,000 and counting. How do you go about finding the one with qualities of a top Microsoft Partner? There are some with Gold designations, some with Silver; all with many qualified/certified consultants. All have a central mission to serve the customer. At the end of the day, the question becomes, how do consultants differentiate themselves? How do we standout? The answer is simple – by executing on our commitments. It sounds like an easy enough task, but from what you might’ve heard, there is room for improvement.
Microsoft has gone through a number of changes to strengthen their Partner programs, to ensure that Partners have the experience and expertise to take care of their customers. Partners are strongly encouraged to fully commit to competencies, specifically as they are embarking on ERP solutions, (i.e., Dynamics AX, NAV, GP, etc.). Partners have access to training, sales information, advisory hours, presales and cloud support, licensing, etc. It’s all there to help navigate the Microsoft waters, but also to streamline Partners to specializations and core competencies.
Where Partners start to differentiate themselves are through the following acts: consultants are certified; financial commitments are made; goals are set, continuous training is setup and mandatory. What you find is the process of weeding out the less focused in one competency, Partners now disciplined in their core, and armed with a strategic plan to pursue their customer base.
Participation in Community
Participation in major events such as demo’s, training opportunities, and guest speaker opportunities are another way Partners differentiate themselves. We are all familiar with Microsoft’s annual Convergence conferences, but it is the lesser known and what I call the “community” events, that are of equal or greater importance. Local chapters of end users are brought together to share ideas and issues with their peers to learn from each other (similar in industry or not). Partners have a great opportunity to teach or inform to a wide audience a new or existing functionality, specific to their core and the customers, dive deeper into issues that others are facing or introduce new information to an old topic. Partners who take the time to do this have a distinct opportunity to hear what is going on in the user community, learn where they need to focus their efforts and truthfully seize upon being a better advocate for their customer. Stoneridge Software is frequent presenter and premium member of both AXUG and NAVUG Dynamics Communities organizations.
Providing Training Opportunities
Staying with the community theme for another moment, a Partner’s ability to provide training is a large component of those who stand out from the crowd. While Partners get engaged in large and local events, those who truly succeed also take their skills into the educational or continuing education arena. There are many customers/businesses that want to build their own expertise in-house and cannot find the right resources or training classes to get it done. A great way to add value to the Dynamics community and to your company is to commit to classes on a routine basis, through a University, College or Continuing Education facility. Whether it is a class on Project Management or a deep dive into development, Partners can help bridge the gap between pages of on-line documentation and unspecific content to a specialized, content rich training class, specific to customer needs. Stoneridge Software provides user training for all customers as well as teaching online courses on development, project management, and installation.
Hiring the “A” Team
Levels of expertise at the consultant level also sets Partners apart from each other. Those taking the time to hire the right skill sets based on company goals and customers’ needs, will be those rising to the top. This means hiring the “A” players; those that are self-motivated, take initiative, and understand the tasks at hand, get them done efficiently, on-time and with few mistakes. Taking the time to ensure that the consultant receives the training, mentorship and frankly, financial incentives to keep them engaged over the course of their careers, will reap multiple rewards for all.
One shortage in the Partner community is trust from the customer. Do you, the customer, feel that what you’re being told, is in fact what is delivered? This is a huge differentiator where very few Partners get it right. Consistency is the name of the game. Is it hard to do all the time? You bet. Does every Partner get it right, all the time? No they don’t. But the ones who have mastered all the above and then some, are more consistent than most. It is having the team that can pull it all together for the final push to get the project over the Go-Live line. This goes back to building your “A” team.
Last but not least, Partners who succeed above the rest know who they want to be when they grow up. They build their mission statement and goals around it. It doesn’t mean everything is defined and perfect, but it does mean they have defined themselves. They have answered the questions: Am I going to be the biggest; over 3,000 employees? The Partner with the most revenue? Or the Partner who started a business with one idea that being to serve his/her customers well and to be the best at what they do. Which Partner would you like to work with?