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How partners can support increased customer appetite for transformation

How partners can support increased customer appetite for transformation

​Vivek Puthucode, Chief Partner Officer, Microsoft Asia Pacific, outlines the path to partner success.

Vivek Puthucode, Chief Partner Officer, Microsoft Asia Pacific

Vivek Puthucode, Chief Partner Officer, Microsoft Asia Pacific

Credit: Microsoft

As transformation becomes the default priority of organisations in Asia Pacific – coupled with a rise in cloud, digital and security investments – the partner ecosystem is primed to capitalise through deep specialisation and end-to-end lifecycle expertise.

Motivated by data and shaped by innovation agendas, new opportunities are emerging for partners to convert increased end-user demand into commercial projects and deployments – this is a market emerging from the pandemic with a mandate for growth and expansion.

“The underlying business parameters haven’t changed, they’ve just become more urgent and critical,” observed Vivek Puthucode, Chief Partner Officer at Microsoft Asia Pacific. “The market has a unique cloud opportunity to work with and we’re seeing organisations find ways to grow and expand into new market segments.”

Despite ongoing supply chain disruptions, evolving geopolitical developments and rising inflation levels – which continue to impact all regions globally – Puthucode cited the importance of driving efficiency and sustainability at a customer level, underpinned by an increased commitment to security.

“This need has not changed and represents an opportunity for our partners to become even more relevant to customers,” he noted. “This is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity for partners to capitalise on increased demand for hybrid cloud experience, hybrid employee experience and agile workforces. We’ve only just scratched the surface on this potential in Asia Pacific.”

Echoing Puthucode’s observations, and according to State of the CIO research – commissioned and produced by CIO.com and Foundry – 59 per cent of CIOs are focused on increasing operational efficiency in the months ahead across Asia Pacific. This is ahead of transforming existing business processes (58 per cent), improving customer experience (49 per cent) and enhancing cyber security protection levels (46 per cent).

Such priorities will result in only five per cent of organisations decreasing technology investment across the region, with 59 per cent committing more funds to transformation and 39 per cent remaining the same.

In addition, CIO agenda items align to evolving CEO priorities which highlight the need to kick-start digital transformation initiatives (35 per cent), upgrade data security to reduce corporate risk (34 per cent) and create an overall data analytics strategy (25 per cent).

Within this context, Puthucode acknowledged that as customer priorities evolve, deployments of cloud-based analytics, data and artificial intelligence (AI) continues to increase in parallel.

“We’re seeing this being rolled out at scale,” he said. “We’re bringing analytics and data AI capabilities to every customer – irrespective of size – and we’re backing that up with continued investment in our cloud infrastructure capabilities across the region, such as Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Taiwan, China, India and Korea among others.”

Take Indonesia as a recent example, with plans to launch a first data centre region to deliver cloud services locally, aligned to in-country data security and privacy laws.

Such investment in Indonesia is expected to generate up to US$6.3 billion in new revenues from the country’s ecosystem of local customers and partners. In addition, cloud-consuming businesses are expected to contribute 60,000 jobs to the local economy during the next four years.

“The expansion of our cloud infrastructure capabilities brings more opportunity for our partners to provide industry relevant solutions to customers in local markets, but also across the wider region,” Puthucode added. “Through our investments, the opportunity is there for all of us to win.”

New partner value

Winners of Microsoft Asia Pacific Region Partner of the Year Awards 2021

Heightened customer appetite for transformation comes with a caveat for the partner ecosystem however – the transactional nature of the past is no longer relevant in a market seeking value-added services and deep levels of expertise.

“The partner ecosystem has to change, and it is changing,” Puthucode stated. “They’ve had to skill up on cloud technologies which continues to evolve faster than our own ability to catch-up, they’ve moved at pace by absorbing new solutions and delivering what customers want.

“A successful partner is a partner capable of driving the most successful outcome for our customers, that’s our definition. To achieve that, customers demand that partners can operate through the entire lifecycle during the transformation process, from advising and selling to building and managing post-sale.”

Specific to technology, Puthucode said successful partners are aligning to one or more of Microsoft’s six core solution areas, spanning data and AI; infrastructure; digital and application innovation; business application; modern work and security.

“Now is the time for partners to align to these solution areas to build capabilities in terms of technical skills and certifications,” he advised. “Successful partners have a proven track record of customer success coupled with end-to-end support across the entire lifecycle, in addition to having domain expertise, strong operational and digital capabilities plus world-class support experience.”

According to EDGE Researchproduced and commissioned by Channel Asia, ARN, Reseller News of Foundry – partners are prioritising the deployment of security, managed services, digital transformation, customer experience and cloud migration solutions in response to new CIO requirements.

Specific to business, the top three strategic priorities for partners across Asia Pacific centre around attracting new customers, growing annuity revenue and retaining current customers.

This is followed by enhancing customer experience levels, pursuing mergers and acquisition (M&A) activity – with as-a-service businesses typically commanding higher valuations – alongside creating new revenue streams and products.

“Partners must package solutions to help differentiate from one another to become easily identifiable to customers,” Puthucode said. “Businesses want to know which partner is the best of the best for specific industries and technologies.”

Enhanced partner support

Amid such sizeable market change across Asia Pacific, plans are underway to support partners on the transformation journey through the launch of the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program, effective October. Unveiled earlier this year, the move is designed to reflect the "enormous and ongoing transition of business operations to the cloud".

“We’re moving to the next level and helping partners build capabilities, meet business transformation needs, find net new customers and expand into new markets,” Puthucode noted. “Our partner ecosystem is expanding, and we continue to receive strong positive feedback but also recommendations that helps us improve our go-to-market approach.”

For example, Microsoft is doubling down on efforts to encourage partners to maximise cloud-based training and certification offerings, acknowledging that the vendor’s primary focus is aligned to “skills, skills, skills”.

“We’ve morphed from a transactional based relationship to one of value-added services,” Puthucode outlined. “Partners with the right capabilities delivering the right value to customers will be paid and incentivised accordingly – they can either reinvest or add to the bottom line, whatever is aligned to business model priorities.”

Another key investment commitment from Microsoft is centred around co-selling, notably “significant improvements” regarding how internal sellers and partners can take solutions from independent software vendors (ISVs) and intellectual property (IP) partners to market.

“And of course, our digital marketplace, which represents one of the fastest growing areas for Microsoft,” Puthucode added. “Customers value this platform because it makes the ease of transacting with Microsoft and our partners much simpler. We’re supporting partners transiting to digital environments and selling through our digital marketplace.”

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