At Microsoft, Melissa is the worldwide lead driving strategy and business development for profitability in the cloud. She spent the last 7 years at Microsoft in the small and medium customer partner segment across roles in sales, operations, and marketing. Most recently, she led the strategy and execution of programs across 200 of Microsoft’s sales leads globally, deepening her knowledge of cloud challenges and growth across developed and emerging markets.
Read the interview below to learn more about Melissa, the Microsoft CSP Program, and how to build your business around the diverse opportunities that being a CSP offers.
[CB:] Microsoft launches a lot of resources to help partners access opportunities – what resources are less-known or under-engaged that are particularly helpful for getting started as a CSP?
[MM:] We just re-launched our Microsoft Partner Network portal to help our partners better access the materials and resources to help develop and accelerate a cloud practice. There is a dedicated site to CSP to help partners get onboarded, as well as a practice development page with resources specific to cloud services.
[CB:] Given your involvement in the SMB community and experience with cloud business development, what are some barriers to becoming a CSP that partners are navigating?
[MM:] In one of my previous roles at Microsoft, I led the WW Channel Incentive and Pricing Strategy across our OEM incentives and can attest to the complexity that we often provide our partners when faced with how to transform their business model while remaining profitable. In the cloud and with CSP, there are 3 primary barriers I often see partners experience.
The first is assessing the cost of transitioning their business to cloud from on-premises, as there can be quite a significant amount of upfront investment that a company needs to consider.
The second that effects the first challenge, is how to price their offerings in CSP as in a world of vast Azure services available knowing how to price vs hosting an on-premises environment can be complex to navigate.
Last is the development of talent in the organization as there is not only a need for technical talent but also sales talent. This directly impacts the ability of a partner to close deals as you need to ensure that your sales and marketing resources can address any customer objections or concerns that arise.
[CB:] Alongside becoming a CSP, what are other tools that partners can augment to reduce challenges and simplify their transition?
[MM:] Partnering with other channel partners is a powerful way for MSPs to reduce costs, increase profitability, and expand their skills. In the Microsoft community, there are always new tools in the channel that partners can use to strengthen their business.
For example, it’s really hard to find technical talent right now. This creates a barrier to growth and puts a premium on the processes and services MSPs use to compete. Along with the basic challenges of change management, MSPs also face the risk that when they lose a team member, they lose knowledge, skills, and IP.
This is where a channel partner like BitTitan is valuable. MSPComplete helps partners document processes, protects them from turnover, helps them onboard new team members, and makes it easier to grow when their business is ready.
[CB:] We’re always looking for examples of partners who successfully grow their business and transition to managed services models. Do you have any examples of partners overcoming the challenges you mentioned to successfully become CSPs?
[MM:] Yes! We have incredible partners that have embraced the CSP model to move their businesses forward and demonstrate how to build unique offerings and services around the cloud.
Two examples are 2016 Partners of the Year, Wortell and EMIT
Wortell transitioned from being an SI to an MSP while continuing to remain profitable. As a Dutch company, they faced the challenge of developing a cloud practice along with the challenge of meeting stringent healthcare compliance laws. In the span of 4 months, they committed to hiring the experts they needed to achieve that goal and successfully launched a cloud services practice around IT solutions for healthcare.
EMIT developed a small and midmarket Cloud Solutions practice in Ireland by aligning their offerings with Microsoft Cloud. They created services around 5 core solutions: business productivity, IT security, Infrastructure, managed services, and cloud. Since 2014, they’ve experienced significant cloud growth across their business and with Office 365.