The Microsoft Partner Network is extensive, and full of expertise across a broad range of fields. The co-operation between such selected partners is close. Microsoft expects its partners to provide fresh ideas for digitalised solutions and opportunities that allow customers to fully exploit the technology in their business.
The partners that rely on Microsoft’s technology are a strategic base for the company’s business. The head of the partner programme in Finland is director Markku Pulkkinen who is also in charge of the SME market and customer relations with small and medium-sized enterprises.
It is easy to become affiliated with the partner programme due to the various different levels. In addition to full membership, Microsoft partners can earn silver and gold competencies in about 20 areas, such as Application Development and Customer Relationship Management. Only a fraction of Finland’s 1500 partner companies have achieved gold competence.
“Customers require a high level of expertise from our partners. We evaluate their competencies on an annual basis through examinations and reference assessments. Both Microsoft and our partners must have the ability to deliver solutions, provide help and offer innovative new services and models of delivery.”
Close co-operation and active support
In the last couple of years Microsoft has started working more closely with the selected partners, particularly in regard to sales and marketing.
“A partner’s sales representative joins our extended sales team, participating in sales meetings and attending joint customer visits. The customer experience of this has been mostly very positive. The process is mutually beneficial as our own sales people learn from our partners. The success we achieve together, that most likely wouldn’t have been possible alone, is very motivating for the team.”
“Our partners must be visionary and introduce the opportunities that digitalisation offers. The technology landscape is changing rapidly, and business leaders are not always aware of the various possibilities. This is where we need messengers.”
Partner training and support is available in many forms, from support material to seminars and a regular monthly event known as the PartnerStudio. The annual Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) is an international event, where all major lines of the partner programme are drawn. WPC is a huge networking opportunity, where more than 15,000 partners meet from all over the world.
Cloud services drive growth
The Finnish companies are among global leaders in the transition to cloud services, which applies also to Microsoft’s services. For instance, about 80% of the largest corporate clients are already using Office 365 cloud services. Microsoft, together with its partners, has contributed significantly to the strong adoption of cloud services in Finland.
“Cloud services also change the business models of our partners. Usually, customer projects begin with a small initial investment, reflecting the continuous development of the system or product, allowing for a transition to a continuous service model. Providing a continuous service is an opportunity for our partners to introduce a new, more predictable business model.”
The rapid deployment of cloud services reflects in partner competencies. In the future, more partners are being directed towards cloud competency. Currently less than 20 Cloud Platform competences have been earned in Finland.
For Finnish software companies, Azure, Microsoft’s global cloud-based market place, presents a fast track to internationalisation.
Microsoft is supplemented by a knowledgeable network of partners
The Microsoft solution range is broad. Their partners bring important in-depth expertise and knowhow to specific areas and solutions.
Pulkkinen points out that according to recent studies, businesses that take advantage of modern IT solutions are more successful and grow faster than comparable companies. Although they are generally more advanced in utilising information technology, many Finnish companies are not familiar with how modern IT opportunities can help to generate new business.
“One of the most significant new areas is data processing and the extended use of information as a basis for business decisions. We are not far from a situation where the management could have all the information in the world. The amount of data is increasing, access is becoming easier and more and more different types of data (e.g. from sensors) are being generated.
“Organisations are not paying enough attention to what could be done with all that information and how to use it to improve customer service, generate new business and create new business models. I hope that every organisation, private and public, would stop to think what could be achieved,” urges Pulkkinen.
Ineo is a Gold Certified Partner with Microsoft in Information Management Solutions. Ineo offices are located in Microsoft house Espoo, Turku and Vaasa.