Microsoft Corp.'s Worldwide Partner Conference in July has opened a new set of opportunities for its vast partner network. Regarding its first hosted CRM offering--Dynamics Live CRM, code-named Titan--Microsoft confirmed the delayed third-quarter launch along with initial pricing and vertical templates. The company also revealed a February 2008 debut for its next wave of enterprise products: Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008, and SQL Server 2008.
The announcements provide plenty of work for Microsoft's roughly 5,000 partners. But how quickly can partners respond? "Microsoft's partner network is both its strongest asset and [its] Achilles heel," says Richard Barnett, CMO and founder of Kineticsware, a global Microsoft partner providing vertical expertise. "Partners need to digest these newly integrated applications, and that's going to take time because many of them are so specialized."
And while partners cheered the company's "software plus services" plan, a middle-of-the-road approach that differs from the industry's trend toward software-as-a-service, several noted that the company faces challenges in its move to hosted software. Microsoft has been ramping up its hosted consumer and business services; company executives at the conference said those services would eventually become a full-fledged development platform.
Laurie McCabe, vice president of small and medium business insights for AMI-Partners, says some partners understand where they need to go while others won't be as quick to respond. The partners, she says, "offer a mixed bag of skills, and while many are strong on the technical implementation and integration, many will have to add more business process consulting expertise to match Microsoft's new hosted offerings." Still, she adds, "Microsoft can only do so much, so there is definitely a role for partners."
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BlueRoads and Microsoft team up to offer joint partner management and CRM.