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 WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 10: #Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gives the ‘Vision Keynote’ speech during a Microsoft Inspire event at the Verizon This week Microsoft held its premier annual partner event, called Inspire, in Washington D.C. Inspire is an opportunity for the company to demonstrate its current business trajectory, make its case to partners to grow business with them and is frequently the launch place for new Microsoft products and services. Partners have more enterprise vendor choices for digital transformation, some small and some very large like #Google and I went into the event listening particularly close for cloud-related partner news, metrics, and value propositions, and I believe Microsoft delivered. Here’s my recap and opinion on the biggest announcements coming out of the conference. Partner-first, not just partner-led The keynote from Day 1 began with a video of American mountain climber Melissa Arnot, and how Microsoft technology such as Skype and OneDrive allow her to communicate with her organization, the Juniper Fund, while climbing. This was designed to show hip and cool people with hip and cool jobs relying on Microsoft’s cloud-native products and services. In other words, it’s not just traditional enterprises but small startups using Microsoft. This is actually important as Microsoft’s competitors would love to staple Microsoft as the “old and stale” solution provider. Not so fast. Microsoft’s Strategic Alliances Director Priya Gore then took the stage, introducing Corporate VP Ron Huddleston. Huddleston emphasized Microsoft’s commitment to being not only a “partner-led,” but “partner-first,” going on to say that “Microsoft is a team to build, go to market, and sell with you.” He mentioned that Microsoft is investing $250 million dollars to connect partners with customers. Another announcement was that starting this year, Microsoft will be paying reps on Azure-consumed revenue. In addition, Microsoft is creating an entire new sales incentive to co-sell with Azure ISVs—paying its sales reps 10% of the value of the partner solution when it is co-sold. We’ll get to more on this later, but Inspire so far has really sold me on this renewed commitment to its partners—I’ve been particularly impressed with work Microsoft has been doing with its big-name partners in the cloud realm. This announcement was huge, giving its hundred and thousands of partners the ability for more people to make more money off Azure. I don’t think either AWS or Google GCP are too concerned about Azure cloud technology, but they should be thinking about Microsoft’s commercial channel prowess.

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