Microsoft puts partners to the test

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Redmond seems not to mind if partners don't practice what they preach, says Billy MacInnes

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Billy

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11 July 2019 | 0

Picture the scene: you’re in a Nissan, Ford, Toyota, VW, Peugeot or Kia dealer (delete as appropriate) and you’re talking to the salesperson about buying a new car. They’re waxing lyrical about the particular model that you have your eye on and the brand value of the make they’re selling. The way they’re talking, you’d be mad not to buy it. You’re ready to be convinced. And then, by chance, your gaze rests upon the spaces where the staff park their cars and to your amazement, there isn’t a single Nissan, Ford, Toyota, VW, Peugeot or Kia (delete as appropriate) to be seen. Not one. You look at the salesperson and you think: “Why is this person trying to sell me something that nobody in this company drives themselves?”

It’s a question that everyone would feel entitled to ask, isn’t it? The same goes for IT, I think. Customers would be far more convinced by the salesperson’s shtick if he or she revealed that the company used the product or service itself. Obviously, there are caveats. If you’re a small reseller, for example, you’re not going to be using an ‘enterprise’ product within your organisation but then, to be fair, you’re not likely to be selling it either.

The reason why this comes to mind is the recent revelation that Microsoft plans to stop the practice of giving partners free licences of its products for their own use aka internal use rights (IUR). CRN quotes a document from Microsoft to partners, dated 3 July, which states: “Currently, the licences allow partners to access and use the products for internal business purposes. We will retire product licences for internal use purposes on July 1, 2020.”

It goes on to specify that product licences offered through the Microsoft Partner Network after that date will “only be used for business development scenarios, including demonstration purposes, solution/services development purposes, and internal training purposes”. So, in other words, partners will still be able to access licences for free but not if they want to actually use the products in real life.

Now, it might be fair enough to argue that giving partners free licences to run their business on your product is a step too far. I wouldn’t agree because, to me, it seems inarguable that having partners who use your technology in their business makes for better informed partners and strengthens the bond between vendor and partner. Making that process as easy as possible for them seems like a really good idea unless, as a vendor, you suffer from such a level of insecurity that you believe the only reason partners are using your product is because it’s free.

Many of you will be aware, possibly from attending too many partner conferences, of the tired old adage “eating your own dog food”. It’s a popular and well-worn phrase in the IT industry trotted out on a regular basis as an argument to enthuse customers about a technology or product. There’s nothing more powerful when it comes to convincing a customer to adopt a specific product or technology than a reseller that can show it is happy to use the product or technology within its own business.

While I’m as happy as anyone else to see a cliché or glib marketing phrase consigned to the dustbin of history (yes, I’m aware that’s become a cliché too), I’m not sure that, in this case, it’s beneficial to the channel to say: “No, we don’t eat our own dog food anymore but we’d like to show you what it would look and feel like if you eat it.”

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