Things to consider when choosing a Microsoft Partner in 2024
Choosing the right Microsoft Partner can be a daunting task. According to the official Microsoft stats, the Microsoft Partner Network currently comprises more than 400,000 organisations. How do you ensure you’re making the correct choice? Do you know what sets a good Microsoft partner apart from the rest? Here are some key points to consider.
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Of course price is important, but it shouldn’t be the only factor you consider. Look for a partner that offers competitive pricing without compromising on quality. Cheap doesn’t always equal good. It can be tempting to select a partner with the lowest bid, but that might not translate to the best service delivery. Quality might be sacrificed to offer low rates, and this might lead to poor delivery, project delays, security gaps and so on. Some partners might underquote initially to secure the deal but charge more later to match your requirements and expectations
Choosing a Microsoft partner with appropriate “Solutions Partner designations” and by inference, staff that have relevant certifications is an absolute must. They should have a strong track record of implementing Microsoft solutions and the technical certifications to back it up. e.g.:
Microsoft Solution Partner designations and specialisations act as a standard, reassuring you that the partner has the competence and expertise to deliver specific Microsoft technologies and solutions.
These accreditations aren’t easy to obtain. They involve a rigorous process of evidencing related projects, specific training, exams and ongoing checks ensuring that only qualified organisations earn them. If you choose a partner with appropriate designations and specialisation, you can have confidence in that their abilities to deliver the work.
In other words, these accreditations are proof of a partner’s commitment to continuous learning, quality of delivery and professionalism. Check that these meet your needs and ask the potential partner what they intend to achieve within the next 12 months (most partners are still playing catch up in the area).
Thought leaders in the Microsoft ecosystem are recognised for their deep understanding of Microsoft technologies, proven experience in implementing successful solutions, and a forward-looking vision of the tech landscape. Such professionals are awarded with a Microsoft MVP status. Working with an MVP allows you to benefit from their valuable knowledge.
Also, look for a partner that is actively engaged with the Microsoft Community, contributes to the Microsoft ecosystem and is committed to the partnership. Does the partner attend any events? Do they host any speaker sessions at conferences? Does the partner participate in any Microsoft product development? Does the partner participate in any of Microsoft’s Partner Programmes (e.g. Content AI Partner Program).
Pick a partner that enforces sustainability and incorporates diversity, equity and inclusion into the core values. For example, has the partner made any commitments to climate change? Does the partner have a strategy to enhance diversity and inclusion?
Relationship with Microsoft
A strong and long-lasting relationship between Microsoft and your Microsoft Partner of choice can be a crucial success factor. Strong Microsoft partners have early access to exclusive resources like product previews, pilots, product roadmaps, upcoming new features and major Microsoft news. A partner with early insight might not be able to share this information with clients right away, but increased awareness and preparedness may result in faster adoption and implementation of innovative solutions.
Innovation is something that sets a good Microsoft partner apart from the rest. These partners leverage Microsoft’s technologies to create solutions that give their clients a competitive edge. They think outside the box and are always looking for ways to improve their services and solutions.
Understanding of your future strategy
Your Microsoft Partner should understand your future strategy and be able to align their services accordingly. This is important for two reasons:
A true partner
A good Microsoft Partner is not just a team of IT professionals, but a long-term strategic ally that understands your organisational goals and vision. Only then, a partner can recommend the most suitable solutions and Microsoft technologies. Furthermore, this partner will introduce you to new technologies and propose new ideas before you might even ask, to ensure your digital transformation journey evolves continuously.
Your digital transformation journey is, like the name suggests, a ‘journey’. It would be beneficial to choose a partner who not only understands your aspirations for the future, but can also deliver on those, eliminating the need to jump from partner to partner depending on the project and necessary technologies. A one-stop-shop partner would be ideal to avoid costly rework or migrations. It’s important to find a partner you can build a long-term relationship with to set your organisation up for a sustainable digital transformation journey.
Experience in your industry sector
Every sector has its own unique needs, challenges and regulations. A Microsoft Partner that possesses experience from working with other organisations in your sector will understand this and use this experience to build solutions that can meet these needs. Your partner might even know some hidden gems that can give you a competitive edge.
Strong track record
Find yourself a partner that has a stacked library of successful case studies/client success stories that demonstrate their ability to deliver results and meet their clients’ objectives. Look out for any client quotes.
It’s even better when a partner has experience in similar projects, as the partner will be able to anticipate potential challenges and mitigate them effectively from the outset.
Speaking purely of manpower. It’s obvious that you need to find a partner that has the right resources to deliver your desired project/solution, and more importantly within your required timeframes.
But besides this, it’s important to note that a partner needs to be able to scale the project team up or down as required and stay agile to optimise costs for the client.
Be wary of a partner who can start a large project immediately – good partners are busy and plan their work carefully, so don’t expect to start the day after selection. A few weeks lead time is normal and allows the engagement to be planned well and start on the right footing
Are you unsure about whether to work with a large or a small Microsoft partner? Well, both have their advantages and disadvantages, and ultimately your decision will depend on your organisation, your specific needs and priorities.
Choosing a small Microsoft partner can bring several benefits to the table, including personalised attention, price and agility. You will likely develop a strong relationship with the team and have direct access to project leads. However, limited resources could impact project speed and narrow expertise. Additionally, their network might be smaller, restricting access to potential partnerships or solutions.
When opting for a larger Microsoft partner, you can tap into a larger pool of resources with extensive experience and expertise, though you may encounter less flexibility, higher costs and a less personalised service.
Choose a partner whose cultural values align with yours to ensure a relationship based on trust, transparency, and honest communication. If you are sharing similar values, your partnership will not just be transactional, but you can work together on a shared vision and long-term relationship.
In today’s technology landscape, high security standards are non-negotiable, and your Microsoft partner needs to protect your data and assets as the work evolves. Data breaches and hacks can lead to high costs, regulatory sanctions, and reputational damage. Furthermore, leading Microsoft partners don’t just implement security, but will also promote security awareness within your organisation by sharing best practices, running training workshops and complete regular security assessments within their own and your systems.
Look for a partner that has at least the Cyber Essentials or Cyber Essentials Plus certification.
Support and continuous improvement
Make sure to find out whether a partner can offer you a support or retainer agreement once the initial project is complete.
Besides this, a partner needs to be proactive in suggesting solutions to support your digital transformation journey and strategic growth plans. The Microsoft landscape and overall technology landscape is ever-changing, so you need someone to stay on top of this and work with you to drive continuous improvement.
As well as projects and support, you may well need to buy Microsoft licences so it’s useful if your partner is able to advise and transact those licences for you. Often Microsoft partners are part of the CSP licence reseller scheme and will be able to provide them at cost price.
Added value solutions
Often when Microsoft partners identify recurring needs in solutions, they may develop products and reuseable components and be able to offer these at a discounted rate to their clients. This can be very attractive as it reduces risk, cost and project timescales. However, ask your partner if they foresee this being the case and if so, check that the solution is created following best practice and is not going to tie you into long term support or cost commitments. Confirm where your data will reside and make sure if you wish to “off-board” in the future that there will be a simple mechanism to continue to operate your business without it.
ISV relationships /network
Does the partner have a good network of 3rd partner software providers of add-on software? Quite often these can be specialised tools for migration, usability enhancement, admin management, usage tracking etc., that the base level of Microsoft products cannot cover or that significantly reduce the cost of a custom solution. A good partner will review the market on a regular basis, have pre-existing relationships with these ISVs and ensure they fully understand what is best of breed in each area.
Reaction in times of adversity
A good partner should always handle issues and client concerns in a professional and positive manner, seeking to resolve problems and address challenges effectively and in the best interests of the project.
How they react to challenging project conditions is a true test of a good partnership. Do they have a single point of contact like a project manager to keep you abreast of the situation? Do they have an escalation path to a senior technical or business representative? Do they have a record of responding in a manner that is beneficial to you as a customer, understanding your situation within your business?
It’s certainly difficult to assess a partner based on this criteria because you probably haven’t worked together yet. We would advise to look for a partner that has a track record of running complex projects or long timelines and ask how they have been dealing with any unforeseen disruptions. Ask for references from recent customers that have undertaken a similar project, preferably in your sector.
In conclusion, choosing a Microsoft Partner involves careful consideration of many factors. We hope that by sharing these ideas with you we can help you make an informed decision that will benefit your organisation in the long run.
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As the leader of our commercial team, I implement the commercial and business development strategy for Intelogy. With over 14 years’ experience in pre-sales consultancy, project delivery and key account management, I enjoy tackling complex business challenges and helping our customers implement the most appropriate solutions.
Published On: January 16th, 2024 Categories: Most Recent