“How can I partner with Microsoft if I’m afraid they might eat my lunch?”

You’d be amazed how often I’ve heard some variation of that question. Given the mystery surrounding partnering with Microsoft, I thought it might be helpful to share some Advice Tidbits over the next few weeks. I’m Karl Dittman and I am responsible for managing Microsoft’s relationships with some of the larger Business Intelligence ISVs. I’ve been involved in sales and business development for the past 20+ years and have seen a lot of what works and what doesn’t when establishing partnerships – here are some opening thoughts...

Advice Tidbit #1: Be a technology partner first. A company that approaches Microsoft with a desire to have our field sales team sell their product without leveraging our technology is like Sisyphus – pushing that big rock up the hill…it’s frankly very unlikely. It is far better to leverage the great tools and technologies that we create to develop value added solutions. Once you have this, Microsoft will be much more eager to partner with you. Also, Microsoft loves to hear about new and interesting ways of applying our technologies – if you have developed something very compelling, please tell us about it – there may be ways we can help you showcase it.

Advice Tidbit #2: Co-opetition is natural. There is no question that Microsoft plays in many technology areas and ecosystems. But, just because there is one part of Microsoft that competes with your technology doesn’t mean that you can’t partner with another part of our company. The more Microsoft technologies you take advantage of, the better the partnering synergy, but Microsoft is used to this simultaneous cooperation and competition, and many partners have thrived in this environment. As Dan mentioned in his blog, Microsoft has thousands of partners that are managed. Some partners with a great track-record of success are higher touch than others. With SAP, for example, they pull through hundreds of millions in Microsoft platform revenue and we have developers from both companies collaborating all the time. Another important but contrasting example is that we partnered with Teradata, despite their technology primarily running on a proprietary version of Unix and having very little direct product pull-through. The reason for this partnership was to enable Microsoft’s BI technologies to work seamlessly with Teradata Data Warehouses, which tend to be the biggest of the big. Indirect product pull-through is just as important as direct, and can create new revenue streams for both Microsoft and the partner. It’s important to understand that partners need to earn their stripes with smaller successes before they can be managed, but equally important to note that there is a place for everyone.

In the future, I’ll post a few other Advice Tidbits that might be useful to you as you contemplate partnering with Microsoft and would welcome your feedback.

Karl Dittman – Business Development Director