It was 2008. The iPhone was still new, tablets had yet to hit the market, and Microsoft ventured into the cloud with the launch of Business Productivity Online Standard (BPOS). At the time, the prevailing belief was that the cloud would revolutionize the way consumers and small businesses purchased their technology. While that prophecy has proven to be true, it did not pan out the way many ISVs, including Microsoft, believed it would.
Like many software and infrastructure players, Microsoft believed a steady transition to the direct purchasing model would evolve and ultimately disrupt the traditional sales channels of wholesale distributors, VARs, and MSPs. They accurately predicted the channel still held value, but projected diminishing returns as the cloud model continued to evolve. Their answer to support this claim was to sell directly to customers but treat their channel partners as an extended sales force and pay them commissions. Ultimately, they named this model “Advisor”, which ironically diminished the position of many VARs and MSPs as the trusted “advisor” to their customers.
We would see several more iterations of the iPhone and the mainstream entry of tablets before Microsoft would recognize the full value of their channel into the SMB space, and introduce a true cloud services subscription model. The Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program was announced in 2014 and currently supports the Office 365 family of products, Enterprise Mobility Suite, Azure, and CRM Online. CSP combines the consumer benefits of monthly billing and a low cost of entry, with channel benefits of pricing and billing ownership, customer relationships, trusted advisor status, and increased sustainable margins in a single model.
Conversely to Microsoft Advisor, where Microsoft contracted directly with the end customer, CSP removes Microsoft from any direct contact with the end user and relies on channel partners to provide the personal touch with their customers. As a result, VARs and MSPs can deliver value to their customers and are much better off for it.
Transitioning from Microsoft Advisor to CSP
We are now in a transition period where VARs and MSPs have an opportunity to convert their customers from Microsoft Advisor to CSP. In May 2015, Microsoft announced “Multi-Channel” functionality, which allowed VARs and MSPs to perform migrations without changing tenants, migrating data, or causing substantial impact to the end users.
Ingram Micro has gone one step further in helping channel partners reclaim their trusted advisor status with their customers. Channel partners on the Cloud Marketplace can now follow an automated and clearly-defined process to seamlessly convert customer Microsoft Advisor subscriptions to the CSP program. As an added bonus, Microsoft is not currently charging their direct customers early termination fees, meaning that VARs and MSPs do not need to wait until the subscriptions expire to take advantage of this opportunity. If converted very close to the next billing date, the cost is pennies to complete the transition.
The time couldn’t be better for channel partners to take advantage of all the benefits CSP has to offer. Interested channel partners should call their Ingram Micro Sales Associate at 800-705-7057 option 5, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.