How Microsoft Drives Success with its Most Strategic Partners.

Trent Burns is the Sr. Director for the Global SI and Advisory partners in the US One Commercial Partner team. Trent has 13 years at Microsoft and 20 years’ experience in the technology industry at companies like IBM, HP, and Vignette. His experiences include direct sales and sales management positions and alliance/channel management all focused on the largest system integrators.

Trent joined the podcast to share with our listeners how his team thinks about these large strategic relations, what makes great partnerships, how other partners can collaborate with his team and lessons from his career journey.

Trent Burns is the Sr. Director for the Global SI and Advisory partners in the US One Commercial Partner team. Trent has 13 years at Microsoft and 20 years’ experience in the technology industry at companies like IBM, HP, and Vignette. His experiences include direct sales and sales management positions and alliance/channel management all focused on the largest system integrators.

Trent joined the podcast to share with our listeners how his team thinks about these large strategic relations, what makes great partnerships, how other partners can collaborate with his team and lessons from his career journey.

Q: So, for our listeners can you spend a few minutes explaining your role in Microsoft's OCP organization?

Trent Burns: Absolutely. So, I run a team of folks focused on the "build with" side within one commercial partner. We manage our largest global system integrators and also we call them advisory firms and the high-value management consulting firms. So it's a portfolio of about 14 partners and these partners obviously would be well recognized brand names that you'd hear in the marketplace from kind of the traditional SIs all the way to some of the advisory firms that I discussed before, ENY, KPG, PWC as well as what we're calling now, high value management consulting firms. Companies like McKinsey and Bain and Boston Consulting Group and so forth.

Q: So how has that evolved since you started and where is the organization focused more on? Is it focused in on the large system integrators, is it on the influencers, how do you think through that?

Trent Burns: So we sort of grouped them into these three categories, right. I'll call the like, traditional, global SIs or commercial SIs. So these are the folks like Accenture, and IBM is in the portfolio, Capgemini is in that portfolio as well. We also have Dell, too, right. So a lot of people think of them as a traditional resell but with a large Microsoft consulting firm as well. So think about just kind of traditional SI work, which is that first group I just described.

And then if you moved to the next bucket of partners would be more what we call advisory firms. So this is the E&Y, PWCs, KPMGs of the world and it's really fascinating to watch the development of these partnerships. These are new for Microsoft and new for these partners too. As you think about our digital transformation story moving from really kind of IT and to getting into line of business and the whole digital transformation evolution that's taking place, these folks have relationships outside of IT where, quite frankly, Microsoft struggled. And so the partnership is very collaborative there and very fascinating. So those are taking off like wildfire. And just learning how to work with them because they're different in their approach in the work that they actually do for customers.

And then the last group, which is really brand new, which is kind of high value management consulting firms. So, these are the folks like McKinsey and Bain and Boston Consulting and ET Kiernan. And we're just learning like how to work with these folks. Like these folks have board level relationships, right and really are having strategic conversations around the future direction on a company. And so how do we build relationships and partnerships where technology becomes part of their consulting work or their recommendations to customers. And so those are the three groups and they're different and unique in their own way and just as valuable each uniquely that way too.

Q: So how do you set objectives and how do you measure success with these types of partners?

Trent Burns: We try to keep it simple. Obviously I think when you think about ... When you think about success, we gotta put the customer first, right. So are we building solutions that solve customer problems. And then just moving quickly though into the relationship itself. I think from a Microsoft and a partner perspective, it's gotta be a profitable business for each of us, right. And there's gotta be differentiated IP and market relevance. And so when I think about success, it's about profitable growth, it's about building a business that helps solve customer problems. And then also I think, you know at the end of the day when we look internally at Microsoft, it's our focus around growing our three clouds is really important. And so, you know from an internal perspective we will look at how this partner brings something unique that helps us build and grow, kind of those three cloud businesses and making sure that we obviously get our fair share of the pie as it relates to their heterogeneous practices because they're not obviously exclusive Microsoft partners.

Q: So you bring up a good point. So very large multinational organizations, heterogeneous practices. Where do you focus within these organizations? They're massive organizations. So how do you focus in and what are your points of contact within those groups?

Trent Burns: It's across the board. It starts, I think at the most senior levels. You know, Satya has relationships at the CEO level. We have the senior leadership team at Microsoft, the line to their senior leaders, so across the board. So I think it starts at the top, if you will. But then, you know, within the US and the business I manage in getting sort of more tactical around sales execution, we focus on well, I would call sort of a depth strategy, like let's focus on kind of fewer accounts, but go deep in those accounts. Especially accounts where the partner has a deep relationship and history with, right.

And then obviously we want to work with the partner around doing something very differentiated and almost Azure first or Microsoft first, if you will. And doing something unique and differentiated with us. Just because of the fact we know they have other practices. Let's do something where one plus one is ten and do it in an intentional and deliberate way. And so we call that the solution go to market with the partner. And so we'll focus on those areas. Sometimes you can be very niche around a specific industry. It could be a platform play. It just depends. But we try to do something that's intentional and unique and different and that the market obviously has demand for. And that it's lead with a kind of Azure/Microsoft first approach. And that seems to be working, especially when you start to get focused around a smaller set of accounts and not trying to boil the ocean around thousands of accounts, but doing this in a sort of top 30, top 50 kind of account list. You can actually start to execute quite fast.

Q: So will your team build the business plan at that point with the partner?

Trent Burns: Oh, yeah absolutely, yeah, yeah. Building out the business plan. I mean as you think about the things that make a successful partnership, at least in my mind, you know obviously market relevance is huge. But you gotta have commercial terms that are beneficial for both parties. You gotta have operational alignment. You gotta have tacticals. Wanna have sales execution and engagement. You gotta have cultural alignment, too and that includes things like trust. Then the strategic nature as a strategic for both companies. And that goes back to my kind of executive alignment statement earlier as well.

And then I think just technical enablement as well is really important. Like are they building out people and skills that they can deliver on the back end. Because we don't have a successful implementation with a customer, like all of this is for nothing as well.

Q: And they're technical teams, you access these technical teams, the group teams or do you have your own dedicated resources on the technical side?

Trent Burns: Yeah as part of the one commercial partner blueprint that we rolled out this year. So I'm on the "build with" team. There's a "go to market" team and then there's a "sell with team. And then yeah, there is a technical enablement team as well. And so we have partner technical sales engagement folks as well that my team will work with. That will work with the partner to make sure they build out their practice from a technical enablement architect and development standpoint. And so yeah, we have ... It's not just sort of my team. My team sort of is viewed as the quarterback, if you will, of the partnership. And then we tap into other resources as part of this one commercial partner blueprint that was rolled out.

Q: So once you've developed the business plan and you've helped them with their technology practice, you work across the other pieces of the one commercial partner team, right. So there's a go to market team and a sell with team. What does that look like for your organization working across?

Trent Burns: It's new for us. I'll just be honest. I'll say we're learning as we go. I'll say the blueprint is the correct blueprint that was rolled out. I think with anything new, though it'll never be perfect. But I love the fact that we built the blueprint. I think it makes sense. It makes sense for scale. It makes sense long-term. I like the pillars in which it was arranged, which is build with, go to market and sell with. And we work closely with each of those folks. I'll quickly walk you through kind of at a high level each, you know the build with team, which is what I'm on. They're sort of, they're aligned by partner. We own the partner relationship in building solutions with that partner.

And then we work closely with the go to market team and you think about capacity and you think about marketing and how do you leverage kind of a marketing engine along with the partners marketing engine to actually help drive sales execution that you built in the business plan. And then the sell with team, those are folks sitting in our field and they're aligned by our account teams. And so they're agnostic to partner and they're tied to specific account teams and ATU directors. And typically an EC would have anywhere from 125 to maybe 200 accounts where they're looking to bring in and engage a partner in every one of those.

And so we work across all three. It's certainly not perfect and we're learning along the way. It's kind of year one of this new blueprint. But I love the fact that they built it sort of for scale and for reach. I think the only feedback, I think that I would have and I've given this to our leadership team as well, is when you think about my portfolio, it's a very unique one, right. These are the biggest partnerships. And so my team actually does a lot of the work in each of the buckets I described, even though we have different groups that are responsible for that. As we're working through that, we better work together. And so my team actually gets engaged on some of the sell with's activities in the field, just because we know our partners so well and the enterprise channel managers on the sell with side are, you know, they're still ... They got a large customer base to cover and they can't, they can't be an expert and be deep on any one particular partner and so that's where my team helps.

Q: You know we talked about this organization and blueprint, and your organization came over last July, if I remember correctly. So what has that experience been for the new organization and how has it helped your mission?

Trent Burns: I felt like last year my team was probably, I think it was the only partner team reporting outside of the old organization now part of one commercial partner. Yeah, it's great. I think, you know, I reported last year at the end of the sales organization and had close alignment with all of the sellers. And that continues, by the way. Like, that didn't go away, and so our executive sponsorships from Phil Sorgen who is our Corporate Vice President for our commercial businesses, still the executive sponsor of many of our partnerships. So that still happens today. I think the thing that, the benefit of moving over though, was just the access to resources and to programs and to funding and then the different silos of folks that now I can sort of tap into. We didn't have that before and we kind of just begged, borrow and steal from just how to get things done and roll up our sleeves and made it happen ourselves. Now we have sort of an access to a bunch of people, money and programs to rely on. So from that perspective, it's been very helpful.

Q: I had Gavriella Schuster on just a couple weeks ago and I asked her this question I'm gonna ask it to you as well. But if you could go back and do anything differently, what would you have done differently when the business landed?

Trent Burns: I think, my only feedback there would be ... and I said it earlier. The blueprint is, I would of not changed the blueprint. I think if I'm building on a partner program the way they built out the blueprint was the correct way. I would just also be very cognizant of some unique partner types. Especially partner portfolios that have kind of the 80/20 rule, right. They're driving a massive amount of our actual overall impact and influence. And when we roll out things that scale, those programs don't always fit for those partners. And so keeping in mind we build out programs or incentives that we think about it in terms of from the other side, front the partner's side. Will this work for Accenture, for example, right. So you know, I think the way they build it, the way it scales the right way, because I think the opportunity to build the program and a blueprint, you have to look at the masses. But, in doing so that you're limiting opportunity for some of your large partners. And so that would be my feedback.

 Q: So, I talk to partners quite a bit about the partner to partner play and I work with a lot of organizations that would love, in fact, to understand how to work with your organization and the partners that you manage. Can you talk to our listeners a little bit about that? Is there a formal way for them to engage and work with you and your team?

Trent Burns: Yeah, there is ... I mean the formal way is to call me. Send me an email, which I'm sorry it's not programmatic and it probably doesn't scale. But it actually works. You know we work with a lot of ISVs and actually, it's funny you say it. Just that whole space is merging. You'll see a lot of my partners making acquisitions and a lot of those public, publicly known. Where they're actually going out and acquiring an IP. But building it themselves as well, so you're seeing this kind of merging of ISV and SI coming together, very, very quickly.

And so, I think there's just some inherent synergy there, right, where it just makes sense. So yeah, we work ... My team works closely with, you know, some of the large ISVs like Adobe and Sitecore and SAP. But there's other small ISVs that have some niche solutions too, that we were engaged with like, Corwin Technologies, you probably haven't heard of. But I work closely with them in engaging with some of our SIs. They have a Azure migration solution and SAS-ification of products technology. That's just unique. It's different. It's very niche. But it actually works in ... And they've got some great use cases. And so where they can on in or be part of an overall kind of migration, cloud migration solution for an Accenture for example or a CogniSAN or an Mphasis. I'll introduce them to those partners. And we've done that.

And so I guess, you know to answer your question, yes absolutely. I can only scale as fast as one person can. But that's the best way to work because we have the personal relationships with the folks that are building these solutions at these partners and quickly get you engaged. So I would just say reach out to me and I can sort of see if it's a fit and then even recommend where to start.

Vince: Great and at the end I'll ask you for your contact information. We'll put it in the show notes. You might regret doing that when you get a lot of people from ... listen to this podcast all reaching out at the same time. But-Appreciate your willingness to do that.

Trent Burns: That's right.

Q:   So one theme that's been constant in all of my interviews has been just how fast this change is happening. This rapid state of transformation that's happening in our industry. It's happening faster than most of us expected it to happen. What are you seeing now that you didn't expect to see a year ago in terms of digital transformation?

Trent Burns: I'll just say I think what I'm seeing is customers are actually wanting a partnership from Microsoft for the first time ever. They're kind of, they're watching sort of our journey around digital transformation and I think they're ... It's bringing kind of a renewed energy and opportunity for us to have a conversation and help them. And by no means have we sort of declared victory there. It's a journey for sure. But we made a lot of progress ourselves internally. So they want to hear that story but is there any learnings they can take from that. And then they want a different kind of relationship with us. I think they are looking for a relationship less about kind of solving internal cost efficiencies and how you take money out of their internal systems, which was kind of the past to "Hey, how do we build something together that actually can be repeatable here? Can we build a new product? Can we build a new service offering that just happens to sit on the cloud of your technology?" That they can go offer to their customer base. So it's more about how we make money together in a true partnership, versus sort of kind of cost efficiencies, which was the past.

So that's been the biggest change in my mind around our conversations with customers. And then, if you think about my portfolio, we play a really important role in that conversation because my partner portfolio has relationships outside of IT and these conversations are taking place with line of business executives. So it's a perfect match.

Q: Is there anything from a point solution or technology perspective that you didn't expect to see as well?

Trent Burns: You know, I think people think these massive workloads like SAP for example, moving to the cloud. Like, that's real. It's happening. And it's sort of been shocking for me and it at first, and I saw that sort of evolve from like test step but to real production. Like fortune 500 companies moving their entire SAP environment to the cloud. Like-

Trent Burns: What would that have been 12 months ago or even 18 months ago, right? So it is happening. Like, it's real. It's moving fast. So, I mean that's just one workload. Like, people are taking mission-critical apps and moving them to the cloud for the efficiencies that it provides.

Q: So you're working with a lot of new organizations that didn't have traditional partnering relationships with Microsoft. Kind of a new world for them. Is there one thing that isn't taught but you believe is true to successfully partnering with Microsoft?

Trent Burns: Well, I think trust is huge. And you can't teach it, right. It's sort of, I mean the way I define trust is you think about consistently executing over a long period of time. That's my definition of trust. And sometimes, you know, in a partnership, especially where partners have heterogeneous solutions, we might not ... Microsoft might not be the answer, might not be the right solution. And so I think you gotta have some trust in our partnerships and the conversations with our senior executives all the way down to the account teams that we might not be the right fit.

And so I think having that upfront, but then knowing where we want to proactively engage and do it in a deliberate way. And being on each other's side all the way to the end. Sort of win and die together is really key. And you can't teach that. It just happens over time, right. And it happens through the personal relationships and the business relationship you build over time. It doesn't happen overnight. I think that's why I'm pleasantly surprised to see some of these newer partnerships actually take off so fast, because usually that trust takes time to build. But we're moving at light speed here. But, yeah, I think people can't overlook the value of trust and culture and then obviously the strategic alignment and executive alignment plays a part in that as well.

Q: Was there anything that comes to mind in terms of a situation where a partner wasn't getting it right and what would you have said to him now if you could?

Trent Burns: Wow, yeah I have some of those partners today. I'm just laughing out loud. They will remain nameless though, Vince.

Vince: Yeah, we won't call them out by name.

Trent Burns: Yeah, you know I think Microsoft is ... And you know this, you've been here and it's such a complicated place, right, in how to engage with our field. And so I think for partners that haven't had any success there, it takes a while. And I've given them coaching and some direction. I think some patience is key as well. And then you also have ... You gotta remember though, the partners that I'm working with sometimes and actually in most cases, they're much larger than Microsoft as well. And so we just need to be sensitive and patient with them as well around their organization complexity as well can even be more complicated. And so sometimes we're the small fish in the pond and we need to be respectful of that and patient.

But yeah, it takes time. It's two large organizations trying to get something done. I think we keep customer with, kind of as the North Star though. Eventually you get there. I think the sales execution at the field level, when you get those two account leads together in a room, the magic happens in my mind. And the relationship that those two people make or break will make or break the relationship in my mind long term.

Q: Do you bring the partner and the customer together with your organization for like EBC's (Executive Briefings)?

Trent Burns: Yeah, we do that all the time actually. Many of my partners, yeah they will do actual customer events. We'll do EBCs together. We'll jointly present. We'll have our sort of industry expertise there is in the room as well. We'll tackle big problems. We'll do white boarding sessions as well. We'll kind of roll up our sleeves and do those kinds of things at an EBC.

We've done a great event and went best practice some ... I'll do a plug here for ENY, they kind of deal with future of the finance. Like, what's the future of the CFO role within an organization and they actually helped our CFO, Amy Hood. And so we worked closely with Jack Ryder, he's our CFO for Microsoft North America do a joint customer event. Where we go out, we invite customers and we talk about what's the future of finance and what's the future of that role and how technology plays a role in providing more efficiencies and making that role be sort of less internal focused and more about actually making business decisions that help shareholders at the end of the day. It's a fascinating event. It's a five city road show that we're going on as well. And so we're trying to do more things like that with our partners.


Q: So, as you might know from listening to other episodes, I'm fascinated by how people got to this particular spot in their life and their career. And I wanted to focus on some questions about your professional journey. I know you have an interesting story, so can you take our listeners through it?

Trent Burns: So I started my career back, oh gosh, 20 years ago with IBM right out of school. I was in a partner management role, managing a bunch of software partners for IBM out of, in Dallas and then in San Francisco. Did that for about five years. I then worked for a start up company called Vignette, hopefully many of you recognize that name, based out of Austin. Followed a bunch of IBM friends of mine over to that company and managed to help build the center partnership and practice for Vignette in North America, which was a fun job.

And then a lot of folks that I knew migrated from IBM then over to Microsoft and obviously I've kept my network up to date, and they were looking for somebody to manage their Avanade partnership here at Microsoft. And so that's how I made my way here to Microsoft and then managed Avanade and managed our HP partnership for five years across North America. And then I went into a direct sales role. So I carried a bag and sold to T Mobile as the Microsoft Global Account Manager. And then it's fascinating, I actually left Microsoft in 2010. Went to work for Hewlett Packard, which was the partnership I managed. I was an account general manager focused on selling to Nike out of Portland, which was a fascinating experience and opportunity as well.

And then I came back to Microsoft managing our operator cloud business. So this was, the relationships we had with Verizon and T Mobile and Sprint and Comcast and had a team of folks building out our cloud services with those mobile operators back in 2012. And then for the last three years I've been in this role managing, manning our GSIs. On a personal note I'm married for 20 years to my high school sweetheart. Her name's Michelle. I've got two girls. They're a little older, actually, 19 and 17. So we're looking at colleges right now, which is really fun and doing that during Spring Break.

I'm a huge sports fan. I played tennis in college at division one school and got a scholarship. My wife did the same. We both worked at a summer camp for kids teaching tennis. So that's how we met when we were 18 and 17 years old. And so I take that competitiveness into the work place as well. And so, yeah I love all kinds of sports but just happened to fall in love with tennis when I was younger.

Vince: Yup, I know you're into fitness because we both share that passion.

Trent Burns:                   That's right. Yeah, exactly yeah.

Q: So was there one best piece of advice you received when you took this role?

Trent Burns:                   Break all the rules.

Vince:                              I like it.

Trent Burns:                   I know, I love that. I love that coaching from folks. And you know, Casey McGee who's our Vice President in this business, I think he encourages that actually. I think, you know we wanna kinda be ... We wanna be nimble. We wanna move fast. We wanna take big risks and actually operate like a start up. And so, you know I've taken a lot of that feedback from him. And then just over time it's just something that's just sort of near and dear to my heart as well. Actually, I push my team to do the same when we actually set our goals at the beginning of the year. It's about taking some large risks. And it's not about, I mean, yeah if we execute on them and they turn into something huge then certainly reward them. But the reward itself is actually going for it, right. So I love that mentality. I love the underdog mentality and so I try to keep that alive and well within the team as well. So, yeah.

Q: Nice. And I'm assuming you do mentoring. Most of the executive level people at Microsoft do. Is there any other piece of advice that you give or impart to others that you mentor?

Trent Burns:                   Yeah, you know, whenever I look back and I look back on an annual basis around kind of my last year within the job. There's sort of ... I try to keep things really simple. I ask myself three questions and any time I'm mentoring somebody I'll share this piece of advice with them and it helps me kinda stay true to the North Star, which is ... Especially when you're thinking about maybe a change, right. Whether it's a career change or a job change in our outside of the same company you're at. But I ask myself three questions, really simple questions. And by the way, if you hesitate for a second and you start to think maybe it's a no or a maybe, then you know there's probably an opportunity for you to do something different.

But here are the three questions. Number one, and they're simple. Are you having fun? Because if you're not having fun, like what the hell are you doing here? Like, don't waste my time, right. And I'm not meaning like having fun like having a margarita on the beach, because everybody would love to do that. But like having fun with the people you work with at work because you spend so much time here, right. So, you know is it a good group to work with. Are you having a good time.

And then the second question for me is, you know, do you feel proud about the last 12 months. Like did you ... and this is a really self reflective question. Like, do you really feel you made an impact on the work of business that you delivered to the company and for your partner. And only you can answer that question.

And then the third question is, are you still learning, like a passion for learning. And I, by the way, I've got folks on my team that have been Microsoft for 25 years and they answer yes to all those questions. So always kinda like renewing that energy around not knowing it all but having the ability to kind of learn it all or learn something new. And so those are the three questions.

Vince:                              I like it. 1. So you're having fun. 2. Did you really have an impact, not what you told your boss, and 3. are you still learning?

Trent Burns:                   That's right.


Q: So what advice would you give to your 25 year old self?

Trent Burns:                   I would go sell first. If I were to rewind it back, I mean I got into partner management. It was a fantastic job and learning experience and went right into managing some of the larger global SIs, which was fascinating. I think the one thing though that I learned is ... And I had been into direct sales and then back into partner management. If I could do it over again I would of jumped into carrying a bag sooner for a couple of reasons. One is, I think whenever you have a conversation directly with a customer, it's very humbling. There's a reality check there around like what's really happening. How they think of your company, right.

Trent Burns:                   And so there's nothing like getting feedback from, you know, a CTO or a CFO or a CIO at a customer around how they think about your company, right. And then how you help them long term. And so that's where the rubber hits the road. I think you bring some credibility into the partner management role, too, having sold. Like, a lot of folks on my team now, I look for that experience. A lot of them have been HQ managers or account execs as well and so they have credibility with the field, right. So, we've walked in their shoes. And so if I were to do one thing over again it would be pick up a bag and do that sooner.

Vince:                              Yeah, there's nothing like carrying a bag.

Trent Burns:                   Yes.

Vince:                              Most humbling experience in the world.

Trent Burns:                   That's right.

Q: So, if you had a personal billboard, and this is a metaphor by the way, but if you know, you had a billboard on, what is it, the 405 in Seattle? If you had a billboard on the 405, what message would you like to send out to the world? What would you share on it?

Trent Burns: Wow. Trying to think. I think for me, I mean, so there is ... I'm pulling a little bit from the sports theme, but there was a theme that we used when we were on the tennis team that's actually stuck with me since then. And I take it into business, which is attitude is everything. And it's actually it's a poem by Charles Swindoll, obviously I won't read it to you. But the title says everything, right. It's how you show up is more than half the battle, right. And so I'm a half glass full kind of guy and very optimistic and I think just having kind of that positive outlook and looking for the positive outcome for the partnership and for Microsoft and for our business just gets you half way across the line, right. And then it's just about execution and strategic direction from there. I mean having that kind of attitude sets you up for success. Gives you the better, the best opportunity to have the best possible outcome.

Vince: "Attitude is everything", I love it. And by the way, you exude that positivity out, even here on the podcast.

Trent Burns:                   Thank you.

Q: So any advice that we haven't covered for our listeners that wanna engage with you and your organization we're going to provide your information at the end of this podcast. But any other advice you have for our listeners and organizations that wanna partner with Microsoft?

Trent Burns: Yeah, I would say, I mean the things I think about ... I think you've gotta really if you're a partner, figure out what's your differentiated brand and creating that. And by the way, I've even had these conversations with partners. You think about Avanade for example, I mean they do everything. They are the Accenture consulting arm, if you will, for Microsoft. They known, partially by Microsoft. So it is the only solution and they do everything and they have a solution for everything. But even my feedback to them was, but let's brand yourself. Find what's the one thing you sort of want to be known for. And it's just a spearhead, by the way. So we're not sort of eliminating your portfolio or minimizing it. But brand yourself around one specific differentiated IP that is unique for you. And have, and be very clear about what that is. And be very clear what the field around that as well.

I think you want them to walk away with what that differentiated IP or solution is that you go to market with. And use that as sort of your wedge or your entry point into engaging with our field. I think that's really, really important. And so we're getting focused even with partners that have a very broad portfolio to really brand themselves. And so the ones that are doing that are actually out executing the others in my personal opinion. And then obviously I think, you know, the other things we talked about. The win-win scenario and the trust are huge too. But I think the differentiated IPs is a thing that's setting some partners apart from others.

Q: That's great advice for our partner listeners. So thank you for that Trent. And Trent, I wanna thank you. I know how precious your time is and how compressed your schedule is. So I want to thank you for taking time to be a guest. You've been an amazing guest. And for our listeners that wanna reach out, what is that email address you referenced earlier?

Trent Burns: Yeah, you bet, it's been an honor. Thank you for having me. So it's You can also reach me on LinkedIn: and look me up, connect with me. I'm happy to help.

Vince: Great to have you Trent and thanks for being our guest.

Spotlight on the amazing transformation and leadership secrets. My interview with Gavriella Schuster.

It's been about 8 months since the new OCP organization and design was rolled out at Microsoft Inspire. I asked Gavriella Schuster, Microsoft's  "Channel Chief", to come to the podcast and share with our listeners her thoughts on what's been going well thus far and where she sees the opportunities for continued growth and improvement in the Microsoft Partner business.

My questions for Gavriella focused on the state of the partner business, what's she seeing during this amazing transformation, what in store for all of the attendees this year at Microsoft Inspire, leadership lessons from her career, and her interaction with Satya Nadella.

 Q: I've heard positive feedback from both interview guests at Microsoft and partners regarding the change in transformation, but change is not easy. Based on the feedback you've received, and I know you just recently returned from an overseas trip where you met with partners, if you could go back to last year, is there anything that you would have done differently when you were planning the new OCP model?

Gavriella:           That's a great question, Vince. I mean I say that this is such a significant change in how we've approached partnerships and basically with the changes we've made really tied to our whole sales model, how we've approached customers that we knew that there were really going to be areas that would be revealed after we rolled out the model and I would say that the things that I would have changed in doing a Monday Morning Quarterback is more communications, more frequently to drive clarity with our field teams and with our sales teams. Because this was such a significant change, it's taken awhile for people to really internalize and understand what their new role is and all of the tools and the resources that we've made available to them. I think I would've spent more time out in the field with each of the teams and then really driving cross team collaboration between our enterprise sales teams and our partner teams because we give that a little bit later when we saw some of the seams between roles. I would have done it earlier.

Vince: You bring up a really great point. I started this podcast because I believed from my talks at Microsoft and Partners that Microsoft needs to scale this message more broadly and we have a growing set of partners in the ecosystem and partners need to stay in greater lockstep through all the change.

Q: What steps are you thinking in terms of how to better scale programs and resources so that partners can stay better connected during all of this change and transformation?

Gavriella:           One of my key learnings is the first thing we need to do is make sure we simplify because when we have a simpler program or simpler sets of engagement, simpler tools, it is easier for people to engage on it and understand it. It's more intuitive so we need to continue to derive for simplicity and eliminate the noise. There are always so many things that we want to do. I think we tend to put too much into the market at the same time. So that's one thing is to clear the noise. I think the second thing is just to have communication all the time in an ongoing business through blogs, through ongoing emails out to our partners and then we have a lot of webcasts and calls and constant conversations with our field. One of the things that we've put in place since we started this change in July is regional business leads and those regional business leads are part of my team, but they actually live out in the regions and we do ... they sit in every single one of our meetings in corporate, but then their job is to help us land that both with the partners locally as well as with our field.

Q: What are the one or two things you believe the changes have had the most positive impact on the business and for partners?

Gavriella:           Well for sure what we've seen is a tremendous explosion in the number of offers that our partners have been able to bring into the market. The value of those offers and the articulation and clarity that we're able to bring to our customers that the value each of our partners is delivering. So the focus that we've had in our build with motion in really helping our partners to build in an accelerated pace some of their cloud services and then some of their data NAI services and then bringing those to the market faster with our channel managers. Those have been really positive impact and we've seen that through some of the results. We have over 83 thousand partners building their businesses with cloud services today. We ran an [inaudible 00:05:28] skills initiative and we've trained over 160 thousand people and amassed over 540 thousand training hours as a result. So we've done some damage to that skills gap that exists in the market and then with our cloud profitability and AI playbooks that we've released, we've already tracked more than 500 thousand downloads within our partner ecosystem. So we've seen that we're able to accelerate the practices within our partners and the application development that they're doing.

Vince: I've had Eduardo Kassner on the podcast and we've talked through some of the playbooks and there's amazing content out there for partners and they can reference that. In fact, we put that in our show notes with Eduardo's episode. Here it is again for your reference. 

Q: You were recently quoted in the press and this talks about the whole importance of IP, but the fact that not only traditional partners, but end-user customers have a role making their IP and solutions available to the broader market. And I want our listeners to understand if you can expand for them on this concept and maybe a specific use case example that comes to mind?

Gavriella:           Absolutely, so what we've found is that as we help customers unlock the data that exists in their organization and has historically existed on share points or in pockets or even on paper still. As we help them unlock that data, they find that the information available to them where they can then turn that into benchmarking, or they can get better insights in their customers or in the industry, they've been actually able to turn that into and productize that delivery to others where maybe not in their industry to create competition for themselves, but they've been able to actually turn that into value back into the rest of the commercial Fortune 500. So we've seen a number of cases like that where they've been able to take all of the data, you take some of the insurance companies that we work with, right? They unlock some of the data that they have and suddenly the anonymous data that they have about the preferences that customers have, the challenges they may have with their lifestyles and how that impacts their health or their overtime and turning that back out into information they've been able to share back with the healthcare industry, for instance, really has become a product that then they're able to actually change the business that they're in.

Other examples are where we've helped customers with their own logistics, so optimizing their supply chain and their logistics and then those essentially have become products that that customer has then IP, they resell those logistic solutions to other customers and so it's a very interesting time now where our customers we start working with them and as we do that, we realize together with them, that we can access some of that IP that they've then developed and go to market and use it with other customers. So it's a whole new, kind of repeatable practice approach that we hadn't actually done before as a motion with our customers. So it's, where in the past we've talked about kind of a partner to partner engagement, where partners use complementary skills, this ends up being a customer will be the customer of a partner. They'll co-build something and then the customer has this IP that then the partner can go implement with other customers and bring back kind of royalties to their customer.

Q: That's very interesting. So you bring in a partner, I was going to ask, how does a customer then engage with your organization, but it's a customer to partner field, organization type of play to go co-sell?

Gavriella:           It kind of goes in all directions, but yes, in 95% of the cases of when we ever engage with a customer there's always a partner involved and so where its a delivery of a service or a postal motion beyond that, typically it's again through the partner they were working with.

Q: A universal theme in all my interviews has been the rapid pace of change in innovation and many guests have commented that it's happening fast, they're just blown away by how fast its been happening. What are you seeing happen now that you didn't expect to see happen a year ago?

Gavriella:           Well there's a lot of things that I'm seeing happened. I don't think I would've predicted. We are, we're engaging with customers in a whole different way. As you go in and do digital transformation projects with customers, what you find is that it is not a traditional supply chain engagement anymore. It used to be Microsoft would build some technology or product, and then we would work with a partner who would enhance that and get it kind of through to the last mile of what the customer needed. We would jointly sell that and either the same partner or a different partner would go deploy and instrument that with the customer and then somebody would manage and support it. So that was our traditional supply chain.

What we're finding now is that as you go in and uncover digital transformation projects that are not about helping a customer how to run their business, but they actually are about the customers business, it's about the customer's product or the customer's go to market, the value actually occurs on-site with the customer and so a lot of the development of the solution occurs on site and so we end up taking Microsoft's technology as a toolkit in with various Lego pieces, I guess if you will. And then the value is constructed and you end up with, like I was saying, a whole different product every time you have one of these engagements. A whole new solution that then somebody says he I know how to make this into a repeatable thing that I can bring to the next person. Sometimes the repeatability happens from the partner who's created that value onsite and they take that into as a now a product that they can go and take on. Sometimes it's the customer who owns the IP and they take it on as a product that they can go resell. So it's a fascinating approach to the technology development that I wouldn't have predicted probably a year ago.

Vince:                Yeah it's a fascinating time we live in. It's just amazing to be chronicling this and sitting, observing all of this.

Gavriella:           Yes, exactly.

Q: Microsoft Inspire is just a few short months away, what do you have planned that you can discuss today, maybe something you haven't already shared in the public, and why should every Microsoft partner make the trip to Vegas this year?

Gavriella:           Oh well so now the topic of conversation, probably the hottest topic at Inspire, is probably going to be all about our data service and how to unlock that through artificial intelligence. That is clearly what all of our partners want to learn more about. It's what all of our customer engagements are about and every single one of our partners is buildings some sort of a data service, AI service, into their applications of the service that they deliver and so that will be the theme of the whole event. Just talking about the many successes and best practices because the more you hear about what partners are doing today and about what customers are doing, the more kind of it sparks your imagination of what's possible and how to bring these different elements of the technology together and it's a phenomenon that only hasn't gotten unlocked because of the cloud services and the way that you can then bring things that used to be locked up on premise into the cloud and then take a different level of data governance over the structure of the information that you have. So that will be the hottest topic. The biggest change in Inspire is that we're actually combining Inspire with our traditional Microsoft sales kickoff and we're doing them at the same time in the same week and that's something that we've never done.

We've always had Inspire first and then had our global sales kickoff the week after. And so we'll all be in Las Vegas at the same time. We have about forty thousand people descending on Las Vegas during that one week, which will be a tremendous logistical challenge I think. We'll see how that goes. And so we will be able to have more Microsoft sellers and managers from around the world, integrated and engaging with our partners in a way that we've never been able to orchestrate before. Traditionally, the people from Microsoft that go to our Inspire are ones that are supporting and working with partners all year long. This actually enables us to bring a lot of the technical folks and a lot of the management teams also into play with our partners. And many of our partners throughout the year have been really focused on doing geographical expansion and this I think will enable them and encourages them to create those relationships. Not only finding partners from those other areas of the world but finding the Microsoft people that they want to connect to.

Q: So will there be collaboration opportunities or mixers or ways that partners and sellers can get together?

Gavriella:           Yes, absolutely. Actually, we're planning our whole Wednesday as the mixer day. And so all of the different workshops and sessions, and activities that we have are all designed to bring the Microsoft teams and the partner teams together.

Vince: Nice well we all should be in Vegas them along with the forty thousand so that's a great and compelling reason why partners should come. All our listeners should be there.

Q: I recently joined IAMCP, which is the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners. And was at a recent meeting in Washington DC and shared my observations with the leadership. I believe the organization has so much potential. What are some ways that IAMCP can continue to grow and support the Microsoft ecosystem?

Gavriella:           I love the IACMP and I love the Women in Technology chapters that are also associated with the IAMCP. It has for a very long time been one of our secret weapons I think. It's better than, you know, most organizations have kind of user groups, but this is actually professional association as you know. And so the things that I've seen that have been really helpful is to our earlier point about how do we scale our message. How do we provide better support? How do we help partners who are coming into the Microsoft ecosystem to succeed? I have seen some tremendous best practices from IAMCP where they have mentor matching, where they have workshops where they consult with other members and almost do kind of coaching sessions on their business development and best practice sharing amongst each other. So those are invaluable ways of collaborating between the communities and typically there's more, there's like a competitive edge with Partners and sharing information with each other, but when they join the IAMCP, I don't see that happening.

It's much more of a supportive community organization and it's also a place where we can then have our teams land and run workshops and get members of the community together at a scale that we wouldn't be able to necessarily bring to ourselves. So those are some of the things that they've done incredibly well and as we've looked out into the future I think the opportunity is to bridge the partner to partner connections even more as we have more and more partners developing IP, who want to then bring it out and sell it to other partners or incorporate it into other partner practices. The IAMCP is very logical and awesome bridge to bring that collaboration in the community out.

Vince:                Yeah I would agree with you and we're going provide links on how to join IAMCP in our show notes here, so for our listeners who aren't members already.

Q: I wanted to ask you about, you've had the privilege of working side by side with some amazing people at Microsoft, including someone that many of us admire, Satya Nadella. Can you tell our listeners what it's like to work side by side with Satya? How engaged is he in the partnered business? And what guidance or counsel does he provide to you on how to shape the partner business moving forward?

Gavriella:           Yeah I mean Satya is an amazing leader. Every time I have the opportunity to be with him I learn something new. In the way that he communicates, in the way that he brings people along and the clarity that he can create form the communication. We can have a whole bunch of people debating an issue and the way that he can help everybody reframe what are we trying to accomplish and get everyone on the same page and aligned towards the direction and pull in and listen in an inclusive way to what people are saying, it's just incredible. He engages pretty deeply on the partner business. He understands the role, the importance of partnerships in enabling us to reach our customers and support our customers. He is fully dedicated to making sure that we have a very healthy ecosystem and an inclusive ecosystem.

That we are thinking broadly enough about the global scale of our business and the reach that our customers are trying to get in how we make sure our partners are really driving that business with us and make sure that within the engineering teams, everything that they do is set up to be completed by a partner. That there are APIs, that there's the right documentation, that we're supporting and enabling partners, that we're testing with them. So we co-create a lot. And that's a lot of his influence in the design of the way that we go to market and the way that we build the product. So it's pervasive, the influence that he has within the organization is pervasive and it makes me feel great that the work that we do every day because we are supported from the top down to make sure that we have a very healthy and thriving ecosystem.

Vince: It's not just talk at Microsoft, it's ingrained in the vision of the organization. It's pretty clear from my vantage point.

Gavriella:           Yes.

Q: You also have a reputation as an amazing leader and many of our listeners are early in career and would love to learn about your journey to Channel Chief so I was hoping I could ask a couple of questions here.

Q: What is the one best piece of advice that you received when you took this role?

Gavriella:           The best advice that I received was stay connected. Think like a partner. Make sure that you're taking an outsider's view of all of the decisions that you make. Make sure that you have a good posse of advisors out in the community who make sure that we can keep it real and don't get sucked into the ivory tower of Redmond.

Q: You actively mentor others and frankly, you've been a role model to many. Not only women in technology, but also many men in technology, as well. Is there a favorite piece of advice that you give to others that you mentor and that you can share here?

Gavriella:           I would say there are a few pieces of advice that I have. One of them is that you have to, the technology industry changes very fast and takes almost everything out of you and so if you want to run the marathon in the tech industry, you have to take care of yourself. You have to make sure that your setting your boundaries and you are giving yourself time to have a life along with, like because when you give yourself time to breathe, when you give yourself time to think that's when you actually internalize and understand the bigger picture of what's possible and if all you do is go, go, go all the time, which you can get into in this industry, you just go all the time, then you rob yourself of the ability to create a vision or have that bigger picture view of where you're trying to go or what's possible.

So that's one thing, I think the other is to make sure that you are collaborating and scaling yourself. There are so many great minds and so many people that have so much to contribute that you want to make sure that you are checking in early and often with people. That you're socializing any thoughts that you have, kind of co-create. And then the third piece of advice is really the continue to be outside in. Make sure that you're connected with your customers. You're connected with your partners. I make sure that I have several partner meetings every day that I go to the EDC and I talk with customers so that we really do know what they're thinking and what they need. Not just making things up.

Q: Is there one quote you live your life by or think of often?

Gavriella:           Yes so for me, because there is such rapid pace, I always have to remind myself that I am most productive when I am balanced. So when I feel the most pressure I know that's the time when I have to take a step back and take a break and do something else. So the quote that always goes through my head is there are only 24 hours in a day, you're most productive when you feel relaxed and centered, so get centered.

Q: So is there anything that you do specifically when that happens? Is it a form of mindfulness? Or is there anything you can share here with our listeners?

Gavriella:           Yeah I create a routine for myself so I workout first thing in the morning to kickstart my day. I make sure when I come home from work that I take the dogs for a walk and I always have dinner with my family and so it's my way of, by having that routine that I stick with that I just stay centered and I make sure that I'm taking that break and really taking time out.

Q: That's really great. Is there one thing that you would tell your 30-year-old self if you could?

Gavriella:           I think the thing I would tell my 30-year-old self is life is a great juggling act. There is really no such thing as work-life balance it's more about doing what you think you need to do at the moment in time and have grace with yourself. Don't beat yourself up. There's always tomorrow, you can always be better tomorrow than you today.

Q: That's great advice. Gavriella, any parting comments for our listeners that you'd like to share?

Gavriella:           I think what I would say is that now, there's never been a better time to build a business with Microsoft on the technologies that we have coming out. There's so much outside opportunity. IDC just released their latest view that the market opportunity is going to be 20 trillion dollar market opportunity by the year 2025. So all of this technology just keeps unlocking more and more potential with our customers and it's mind-blowing. So I would say that there's never a better time to start a business, join the technology trend, jump in and have no fear because there's plenty of work and plenty of opportunities to co-create and build great new solution services and products using these Lego blocks that we have available.

Vince:                20 trillion dollars, jump in and have no fear. I love it. That's tremendous. You know, Gavriella, I just want to thank you. I know how compressed your schedule is, and I just want to thank you for taking the time for listeners, for the Microsoft Partner Ecosystem for all you do for our partner ecosystem I want to thank you for joining the Ultimate Guide to Partnering and if our partners want to reach out, what's the best way they can follow or reach you?

Gavriella:           The best way is also to connect with me on LinkedIn. I'm very responsive on LinkedIn and then I try to share some of my thoughts about what's going on. The best practices, some of the great stories that I hear. I try to post those out and share those on LinkedIn. So you can get to me at it's @gavriellaschuster. Surprisingly, I am the only one named Gavriella Schuster.

Vince:                Why am I not surprised? You're one of a kind. And we're going to provide links to all of this in our show notes and maybe even the IDC study if we can get our hands on it. So I want to thank you again. Gavriella I want to thank you for all you do for the channel. You're a role model not only within Microsoft, but to the whole Channel as well, and to our partners that listen to this podcast, I want to thank you so much for your time today.

Gavriella:           Great, thank you, Vince.

Mastering the Partner to Partner Play with Nintex.

Welcome to the 42nd episode of the Ultimate Guide to Partnering. My guest for this episode of the podcast is Josh Waldo, the Chief Customer Officer for Nintex, a Global Leader in the Business Process automation market.

Josh brings more than 20 years of experience leading partner strategy, partner marketing, product marketing and customer advocacy to Nintex. Prior to joining Nintex, Josh held a number of channel leadership positions at Microsoft during his nearly 10-year tenure there, including a role as the senior director of the Global Cloud Partner strategy where he helped the company transition partners to the cloud.

Josh and I both worked at Microsoft and on Episode 33 my Guest Toby Richards referenced Nintex as a great example of a Microsoft partner that had mastered partner to partner engagement building out its own channel as many of Nintexs partners closely align as Microsoft managed partners.

In this episode, Josh and I discuss Nintexs value proposition for customers, use Case examples and market sectors they serve,  how he thinks about his channel strategy, how the technology integrated with Microsoft, what he looks for in partners and his career journey.

In this interview episode you will learn:

  1. What is Business Process Automation, key customers, markets, use cases and case study examples.
  2. How the company got started and how it has evolved with the shift to the cloud.
  3. The Nintex Partner Program and what he looks for in partners.
  4. How Nintex drives O365 utilization and Azure consumption and opportunities for growth.
  5. Advice for companies looking to partner with Nintex.
  6. Why it's important to be focused in the line of business.
  7. "Top 10 do’s and do not’s to partnering with other partners".
  8. Career insights - early career, insights moving from Microsoft to Nintex, best career advice given and received.


You can listen to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, Google PlayPlayer FM, other Android podcast players or by going to the website “Ultimate Guide to Partnering“. 

I appreciate your feedback. You can reach me on Linked In or on email at You can also review this podcast by going to iTunes and searching “Ultimate Guide to Partnering” and clicking on the album art and hitting the rating link. This helps others find the podcast.

Vince Menzione

This amazing transformation has only just begun.

Welcome to the 41st episode of the Ultimate Guide to Partnering. I just released the 40th episode, and I can't beleive it's been almost a year since I started this podcast.

During my first 40th episodes as a podcast host, I’ve had the unique privilege of interviewing scores of leaders in the technology industry during this amazing transformation. I want to thank each of them for taking the time to be part of the Ultimate Guide to Partnering.

I started my podcast to share my experiences building partnerships and channels that ultimately transformed businesses. Rather than write a book that would have been outdated by the time it was completed, the podcast created an opportunity to interview leaders and document rapidly evolving and transforming technology trends.

This year has been an amazing time in technology, precipitated by the movement of business applications to the cloud, the rapid aggregation of data, driven by this movement and the development of tools in the realm of AI, Machine Learning and the like to harness the power of this vast aggregation to improve outcomes in business, in health, in education and in many other areas that ultimately promise to improve the human condition.

When I started I didn’t see it coming. This was supposed to be a podcast on the art and science of partnering, but what it’s turned into is a real-time chronicle of the widespread digital revolution happening across every sector empowered by data and the cloud's ability to make business applications ubiquitous. Entire industry sectors are being democratized because they now have access to capabilities and data like no other time in history.

My interview guests have been the leaders driving the change. Business executives from Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Salesforce and VMWare and their technology partners have taken their platforms and tools and made them palatable to a host of clients and industries.

Based on my discussions and interviews, these hyper-scale organizations did not expect this revolution to happen as fast as it has, and neither did their technology partners. One organization focused strictly on migrating data centers and applications to the cloud was responsible for sun setting and migrating 167 data centers alone in 2017. Another premier partner to the technology giants has grown to over $100 million in annual revenue this past year. The amount of progress is astounding and yet, we are still at the very beginning of this adoption cycle with only perhaps 6 or 7 percent of the world data and applications currently in the cloud. The future looks incredibly bright.

During my pause, I recently scanned my 40 episodes. My interview guests did an amazing job sharing transformational strategies, technology trends, leadership advice and lessons on the art and science of partnering. It's a pretty decent compilation for technology professionals looking to stay current on the market forces, industry advances, and partner strategies at companies like Microsoft, with a little Google, Amazon, VM Ware and Salesforce thrown in for good measure. You can access the full list of episodes here -

In episode 34, I interviewed Jason Rook. Jason is the Vice President of Market Development for 10th Magnitude, an early Born in the Cloud Partner and Microsoft chose 10th as its 2017 Partner of the Year for Infrastructure and Hybrid Cloud. Jason was an early guest on Episode 13, Anatomy of a born in the cloud partner, Jason Rook.

In our most recent discussion, we focused on the pace of change and what he is observing from his unique vantage point. The full interview is here - Brand, Employees, and Customers with 10th Magnitude, Jason Rook.

On Episode 37, I had the privilege of conducting a live interview with my good friend and the CEO of SADA Systems, Tony Safoian. Tony had been one of my first podcast guests and in this episode, we specifically discussed where he is investing for future growth and what he does to predict and hedge his business investments. He's obviously done a good job as SADA exceeded $100M in revenue in 2017. The full interview is here - Skate to where the puck is going with Tony Safoian

For Episode 38, I had the good fortune to interview Margo Day. Margo is the leader of Microsoft's US Education business and no stranger to the channel. In this episode, we discuss where partners should invest for continued growth and she shared some really compelling insights for our listeners. The full interview is here - Unlock the future...with Margo Day

On Episode 39, I was joined by Eduardo Kassner, Microsoft's Chief Innovation Officer for the Worldwide OCP, or One Commercial Partner Organization. Eduardo has a deep perspective and set of experiences and he freely shared some of the top challenges partners are facing and what he and the team are doing to enable and support partners through the change. The full interview is here - Fundamentals of innovation for partners to transform, Eduardo Kassner .

Where are you and where is your organization?

Are you feeling left behind during the change? Technology giants like Microsoft and others are investing in resources to help their partner organizations push through the change and transformation. There are playbooks that chronicle the best practices - the why's, what’s and how’s - to help partners build new practices and capabilities, attract the right talent, market their solutions and services broadly and ensure profitability as partner business models shift.

The best of the best make it to my podcast. I’m privileged to have featured some of the smartest minds in the tech sector and to have them share their advice.

And yet, with all of this transformation and change, partnering is still not nirvana. The need still exists for more information delivered to scale, to help these partners discover information to build their business, and stay in greater lockstep for continued success.

I'm committed to still being a conduit, to help you all connect and thrive. Having spent the last year at this unique vantage point, I feel empowered to help.

To technology leaders like Microsoft, I feel empowered to make this recommendation, leverage learning channels like podcasts, and always on channels, to deliver your message, your evidence, your enablement and training at scale, so that your constituents can consume what they want where they want, and when they want in a mobile-driven world.

And, for partners, you need to better understand and embrace your accountability for the success of the relationship by leaning in, making the executive investments to grow the practice, and understanding the cadence, and how to navigate these complex relationships.

We have only begun, what an amazing and bright time ahead for all of us. Let's lean in together to make the transformation in 2018 even more spectacular and amazing than the year before.

What makes Amazon's core value proposition unique for partners, with Dan Kasun

For my very first interview episode with Amazon Web Services (AWS) I was pleased to welcome to the Podcast Dan Kasun, a former colleague, who leads the ISV Strategy for AWS' Worldwide Public Sector Business.

Dan and I met and discussed how his team is organized, what makes the AWS core value proposition unique for partners, the company's culture, how he thinks about great partnerships and his career journey.

His team works with solution providers that develop finished applications for government, education, and nonprofits. We discuss how his team engages with these organization on business and technical enablement.

We discuss why partners chose AWS the sheer scale of their infrastructure high availability and redundancy and the vast array of services AWS offers to partners and customers.

Most customers are choosing a multi-cloud strategy today, so this episode should be particularly helpful and interesting to any technology organization or partner considering this approach.

Some highlights from the interview include:

  1. Dan takes our listeners through how Amazon's core set of leadership principles guide his business and partner engagement. You can access them HERE.
  2. How partners select and engage with AWS, how his team recruits partners and why they always need more partners to satisfy the demand for cloud and SAAS based solutions.
  3. What makes a great AWS partner - leadership, clarity of vision, high-quality technical talent, effective sales and marketing, high bias for action, experience in the industry, trustworthy and credibility - these are some of the traits we discussed.
  4. How his team facilitates cross partner engagement and is organized to foster it.
  5. Common myths working with AWS.
  6. Partners that have failed, why and what he would say to them now.
  7. Advice for partners looking to work with his organization.
  8. As with each of my episodes, Dan shares his career journey as a computer programmer and engineer and how that led to this spot in his career.
  9. Best piece of advice he received when he joined AWS.
  10. Quote he lives by and thinks of often - "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has", by Margaret Mead
  11. Book he's gifted often - "Most likely to succeed", By Tony Wagner.
  12. How to reach Dan -


You can listen to the podcast on iTunesSoundCloud, Stitcher, Google PlayPlayer FM, other Android podcast players or by going to the website “Ultimate Guide to Partnering“. 

I appreciate your feedback. You can reach me on Linked In or on email at You can also review this podcast by going to iTunes and searching “Ultimate Guide to Partnering” and clicking on the album art and hitting the rating link. This helps others find the podcast.

Vince Menzione

Fundamentals of innovation for partners to transform.

I was delighted to have Eduardo Kassner, the leader of the WW One Commercial Partner (OCP) Strategy and Innovation Team, join the podcast for a lively discussion. In this episode, we discuss the fundamentals of innovation for partners to transform and how he and his team address the key areas where partners need the most support, guidance, and enablement.

Eduardo brings a rich set of business, technical and leadership experiences to this role. His deep background as a cloud business leader lends itself to a  deep discussion on the fundamentals for success.

It’s a rich business and technical discussion and points to the work he and Microsoft are doing to enable the partner ecosystem to accelerate and push through the change. Eduardo brings a wealth of resources, highlighting links available to help partners innovate and transform.

In this interview, we address four fundamental focus areas:

  1. The Skills Gap - helping partners understand and address the skills gap, including how to locate, identify, attract, hire, onboard and retain talent. Change is happening so fast, how do you stay current? Check out Eduardo's Blog Post on the topic HERE.
  2. Practice Development - how partners can develop the right practices to grow and optimize their businesses. We share a link HERE to the Practice Development Playbooks with more details.
  3. Marketing / Selling - how partners can build a reputation and differentiate themselves in the market, find the next area of opportunity, build on it, and co-sell with Microsoft. Read more HERE.
  4. Profitability - how partners can achieve and maintain profitable in this new digital age. Read more HERE.

In addition, Eduardo and I discuss how his team is working to evolve Microsoft Competencies to make them more relevant, measurable and deliverable to joint customer satisfaction. Its a continuation of a discussion from Episode #33 with Toby Richards. In addition, we discuss his book “Enterprise Cloud Strategy” with former Microsoft CTO Barry Briggs, which explores the why what and how of an "enterprise-class" IT environment. Eduardo also shares his career journey and how it prepared him for this unique role.

Listeners and readers will find the following links from Eduardo valuable:

You can listen to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, Google PlayPlayer FM, other Android podcast players or by going to the website “Ultimate Guide to Partnering“. 

I appreciate your feedback. You can reach me on Linked In or on email at You can also review this podcast by going to iTunes and searching “Ultimate Guide to Partnering” and clicking on the album art and hitting the rating link. This helps others find the podcast.

Vince Menzione

#38 - Unlock the future, one life at a time, with Margo Day.

I was thrilled to welcome to the podcast Margo Day, Microsoft's Vice President of US Education since 2012 and no stranger to the channel. Margo leads Microsoft's largest business focused on this segment and was Microsoft's US Channel Chief for 5 years from 2001 to 2006.

In this episode, Margo shares with our listeners the US Education business, Microsoft’s focus on outcomes, how she thinks about partners in her business and her career journey.

Margo's enthusiasm and passion for education and empowerment are contagious and come through in this interview. Her business role and her life work are both closely aligned with Microsoft's mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

Toward the very end of our interview, Margo shares her personal story of the incredible and selfless work she does in collaboration with World Vision to make a difference in the lives of girls in Kenya. That work has been game-changing and has created new opportunities for thousands of girls whose only other path was Female Genital Mutilation and early marriage. Here's a link to Margo's personal blog about this work*.

In addition, in this interview you will learn:

  1. Skills and competencies critical to success in preparing for the jobs of tomorrow - excellent communications skills, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and traits such as character and citizenship.
  2. What Microsoft is doing to help students use the tools of tomorrow in the learning of today.
  3.  How Minecraft with Code Builder is being used in Education to develop computer coding skills and understand dada and big data.
  4. Hacking Stem and how it is making learning experiential - data, coding, engineering students can see and visualize data examples in lessons plans to help democratize STEM and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math).
  5. How Microsoft tools in the classroom like One Note, Microsoft Learning tools, and Translator are helping students acquire skills to compete.
  6. How institutions are thinking about cost and optimizing operations by shifting their data centers to the cloud and how cloud tools can improve operations and create new scenarios by leveraging predictive analytics.
  7. Managing the campus - how ISV applications can greatly improve business operations leveraging IP that's been developed for other customers outside of Education.
  8. Security and developing an Identity Based Security Model
  9. What's she is seeing in the transformation that she didn't expect to see a year ago.
  10. The work in research and how Research Institutions are using big data to do breathtaking work.
  11. Where should Microsoft partners invest in 2018?
  12. What characteristics make a great partner?
  13. Top challenges organizations in technology face today?
  14. How Margo got started in technology.
  15. How to reach Margo Day -

Best "old school" tool I'm taking forward into 2018!

As I move my business forward into 2018, the best "old school" tool I found in 2017 was the Best Self Journal. This is not a paid endorsement, I just love its simple approach to integrate gratitude into my day, stay focused in the moment and on my top 3 goals for the day and hold myself accountable through a simple daily review. I love the format, the simplicity and the celebration of knowing I'm making progress on my plan.

Greatest advice shared from a remarkable year...

As I approach the holidays and reflect on hosting a podcast and starting a consulting business, I pause here to reflect on the amazing experiences and share with you a body of work from a remarkable year.

As a background, I began listening to podcasts over a year ago when I ditched my Windows Phone and joined the 99.6% of the population using iOS or Android for mobile. I discovered the podcast app and it became my gateway to a new world of information. I could listen to great content on virtually any topic, where I wanted and when I wanted.

I started my podcast to share my experiences building partnerships and channels that ultimately transformed businesses. Rather than write a book that would have been outdated by the time is was completed, the podcast created an opportunity to interview leaders and document rapidly evolving and transforming technology trends.

During my pause, I recently scanned my 36 episodes. I don't yet profess to be an expert at podcasting, but my interview guests did an outstanding job sharing transformational strategies, technology trends, leadership advice and lessons on the art and science of partnering. It's a pretty decent compilation for technology professionals looking to stay current on the market forces, industry advances and partner strategies of companies like Microsoft with a little Google, Amazon, VMWare and Salesforce thrown in for good measure.

If you are interested in advancing your own knowledge base over the holidays, I've taken the time to catalogue by category the episodes to help you find the content that might be of interest to you.

The hyperlinks below take you to the episode and the show notes. I've also included is a link to that guest's profile.

Ultimate Guide - the art and science of partnering...

  1. How Microsoft thinks about its top partners, Eric Loper.
  2. "Cloud -First" strategy, Microsoft's CSP Program, William Lewallen.
  3. Microsoft P-Seller, Stephanie Martin.
  4. New Microsoft OCP Decoded, Bill Hawkins.
  5. Season of Change, Eric Loper.
  6. Channel Incentives, Scott Peltier.
  7. CSP Update, William Lewallen.
  8. Licensing Partners, Scott Buth.

Partners that get it right - lessons from premier technology partners... 

  1. Journey to premier status with Microsoft, Google and Facebook. Tony Safoian.
  2. 10th Magnitude - Anatomy of a born in the cloud partner, Jason Rook.
  3. Avepoint leverages social, Dux Raymond Sy. -
  4. Adventos Transformation to ISV, Mariano Delle Donne.
  5. Tribridge - Dynamics Partner of the Year, Tony DiBenedetto.
  6. Champion Solutions, Chris Pyle.
  7. Armor Security, Dan Mannion.
  8. Brand, Employees and Customers with 10th Magnitude, Jason Rook.
  9. Kudzoo, Logan Cohen.

 It's happening so fast - trends in transformation...

  1. Microsoft Partners advancing 21st century policy, Jonathan Friebert.
  2. Inspiring Partners, Kati Quigley. -
  3. Introducing Cloud Wave Partners.
  4. Grit and Determination -
  5. Partner Transformation, Toby Richards.
  6. What's Next, Tiffani Bova.
  7. On Leadership and Teams, Don Yaeger. and

 What would Google say, how other Technology Giants think...

  1. Google Cloud Platform, Eric Rosenkrantz.
  2. VMWare with Shawn Toldo.
  3. Intermedia with Eric Martorano.
  4. Sales Force in Government, Casey Coleman.

 Industry-focus - partner led...

  1. Government Cloud, Mike Batt.
  2. Transforming Healthcare, Bill Hawkins.
  3. Education Channel, Tom O'Neil.
  4. Promise of Digital Health, Andrea McGonigle.
  5. Public Safety, Rick Zak.

You can read or listen directly to my website, “Ultimate Guide to Partnering“ or if you prefer, you can listen to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, Google PlayPlayer FM, or other Android podcast players.

I have many of great episodes planned for 2018, so I hope you stay tuned. Thank you for your support in 2017 !

Vince Menzione


Leadership Lessons - Don Yaeger

As we approach year's end, I asked my good friend and New York Times BestSelling author, Don Yaeger to join me for a special encore episode to discuss his latest book along with leadership lessons and principles that he has applied to a successful career and personal life.

This episode is a little different than our typical episodes, but there are some great nuggets and leadership lessons that Don shares from his rich career and engagement with leaders in all aspects of business.

For this 36th Episode Don Yaeger shares:

  • Leadership lessons from his latest New York Times Best Selling book  - Andrew Jackson & the Miracle of New Orleans.
  • A leadership principle that has kept him focused on his business.
  • How he has learned to stay focused on one thing at a time.
  • How he writes books - his best creation time and why he doesn't suffer from "writer's block" when facing a deadline.
  • The best piece of advice he received when he planned to leave the corporate world and venture into his own business writing books and speaking.
  • His morning rituals - a typical Don Yaeger morning and how he balances a hectic life.
  • How he dealt with a really rough situation in his business.
  • Core operating principles he follows and instills in his company.
  • "The 16 Characteristics of What Makes a Great Teammate" from his NYT Best Selling Book "Teammate"and how that translates to what makes great partnerships. Including the best trait to follow for an organization going through a significant transformation
    1. Humble - Make a point to praise others, especially when you are being praised.
    2. Fully Engaged - Be present at all times. Notice all that is happening.
    3. Encouraging - Identify those co-workers who are struggling and find ways to inspire them.
    4. Respected - Allow your voice to be heard in a manner that holds people accountable.
    5. Reliable - Be consistent in your roles so your team knows what to expect of you everyday.
    6. Problem Solver - When a mistake is made, lead the team to a solution instead of placing blame.
    7. Resourceful - share your expertise with these co workers in your circle.
    8. Willing to Sacrifice - Assume whatever role necessary - never say no it's not my job.
    9. Positive - When things go wrong, highlight the upside.
    10. Communicators - If you have something constructive to add, speak-up.
    11. Relationship Builders - Beyond your department, build bridges.
    12. Honest - Transparent and well-intended for the betterment of the team.
    13. Hard Workers - Arrive early and exceed expectations.
    14. Always Ready - Volunteer for assignments no one else wants.
    15. Competitors - remind others that winning matters to you.
    16. Fun - remain approachable, reliable and friendly.

Don has written 27 books and 11 are New York Times Bestsellers and his books make great holiday gifts. You can search site here or contact Don directly and mention that you heard this podcast

You can listen to the podcast here or on iTunesStitcher, Google PlayPlayer FM, other Android podcast players.

As with each of my interview and articles, I appreciate your feedback. You can reach me on Linked In or on email at You can also review this podcast by going to iTunes and searching “Ultimate Guide to Partnering” and clicking on the album art and hitting the ratings link. This helps others find the podcast.

I hope you enjoy this episode!

Vince Menzione