What Microsoft’s new auditing initiative means for partners

This is a follow-up to an alarm I sounded following Microsoft’s contact to a customer of my MSP and not contacting us or including us in that communication. You can read that here if you haven’t previously. It will help you understand the context and provide some detail on what those email look like.

Referring back to the original post, we have two Microsoft initiatives going on. One is a continuation of the Microsoft store local small business outreach program. (my name for it) In my area we had a local store and the local store had business representatives. Those people answered questions from business walk-ins, held business focused education events and called on local businesses in hopes of selling them Microsoft 365. Although the stores are closed, that work continues. Their focus now seems to be PowerBI and Dynamics sales. They will call on your clients and tell them of the virtue of Microsoft 365, PowerBI and Dynamics. They will ask if they have a partner they are working with. If they do, then you’ll get notified that they sold your client some licenses and now the project needs to be done. If your customer says, our partner doesn’t do that work, or you say that you don’t, then they are happy to refer them to a partner that does. While most small business MSP’s see their relationship to the client as one of ownership, Microsoft doesn’t see it that way. You are a Microsoft partner, one of many, and if the client needs more service than you are willing or able to provide, then another partner can be plugged in to work with you on that. Then the client will have two partners happily working for the client in their own spaces. While that works in large enterprise, it doesn’t usually play that way in small business, but Microsoft doesn’t make that distinction. It is what is.

When the Microsoft store first appeared in our neighborhood, I paid them a visit and invited them to an event we were holding where we hoped to land new clients. They came. They met some of our existing clients and helped shore up our reputation with potential clients. What this did, was let them know that we’re an active and educated partner in the area. When businesses walked in and didn’t have a partner, they said, here call Harbor. The Microsoft business reps needed to be able to show that they were making their quota of new license sales but to do that they needed someone to implement them. We also found that they didn’t have to actually sell them. They just needed to show that they had influenced the sale of licenses. Perhaps needless to say, this was a fruitful relationship.

New initiative

I’ll call this new initiative, Add Depth. It’s is run by a completely different group at Microsoft. It is being run in a manner reminiscent of the open licensing audits that were being done for several years. We treated those licensing audits as an opportunity to trigger some consulting with our clients. Sometimes it’s difficult to get clients to agree to do certain things that are in their best interest, that they don’t understand. These licensing audits were in that vane. They created an opening for us to discuss future cloud migrations and the coming end to open licensing. This also bore fruit for us. It was the push that clients needed to finally hear our advice that it was time to move to the cloud.

The Add Depth initiative is the one that I sounded the alarm on though. This is where, even a firm with a supposedly good relationship with Microsoft, can get side-lined. In a meeting with the person in charge of this program, I was told that the communication sent to my client was reviewed that it did NOT adhere to their protocols. The sales consultant had taken a shortcut, around us. I have been assured that they have corrected the problem, re-emphasized the requirement to stick to the script, and they don’t expect that it will happen again. Not just with this one person but across the program. That’s some good news. Now that we are part of the process, we can figure out how best to take advantage of it.

My relationship with Microsoft is to acknowledge that I can’t change what they are going to do, but that I can figure out how to use what they are doing to my advantage. That’s exactly what I plan to do. Just like we did with the Microsoft store and the licensing audits before that.

In this new initiative, which I am calling Add Depth, Microsoft will call upon businesses including the partner in that communication, if they can identify one, and they will offer to run a tool by Block64 that will do a licensing usage, security and upgrade planning audit of their environment both on-premises, in 365 and Azure at no cost to them. The report can be co-branded between Microsoft and the partner and is then provided to the client.

This report will answer the questions, when should I budget to replace the equipment I have, what would it cost to run that in Azure, do I have any unpatched vulnerabilities, is my environment secure? It’s all that and more. What’s going to happen when your client sees that information? Is Microsoft going to be able to identify you as the partner? Both excellent questions you’ll have to answer for yourself and decide what you’re going to do about it. Ranting on Reddit isn’t going to cut it. Like I said before, we can’t make Microsoft stop or change, but we can figure out how to best leverage what they are doing.

Those who know me well, know that I have a habit of saying yes to everything. I’m kinda known for it. I’ve taken the notion that opportunity only knocks once to heart and I figure I’d better answer that door and welcome opportunity in. I can always decide to change my mind later after I’ve had a chance to try on the opportunity and see it fits. But my gut reaction to everything is yes. I suggest that when it comes to Microsoft’s initiatives that you take that same stance and start developing your plan. I didn’t plan to have a major initiative like this one generating new clients and triggering projects in existing ones in 2021. But now that I know Microsoft intentions, now that the communication problem is fixed, my plan is already in progress.

As an aside, if you’re interested in learning more about consulting and deploying projects but simple and complex, I’m running a Microsoft 365 consulting series this year. Learn more

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