Microsoft starts rolling out biggest changes in two decades to its Premier customer support program

Microsoft is rolling out big changes to its Premier Support plans and structure, which are meant to better support businesses adding cloud services to their mix.

As the pieces of Microsoft's recent sales reorganization are continuing to fall into place, Microsoft is undertaking a massive overhaul of its Premier Support organization -- its services unit that provides businesses with issue resolution, planning assistance, infrastructure design guidance and IT education.

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Up until recently, Microsoft Premier Support has been relying on 8,000 "world class support specialists" to provide these kinds of services for more than 11,000 enterprises worldwide, according to Microsoft's Premier Support datasheet.

The structure and mission of those specialists is changing. Microsoft is revamping its commercial support program and introducing a brand-new program that is codenamed "Volta," and known officially as Microsoft Unified Support. Volta/Unified Support is "the biggest Microsoft Support (Premier) transformation in the past twenty years," according to a Microsoft job posting.

Microsoft has begun gradually rolling out Unified Support as of July 1, 2017, the start of its fiscal 2018 in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany, France, Australia, Sweden and Mexico. The company plans to make the new plan available to all business customers globally by the end of its fiscal 2019, I've heard from my contacts.

Microsoft designed the Unified Support program to respond to more of its business customers adding cloud services to their product mix. Because of the influence of the cloud, Microsoft is changing the way it provides services in a world that's more attuned to paying for consumption, purchasing via subscriptions and requiring 24X7 support.

Unified Support also is meant to simplify how Microsoft business customers buy and use Microsoft support services by consolidating all of their supported products and services into a single contract.

Microsoft is also reducing the number of Premier support offerings to three as part of the overhaul of Premier. Under the new plan, Microsoft will offer a Core Support plan that provides lower-cost problem resolution, reactive support, self-help resources and insights for planning purposes; an Advanced Support Plan with more responsive critical issue support and help from Microsoft employees in evaluating and planning for new technologies; and the highest end Performance Support for the fastest response times with service-level-agreement guarantees and access to Microsoft architects and engineers.

I haven't heard any specifics on how these changes will impact customers, price-wise.

Microsoft's Premier support is part of Microsoft's overall Services organization, which a recent Microsoft job posting described as a $3.3 billion business for the company.

At the beginning of calendar 2017, Microsoft reorganized its partner organization and created a new "Microsoft Digital" support and consulting services organization which currently employs more than 22,000 people worldwide.

Microsoft Digital is meant to focus more on getting Microsoft customers and partners to build on and use Microsoft's various cloud products. Microsoft Digital includes Microsoft evangelists, developers and "digital advisors and architects" who can be assigned to customers as needed.

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