The industry is buzzing with comments and opinions about Satya Nadella taking the helm at Microsoft. Most of the comments seem focused on what the company should or should not do with its technology. What seems to be missing is what Microsoft should do to empower its ecosystem, not just what it should do itself.
What should Microsoft do for Service Providers?
There are a few who are commenting about the partner ecosystem. Charles Weaver, for example, presented his views on what Microsoft must do to help managed service providers (MPS) and cloud service providers. His post "New Microsoft CEO could mean good news for Managed Service Providers" over at the International Association of Cloud and Managed Services Providers offered some well thought out comments. He presented a number of things that Microsoft has done wrong to support the service providers that are worth reading. He summed up his thoughts by saying:
In my humble opinion, there is one question which needs to be addressed by Nadella: What is Microsoft’s private cloud strategy? Just take a look at companies like IBM and you can see where they believe the MSP and cloud providers should be heading. Microsoft cannot just rely on Office365 to survive. MSP (i.e., the entire IT channel) need to be re-engaged. The channel used to be responsible for selling a lot of Microsoft products. Those days could return, depending on what Mr. Nadella decides in the next few months.
Let's take a broader view
If we step back a bit and consider Microsoft's history, one of the company's strengths has always been its ability to build a vibrant ecosystem. Microsoft relied upon its partners to bring its products into new markets, add features that Microsoft hadn't even thought of and provide a whole range of integration, implementation and ongoing support features.
Over time, however, Microsoft appears to have decided that it wanted the whole pie rather than working with the belief that partners helped bake the pie and should be given a reasonable slice of revenues and profits so they could continue helping Microsoft grow. This decision has created quite a few problems for partners.
Microsoft needs to go back to its roots and make sure that partners have access to code, APIs and beta software early enough so that they can add their very necessary value. Microsoft appears to have forgotten that requirement in a few of their recent product launches. What happened? Partners were brought to the party late, had no time to add their value and Microsoft's products didn't sell as well as they could.
Large enterprises, a very important part of Microsoft's ecosystem, have been told that they simply can't have access to Microsoft's cloud services for them to build their own on-premise clouds. Companies wanting to build their own on-premise clouds had to turn to Cloud Stack, OpenStack or Eucalyptus.
Products that supported partners addressing the needs of the midmarket, such as the Windows Small Business Server, are often brought to market with strange limitations and no clear growth path so that customers could easily and economically move on to the next Microsoft product.
I'm reminded of something Alice Roosevelt Longworth said about her father which could also apply to Microsoft. She said, "My father always wanted to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding, and the baby at every christening.” Microsoft needs to go back to its roots and consider how it will help its partners succeed. That will contribute to Microsoft's own success.