Now the deadline for Microsoft Partner of the Year Award entries has closed, and in anticipation for the winners and finalists announcement at Inspire this year, we interviewed Ian Guest from Modality Systems—winners of the Microsoft Partner of the Year Communications Award 2016—to find out more about what goes into constructing the perfect Partner Award entry.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Ian. There are many Microsoft Partner of the Year award categories—how did you decide on which award category to enter?
Ian: Each year Microsoft make changes to the awards process. Some changes are subtle in terms of the information required, while others are more major in the form of new categories. As we do every year, once Microsoft has issued their guidelines for what they are looking for, we look globally to see what projects we have done and which category they fit best.
Can you give us an outline of the Microsoft Partner of the Year Award entry you selected?
Ian: As a Gold Partner for Communications and Cloud Productivity specialising in Skype for Business, the Communications Partner of the Year Award was an obvious standout for us. We selected a US client, technology company Aruba as our focus story and began detailing the project.
The project itself was migrating them to Skype for Business with a wireless infrastructure for all their users, which was around 4,000 in total. The drivers were to improve collaboration, focus on the use of technology and an element of cost savings. Aruba were using a lot of conferencing type servers, a PBX with lots of legacy types in a traditionally ‘wired’ environment. Making the switch to a wireless infrastructure, with handsets and wireless telephones, saved them about one-third of the cost per desktop. We wanted something innovative, and going into a completely wireless environment emphasised the flexibility of Skype for Business.
And in terms of the award entry itself, what measures did you take to give you the best chance at winning?
Ian: We knew the story needed to demonstrate a good return and business case, something that had measurable and tangible results to highlight the value. It also had to be aligned with Microsoft’s message, plus in our example, we wanted to incorporate more than just the technology. We were keen to pull through user adoption which is all about getting users to consume the technology, as that’s a key factor in delivering success and makes the whole story into a ‘business’ story, so to speak.
It was quite a compelling story really, and Microsoft got quite involved with sharing the story as well.
So, having won an award, what do you think are the main benefits of being a Microsoft Partner of the Year?
Ian: Credibility in the market is one of the key things. The Microsoft Partner space is so big, there are so many Partners saying that they can do ‘it’ in every industry and niche, having the Gold sticker for partner competencies sometimes isn’t enough.
As a winning partner, it’s great to say that we’re in the top tier. It raises your credibility to prospects as well as your profile in the Microsoft World which is very valuable. Microsoft are an incredibly important part of our business and being able to support the Microsoft teams with achieving their targets is key. We pride ourselves on being a trusted pair of hands and delivery partner, so having the recognition of the award just helps reinforce the point.
These awards definitely raise your profile in the Microsoft ecosystem. That’s true of Inspire in general, but award-winners get additional opportunities to network with the Microsoft senior team members and learn from all their knowledge and expertise.
And what were some of the benefits you receive from Microsoft for winning the award?
Ian: Again, it’s all about that credibility coming from Microsoft themselves. We get the plaque to say that Modality were Microsoft Partner of the Year Communications award winners, which gives us great kudos. With that carries the prestige that says you’re one of Microsoft’s ‘chosen’ partners.
Did Modality enter again this year?
Ian: Yes, we have entered this year, back into the Communications category, and we’ve also entered a couple of other categories as part of the Consortium. The submission we’ve put in this year is slightly different than last year, and I think there was one or two additional competencies, which reflect Microsoft’s current objectives.
That sounds like a lot of work! How do you keep on top of multiple award entries?
Ian: It can be quite a lot of effort, but we tend to use the skills of a trusted freelance writer who has worked with us for the past three years. Outsourcing can prove really helpful providing you go with the right people who understand the Microsoft process, have links within Microsoft and understand which buttons to press, particularly from a writing point of view. We scope out what we want to pull out from this story and it’s the preparation that you put into the briefing that really determines its success.
There haven’t been many partners who have won consecutive years for the same category if any. But we’re hoping we’ve gone into this again with a winning formula.
And for any other partners thinking of putting themselves forward as Microsoft Partner of the Year, do you have any advice?
Ian: There a number of things to consider:
- Being selective as to what case study you use and using a case that can tick the Microsoft strategy boxes is important. It’s important to tangibly quantify the stats with a customer who can support it. Fundamentally, it’s about getting the right people on board, and if you’re outsourcing your award entry like I mentioned, you need to work with people who understand what you’re doing.
- For those partners who have broader offerings, they can enter for multiple awards categories, as well as entering the same submission for different categories. But that doesn’t mean you should enter as many as possible in the hopes that one of them will get the job done. Always remember to make sure your award submission is appropriate and applicable to the category you’re entering for.
We want to thank Ian Guest for taking the time to explain how Modality Systems were successful in entering the Microsoft Partner of Award, and sharing some insights into the winning recipe for Partners.