What a year it’s been. We caught up with Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s One Commercial Partner, to get her take on the past twelve months and what’s been happening with Microsoft partners around the world. You can listen to the conversation in full in our podcast here.  

 

Staying connected

Speaking about Microsoft’s partners’ experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gavriella described a situation many can relate to. Suddenly, with working from home and travel restrictions, partners have been presented with more time. This has meant added potential for productivity but has introduced new issues when it comes to staying connected, so the number of roundtables and checkpoints taking place via Teams have increased accordingly.

 

“…setting boundaries so that work doesn’t become a 24-hour sport…”

 

On the flipside, Gavriella and the partners have also had to ensure they aren’t too connected. That means nurturing the right work/life balance, preventing ‘camera fatigue’, and thinking about how to help people thrive in the ‘new normal’ of work. And cometh the hour, cometh the new Microsoft solution. 

 

Viva la Viva

As Gavriella told us, the launch of Microsoft Viva early in 2021 was a culmination of Microsoft’s learnings throughout the pandemic, and was developed with three aims in mind:

  • Building resilience 
  • Putting people first 
  • Staying connected

Viva brings together communications, knowledge, learning and insight into a single integrated employee experience directly in Microsoft Teams. It’s there to empower people and teams to be their best wherever and however they work and bring organisation and flow to all the elements workers needs to be successful.

 

“We really want people to work smarter, not longer. 

 

Boosting businesses’ immune systems

“No business is immune to a crisis and no business is 100% resilient.” We definitely agree with Gavriella on this point. And we also agree with her following remark: “But digital businesses and those fortified with digital capabilities have been able to pivot more rapidly.”

If the previous 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that organisations need the capability to digitally connect every facet of their business.  A positive, lasting legacy from 2020 may be that partners and customers across the world have created the networks needed for that connection. Something that may have begun as a measure to safeguard business continuity has the potential to be much more, improving speed of business in all kinds of ways – from customers to employees to operations to products.  

 

Helping customers prevail in a crisis

We discussed partners’ responses to the pandemic. The key opportunities have been around remote work: getting customers up and running remotely quickly, ensuring their business continuity and resilience, and putting everything in a ‘bubble of security’ – data, users and infrastructure. Gavriella was impressed by partners’ innovation and how they’ve swiftly and decisively responded to this need, dubbing them ‘digital first responders’.

 

…incredible speed, agility and work...”

 

For those unfamiliar with the term, a first responder is someone who is among the first to arrive at the scene of an emergency and provide assistance. The digital first responders of the Microsoft Partner Network have done just that in response to the COVID-19 crisis, answering customers’ callsputting them first, minimising downtime and enabling business to go on.

Gavriella was struck by how these partners were able to get customers up and running in as little as 24 hours and complete cloud migrations in just a quarter of a year instead of as much as 18 months. They should be very proud of these achievements, we think  and it’s a great reflection on the Microsoft Partner Network as a whole.

 

“The best of our partners has come out through this.”

 

As we’ve also heard from many of our clients over the last yearGavriella noted that Microsoft Power Apps was a very useful tool in a partner’s pandemic toolbox. The low-code development platform’s capabilities for creating bespoke software solutions made it the perfect digital Swiss army knife for organizations everywhere.

With Power Apps, partners could quickly and easily “plug holes and create new business process”, as Gavriella put it. The platform’s value has definitely been put to the test, demonstrated immense value and will now be a firm fixture in many businesses’ innovation initiatives in the future.  

 

Gavriella’s advice for Microsoft Partner marketing

Toward the end of our talk, we brought up a topic we’d been particularly eager to discuss: marketing strategy. We wanted to know Gavriella’s thoughts on what makes for the most successful Microsoft Partner marketing now and moving forward. She provided some excellent advice which we agree with wholeheartedly.

 

Hone in on a single thing that makes you really stand out.”

 

Gavriella emphasised the need to focus on your value proposition and what differentiates you, your business model, your engagement strategy and the solutions you deliver. As she says, that’s how to ensure your organisation stands out from countless others and gets your unique value across to customers.

Once a partner has defined the compelling core of their value proposition, it’s time to make it their digital marketing platformIt’s important to be clear about it and be sure to communicate it in the simple language that’s as accessible and compelling to your audience as possible.

 

Make sure that you’re not talking tech but talking outcomes.”

 

Gavriella was preaching to the choir here. At Fifty Five and Five we are firm believers in telling powerful, benefit-led marketing stories that present clients’ full valuereally speak to their customers and address their goals and challenges – instead of just bombarding them with technical terminologyThat’s central to our approach to business-to-business tech marketing – before the COVID-19 outbreaktodayand long into the future.

Aalways, it was great to catch up with Gavriella, and we’re always fortunate when she shares her insights with us.

If you want to hear everything Gavriella said, including her advice for women in tech todayit’s all here in our podcastOr if you’d like to discuss how Fifty Five and Five can help you reach your marketing goals, just get in touch.