I have been around for a while in the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem and for years, I have seen how Microsoft has been encouraging their partners to become an industry focused implementation partner. In other words – choose a ‘vertical’ and approach that business. Gone are the days when implementation partners were surviving with a horizontal approach (having minimum domain knowledge). Now, implementation partners are expected to add value by making complex processes easier and implementing industry-wide best practices realizing greater RoI

This blog will help partners consider five focus areas that need to be addressed if they want to become a domain-driven implementation partner. Also, this can be a great partner selection guide for end customers.

1.Your local market  
It all starts with understanding your local market. What applies to Italy does not necessarily apply to the United Kingdom and what works in the United States does not mean it is a success formula for the Netherlands. This is not rocket science but it is an important step to figure your local market out and back it up with numbers. In this context, two questions that you need to answer –

  • What are the top 5 industries in my (sales) region?
  • How does the ERP offering look like per industry in my sales region? Do a solid competitor analysis of :
    • Dynamics and other ERP vendors
    • Particular ISV resellers
    • Local heroes

2. Build your own Intellectual Property vs. using ISV Intellectual Property
Microsoft Dynamics offers a lot of out of the box tools and functionalities. However, for some industries or business scenarios, additional Intellectual Property (IP) is required. Over the years, I have seen that partners and customers underestimated what it means to own IP, especially when used by multiple customers. Factors that you need to take into account when choosing to build your own IP versus giving that responsibility to an ISV that you partner with are:

Over the years, I have talked to many partners and customers that had gotten the short end of the stick. They underestimated what it means to own IP, especially when used by multiple customers.Factors that you need to take into account when choosing to build your own IP versus giving that responsibility to an ISV that you partner with are:

  • Upgrade to new versions (including data model changes).
    Bear in mind that customers seldom are on the same versions.
  • Support multiple versions (Microsoft Lifecycle)
  • Testing (automated and manual testing)
  • Following market trends (collect and process input in your product)
  • Having and keeping marketing materials up-to-date for e.g. website, fact-sheets, blog content, etc.

3.Opportunistic vs Strategic
Partner recruitment is an important part of my job. One of the first questions I try to answer when engaging with a new partner is- what is the approach of the partner? Is this partner opportunistic or does this partner have a strategic approach? Here are my definitions of both options: An opportunistic partner “makes a decision to go after a certain niche/vertical customer based on individual sales case” while a strategic partner “makes a conscious decision to go after a certain niche/vertical and starts to plan towards it.” The best way to test this upfront is to ask for some kind of investment before you start to engage. It may be clear to you that we prefer to work with strategic partners.

4. Go-to-market investment
Another factor that is often underestimated by resellers is the investment you have to make to start winning and implementing successfully. I would say that it takes persistence because it can take a while before you win your first deal. Secondly, it takes a multidisciplinary team approach. It also takes:

    • Sales Enablement
      Both sales and pre-sales need to know and understand the customers’ business processes and know where you can add value. It all starts at the frontiers!
    • Consultant training
      While classroom training is a good starting point, conducting customer workshops (the consultant shadowing us) and creating the functional design is very important.
    • Marketing launch
      Content is king. Every marketer needs the input from the field to create fresh content. You can think about fact-sheets, whitepapers, product descriptions for your webpage, etc.

As a customer, you can get an idea about the seriousness of a partner is if he does not make these go-to-market investments.

5. Partner enablement
I often receive feedback from my partners who are in search of an ISV partnership that many ISVs lack a so-called ‘partner enablement’ mentality. Majority of the current ISVs are also Value Added Resellers (VARs). This means that they sell, develop and implement software solutions at end customers themselves and at the same time need to support a complete partner channel. At To-Increase, we decided to be a pure-play ISV. We are involved as subject matter experts in implementations of our software, invited either by the partner or by end-customer. This is the best way to have firsthand market input that we can incorporate into our product development but we do not implement standard Dynamics. I would say partner support and enablement needs to be part of your DNA. To support this and our partner channel there some practical things we provide that you can use as a benchmark such as:

  • Support portal
  • Online:help documentation
  • Share webinars
  • Implementation support and consultancy
  • Pre-sales support
  • Sales training and support
  • Training (both classroom and on the job)
  • Partner newsletters
  • Use of To-Increase references
  • Eligible for lead assignment
  • Access to implementation Calculation Sheets for To-Increase solutions

This should give you a good idea of what to do when doing an ISV selection. For more information on other benefits that we extend, write to learnmore@to-increase.com