NavigateIntoSuccess.com has a nice write up on the direction Microsoft is taking with small Dynamics partners based some insight from a blog post by Alex Chow. http://navigateintosuccess.com/blog/is-microsoft-killing-the-small-partners.
It is a tough environment and getting tougher for some but I agree with Vjekoslav that they're not trying to kill us off. I say "us" because my company could be considered a "small" partner but we don't fall into any of the 3 categories of small partners that Alex describes in his post:
1. Small newcomers that oversell and don't execute.
2. Internal companies that arbitrage the partner program to get free licensing.
3. Lifestyle partners that don't sell and therefore don't send any revenue Microsoft's way.
There's another category he didn't account for; 4. Emerging Partners - broadly experienced partners that are growing organically at their own pace.
There are many Emerging Partners in the channel that are focused on profitable growth at a pace that is manageable for their business. Often, Emerging Partners are a better fit for even the larger Dynamics customers. They specialize more and don't try to be everything to everyone which is a plus for customers that typically don't implement more than one ERP system anyway.
So, what is it that Dynamics customers are looking for in a Partner? A few of the primary characteristics of a good partner include:
1. A conscientious business partner that delivers value in excess of its cost with the highest level of integrity and professionalism.
2. Timely access to expert product consultants that can deliver the technology solutions and services required as well as other services the customer may not have anticipated needing.
3. Proactive communication through e-mail, phone calls, newsletters, webinars, blogs, etc. to deliver the latest Microsoft Promotions, Tips and Tricks, and Product Releases.
Emerging Partners engage on projects on which they know they can be highly successful and employ senior level consultants and developers. They are establishing themselves in the channel through superior delivery of services not another metric that does not benefit the customer such as top line software licensing revenue that drives margins for the partner. Margins take a backseat to customer satisfaction but overhead is lower for them. They won't win worldwide partner of the year but that's not their goal.
With a core team of the right people with the right mix of skills and experience an Emerging Partner can deliver the Microsoft Business Solutions stack extremely effectively; Dynamics ERP/CRM, SharePoint, SSRS/Business Intelligence, and Custom .Net solutions and services. Sure, there are projects on which more and/or other resources are required but Emerging Partners have their own networks of experienced professionals to fill those gaps when needed. The larger partners all face the same challenges as they push their own consultants to triple digit utilization while managing a healthy sales pipeline.
Emerging Partners have fewer full-time sales people which can be a benefit to the customer. They typically engage senior level consulting resources, project managers, or firm owners as account managers who can address customer needs directly; engaging sales resources when necessary. They maintain a more intimate relationship with their customer base. They often turn down opportunities to engage with new customers if those engagements/customers aren't a good fit with their strategy; 100% customer satisfaction and retention.
Emerging Partners can afford to grow more slowly, be selective on the work that they do, and focus on customers first and prospects second. There's a lot of value in that strategy for those customers that are lucky enough to work with an Emerging Partner.