Customers using a Microsoft ERP or CRM product use more than one addon from an ISV. (I read that most companies use more than 4 ISV addons – although I could not verify this statistic). This in itself is a fantastic thing, that there are so many solutions that help Microsoft products fit businesses better.
The ISV (Independent Software Vendor) market around Microsoft products is amazingly deep, passionate and of very high quality. There are solutions for just about anything and everything you need to do as a business. As I have preached many, many times – every business is different and you need to choose different solutions to support your place in the market.
If you could buy a product that purported to do ‘everything’ you would be buying an SAP or Oracle Financials type product that would cost upward of 10 million and would NEVER be implemented and would definitely not fit your business. This is what makes the à la carte world of Microsoft mid market solutions, plus the ISV’s needed, a really great model.
So something I would encourage Microsoft to do a little better is to ‘LOVE’ the ISV group. Microsoft should take some time to fall in love with the great companies that sell software tools to support their base mid market offerings. Microsoft cannot and should not try and write all the software in the world, as they can never have the expertise in all the niche areas. What they need to do is preach how ‘awesome’ this community is and actively and openly share this message. In a world where the APP store has been made famous – I would like to see Microsoft take this further and re-imagine this model. A model where they actively lead with some of their ISV solutions and bundle them together with the base offering.
I've attended many Microsoft Partner events this summer where they invite their customers in for a day of learning, loving and interaction. Unfortunately many of these partners took the existing Microsoft model. They would invite a group of 15 ISV's to attend and display their wares. They wanted their customers to know that all they really needed was something extra beyond the core solution – there were options delivered by ISV’s BUT in reality the ISV's were the unwanted but necessary sponsor who paid to be there.
There is still a sense that if you have to bring in an ISV you are admitting that there is a weakness in the base Microsoft product. That is crazy. What you are doing is delivering the customer the BEST possible software to help them run their business most successfully. Many Microsoft partners like to hide the ISV – unless they really need to.
I think there are a number of reasons for Partners wanting to hide ISV’s under the carpet:
1. They have not trained their consulting teams on those ISV solutions.
2. As a result of 1., this means they are not confident in their ability to deliver.
3. They bring in any ISV they need to close a deal and only when they need to close a deal based on specific functionality.
4. As a result of 3., they have too many ISV’s on their list.
5. They are concerned about the support and upgrade issues of too many vendors.
6. Providing support gets tricky with too many addons.
So there is one VERY VERY easy solution to this. Take a page out of Google's book and “Do what you do really, really well”. That means choose your market, choose your ISV’s and deliver amazing solutions around the offering. Amaze your customers with how much you know about EVERYTHING you sell.
I would recommend every Microsoft partner slash the number of ISV’s you deal with. Choose 2 ISV’s. Choose 3 ISV’s. Choose 5 ISV’s – but do not choose 15 or 20 or 50. WOW - that’s dangerous ground! Quite frankly the ISV’s would really appreciate it as well. As a reseller that sells one product from an ISV every year – you cost that ISV way more money than they make – so they will be relieved that you cross them off the list. Now this could be a dangerous strategy for me and eOne as we may well be one of the ISV’s that you cross off the list. That would be sad, but I can live with it, if it's the right thing for you to do.
I recently attended a partner event where there were 2 ISV’s present. That’s right only 2. It was awesome. The partner led with, “We have invited two of our most trusted partners that have great solutions. You need to meet with them and rest assured that our consulting teams are experts in these solutions. We will be running breakout session on these topics led by our consultants – but if you have any tricky questions we have the experts here for you today."
This is an example of a Microsoft partner LEADING with ISV’s. Bringing them into their family, treating them with respect, educating the consulting team on the solution, learning how to sell the solution and confidently delivering some awesome solutions to their customers. This model worked brilliantly well for eOne (the ISV), for the partner who had a focused message and for the customers who were offered a strong solution that they know was backed by their partner.
So I challenge all Microsoft partners and Microsoft to rethink their ISV strategy. Get deep with your ISV. Love Them. Lead with them. This eliminates every reason listed above, that makes you wary of ISV’s now. You will enjoy the success that you get taking a different spin on an old strategy.