This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Microsoft Ignite 2018 conference coverage

Microsoft fiscal year 2019: Priorities revealed at Inspire conference

At its annual Inspire conference, Microsoft said it will make investments in its vertical industry strategy in its 2019 fiscal year, which began July 1; other news from the week.

Microsoft fiscal year 2019 priorities suggest a few areas in which partners can expect to work with the company.

At last year's Microsoft partner conference, the company talked about reorganizing its sales force along industry lines and discussed a commercial model designed to win digital transformation projects. In this fiscal year, which began July 1, Microsoft will fine-tune that model but make no major changes, noted Judson Althoff, executive vice president of worldwide commercial business at Microsoft.

Althoff, speaking at Inspire, the annual Microsoft partner conference, did however outline top Microsoft fiscal year 2019 agenda items. Among those priorities: digging deeper into what Althoff called strategic enterprise accounts. With that direction in mind, Microsoft plans to invest more in its industry focus and strategy. Partners, for their part, will be called on to invest in industry-specific solutions and services.

In addition, Althoff said Microsoft will emphasize customer acquisition and aims to bring more customers to the Microsoft cloud, while it pursues account-based marketing. And once customers are acquired, the focus will shift to customer retention and growth, he noted. For partners, this could mean developing customer success practices, which follow upon the initial sale.

Microsoft, meanwhile, will also make learning and readiness a fiscal year 2019 priority. Althoff pointed to a new learning platform that will roll out this year, as well as new cloud certifications.

At the Microsoft partner conference, the company also stated plans to invest in its in-house cultural transformation. Althoff cited diversity, inclusion and a growth mindset as the key themes in that priority area.

In addition to those stated Microsoft fiscal year 2019 priorities, partners can also expect to see the company elaborate on its intelligent cloud, intelligent edge approach, which company executives describe as a ubiquitous distributed computing fabric with embedded artificial intelligence.

"We are going to infuse everything with AI," said Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, during his keynote address at Inspire.

Xerox remains bullish on SMB ambitions

Xerox said recent shakeups at the company haven't affected its goal of capturing the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market through partners.

While the fallout of a proposed merger with Fujifilm has sparked questions about Xerox's future, company executives remain optimistic, especially as it relates to expanding Xerox's footprint in SMBs. Xerox has long identified its channel partners as a primary means for capturing SMB deals.

"SMB is a major strategic focus for Xerox, and the way we get there will be through our channel ecosystem," said Pete Peterson, president of channels at Xerox.

Peterson, who joined Xerox about 15 months ago, said the changes at Xerox during his tenure haven't disrupted the vendor's commitment to partners. He noted that Xerox's new CEO, John Visentin, views channel partners as a key engine for growth. Xerox named Visentin its CEO after former CEO Jeff Jacobson stepped down in May.

Peterson cited managed print services (MPS) among the SMB market opportunities that Xerox wants to enable partners to pursue. Xerox in February launched its MPS Essentials Suite, a bundle of MPS software offerings for partners. "Our MPS business and channels are growing significantly compared to the overall market," Peterson said.

The vendor is also looking to help partners to develop applications around its ConnectKey devices, he said. He noted that Xerox has either developed or enabled about 75 ConnectKey apps, which include apps for document management, archiving and translation capabilities. In the last 12 to 18 months, Xerox has hosted several training and enablement sessions for partners to learn how to monetize and build their own ConnectKey apps, Peterson added.

Other news

  • Data management vendor Commvault has bolstered its channel resources as part of a long-term partner program redesign. New partner program features include an on-demand services center dedicated to supporting partners, marketing support and an enhanced quoting system. Commvault also revamped its partner portal, adding new tools and content. In addition, the vendor consolidated its product portfolio of 20 offerings down to four products.
  • Carahsoft Technology Corp., a government IT solutions provider, is distributing Feature Labs offerings to public sector organizations through Carahsoft's NASA Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement contract. Feature Labs offers software that automates feature engineering for machine learning and AI applications.
  • E8 Storagehas expanded into the Canadian market with the addition of CognoSystems, based in Toronto, to its roster of solutions partners. CognoSystems, a disaster-recovery-as-a-service provider, is collaborating with E8 Storage to incorporate the latter company's NVMe architecture into environments such as supercomputing clusters.
  • In other Microsoft Inspire announcements, Pax8, a cloud distribution firm, launched its Wingman Professional Services Program. Through the program, managed services providers (MSPs) can access customized IaaS solutions built by Pax8's cloud architects and engineers, according to the company. In addition, BitTitan, a managed services automation company, unveiled a new set of automation capabilities for its MSPComplete offering. The capabilities let service providers offer professional, managed and help desk services around Microsoft Azure, the company said.
  • IT services management vendor SolarWinds MSP updated its N-central remote monitoring and management platform. N-central 12.0 introduces deeper integration with professional services automation software, improved patch management and access to NetPath, a network performance tool.
  • IT Glue, which offers a documentation platform for MSPs, introduced a new checklist feature to its software. The Checklists tool lets MSPs create checklists to organize and track routine tasks within the IT Glue platform, the vendor said.

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