Azure Partner Community: Building your technical team


Welcome to part 3 of this month’s Azure Partner Community blog series. Read part 1, and read part 2.  

   
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by Nick Johnson, PMP
US Partner Technology Strategist

This month’s Azure Partner Community blog posts focus on how to add a new capability, solution, or even a new practice to your business. While I am using a hybrid data center as my example, these steps are applicable to most scenarios. Since time and geography don’t allow me to have this conversation one-on-one with every partner, I’m sharing my insights so that you can apply it to your business.

In part 2 of this blog series, I talked about  bringing your new solution or capability to market. There are three concurrent activity areas that need attention to be successful: sales, marketing, and technical. We looked at marketing and sales planning in part 2, so this post will cover technical.

Building a technical team is an ongoing process, and with Microsoft Azure, the platform is constantly growing and improving. That makes it exciting to work with, but it also poses challenges when it comes to staying current. Before we look at specifics in our hybrid data center, here are two things to keep in mind about technical learning:

  1. Don’t ask your team to “go learn Azure.” Azure is such a rich platform that trying to approach it this way can be overwhelming and lead to frustration. Instead, focus your efforts on a specific area of the platform.
  2. Make learning continual. For consultants who need to be billable, readiness is often a secondary concern when it comes to scheduling. Thinking about the cloud business model I mentioned in my previous post requires making cloud-related readiness a priority. Enabling your team to stay up to date will help them be at their best.

Readying your technical team

Build a readiness plan that focuses around the core pillars of your offering. For the hybrid data center example, these include storage, networking, virtual machines, and backup/data recovery.

Choose where your team starts their readiness based on their current level of knowledge and skills. Microsoft has resources that address introductory needs, level 100–200, and intermediate to advanced needs, level 300–400.

The table below recommends some of the resources available by topic. It’s not exhaustive, but it does reflect a content set that can be consumed in a reasonable amount of time to ramp up a technical resource in a hybrid data center practice. You can supplement this with a wide variety of Azure technical content that’s available in the Azure Partner Readiness Catalog.

Topic

Level 100–200

Level 300–400

Introduction to Azure

Virtual Machines

Virtual Networks

Storage

Azure Backup

Site Recovery

Management and Monitoring

 

The MOC 20533 training course that I mention in this table is one of the Microsoft Azure certification courses offered by Microsoft Learning. As your team members build their skills, you may want to consider adding formal certifications to the process. Check out my blog post about Azure certifications and exam preparation from earlier this year. 

Training and studying are critical for building knowledge and skills, but there is nothing like time spent hands-on with Azure to really familiarize yourself with it. Microsoft partners can get access to Azure for learning, trial, and demo purposes. My colleague, Frank Campise, published an Azure Partner Community blog series that explains these options and benefits that’s worth reading through:

Bringing it all together

Congratulations you’ve made it this far. You’ve evaluated your current capabilities, decided to add a cloud practice, assessed your business model, and readied your teams. Time to start marketing and selling. But there is one more critical thing.

When it comes to the cloud, customers will get the most value out of using the services they have paid for. To help them find this value you need to have a clear customer success plan and process in place. This actually starts during the sales cycle.

I recommend that your sales team overlap with your technical teams earlier in the sales cycle than they ever have before. This will allow the team to work with the customer to set clear expectations around implementation and onboarding. Once the deal is closed the implementation can begin immediately without surprises.

After the implementation is complete, you still are not done. I find that the most successful partners check in with their customers to report on usage on a regular basis. This helps the customer tell an ROI story to their business leaders. For partners, it helps identify areas for improvement of the service and identify new services to add, effectively starting the sales process again. In cloud businesses, this cycle of connection with the customer should never end.

In our example of a hybrid data center, the initial sales implementation may have focused on moving some VMs to the cloud. Once those were implemented we would spend time with the customer and learn that data backup and long term retention is becoming a focus area for them. This would move us to presenting Azure Backup as a solution and then building another implementation plan, and so on.

I hope the discussion this month has been insightful to you as you think about growing and expanding your business into new areas on the Microsoft cloud.

Join me on October 15 for the Azure Partner Community call. We’ll look at a key component of the hybrid data center, Azure Express Route.

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