Interview with Richard Wills – Partner Development Manager at Microsoft UK – sharing his advices to make the most of your partnership with Microsoft.

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How did you start your career at Microsoft? Richard W:

I started my professional career as a chartered accountant before realising that it probably wasn’t the career I was really looking for, moving to Microsoft’s UK Finance team around 16 years ago, to support internal seller compensation which was very new to me. It was a good place to land, the experience giving me a broad view of the whole Microsoft business. After a number of roles in the UK and abroad, I had the opportunity to move outside of Finance and work in the partner eco-system, initially with our hardware building OEM’s. This triggered a real interest in partner and the key role of partners in our business, moving across to what is now known as Global Partner Solutions some 6 years ago. Doing so with experience across Finance, Sales and Marketing, and in management and leadership roles, gave me a great foundation of knowledge and experience.

Why did you choose a career in IT/ P2P?

Being honest and transparent, I am not an ‘IT geek’ and Microsoft was not a choice based primarily on the industry. It was more about the size and scale of the organization and how you play a part in driving and supporting commercial performance that appealed to me. Working with partners gives me the opportunity extend that same interest for discovery and problem solving from an internal to external perspective.

When I initially starting working on the partner side it actually took a whole to understand exactly how the expansive partner eco-system works and especially how P2P forms a key part of the eco—system. The industry has come a long way from the traditional sense of an ‘IT Reseller’. Microsoft plays a number of roles in that partner eco-system – and only when all partners work in an aligned way, do we see the creation of value to our customers. There is a constant need to assess and evolve the process and the parts that partners play in this value creation.

What advice do you wish you got when you started your career in Microsoft? 

I wish someone had really challenged me to really understand the broader/wider ecosystem. In large organizations, it’s easy to have a narrow focus and think only about your immediate role and responsibilities – understanding your role as part of a much bigger picture can really help you both enjoy what you do, but also find the thing that best fits your skills and interests. If you have been asked to do something, ask yourself why have you been asked to do this and what does that mean for the business, learn quickly and maximise your impact.

One result you are really proud of as a Microsoft employee:

I spent a year in Slovenia leading the Finance and Operations functions, a smaller Microsoft subsidiary but a significant company in the Slovenian marketplace. There were obvious language and cultural challenges, but this did not stop us having a really strong year and we were awarded the subsidiary of the year award. Even more so, it really felt that the work that my team and I performed during that time had a strong impact on this success.

What’s one important P2P tips/advice that will help partner success for to get ready for FY22, in your opinion? 

At Microsoft, we are not perfect as an organization, but we try to have a positive impact in lots of areas and in lots of ways. My recommendations for our Partners would be:

  1. Make sure they are in a position to take advantage of all the materials/offers/readiness/investments on offer. In this sense be self-serving wherever possible or use the support available – managed status should not be a blocker, nor the need to have numerous or deep relationships with Microsoft employees. The goal is to make as much of our investment as possible programmatic – capability and capacity are key for partners to access what we have available.
  2. Focusing on who you are as a partner: skills – competencies – expertise. Balance expansion across customer verticals or solution/product areas with retaining your core skills and expertise. Think about what you are known for and why you are good at it and ensure you continue to find ways to message that. Build great solutions rather than lots of solution and ensure that alongside Microsoft and other partners those solutions optimize the customer experience. Selling is meaningless unless customers can consume or use the technology they have invested in.


Which what would you do if you would not work for Microsoft :

I always wanted to be a PE teacher but having parents who were teachers somehow pushed me away from this path. I’m too old for that now, and I love what I do for Microsoft, but often wonder what it would be like to run my own business and experience that direct responsibility for it’s overall success.

What would you recommend to partners who want to grow in 2022?

There remains a huge amount of customer white space for partners to discover and engage with – and therefore plenty of space for partners to successfully co-exist and be successful together. Use your own strengths and leverage the strength of others as you do so.

Ask yourself as a partner: How can I ensure that I am successful in the way I want to be successful? Ensure your business goals and strategy are not compromised and remain true to you so that you retain your identity and achieve success in a way that supports your long term objectives as an organization.

How would you describe P2P:

P2P can be the best way to drive customer success and the associated success of partners. It is matching skills and IP to provide optimal solutions.

What’s the best Resources for partners?

Partner center: even though this is not yet perfect, it is constantly evolving and should be the starting point for everything you want to do as a partner.

What makes a partner successful?

I would reply to this question in 2 parts:

1. Partners sharing insights, knowledge and successes – making them visible to Microsoft. The volume of partners makes it hard to obtain and validate these insights, when shared clearly, they can be really powerful.

2. Being objective and pragmatic enough to understand what Microsoft is and is NOT and try to not get too frustrated with what is/isn’t happening or what you think should be happening. Look at the bigger picture, make the relationship work for you – remember we are trying to get things right but won’t always do so, however hard we try.

Personal note to share with us?

As for so many people, lockdown brought some very difficult times but also some amazing hidden opportunities. I live near the New Forest and have always been an ‘outdoorsy’ person, but an now convinced more than ever on the benefits of fresh air, exercise and time outside. There is something for everyone, regardless of how seriously you take fitness, the key is opening your mind, getting yourself out of the house wherever you can and ensuring you stop to take it all in.

Guest: Richard Wills

Partner Development Manager – Microsoft UK

Richard Wills (002)

Interviewer: Pauline Durand

Partner Success Manager – Cloud9 Insight

IAMCP UK & P2P International Associate Member

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