Artificial intelligence is a defining technology of our time. Over the past year we’ve begun to see how it can unlock profound possibilities for individuals, organizations and society — and it’s clear that we have only scratched the surface.  

For Microsoft and our partners across industries, AI offers a generational moment to reimagine the capabilities that software and services can provide. Our goal at Microsoft is to innovate and democratize our breakthroughs in AI — and the opportunity for partners is far greater than the sum of AI technologies themselves.  

For this State of the Partner Ecosystem moment, we’ll share how partners are seizing the opportunities that AI offers and making its promise real for organizations across the world. We’ll highlight partners who are building AI-powered solutions to innovate across industries, including three partners who are: 

Helping people and organizations achieve, in months, what once might have been a multi-year endeavor. 
Innovating in higher education by streamlining work in marketing, admissions and student advising. 
Empowering real-time decision making at the point of impact across the supply chain. 

First, we’ll look at how Microsoft is empowering our partners to innovate, build and differentiate with AI through a combination of technology advancements, an industry leading partner program and true market differentiation. During this time of AI transformation, there has never been a greater time to be a Microsoft partner, and our partners are fully embracing this new opportunity.

Unprecedented momentum: the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program 

Microsoft is driving innovation in generative AI, with new Azure OpenAI Services and an expanding portfolio of Copilot offerings. Today, we offer the most comprehensive commercial portfolio in the market with AI infused everywhere from the cloud to the edge, and across every solution area.  

Partners can tap into all this innovation through the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program. Through research, partnership, and new investments, we are bringing partners the capabilities and benefits to help them empower customers of every size, in every industry.  

Just as AI capabilities are infused throughout our technology portfolio, AI benefits are wired throughout the partner program. And today we are announcing enhancements to enable partners to create an AI-powered future, including:  

The expansion of AI skilling, boot camps and events 
New benefits packages with product enhancements like Microsoft 365 developer, increased Azure credits, and Visual Studio enterprise, to support AI practice growth 
New designations for partners to establish certified AI solutions or ways to differentiate themselves. 

This builds on the incredible momentum we’ve seen since we announced the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program last July. In fact, the Microsoft AI Transformation Partner Playbook outlining new possibilities with AI has been downloaded over 35,000 times. Our free go-to-market asset, the Era of AI marketing campaign-in-a-box, has been downloaded over 13,250 times.  

Today more than 13,000 partners building solutions with Microsoft Azure AI, serving more than 53,000 customers with generative AI capabilities alone. Our partner ecosystem is rising to meet demand with a nearly 250 percent increase in the number of generative AI-related partners in the past eight months. 

When you add that up, it points to a year of exponential innovation and growth for partners, and we are continuing to develop new ways to support this growth curve. Here are some specifics on the updates we are making to the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program in the coming months.

Program updates, including new designations and certifications for partners

Solutions partner designations and specializations are one way we help partners differentiate themselves in the market. Designations and certifications help to verify skills and validate the effectiveness of solutions so customers can find the partner and technology that’s right for their needs. 

To obtain designations and specializations, partners must meet skilling and performance requirements, and provide customer evidence to demonstrate their capabilities — and partners have embraced this opportunity with Microsoft AI. We have seen 58 percent growth since last July in partner designations for Azure Data and AI solutions, and 172 percent growth in partner specializations for the Build and Modernize AI apps with Azure and AI and Machine Learning designations.  

To build on this momentum, today we are announcing several new designations for partners across software, services and training. 

A new set of designations for partners who develop software: Solutions Partner with certified software 

Today, we are pleased to announce the general availability of Solutions Partner[i] with certified software[ii] designations. Certified software designations provide an opportunity to better connect with customers and to unlock additional benefits from Microsoft.  

By becoming a Solutions Partner with certified software, partners can differentiate their solution, increase their discoverability in the Microsoft Commercial Marketplace, connect with more customers, and take advantage of marketing and branding resources designed to help accelerate revenue growth in a rapidly expanding market.  

There are two pathways to become a Solutions Partner with certified software: solution areas and Industry AI 

Solution areas. To become a Solutions Partner[i] with certified[ii] software for solution areas, a partner’s software must meet readiness and technical requirements and demonstrate a track record of customer success. Solution area designations include Azure, Business Applications, Modern Work and Security.  

Industry AI. To become a Solutions Partner with certified software for Industry AI, in addition to the requirements above, a partner’s solution must also meet an industry-specific challenge aligned with the Microsoft Industry Cloud scenarios and include a Microsoft AI capability. Currently, partners can attain the following certified software designations for Industry AI: Healthcare AI, Retail AI, Financial Services AI, Manufacturing AI and Sustainability AI.  

More than 75 partners with solutions across all five industries and from around the world have participated in the public preview of the designation, including Netherlands, Iceland, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Norway, Ireland, India, Canada and the United States. There are 49 solutions currently certified with an additional 27 in progress.

New Training Services Solutions Partner designations 

We are also releasing new designations for partners who provide training services. Starting April 10, partners who qualify for Solutions Partner for Training Services designations will be able to complete enrollment.  

Qualified partners will receive designation-specific badges distinguishing their services from other partner types within the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program. These badges greatly enhance customer discoverability, making it easier for them to identify partners with unique expertise and a proven track record of delivery quality training. 

New Small and Medium Business (SMB) paths for Azure and Security Solutions Partner designations 

Based on partner feedback, we are investing in our small- and mid-sized business ecosystem and creating a pathway for partners who focus on delivering solutions for SMB customers across Azure Data & AI, Digital & App Innovation, Infrastructure and Security.  Later this year, we will introduce dedicated SMB paths for Solutions Partner designations for Azure​ and Security, adding to our existing SMB paths for Business Applications and Modern Work. 

For partners who serve smaller businesses, this creates an exciting new opportunity — a new way to qualify for existing Solutions Partner designations, giving more partners access to the products, go-to-market resources, support, and advisory benefits that come with these designations. The new SMB paths will differentiate partners who can meet customer needs and drive customer success by validating those partners’ capabilities in our Azure and Security solution areas.  

Additional details for the SMB paths for Azure and Security will be available in the coming weeks. 

An update on the Support Services Solutions Partner designation  

Today we are announcing that partners with a Solutions Partner for Support Services designation will soon receive exclusive new benefits, including paid support agreement pricing and access to a knowledge-based library of curated materials designed to help partners resolve incidents quickly and efficiently, in addition to customer-facing badging. General availability and more details will come later this year.

Equipping partners through AI skilling  

Rapid innovation with AI technology has created an increased demand for partner skilling for both pre-sales and technical roles. Responding to partner feedback, we have launched a breadth of Microsoft AI-focused skilling workshops, boot camps and training events. Since July 2023, more than 350,000 partner personnel have also become skilled pre-sales and technical depth learners for Microsoft AI, Copilot and Fabric. 

Microsoft AI partner training roadshow 

In March, we launched an in-person training series called the Microsoft AI Partner Training Roadshow to target six cities globally through June, across India, the Bay Area, Germany, Japan and Brazil. Our inaugural event in India had 1,500 attendees from 40 partner organizations with 96 percent of participants agreeing that the event was valuable and 94 percent indicating they gained new skills to be successful in their roles. The roadshow is focused on in-person training on AI, targeting 270 partner organizations, and includes a keynote session highlighting the unique value of Microsoft AI, Fabric and Copilot for Microsoft 365, followed by a sales excellence and technical excellence tracks. 

Copilot for Security upcoming release and partner skilling 

To support our partners and customers in securing their businesses, we are excited to announce the general availability of Microsoft Copilot for Security in all commerce channels, including Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) channel, on April 1, 2024. We initiated an active Copilot for Security partner community at Inspire last year, which has since grown to more than 1,000 participants. Over the past six months, Microsoft has engaged with more than 100 Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP) and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) in a Copilot for Security Partner private preview. Upcoming security skilling events include:  

Microsoft Copilot for Security Partner Boot Camp – Helps participants understand how Microsoft Copilot for Security enables security analysts to move at the speed and scale of AI by augmenting the human experience. Starting April 16. 

Threat Protection and Incident Response with Microsoft Sentinel Workshop – Participants will learn how to deploy and connect this SIEM and SOAR solution to different data sources and   use intelligent security analytics and threat intelligence capabilities for attack detection, threat vulnerability, proactive hunting and threat response. April 22-25. 

New AI skilling for sales/pre-sales and technical depth  

Azure OpenAI Workshop – Designed to help participants deepen their understanding of Azure OpenAI Services, this is tailored for developers and data scientists aiming to do more with less. Starting April 16. 

Microsoft Fabric Workshop – Participants will learn more about this comprehensive suite of services, including data lake, data engineering and data integration, all in one place. And learn how to implement this easy-to-use product that is designed to simplify analytics needs of enterprises. Starting April 8. 

Copilot for Microsoft 365 Pre-Sales, Deployment and Adoption Bootcamp – Participants will explore how Copilot for Microsoft 365 provides real-time intelligent assistance, enabling users to enhance their creativity, productivity, and skills. Starting March 26. 

New Partner Benefits 

On Jan. 22, Microsoft launched three new benefits packages: Partner Launch Benefits, Partner Success Core Benefits and Partner Success Expanded Benefits. Purpose-built to meet the varied needs of partners at different stages of growth and help partners scale their business through a portfolio of key Microsoft benefits, the packages are available for purchase at a significant discount for partners 

These refreshed benefits follow partners through every element of the partner journey: from creating their solutions, to go-to-market, to differentiating their organizations in the marketplace. Beyond the three new packages, partners can continue to pursue Solutions Partner designations and specializations to differentiate their organizations in the Microsoft  Commercial Marketplace and access additional product and support benefits. Partners who develop software IP can also tap into ISV Success, a collection of resources that help accelerate software solution development and amplify sales.  

The feedback on the new packages has been incredibly positive, and we continue to listen to partner feedback and explore new ways to invest in our partners.  

Update on Copilot for Cloud Solution Providers  

On Jan. 16, Copilot for Microsoft 365 became generally available across all sales channels, including through our Cloud Solution Providers. General availability of Copilot for M365 opened a wealth of immediate opportunities for partners to deliver end-to-end services to help customers achieve a smooth transition into an AI-powered organization.  

One Microsoft distribution partner, TD SYNNEX, has already engaged more than 2,000 partners in its enablement journey for Copilot for Microsoft 365, demonstrating the industry’s eagerness to harness the potential of generative AI. With more than 500 individuals certified in the program, TD SYNNEX provides its partners with the technical and operational expertise, solutions and resources to help partners leverage Copilot’s capabilities and gain a competitive edge. 

From vision to reality: partners are delivering AI solutions around the world 

We are committed to building AI capabilities across the Microsoft cloud, guided by our Responsible AI principles. Our partners enable us to scale and deliver those technologies to every organization and every person on the planet. We anticipated some remarkable innovation in this area, and in just over a year we have been amazed by the results and impact partners are achieving around the world. 

Here are some of the ways Microsoft partners are developing differentiated solutions and helping customers transform their business processes across industries.  

Accenture, together with Avanade, is working with Amadeus to develop a generative AI-powered interactive assistant using Microsoft technologies, including GPT models from Azure Open AI Service, Microsoft 365 and Teams, to allow corporate travelers to orchestrate complex travel-related tasks using only natural language.  

Anthology Inc is providing AI-powered innovation for higher education through its student success and lifecycle engagement solution that is built on Microsoft Dynamics 365. 

The Atlassian product suite — including Confluence, Trello, Jira and Atlas — improves productivity and collaboration. As part of the Microsoft Copilot Early Access Program, Atlassian enhanced its apps to empower users to track tasks, resolve issues and manage projects seamlessly.  

Companies use Blue Yonder for end-to-end supply chain management. Blue Yonder, built on Azure, uses AI and ML to provide real-time decision-making power and workflows that help businesses fulfill orders and respond quickly to shifting market conditions.  

CallMiner’s AI-driven platform empowers organizations to ingest and analyze every conversation that happens in the contact center and beyond to uncover insights, act, and drive transformational change.  

Datadog integrates with all major Azure services, including Azure OpenAI Service. Now customers can better optimize costs, troubleshoot issues and monitor the performance of their AI-powered applications.  

EY worked with Microsoft to create a generative AI chatbot to answer payroll questions from employees across the 159 countries and 49 languages that EY clients encompass.  

Icertis Contract Intelligence Copilots are providing customers with assistive and generative natural language capabilities that cut through legalese and turn contracts into interactive assets that deliver insights and automation to drive businesses forward.   

Intapp is enabling thousands of financial and professional services firms to harness the intelligence of their professionals through AI-powered software solutions.  

LTI Mindtree is leveraging generative AI, powered by GitHub Copilot and Azure OpenAI Service, to accelerate the migration of legacy apps from on-premises to the cloud. Their methodology automates the creation of new cloud architecture, code conversion and documentation generation, resulting in an average reduction of 46 percent in migration time.   

Sight Machine works with manufacturers to make their businesses stronger, more sustainable and more resilient. To better support manufacturers’ data accessibility needs, Sight Machine used Azure OpenAI Service to harness generative AI (GPT-4) and to develop Factory Copilot. 

Veeam Software, recently announced an extended, five-year strategic partnership with Microsoft to innovate new solutions for protecting customers by integrating Veeam’s product family and Microsoft Copilot and AI services. 

Looking ahead: unlimited opportunities for AI innovation 

We have seen tremendous progress as partners seize the moment and turn the promise of AI into a reality around the world. Today, we have moved from talking about AI to applying AI at scale in ways no one could have imagined just a few months ago. 

Microsoft is infusing AI across every layer of its tech stack, creating new ways to power organizations and industries, and unlocking new opportunities to deliver transformational value to customers.  

Key to making all this a reality are the capabilities, services, product innovation and depth of industry knowledge delivered by our partners. Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Our partners enable us to deliver on that commitment, in every customer segment, every geography, every day.  

 

[i] “Solutions Partner” refers to a company that is a member of the Microsoft AI Cloud Partner Program and may offer software, services, and/or solutions to customers. Reference to “Solutions Partner” in any content, materials, resources, web properties, etc. and any associated designation should be not interpreted as an offer, endorsement, guarantee, proof of effectiveness or functionality, a commitment or any other type of representation or warranty on the part of Microsoft. All decisions pertaining to and related to your business needs including but not limited to strategies, solutions, partner selection, implementation, etc. rest solely with your business.   

[ii] A certification is (A) specific to the solution’s interoperability with Microsoft products and (B) based on self-attestation by the solution owner. Solutions are only certified as of the date the solution is reviewed. Solution functionality and capability are controlled by the solution owner and may be subject to change. The inclusion of a solution in marketplace and any such designations should not be interpreted as an offer, endorsement, guarantee, proof of effectiveness or functionality, a commitment or any other type of representation or warranty on the part of Microsoft. All decisions pertaining and related to your business needs including but not limited to strategies, solutions, partner selection, implementation, etc. rest solely with your business. 

The post From vision to reality: Microsoft’s partners embrace AI to deliver customer value appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.

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