Seven Pros and Cons of Microsoft’s Change to Default Office 365 Delegated Admin Privileges (DAP) for Partners in the Partner Center

Microsoft has been making an investment and change in the CSP program. Some of these changes are program changes and technology changes to better align the channel.

Some of the recent changes include Advanced Support, Billing Automation, Microsoft Cloud Agreements which we covered in our previous webinar and now Beginning November 1, Delegated Admin Privileges (DAP) are no longer automatically granted by default.

Prior to this change, all new relationships included Office 365 DAP, and the removal of DAP in Office 365 occurred after the reseller relationship was established. Now, when Partners use Partner Center to connect with customers, they must choose whether their customer relationship includes Office 365 DAP.

How Do the Partner Center DAP Changes Affect the Customer’s Experience?

Instead of being directed to the Microsoft Office Admin Portal when accepting reseller relationship invitations, customers will now be directed to the Microsoft Store for Business.

Whether Partners choose to include Office 365 DAP for new customers will determine which communications and landing pages customers see in the Microsoft Store for Business.

  • Customers with DAP included: their invitation will mention DAP, and they will see a screen allowing them to accept DAP privileges as usual.  
  • Customers without DAP included: DAP will NOT be mentioned in the invitation, and these customers will need to assign Partner permissions for Office 365 and Azure to themselves. 

Note: Work 365 Provider Configuration accommodates the scenarios where a partner can request the specific relationships in the 1.8 release of Work 365.

How the Partner Center DAP Changes Will Affect Partner/Reseller Customer Relationships:

Pros:

  • Easier for Indirect CSPs: this change allows Indirect CSP Partners to send a “DAP-free” relationship, enabling a customer to purchase and the Partner to provision, but not have access for delegated admin.  
  • More Flexible for Customers with Strict Compliance Requirements: Partners will not face compliance and/or security hurdles related to DAP access when working with highly regulated prospects, which means it may be easier to do business with those clients.  
  • The Change is Optional: Partners that require DAP access in order to provide support to customers can continue to send reseller relationships with DAP. They will just need to verify the invitation settings.
  • Reduces Partner Conflict: Partner competition over Digital Partner of Record privileges (DPOR) can be resolved by the customer since they will have control over who they believe should be their DPOR.  

Cons:

  • Quick Adjustment: This announcement was made 10 days before going into effect, leaving Partners little time to adjust to the new Partner Center process for sending reseller relationships.  
  • Providing Support May Become More Complicated: If a Partner sends a “DAP-free” relationship to a customer and the customer later needs support, the customer will have to give DAP access to the Partner. This could lead to delays and confusion. 
  • Reseller Support is Still Required: Even in “DAP-free” reseller relationships, this does not excuse a Partner from providing support. The MCA agreements have not changed, and resellers are still responsible for providing support.  

Next Steps for Managing the Partner Center DAP Changes 

  • Starting Nov. 1, 2018 Partners must choose whether to include DAP when establishing new reseller relationships using the Partner Center.  
  • Make sure to send your invitations using the appropriate links.  
  • Ensure you update existing documentation and collateral to reflect the new experience. 

We will discuss these changes in our next Work 365 Webinar if you would like to learn more. Any additional information on this topic will be shared in our Work 365 Yammer Group.

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Advanced Support for Cloud Solution Providers: An IOTAP Review

Microsoft announced the new Direct CSP requirements for Partners in May with an effective start date of Aug. 31st, 2018 for Partners to become compliant based on their CSP renewal dates.

The major changes to the CSP Direct Biller program are the new requirements to purchase an Advanced Support Plan, along with a Billing Automation solution and a Managed Solution offering.

The Advanced Support plan costs $15,000 and includes quicker response times of under an hour, break/fix problem resolution, and the ability to manage support incidents on the customer’s behalf.

The Premier support plan begins at $30,000, it has additional features and is customizable to Partners’ needs.

You can check out comparisons of the two programs here

Although the requirement was established to ensure adequate customer support among the Direct CSP Partners, it was quite controversial in the Microsoft community and there were differing opinions on why Microsoft made the change. Some Partners had experienced the program in its early stages and had poor feedback. Partners did not want to be forced to purchase a service that wasn’t great and add additional costs.

Other Partners asserted this requirement was a deliberate strategy to reduce the number of Direct Partners, and to have the relationship be built with distributors instead.

Over the last several month partners have taken the plunge and stayed with the Direct Biller program and implemented some strategies to recuperate the cost of ASfP:

  • Partners can provide a differentiated support offering of providing escalated Microsoft support for customers that want a faster turnaround, and then continue to offer a basic support plan as well. This is specifically helpful for Azure and Business Applications.  
  • Use the cloud consultation as a service item and service offering.
  • Leverage the differentiated messaging of having advanced Microsoft support available to customers to help increase sales.  

There are a few aspects of the program that have been highly beneficial with the biggest impact:

1. Response Times and Quality of Support

“We spend less time waiting for a response. Response times have been cut down by as much as 50 minutes. Normally when I file a ticket sometimes I would wait for an hour. Now most times when I submit a ticket, it’s ten minutes or less for a response with ASfP.”

2. Quality of Microsoft supports improving

The difference between the quality of support is night and day. We spend less time troubleshooting, we spend less time waiting, and people are more knowledgeable. So it’s tremendous times savings both on the front end, with waiting, and with the backend with the actually troubleshooting as well. And that’s amazing.

3. Monthly Cloud Consultations

These are engagements with Microsoft technical specialists that can become involved in engagements with potential customers. Involving these technical specialists with customers keeps them interested and demonstrates our relationship with Microsoft. For example, they have been very helpful in Azure engagements such as helping set up Azure clients’ infrastructure environments that are a bit tricky.

We also use cloud consults for internal development as well. Instead of using one of our monthly cloud consults to help with a client engagement, we use it for technical training purposes.

4. Account Manager

The last and probably the most important reason our technical support experience has improved so dramatically because of our SAM (Solutions Account Manager). An effective and committed SAM will ensure Partners get the value out of the relationship.

The overall result of these features has been our ability to drive better customer experience.

Reach out to Work 365 to see a personal demo!

Optimize Azure Billing and Cost Management

Azure Billing and Pricing Best Practices

Many Microsoft Partners starting out in Azure get stuck on the cost of Azure and managing the billing thus discouraging them from selling it and losing out on the dominating cloud opportunity Azure provides.

The IDC chapter “Optimize your Operations” in the ebook The Modern Microsoft Partner Series, sponsored by Microsoft, discusses building repeatable business practices and touches on Azure billing and pricing.

IDC asserts that “maximizing margin is directly related to the customer’s perceived value,” and therefore influences whether a customer sees enough value for the price in order to buy the solution.

In other words, a customer must have a true need for which the solution addresses in order for pricing to be justified by the customer. The first issue with this lies around communicating that value of the solution and how it addresses the customer’s needs specifically. The second issue is actually pricing the solution.

IDC recommends pricing within a range with which customers find acceptable but still allows for enough margin to be profitable. However, unless one understands how to optimize the infrastructure of an Azure cloud environment, the truth is Azure can be very expensive depending on the workloads.

Regardless of the methods used in optimizing cloud infrastructure, one should always give a range in Azure pricing to the customer to allow for slack in the event of unforeseen circumstances that could not only affect profitability but also reduce client satisfaction and jeopardize one’s credibility.

Another possible solution, as demonstrated by Rackspace’s business model, is to have customers pay monthly for consumption, but to have customers sign a flexible agreement so that when there are spikes in consumption the cost is spread out over several months instead of having one big bill.

IOTAP’s CEO also discusses his thoughts on the subject of Azure billing for CSP Partners; read it here! You can also attend his Webinar discussing Azure subscription Management and invoicing for CSP Partners using Work 365.

How to Azure Pricing

When pricing Azure, one needs to think about more than just the number of VMs and storage a customer will need. In order to quote optimized Azure pricing, one must first understand the client’s business. Questions to ask could include:

  • Are there any servers that don’t need to be on all day every day? Are there any that can be turned off during non-business hours?
  • Thinking about the customer’s industry, are there certain times in their business where spikes in consumption can be calculated? For example, if the customer is in retail will they get more activity on their online website during a holiday season? Appropriately changing server sizes when more capacity is needed is an excellent way to not acquire overhead costs of unused larger servers, and to easily scale up or down as the business demands.
  • Instead of big monolithic boxes for RDS sessions, can some of those sessions be reduced to redundant smaller RDS boxes? For example, gateways often have identical sessions. Instead of letting a large monolithic box go mostly unused, put those sessions in much smaller boxes that can be scaled up and down when more capacity is needed.  

These may be infrastructure related questions, but they directly influence consumption and the end cost; therefore, these variables must be considered when leveraging the Azure calculator to produce quotes.

Tips and Tricks on Azure Cost Management

To see detailed information around Azure cost management, the article “Prevent Unexpected Charges with Azure Billing and Cost Management” found on Microsoft’s Azure documentation site lists several examples with instructions. Here are a few highlighted features: 

  • Set up billing alerts: Billing email alerts can be set up so that an email alert is sent when usage costs exceed an amount that is specified. 
  • Add tags to group your billing data: For example, use tags to categorize costs by business departments or production environments that run their own VMs.  
  • Enable auto-shutdown for VMs in the Azure portal for cutting costs: Create scripts for shutting down specific VMs during specified times. More information can be found here.
  • Turn on Azure Advisor recommendations: Identify resources with low usage to reduce costs. More information can be found here.

Lastly, here are two Azure optimization benefits that can save on costs up to 80% combined! 

  • Azure Reserved Instances: Get 72% price savings when purchasing VMs up front for one or three years in specified regions. Use this savings to reduce cost and increase margin. 
  • Hybrid-Use Benefit: If a client already has Windows VM licenses Software Assurance or Windows Server Subscriptions, for each license Microsoft covers the cost of the operating system while the customer just pays for base compute costs.

Work 365 Tip of the Month

Bundle different types of subscriptions as differentiated product offerings!

Work 365 allows Partners to bundle together license-based subscriptions, usage-based subscriptions, and even service-based subscriptions.

What this means is that Partners can create bundles incorporating Microsoft licensed products and usage-based products like Azure, third-party vendor products, packaged IP, and services such as support and migration services in the Work 365 application.  

To create bundles like these, Partners create a Parent subscription with the name of the bundle and then child subscriptions, which are the various products and services included in the bundle, are added and linked to the Parent subscription.

This way, anytime a customer would like to add licenses to their subscription all the Partner has to do is add the licenses to the Parent subscription and the child subscriptions are automatically updated.

Furthermore, when the invoice is automatically generated the only subscription information that shows comes from the Parent. This allows Partners to send simplified invoices that only show the product bundles they provide and not the various products and services included within the bundle.

About the Author

Samantha Peka

 

Reach out to Work 365 to see a personal demo!

 

Check out these resources to learn more about Work 365!  

Related Blog Post: Best Practices of Subscription and Recurring Billing for CSPs 

Best Practices of Subscription and Recurring Billing for CSPs

As a Microsoft Partners, start to scale, we are faced with the challenge of collecting funds and chasing payments for the subscription products and services that we sell. Time spent talking about collections can be invested in improving products and services.

It’s important to understand the reasons why B2B customers don’t pay on time or worse don’t pay at all:

  1. Customers don’t feel like they have a relationship with you
  2. Your Service or Product Quality is not meeting expectations
  3. Your Credit Policy is too liberal and not aligned with the service
  4. Your Service is not correctly aligned with the Sale.

To address some of these issues, we apply some of the best practices to align your CSP business with the tools and capabilities in Work 365. This article addresses the issues around how to ensure your service, sales, and billings are aligned with customer expectations.

Align Payment Terms with Service Terms

Cloud and Subscription services are like rent payments. Just like Rent payments, they should be collected upfront for the duration of the service term.

Typical terms that partners use are annual, quarterly or monthly payment terms. For each term, incentivize your customers correctly. Making every customer purchase with either monthly or annual terms erodes customer experience.

If a customer wants to purchase monthly then they must pay immediately. Also, they get the flexibility of adding or reducing the license counts on a month to month basis. This is the typical case with usage-based Azure subscriptions. And a customer with a monthly billing plan needs to pay via credit card or some form of automatic debit. Customers have a perception of value through how much they pay. If it’s a few hundred bucks a month and takes some time to write a cheque – the payment can be delayed.

If the customer is paying on an annual basis then provide at least 15 to 30 days to collect the funds. You have enough time to collect the funds for a service that they are pre-paying and resolve any disputes.

 

How Work 365 Subscription Billing and Invoicing Helps CSPs

For a customer paying annually, they are looking for 

  • Ease of purchase 
  • And Savings

These customers are likely to have a stable number of users and well-defined expectations of the service. Their incentive is going to be a discount for making the annual payment. As a CSP, you can collect the payment upfront and continue to pay the providers monthly. You may want to recognize the revenue using a Deferred Revenue Report. However, you should not provide refunds for any reduction in licenses. In fact, any additions to the license count during the term should not receive the upfront discount. Paying for Licenses upfront is a commitment to using those licenses and receiving the discount for paying upfront.

  • The customer saves money 
  • They don’t have to request for changes through the year

This makes sense when your agreement is aligned with your Sales and Billing System. Work 365 aligns these processes for you.

Sign Up for Work 365 Demo for CSPs

 

Some partners think that providing credit for unused licenses is part of the service offering they provide and this is what differentiates them.

Imagine a rental agreement with similar terms. On an annual agreement if you offer a discount for an upfront payment, incentivize your customers to buy the bulk of the licenses upfront. If you continue to honor the upfront discounts for licenses that are purchased over the course of the year the customer is not incentivized to make a significant commitment upfront.

Have an Agreement that Models Customer Reality

One consistent billing challenge for Microsoft CSPs is coordination between accounting and sales. Having standard prices is great with terms that everyone can have access to.

However, your system for billing should be able to support the customer reality – do they want one service billed on an annual basis and others on a monthly basis? Are you providing discounts on some of the services and using a retail price for other services?

If your billing system is not flexible to a model of the customer reality then it will take a lot of manual effort to service the customer.

Our Experience,

Recently, a partner reached out to inquire about Work 365 and how it could help them with their Billing Automation Scenario.

They had sold a deal and found themselves in a bind where the billing and service management would become very tedious. They had a large organization with a lot of small subsidiaries.

Collectively the organization had many seats but at an individual subsidiary level, they had very few licenses, sometimes only a handful. Additionally, they had decided to send them an Annual invoice but also agreed to give them a refund if they terminated the licenses during the annual term. Each subsidiary wanted an individual invoice and they were provisioning these licenses through a distributor.

There was a lot of things wrong with this  but the main thing they were looking for how to model a single distributor scenario with multiple invoices on their end.

 

Work 365 Billing Solution

Experienced partners with systems like Work 365 would have no problems being competitive in this situation. They would know the costs and processes required to get this done. But if you are looking to implement a system after having to sell this deal, it’s an uphill climb to make this a profitable deal.

As part of the Work 365 onboarding process – we discuss sales and billing alignment. This is one of the most significant outcomes of the process for both Direct and Indirect CSP Billings.

Work 365 is built to scale your CSP business profitably. It is built on Dynamics 365 using the Partner’s IURs, which allows the partner to keep ownership of all the data. Microsoft Dynamics 365 is at the core of the Digital Transformation Agenda. Microsoft partners that use Dynamics 365 to run their business will be able to help their own customers with these initiatives, promoting enhanced customer experience, thus nurturing revenue growth.

Work 365helps Microsoft CSP Partners grow revenue, provide exceptional customer service, and increase profit margins by unifying common functional areas in a single solution.

Read Our Previous Blog Posts

How Microsoft Partners and CSPs Can Use IURs to Increase Cloud Profitability

For many direct and indirect CSP partners in the Microsoft network, the main goal is to stand out from competitors by providing excellent customer service and unique products and services.

Doing so profitably, however, can be difficult.

There is a significant investment required in tracking – sales, customer tickets for incident management, remote monitoring and management tools, billing automation and even customer portals as marketplaces for self-service. All these tools and systems require significant investments and these costs are borne by partners.

However, by properly leveraging one of the Microsoft Partner Ecosystem’s built-in benefits: your Internal Use Rights (IURs) costs can be significantly reduced.

How to Leverage Your IURs

Microsoft partners with competencies receive IURs for Microsoft Online services and some on-premise products at different levels. These services and products can be worth more than $100,000 for Gold partners. The Gold partners in the Microsoft eco-system are rewarded with the IURs for the distinguished record in training internal resources, demonstrating sales expertise and receiving customer testimonials for their effort.

The chart below shows a summary of some of the IUR grants. Microsoft partners receive Core Benefits as part of the partnership level or status – either Action Pack, Silver or Gold levels and then additional license grants depending on the specific Competency.  

 

Core Benefits

Benefit 

Silver Grant 

Gold Grant 

Microsoft Office 365 E3 

25 

100 

Power BI Pro 

25 

100 

Microsoft Dynamics 365 – Customer Engagement 

15 

60 

Microsoft Azure 

US$100 per month 

Enterprise Mobility Suite 

25 

100 

MSDN Subscriptions 

5 

10 

 

In addition to the above core benefits, Partners with Specific competencies in the Cloud receive additional license grants. 

 

Cloud Platform 

Benefit 

Silver Grant 

Gold Grant 

Microsoft Azure 

US$ 6,000 / year 

US$ 12,000 / year 

Visual Studio Enterprise Subscription 

5 

25 

 

Cloud Productivity

Benefit 

Silver Grant 

Gold Grant 

Microsoft Office 365 E5 Seats 

25 

100 

Skype for Business PSTN Conferencing 

25 

100 

Enterprise Mobility Suite 

25 

100 

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online – Portal 

1 

1 

 

The benefits range from Messaging to Productivity Services. However, the one main application IUR is for the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Plan. 

The Customer Engagement Plan for Dynamics 365 includes applications such as

  • Sales
  • Service
  • Basic Marketing and Campaign Management
  • Project Service Automation
  • Field Service
  • CRM Portals

 

With the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Plan, it is possible to run all your end customer facing transactions and management in one system including Invoicing and Billing for Cloud Services, and Project services with Work 365.

 

How Work 365 Helps Microsoft MSPs and CSPs  

Work 365 supports the management of various service type scenarios including Subscription and One-time Billing scenarios.

Our latest update, Work 365 Version 1.5 supports License type subscriptions, Usage, and Service type subscriptions.

In future releases, the application will support Effort based Scenarios. With these services and subscriptions types, Partners are able to manage billing and sales scenarios by involving any combination of services.  

 

  1. License type subscription allows partners to manage quantities across any provider and product type. This type of subscription is usually a product service like Office 365 or Dynamics 365 licenses that are provisioned or even self-provisioned for ISVs using Work 365.  
  2. Service type subscription is not provisioned and like a license type subscription has a quantity and price that can be bundled. 
  3. Usage type subscription is used for Azure billing scenarios where consumption for products it tracked and billed to the end client.  

 

All these Services and Subscription types capture details like Change Logs and Usage Details within Work 365 to enable subscription billing automation. A Billing Contract in Work 365 can include one or more of any of these types of subscriptions for the end customer.

Additionally, with the Self-Service Portal end, customers can directly manage the license quantities and monitor usage for Azure and view their invoices.  

For Microsoft Direct Partners – Work 365 support a two-way synchronization with the Partner Center that keeps all the Licenses and Changes Logs all in place within Work 365

 

Work 365 Features for Cloud Profitability

Work 365 includes enhanced dashboards with a consolidated view of business insights and action items. Graphical insights into your Cloud and Service operations gives you a quick view of general telemetrics with an alert and call to action related to your business.

 graphical reports work 365

 

Also, reports are available for overall business profitability as well as for individual products or services you are selling.

Product profitability reports can tell you how individual products or services are performing along with details around your customer specific profitability.

These profitability reports, factor in discounts at the billing contract level and using the software cost and sales price to determine GP.

 

Final Thoughts on Cloud Profitability

We hope that this post has given you insight into how to improve your Cloud Profitability by leveraging your IURs.

Get Started with Work 365

Register for Upcoming Work 365 Webinar

 

Read Our Previous Blog Posts

 

How does Microsoft’s Partner Program Work?

Microsoft is the only worldwide cloud systems management vendor to have experienced continuous overall growth since 2012, according to a report by Statista.

Because of this impressive track record, software and technology companies seeking to tie themselves into a robust and growing ecosystem should consider the Microsoft’s Partner Program.

Microsoft’s Partner Program provides companies with many benefits and opportunities as a part of the Microsoft network.

Benefits of Being a Microsoft Partner Program

 

  • Access and Opportunity to sell some of the best Technology Products
  • Access to the Partner Knowledge Base, Courses, and Training
  • Building networks within Microsoft and with other Microsoft partners
  • Allowed usage of the Certified Partner Logo, which builds marketplace credibility
  • Internal Use Rights (IUR) to Run and Operate your business

Requirements for Microsoft Partner Program Certification

 

A Microsoft Certified partner is a company that has agreed to collaborate and establish a close working relationship with Microsoft. Having that title means the company has earned the highest standards of Microsoft’s widely-recognized partnership program.

The requirements for being Microsoft Certified, however, are difficult for small businesses or organizations lacking the infrastructure or processes to take on the services that need to be provided.

Microsoft’s tiered partner program has specific prerequisites for becoming a partner that include annual fees depending on the tier. Microsoft partners with competencies are looking now to the Cloud Solutions Provider (CSP) Program to grow their business and align more closely with the cloud opportunities.

Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 IURs can be extremely valuable and worth close to 10s of thousands of dollars in value.

Using Work 365 for Dynamics 365 can enable Microsoft Partners to grow and scale their CSP business.

 

 

In order to attain Microsoft Certified partnership, the highest level given to Microsoft partners, you must first join the Microsoft Partner Network community, qualify for membership, become eligible for the program and meet the requirements set forth by Microsoft.

Microsoft Partner Program Requirements Includes

 

  • Meet Certification and Sales Requirements
  • Meet specific competency requirements in your area of expertise
  • Offer support for Data Management and Software Development
  • Provide Customer References
  • Pay the Partner Program Fees

Microsoft Gold and Silver Certified partners are known to have high levels of competence and expertise with Microsoft technologies as well as have the best-in-class capabilities for deploying a Microsoft Business Solution.

Work 365 allows users the advantages that come with being a Microsoft Certified Partner without having to fulfill the requirements or go through the process of becoming one.

In the course of a previous year, Work 365 Team have developed Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM related Add-ons which covers Subscription Management and Billing, Data Migration etc.

 

Work 365’s Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM Add-ons

 

Related Blog Posts –

 

Work 365 Provides More Efficient Processes for Indirect CSP Partners

Microsoft recently announced changes to their requirements for Direct and Indirect Partners of the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) Program.

To qualify as a Direct Partner, a CSP will have to purchase a Microsoft Support Plan as well as show that they are capable of providing the following:

For many existing partners, these changes will affect their business. The two support plans offered by Microsoft as a requisite for being a Direct Partner cost $15,000 and $50,000 per year – not something that many CSPs can just do.

Indirect CSP Partners

The best way around these new requirements is to be an Indirect Partner. Indirect Partners receive all the benefits of working with an experienced technology provider to help ensure success while also saving money and remaining eligible for Microsoft competency incentives to help boost their margins.

The indirect model is great for businesses that want to focus on strengthening their cloud service offerings, without having the burden of maintaining multiple systems for billing, provisioning, and support.

As a CSP distributor, Work 365’s suite of apps provides more efficient processes for Indirect Partners, such as:

 

 

With the experience and infrastructure already in place, Work 365 is the ideal solution for those who want to be a Microsoft Partner but don’t want to pay the hefty costs or do the heavy-lifting (services, expertise, support) required of Direct Partners.

Don’t forget to watch our Recorded Webinar, where you can get a complete idea on “How Work 365 can help you identify hidden costs and implement best practices for your CSP operationsWatch here.

You won’t have to worry about set-up costs because Work 365 has the systems and infrastructures in place to provide this level of support.

 

Work 365’s Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM Add-ons –

 

Related Blog Posts –

Microsoft CSP Cost of Doing Business

Cloud Profitability is the obvious pursuit of the modern Microsoft partner. There are only two ways to grow your bottom line – increase your sales and keep your costs constant or reduce your costs while maintaining sales.

Microsoft CSP Partner eco-system is large and there are partners who are transactional and work with high volumes and low margins. While some partners who work with a handful of end customers with kid gloves and specialized services.

Regardless they are doing one thing consistently, which is buying a service and reselling it to their end customer.  Out of the thousands of MSPs, ISVs, VARs and SIs out there globally, the Microsoft partners will identify themselves as Microsoft partners.

For these partners being part of the Microsoft, the channel is an important part of their identity, whether they have their own services products, or sell other services and products or any combination. This huge ecosystem of companies whether big and small, worldwide generate revenue and service customers in countless ways.

It is rare for organizations which are selling Microsoft cloud services that the margin from their Microsoft Service Resale is the biggest contributor to their bottom line. Microsoft partners selling cloud services are looking to CSP as the way for them to capture or shape their financial future.

Customer Engagement:

Cloud Profitability is what the ecosystem is striving for as CSP Partners. However, to measure profitability it is important to imagine the journey and identify costs and revenue opportunities.

In the below figure, I have an example of a typical customer journey. It starts with a simple interaction of a phone call, or email and the sales team are engaged, a customer is onboard, services are implemented. Then after that is where we have the longest duration of engagement with the customer takes place.

This is the realization phase where we grow the services, support the customer and manage all their service needs.

 

 

 

Through the five phases of Discover, Evaluation, Buy, Implement and Realize, we can group these stages into three main cost categories for us to measure and manage – the Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC), the Engineering costs and then the Cost of Service(COS).

Cost of Service is where most of the opportunity to reduce costs and incur costs are faced by most partners.

This is why Indirect Partners negotiate different margins with distributors on who will handle the service call, and why Microsoft is requiring direct partners to purchase the paid support plan like Advanced Support for Microsoft Partners Or Premiere Support.

This is where the accounting team spends their time Billing and Reconciling Invoices. This is also the area where most partners who don’t have a system or plan will struggle to scale their operations.

 

Costs associated with Customer Engagement and CSP:

We listed out the cost of items to benchmark and categorize the costs under the COS phase- some of which were labor, 3rd Party costs, system costs. Some of the costs are hidden and some are in plain sight, however, each one of these affects profitability.

  1. Credit Card Processing Charges: For recurring charges, it is just common practice to use the credit card processors and gateways through Intuit, Authorize.net or Stripe.com
  2. Service-related Labor Charges
    1. Technical Support – Incident management
    2. License Administration (Sales, Service, and Accounting)
  3. Monthly Accounting Functions: Generation of customer invoicing, tallying of vendor invoices from the distributors, Microsoft, and other 3rd Parties, calculating the Sales commissions and customer payment collections.
  4. Direct Costs: As re-sellers of the service we buy the service or product and pay for it with terms.
  5. Compliance: A lot of businesses accept credit cards, but if you are doing CSP you will need the ability to collect credit cards, and if you are using a 3rd party like Authorize.net you need to be PCI compliant.
  6. Cost of Sales: To incentivize your sales team you need to include Sales Commissions in their Sales compensation plans.
  7. Direct Billing Partners will now also have the Advanced Support for Microsoft (ASFP) or Premier Support Plans.
  8. Provisioning processes to manage customer license change requests. Some customers will want to make these changes regularly and some will just make the changes on their renewals.
  9. System Costs: There are a variety of tools that are deployed to support end customers
    • Help Desk and Incident Management systems to track support tickets from customers.
    • Self-Service and e-commerce portals to be able to manage licenses and invoices
    • RMM tool to monitor and manage customers environments
    • PSA and CRM systems to keep customer data in one place for your sales, service and accounting teams. Some partners have systems that do multiple functions and others have picked best of breed products.

Don’t forget to watch our Recorded Webinar, where you can get a complete idea on “How Work 365 can help you identify hidden costs and implement best practices for your CSP operations” Watch here.

Through Work 365, we are looking to address every item here, and would like to know what else you are seeing as costs for your recurring subscription business?

 

Work 365’s Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM Add-ons –

 

Related Blog Posts –

CSP Invoice and Bill Reconciliation is not such a Big Challenge?

Experience with CSPs

Since we launched the Work 365 solution, I have had the opportunity to talk to a lot of CSP partners.

Quite often, partners will start out the conversation with “We just need help with reconciling our Microsoft bills. Can your solution do that?”. My initial reaction would be “not currently as a product feature, but you don’t need to because Work 365 does all the subscription management for you!”

As I started to have more conversations and in looking at our own operational data, I realized that reconciliation is not a technology or feature discussion but more a business process discussion.

CSP Invoice and Bill Reconciliation

As Microsoft CSPs, we receive monthly bills for all the different subscriptions including Microsoft bills, distributor bills, and other third-party bills for products and services that we resell to our end customers. Our end customers are paying with different terms, discounts and on different billing frequencies.

Also, these end-customers use multiple channels like Self-Service and e-commerce sites, online chats and customer and sales email inboxes. With so many moving parts, it’s important to have a process and tools that support the reconciliation process in a timely manner.

However, the reality is that reconciliation is the reward for using a proper system and not the sole purpose of what a system is meant to do.

Reconciliation is a well-known process used by accountants and book-keepers to ensure that financial numbers tie-up between different accounts.

However, you wouldn’t buy an Accounting system just because you want reconciliation? An accounting system will maintain a reconciliation log, but you use the accounting system to run your business for activities like invoicing customers, collecting money, paying bills and keep all your financial transactions up to date.

Good accounting practice means you maintain all your transactions in the system and follow a process every month to ensure all the accounts in your system reconcile with all the balances shown in other statements.

 

Every account has a starting balance, we perform transactions like sales, and paying bills and at the end, there is an ending balance. The idea is that the starting and ending balance should match what your expectations are based on all the transactions that have occurred during the period.

So, if you are missing transactions the balances will not match. The outcome of a reconciled account is a result of entering all the transactions that have occurred during that period. In principle, if all the transactions were always accurately entered your account balances will always be reconciled and accurate.

If we extend this to the reconciliation that we seek as CSPs, we want the bills in our system to equal exactly the bill that we receive from Microsoft or other cloud or service vendors.

 

Subscription Management and Invoicing for CSPs

If we follow the same logic on entering all the transactions through the system the balances will be reconciled. Work 365‘s Subscription Management and Invoicing functionality enable the tracking and changes for all subscriptions.

We start with a subscription quantity, enter all the additions and subtractions into the system and we have an ending quantity. Accountants and book-keepers have formed corporate habits of entering invoices and bills into the accounting system, Customer service and Sales should do the same for the subscription changes through Work 365.

Below is a what a habit loop looks like. Habit loop is a pattern that governs any habit, and corporate culture and habits are formed in the same way as human habits.

 

A trigger or a cue leads to a routine, if that routine leads to a reward, the same routine follows every time we encounter the cue.

When all the subscription additions and subtractions are in one system it becomes easy to perform reconciliation. CSP bill reconciliation is exactly this type of reward for using the Work 365 system and ensuring that transactions, additions, subtractions are all in one system.

 

 

However, reconciliation as the formal process still needs to be done even if all transactions are entered with intent and there are several reasons where the reality is different from what the system reflects.

1. There is an error in the received bill or invoice

2. Process breakdown where transactions are missed- like cancellations

3. Price changes in the subscriptions

Some of these situations will occur as you ramp up sales or experience growth. As managers and accountants, we need to ensure that there is no leakage or loss and there is a business process with tools that demonstrate evidence of a reconciled bill.

Work 365 will include reconciliation as a formal feature that will quickly match CSP invoices with the matching rules for:

–  Account Name

–  Subscription Name

–  Quantity

–   Sales Price

 

Work 365 is about peace of mind and reconciliation is one more way in which you gain peace of mind.

 

About the author
Ismail Nalwala
CEO

Click on the link to view the original post – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/csp-invoice-bill-reconciliation-big-challenge-ismail-nalwala/

 

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How to Navigate for Microsoft’s New CSP Direct Bill Partners Requirements

IOTAP’s Work 365 Helps CSPs Qualify to be Direct Bill Partners. 

Microsoft recently announced changes to terminology and eligibility requirements for Microsoft Cloud Solutions Providers (CSPs) which affects both current and potential partners.  

Starting in August 2018, CSPs will now be known as Direct Bill Partners.

Criteria for Direct Bill Partners

The criteria required to become a Direct Bill Partner is now tighter; to be classified as a Direct Bill Partner, CSPs must offer:  

  • At least One Managed Service, IP Service, Customer Solution or Application
  • Infrastructure Capabilities including Billing, Credit Check, Customer Support
  • Support to their end customers through the purchase of the Advanced Support for Partners (ASFP) 
  • Potentially some future revenue requirements

CSPs who do not qualify for the above criteria will be moved to be Indirect Cloud Service Providers.

Indirect Service Providers will not have to provide the above criteria but will instead have to partner with Indirect Resellers in order to offer customer support and billing services.   

Microsoft is signaling to the partner community that they need to be ready for scale if they want to work with Microsoft as a Direct Bill partner. The only benefit, of being a direct bill partner is that there is a slightly higher margin between working with a distributor and directly with Microsoft.

That margin, which is usually a couple of percentage points will not be justified unless they are able to scale and grow their Cloud Recurring Business.

The manual cost of labor-intensive processes around Billing, Subscription Management, and Customer Support will outweigh the few percentage points of margin between being Direct and Indirect Cloud Service Providers.

Having automation and the ability to scale, however, makes it worthwhile staying in the program as a Direct Bill Partner.  

With these new requirements, Work 365’s Customer Service and Billing Infrastructure Apps will help many current and potential CSPs/Direct Bill Providers meet those prerequisites and solve those common issues with minimal additional investment or resources.

 

 

What is Work 365 Apps Offering

Work 365’s apps can help partners meet the above eligibility requirements laid out by Microsoft.

They are allowing potential CSPs/Direct Bill Partners the ability to handle support requests and invoicing internally, including:  

Work 365 was recently featured in a Redmond Channel Partner article on how it helps with common issues, such as Subscription Management, Invoicing and Customer Support.

Work 365, built on Dynamics 365, helps CSPs scale their business, increase profit margins and create game-changing opportunities for usage of Dynamics CRM.  

Contact Us to learn more about Work 365 store and for more information on how we can help you make this transition.

 

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