#30 – Microsoft Strategic Partners with Licensing Competencies, with Scott Buth.

One of the most important and pivotal areas of focus for the company is the the group of Microsoft Strategic Partners with Licensing Solution Competencies.

I’ve been interviewing partner leaders on how the business is evolving since the formation of the OCP or One Commercial Partner organization and this week’s discussion led me to Scott Buth, whose team focuses on supporting some of the largest strategic partners at Microsoft.

During Scott’s nearly 10 years at Microsoft, and 14 years in the Channel, he has held a variety of roles from sales and product management to partner account management across software and hardware.

Now as Director of Partner Development in Microsoft’s One Commercial Partner organization, he is responsible for the solution and practice development within Microsoft’s US Licensing Solution Provider (LSP) Partners aligned to Microsoft’s four solution areas – Modern Workplace, Apps & Infrastructure, Data & AI, and Business Applications. .

In our interview you will learn about Scott’s role and the mission of his team, what strategic levers he applies to help these partners evolve their practices and where he sees the growth for Microsoft’s largest strategic partners.

In addition, you will learn:

  • How his organization works across OCP – leveraging resources from Build With, Go-to-Market and Sell With organizations to help partners better align on business planning, strategy and market expansion.
  • The infusion of PTS or Partner Technology Strategists and “the swarm” of CSA – Cloud Solution Architects available to partners.
  • Challenges partners face during the transformation.
  • How partners are developing new revenue models.
  • How he sees the business evolving with CSP – Cloud Solution Provider program.
  • Qualities he believes important to great partnerships: commitment, transparency and accountability.
  • The importance of having a growth mindset and listening.
  • His personal and professional journey and business philosophy.

You can listen to the podcast and read the transcript of this episode below.

As with each of my interview and articles, I appreciate your feedback. You can reach me on Linked In or on email at vincem@cloudwavepartners.net. You can also review this podcast by going to iTunes and searching “Ultimate Guide to Partnering” and clicking on the album art and hitting the ratings link. This helps others find the podcast.

Thank you for following and listening.

I hope you enjoy this episode!

Vince Menzione


Vince Menzione:             Welcome to the 30th episode of the Ultimate Guide to Partnering. In this episode, I walk the hallways once again at Microsoft to interview partner leaders during this season of change and transformation. In this episode, we’ll peel back on the organization that manages some of Microsoft’s most strategic and largest partners. My guest today is Scott Buth, director of partner development in the One Commercial Partner Team. We’ll learn about Scott’s role and mission, how his team engages with these partners, strategic levers he’s applying to help these partners grow, and where he sees the growth.

As with each of my episodes, I appreciate your feedback. With the latest version of iOS, it’s easier now than ever to rate and review this episode. You can also email me at VinceM@cloudwavepartners.net. Thank you for listening and thank you for supporting the Ultimate Guide to Partnering.

Scott, welcome to the podcast. I’m really excited to have you on today to share with our listeners your role leading what we refer to as the “strategic partners with license solution provider authorization” at Microsoft, and how you go to market, what you look for in successful partnerships, your career journey, and your personal story. So, welcome.

Scott Buth:                       Thank you, Vince. I appreciate you having me on today.

Vince Menzione:             Just really great timing to have you, given the state of change in the channel and at Microsoft, so I’m glad you could join us. The partners that your organization supports are some of the largest partners in the Microsoft ecosystem. Tell our listeners about your role, the mission of your team, and how it’s evolved now since the formation of the OCP, or One Commercial Partner organization.

Scott Buth:                       These strategic partners that my team supports have been tremendous partners in Microsoft for many years and their size, their scale, and their solution capabilities have been tremendously valuable to our mutual customers and to Microsoft. With the formation of One Commercial Partner in Microsoft’s fiscal year ’18, the mission of my team is really to accelerate our partner’s transformation and profitability through our strategic business planning and alignment by delivering the right resources from within Microsoft to enable growth of current and new solution capabilities, and be an advocate for the partner to our field and to our channel teams.

Vince Menzione:             So, that’s quite a bit. Can you peel back a little bit more on what that looks like? Your team supports a fairly broad group of partners, fairly significant in size. How many partners exactly are in the program?

Scott Buth:                       Today, I have 16 partners that my team supports. And, you’re correct, they do range from size, scale, and the markets that they serve. Many of them do serve customers in a variety of markets, everything from SMB to our large enterprise customers, as well as the public sector markets. We also do have a small subset of partners who focus predominantly in the public sector space to support our federal, SLG, and education customers.

Vince Menzione:             And, during this rapid age of digital transformation, one of the reoccurring themes in my interviews with other partner executives has been that the transformation is happening even more rapidly than they expected. The group of partners that you support have been the most successful, I’ll call “traditional partners” of Microsoft, the licensing solution provider program, or what used to be referred to as the “Large Account Reseller” program. Some of which have these large multi-billion dollar businesses focused on a very traditional business model of Microsoft’s, which was the enterprise agreement. So, I’d like to peel back with you a bit on what you’re seeing differently now from those partners.

Scott Buth:                       As you state, these partners have played a significant role over the years, helping customers better manage their software licensing through traditional programs like the Enterprise Agreement. They’ve also been instrumental in driving deployment of those solutions to ensure customers realize the value of their investments, which, as you mentioned, contribute to building very successful and large businesses over the years. Going forward, the core principles of helping customers solve business problems, delivering solutions in more cost-effective ways, doesn’t really change. However, the way in which we are enabling our partners to achieve success is evolving as part of this digital transformation. Specifically, we’re helping this group of partners advance their business in several specific ways.

First, the partner development managers on my team, along with other resources internally, including our newly-introduced partner technology strategists, are engaging in each strategic business planning to understand our partner’s business objectives as an organization, and understand where they wanna go. Additionally, we’re investing in partners, as I mentioned, with new technical resources as well as other resources that enable them to build new practices, develop differentiated offerings in the marketplace, and generate new selling motions, inclusive of the Cloud Solution Provider program, which I knew you spoke to William Lewallen recently in one of your recent podcasts. And lastly, we’re introducing new marketing resources to accelerate the return on investment and reach more customers, and new and existing markets that they serve.

Vince Menzione:             So many of the partners that you manage are also CSP partners, I wanted to be clear on that, right? So they carry dual competencies there.

Scott Buth:                       These partners do have CSP capabilities, and that’s a big area focus for us. But just taking a step back, they are strategic partners because of the variety of roles that they play for Microsoft in the ecosystem. In addition to their LSP authorization and capability, as I mentioned, they have developing robust, professional, and manage services capabilities, they’re looking to expand into CSP, specifically around Office 365 and Azsure, and then they also play a strong role in the hardware ecosystem, helping us bring great new Windows 10 devices, inclusive of Circus, to our customers.

Vince Menzione:             One of the trends I was seeing while I was with Microsoft was the partners, the strategic partners, were either developing or acquiring some of these skillsets, these solution skillsets that you mentioned. Were there any best-case examples or best practices that you’re seeing now that you can share with our listeners?

Scott Buth:                       We’re seeing a number of great examples in the marketplace of how these strategic partners are evolving their business models as a One Commercial Partner organization, how we’re leveraging our new operating model to bring to bear new and different resources to help them develop these new practices and offerings. A couple of specific examples that I can call out is just how they’re leveraging their existing relationships, not just with Microsoft but with other ISV partners in the marketplace, to bring together those assets and develop new repeatable practices and, in some cases, IP, that enables them to differentiate themselves in the marketplace or serve a particular segment of customers, or industries.

Vince Menzione:             You know Scott, I see this as well in some of the work that I do. Many of these ISVs have tremendous IP, they have IP that is unique and transformative for organizations or their clients, but the don’t have a great route to market. I’ve seen this where some of the partners that you work with are becoming the conduit if you will for those organizations in a marketplace type of fashion to get their solutions to market. Is that what you’re seeing as well?

Scott Buth:                       I think the growth of ISVs and the solutions that they bring that ultimately bring to life the Microsoft platform, is something that we’re looking at. How do we leverage existing or newly developed sales motions or models going back to the CSP as we talked about, to enable them to create new revenue streams that continue to increase their relevancy with customers in marketplace.

Vince Menzione:             One of the things that I talk about when I talk to organizations about the rapid age of change is around just the struggles that some organizations have with change, right? Change isn’t easy. Microsoft has changed its model significantly over the last couple of years, and we’ve asked the ecosystem to come along. What challenges do you believe some of the partners face in the transformation?

Scott Buth:                       I believe the biggest challenge everyone faces today is staying relevant to our customers, as their expectations for our technology will enable them to empower employees, optimize their operations, transform their own products and engage their customers more impactfully. To do this, often times partners have to build new segment or industry expertise, develop new scalable repeatable practices, and, often times, it requires bringing new types of talent into their organization to do this. That can certainly be a challenge to do that when you’ve built up many years of expertise in specific markets, or establish very defined ways of doing business that deliver the type of skill you need.

Vince Menzione:             Scott, how do you see the licensing business further evolving over the next few years?

Scott Buth:                       There’s not question that programs like the Enterprise Agreement, they’re not going away, and they will continue to be a great vehicle for customers to secure their licenses and for Microsoft and it’s partners to deliver the right solutions. There’s no question that the Cloud Solution Provider program, or CSP model is where we’re going. As we talked about a little bit earlier, I would encourage anyone who is listening to go back and listen to the deep dive that William gave on one of your recent podcasts. CSP enables our partners to create their own unique solutions on top of our platform, more closely manage their customers’ environment, and maintain a stronger, ongoing relationship with those customers. Today, the partners that we support are doing this in Office 365 Manager. There are certainly opportunities as we go forward with Dynamics 365 and the solutions we see coming to market are really exciting and enable us to meet customer needs in new and differentiated ways.

Vince Menzione:             And you alluded to this earlier, now that you are part of the One Commercial Partner organization, that you’ve got resources that you can tap into to help those partners develop their capabilities and competencies.

Scott Buth:                       So this year, with the new technical organization under the One Commercial Partner organization, we have a set of dedicated partner technology strategists who we’ve integrated in the business, along with the partner developer managers on my team. It’s really to get under the hood of our partners’ capabilities, understand the types of practices that they have in place today, the offerings that are generating profit for them, and then also work with them in a strategic way to align them on a road map of offering development that we want to work on. Through that process, we have the ability to reach back into what we call the “swarm” of technical resources and CSAs that we can bring forward to really dive deep into a particular area of the business that they want to pursue.

Vince Menzione:             OK, so peel back with me about “swarm.” That’s a new term for me. What do you mean when you refer to the “swarm”?

Scott Buth:                       I certainly can’t take credit for that term, but it is the pool of essentially of cloud solution architects that align to our four solution areas: modern workplace, apps and infrastructure, data  AI, and business application, and those resources are aligned so those solution areas and the PTSs who quarterback the technology and the solution development for our strategic partners has the ability to engage those individuals and bring them into the conversation, help train and enable the partner technical resources, as well as create a deeper road map for where they want to go with their solutions.

Vince Menzione:             Scott, your organization sits in the build-with. For those who listen to earlier episodes, Episode 19, I covered off on the OCP Organization, with the build-with, go-to-market, and sell-with organization. How does your organization work across the other two organizations? You’re sitting in  build-with, the go-to-market, and then there’s the sell-with team. How does that structure work?

Scott Buth:                       My team does fit in the build-with organization with one commercial partner. It is super critical for my team and all of the elements of the One Commercial organization across with go-to-market and sell-with to collaborate well together.

A good example of this would be the partner business planning process. So certainly my team looks at the partner’s priorities, the areas of strength that they possess today, and really helps define that plan for the fiscal year ’18, as well as the three year plan and where we want to go, what is the technical strategy that we want to build, where are the markets where we want to expand into with the partner, and then we orchestrate with the go-to-market teams and sell-with teams to identify the right campaign that we want to land in the marketplace, and then we take those campaigns that we’re landing with the partner, and we advocate them to our sell-with teams to ensure that they have a good understanding of the partner’s capabilities, the customers that we’re going after, and then ultimately we’re engaging in pipeline discussion that results in additional cross-sell opportunities with existing customers, as well as acquiring new customers around our cloud solutions.

Vince Menzione:             So you mentioned earlier these partners do a lot of different things supporting Microsoft customers, right? They’re strategic partners with licensing solution provider capabilities. They’re CSPs. They might be incorporating ISB solutions, some system integration-type work, as well as being what you refer to as ADRs or device resellers for Microsoft so that they can provide a complete solution to the end customer? Where do you see the greatest growth from your segment, from your partners that you manage?

Scott Buth:                       To say the greatest opportunity is with the cloud is probably an obvious statement, but when you consider recent predictions from IDC in terms of the percentage of the world economy that will be digital, eighty percent of enterprise IT organizations will have hybrid cloud environments, and the public IT cloud services revenue will exceed $141 billion by 2019, we really see the opportunity to with these partners today in three of our four core solution areas. Modern workplace, as I mentioned, which is really around combining Office 365, Windows 10 and EMS and really driving a strong strategy around the new Microsoft 365 offering. Certainly, apps and infrastructure and data AI are a strong opportunity around Ajer and what we can do together there and moving workloads to the cloud. Getting into more advanced technologies such as IOT and advanced analytics.

The fourth one that I mentioned earlier which is business apps, which is primarily our Dynamics 365 business, today is not an area that we spend a lot of time focusing on, but as we look at the opportunity with customers helping to deliver that end-to-end solution and productivity gain they’re looking for. That is an area that we are looking at longer term to help the partners in my portfolio to develop capabilities within.

Vince Menzione:             So, I want to shift gears here a little bit. You worked for Microsoft for about nine years, and you came from a partner. So quite a bit of experience working with partners. What do you believe makes or what characteristics do you believe make a great partner?

Scott Buth:                       I spent a little bit over nine years at Microsoft and spent some time in the Channel before, so I have tremendous passion for what we do together and the opportunity it had for us all. From experience, I believe the characteristic that make a great partner and, more importantly, a great partnership, are commitments, transparency, and accountability.

From a commitments standpoint, if your success is tied to my success and vice versa, then the only way that we’ll achieve success together is if we are 100 percent committed to the partnership.

From a transparency perspective, ensuring we have tight alignments on our mutual strategy and plan, we need to maintain transparency throughout that process. If we don’t and there’s misalignments, given the scale of this business, we will not deliver against their desires, outcomes, and success.

And when we talk about accountability, certainly there is an element of knowing that when we walk out of a meeting, we can trust each other, that we’re going to go deliver against the actions we discussed, and, in many cases, it’s also being able to be accountable when we make mistakes. I think that, in doing so, we actually build a stronger trust in the relationship, and we’ll actually be able to leverage those learnings going forward to improve the results that we’re looking to achieve.

Vince Menzione:             Yeah, that comes back to the transparency one, right? So the commitment, transparency, and accountability, I really like that Scott. I think that was really insightful. I see this as well across all of the partnerships that I’ve worked with and certainly the conversations I’ve had with organizations. So I’m going to flip this one for you. Have you seen situations where a partner wasn’t getting it right working with Microsoft, maybe wasn’t getting it right working with your organization? Was there something that you wish you had said to them at that point to get them on the right track?

Scott Buth:                       You know, I’m not so sure I would characterize it as not getting it right. I think, just given the size of Microsoft and the size of these partners that we support, it’s easy sometimes to just get misaligned. I think the most important thing to do in that situation where we’re not maybe working as well together as we should is to listen. Really make an effort to understand the other person’s or organization’s perspective, and, specifically, as Microsoft undergoes such a dramatic transformation ourselves in how we partner, I think it’s even that much more important that we, and my team specifically, take the time to understand how our changes are landing with partners so we can ensure that we can get back on track and aligned on the priorities that we were focused on delivering again.

Vince Menzione:             Are there some common myths partners have about working with Microsoft?

Scott Buth:                       Certainly, I can speak to the types of partners that I’ve had experience with. I would say it’s the idea that you can’t say no to a specific initiative, program, or even an investment that we are offering. To say that differently, I think it’s absolutely OK to be super clear about what you want to be known for to your customers and to Microsoft, and, many times, that is actually preferably when you’re talking to our sales organization or others within Microsoft so that we’re clear about what we can deliver together.

Vince Menzione:             So it comes back to that transparency discussion, right? We can have the conversation candidly with one another.

Scott Buth:                       Absolutely. I mean there’s so much opportunity for us all to go after, and, certainly, there’s a lot of phenomenal partners in the ecosystem. I think just having that transparency about where we can count on each other and have success together will just enable us to go that much further and faster.

Vince Menzione:             So, any closing comments for partners wishing to engage with your organization or with Microsoft?

Scott Buth:                       Given the amount of change happening in the industry, the pace at which technology is evolving, and certainly the transformation we’re driving at Microsoft, having a growth mindset is more important than ever in our engagement. I know it may sound clichéd, but the total addressable market for us to go after together is so large, that we should really challenge each other to think differently and creatively for how we can go deliver even greater success in the next one year, five years, or even ten years.

Vince Menzione:             Yeah, Scott, you referenced that huge market. I think it was $4.5 trillion worldwide or $1.7 trillion just in the U.S. that Sati Acath referenced onstage at Inspire this year.

Scott Buth:                       Definitely. Certainly, there’s tremendous opportunity with the entire Microsoft ecosystem, and I believe that the partners that my team supports are absolutely well positioned to take advantage of a significant portion of that total addressable market, given all of the different markets they serve, the solutions that they bring to bear, and their diversity of portfolio across hardware, software, and services.

Vince Menzione:             So I’m going to shift gears here, Scott. As you might know from listening to other episodes, I’m fascinated by how people got to a particular spot in life and grown their careers. This grew out of the work that I did with the Next Step program at Microsoft, which you’re a successful graduate of. So many of our listeners love to learn a bit about how people have transformed or grown their careers, and I wanted to dive in a little bit with you on your personal and professional journey. Would you mind sharing a little bit of that with our listeners?

Scott Buth:                       Coming out of college, I really saw myself as actually having a career in the advertising industry. It was what I studied in college. I had a great internship one summer, during college, where I got to experience life at a small agency. During that experience, one of the things I enjoyed the most was diving deep into data and identifying trends and insights, which serves me and the business that I’m in now really well, but certainly had no real aspirations to work in the technology industry at the time.

From there, following college, as I was looking for that dream job in advertising, I started to run out of money, which can certainly make you move a little bit faster. So I took the wise advice of my father and got a good sales job, which just happened to be at one of the partners that we support today in my partner portfolio. From there, I quickly started to learn how to build relationships, understand the technology industry and the technology itself, as well as how the channel operates. Ultimately, I would say that a career in technology was never something I expected, but, looking back, I don’t think I could imagine being in another industry.

Vince Menzione:             So what is the most fun aspect of work for you?

Scott Buth:                       No question, I think it’s meeting and working with so many great people at Microsoft and our partners. At the end of the day or the week, we spend a lot of hours with each other and having such amazing people to work with makes it that much more fun and rewarding. I would also say that collaboration with those people to solve business problems, build strategy, and, ultimately, over time, see the success of that hard work together pay off.

Vince Menzione:             And what was the best piece of advice that someone gave you when you took this role or when you got started?

Scott Buth:                       Looking back, I think that early on when I got started, the best piece of advice that I got was from my father. As I mentioned, I kind of envisioned myself working in a different industry, didn’t see myself so much in a sales position. However, he really coached me to take every opportunity to learn from what I was doing at that point in time, build strong relationships that may pay off later on. While it may not always feel like it in the moment, you are important lessons and gaining valuable relationships that may ultimately pay off in the long run and enable you to do something you love. That has certainly happened for me, and when I think back, I think that was definitely the best advice I got.

Vince Menzione:             What are some hurdles you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?

Scott Buth:                       Well, I think we face hurdles every day. Some are certainly larger than others. The one constant that I do when looking to overcome them is to listen. Now, as a manager, it’s listening to what my team is saying. It’s certainly listening to what our partners are saying as we go through this transformation and look to build strong plans together. It’s also listening to what your friends and family are saying. I think that’s super important identifying what some of the hurdles might be and getting that clarity. And then it’s really about when you take action to address those hurdles or overcome them, it’s being through and seeing that all the way through.

Vince Menzione:             Who is one of your role models and what advice or attributes did you learn from them?

Scott Buth:                       So I mentioned my father a little bit ago. When I think back today to the opportunities that I’ve had and where I’m at today, I would certainly have to again say my father and my parents. My dad has worked in the technology industry for years, and I think he really taught me about the channel, how to build those impactful relationships, and, as I’ve mentioned, was always there to listen and give advice. Ultimately, I think both of them have taught me about commitments, which I’ve mentioned earlier, helping others, and certainly being respectful towards others as well.

Vince Menzione:             Some great advice. Scott, do you have a quote you live your life by or think of often?

Scott Buth:                       So the quote for me that really stuck is, “If you’re going to do something, do it right.” And, by that, I don’t mean always doing things the best, but rather it’s putting your best effort into whatever it is you’re doing. I think that really captures my attitude of how I approach my job, how I approach my relationships, and even my hobbies. I really like to make sure that if I’m going to spend the time and do something, I put in the work, and I try to do it the right way.

Vince Menzione:             What do you like to do when you’re not working? You mentioned hobbies.

Scott Buth:                       Yeah, when I’m not working, I really enjoy staying active, whether it’s simple things like going to the gym or continuing to play sports like golf, running, hiking. Living in Chicago, I think my wife and I do a really good job of continuing to explore our own city on the weekends, finding new restaurants, shops, parks, and really just getting out and staying active.

Vince Menzione:             Nice! So, is there one book you’ve read or gifted often that you would recommend to our listeners?

Scott Buth:                       You know, I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an avid book reader, although I do read quite often. However, when I do, I typically prefer biographies or books about history. In fact, I actually just started “Hit Refresh.” Obviously experiencing Microsoft refresh up close and personally, I’m enjoying learning more about his personal story and how it shows up in our culture.

Vince Menzione:             That’s great. I haven’t read it yet myself, but plan to start reading it here soon. Thanks for that advice. Scott, it’s been so great to have you today on the podcast. How would our listeners reach out to you if they wanted to stay in contact with you?

Scott Buth:                       Sure. First, thank you Vince for having me on today. It’s been a great experience, and certainly I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect with you after having worked with you for many years. I really appreciate that. In terms of connecting with me, there’s the simple things. Obviously, I’m available to connect over LinkedIn, as well as connecting through my team which manages these great partners today.

Vince Menzione:             So Scott, LinkedIn is a great way. Are there any other social media that you’re active on? Like Twitter?

Scott Buth:                       Yes. I am active on Twitter. I don’t post a lot there, but certainly I am available to be reached, and you can see a little bit more about the things I enjoy. My Twitter handle is @scottbuth, S-C-O-T-T-B-U-T-H, and you’ll likely find some things that I’m passionate about, including my Iowa Hawkeyes, the [inaudible 00:28:31] of honor, charity, or just some retweets from some of my favorite articles about golf or other sports taking place.

Vince Menzione:             Great. So Scott Buth, and that’s B-U-T-H @, that’s your Twitter handle and also on LinkedIn. Scott, I want to thank you again for being here today. It’s so great to have you as a guest. So great to see your career trajectory at Microsoft and the great work that you’re doing with partners at Microsoft. So thank you.

Scott Buth:                       Thank you Vince. It’s very much appreciated.

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