lots of ideas

[Cartoon part of the Microsoft Blue Monster Series. Backstory from Steve and Kris etc.]
Tim Kitchin of Glasshouse Partners left the following comment on my big “Microsoft Partner” entry:

Not that I have clue what you’re going to do for Microsoft…but I sort of applaud MS for pushing out the ‘ecosystem’ word in favour of the old fashioned ‘partner’.
On the other hand partner is a really clumsy word to describe the array of interdependencies and power imbalances which really exist out there.
A lot of richness gets lost when you clump 750,000 companies into one category like ‘partners’.
If you can provoke some more structured conversations around mutual value-exchange, that would be a big step forward for them.

Here are some thoughts:
1. “Is “Partner” the best word possible? Maybe, maybe not. Then again, if I had a small, tech-orientated company- a small town consultancy in Vermont with only one or two employees, say, I imagine I would LOVE being thought of as a “partner”of Microsoft, as opposed to just a “middleman” or a “user”. It would convey to my customers that, whatever others may think about me, at the end of the day, MS takes me seriously. Not a bad message to be sending out from Vermont.
2. “Microsoft Ecosystem Member.” Not sure if that works too well, either.
3. What Microsoft does is so vast and complex, it’s hard getting the big picture sometimes [Hint: they don’t just make stuff for PCs]. The good news is, there’s so much going on in the company, I’m not too worried about running out of cool, new stuff to write about.
4. This project I’m doing with Microsoft is not the result of some grand, evil scheme on my part. It started very small, only a couple of weeks ago. Somebody inside Microsoft asked me to draw some cartoons for the Partner Group. A couple of dozen rough sketches and e-mail exchanges later, I thought it would be more interesting to just post my efforts online, and see the conversation we were having privately mutate into something much bigger. Happily, they liked the idea and gave me an immediate greenlight. But I truly believe that this spirit of spontaneity is what will keep the project interesting in the long term. Rock on.


  1. Let’s see… lovers? co-dependents? fellow travellers? hangers-on? enablers? carriers? No, maybe they’d better stick with partners.

  2. “Microsoft Ecosystem Member” doesn’t work at all, at least for me. My immediate association with it is N.Z. Bear‘s “Blog Ecosystem.” Bloggers put little badges on their blogs that say things like “I am a Crunchy Crustacean in the Blog Ecosystem!” Nobody wants to be Microsoft’s slimy mollusc.

  3. I’m worried that you are going to end up providing me with a false sense of hope for a too-large, bureaucratic company that wants less about the quality of the OS, music player, video game console, cellphone system and whatever else they do than the other guy.
    Is there really hope, or are you just jerking us around with this?
    There’s no doubt that this is a great PR move for MS, but come on. A company that size has got to be able to pay for smoke and mirrors to hold up the bottom line.
    Do you think your work is smoke and mirrors? You are a marketer, after all. Maybe that’s a stupid question.

  4. I run a “consultancy with one or two employees” not in Vermont, but in Sydney, Australia. Either way, while “partner” is a neutral word I don’t think I can ever imagine Microsoft being a genuine partner.
    Partners cooperate. Partners change the way they do things to accommodate each other. No matter how much Microsoft changes its culture, at the end of the day my business is still less than a pimple on the butt of their elephant.
    They’ve got a long way to go to convince me that fiddling with language like this is anything more than marketing gimmickry.
    Maybe that’ll change when I see a Microsoft employee emerge from their cubicle and start rummaging under a user’s desk in Parramatta to see why a printer isn’t working.

  5. The last *thing* that I referred to as a “partner” was a person that I was rather intimate with (all respect to her). I wouldn’t fret over the term as it is the right one. Microsoft is in fact partnered with a zillion other businesses. It’s creepy to think of it that way but in the end it is the right term.
    I don’t want to go too far off on a tangent but “partners” tend to be co-dependent enablers. If Microsoft isn’t pleasantly partnered with its partners I’m not sure about dating anymore.

  6. Semantics aside until the English language grows a new word for it I guess ‘Partner’ is as good as any. What is true though is that without ‘Partners’ Microsoft can’t get much done, it’s the most indirect organisation on the planet.
    Also as a Microsoft employee I have to confess I have rummaged under a users desk to fix their printer, it just wasn’t in Parramatta. Sadly I don’t have a cubicle either or an office. :o)

  7. Stilgherrian – I know some people in your town. I’m not sure if they’re good with printers but they’re definitely out in the community.Have you come across Frank Arrigo and Nick Mayhew? A guy from my own team is about to move to Oz so I’m hoping he could swing by and address the pimple on butt issue too 😉

  8. Stilgherrian
    I am one of those said ‘people in your town’, working in the Australian Microsoft partner group. Incidentally I used to run a Microsoft partner in the UK only 2 years ago (for the previous 8 years) so I have some useful perspective, and also I hope I’ve not become too institutionalised yet :-)
    If you send me an email (through my blog is the best way probably) I’ll get someone locally to call you and see what we can to do help change your mind about how seriously we take our partner model and every one of our partners. Of course we can’t hire 14000 account managers to manage 1:1 every one of our 14000 australian partners, but as a group our business absolutely depends in every way on how we work with our ‘channel’. Partners are the lifeblood of Microsoft and whilst we are not perfect there is genuine and sincere passion for helping partners grow their businesses, whether they be 1 man companies or the largest IT organisations. Let’s chat !

  9. Stilgherrian – I’m the guy Steve Clayton referred to and I’m moving to Sydney next month to work in Nick’s group as an ISV Partner Development Manager. Please make contact through our blogs and I’ll give you a call once I find my new Aussie feet end of May… Meanwhile, please connect with Nick and Frank.

  10. Hugh, I take your point around overhyping a small window of advisory work – but i want to celebrate the opportunity you have. There is a real question here for any company managing ever more complex value networks…
    Ultimately modern partner relations reduces down to tight (SLA-based) contractuals and ‘fluff’.
    From time to time new collaboration models are tried (social model innovation anyone?) but generally under the auspices of CSR.
    I’d love to hear that MS has some pervasive innovation running around new ways of engaging…business models included, but
    it’s just so hard to do at scale.
    When web 2.0 has gone through the hype cycle, we may find a way to entrench its social network learnings into business practice…
    At present, we’re in a dot-com type moment. Too much exhuberance; not enough perspective.
    Vodafone, HSBC and even FMCG megabrands would love to know how the IT sector manages this complexity. I’m sure the IT sector would love to know itself…
    If you can help clear the fog…great.