It’s the second day at our Worldwide Partner Conference and it’s great to see the energy and excitement from partners on Lync. We kicked off the event with a pre-day session with 300+ Exchange and Lync partners. This is one of my favorite days at the conference. We get to spend an entire day with our closest partners sharing feedback, best practices and plans for the next fiscal year. It’s a chance for the team to meet partners from across the world and for partners to spend some time with us and networking with each other.  

As you heard during Steve Ballmer’s keynote yesterday, this is a special year for Lync and the excitement is evident. I especially loved Steve referring to Lync as “the Kinect of the enterprise”, as it speaks to the wow-factor Lync has for customers. Since Lync launched last November, many of our partners are now fully qualified and have many customer wins. For example, telephony deployments on Lync grew 250% in FY11, with partners having hundreds of deployments that they can now grow through application development and managed services.

This year’s theme of our pre-day session was “Going Big with Lync”. There were two elements to this theme. First is reiterating the best practices and programs for partners – a full curriculum of readiness and training, voice partner community, architectural reviews for large or complex deployments and field support from their voice partner account managers, to name a few. The second focused on new investments Microsoft is making to help partners be even more successful with their customers. These have been in large part in response to feedback directly from partners - our partners are our biggest advocates and in some ways, our best sounding boards! 

I am happy to share some details here:

  • Solution Incentive Program for Lync: Microsoft Lync Solution Incentive Program offers a way for partners to earn incentives on Lync license transactions. Previously, our implementation partners did not participate in the licensing transaction, which is carried out by Large Account Resellers. We recognize that many of our partners play an important role in selling solutions like Lync to customers and we will be rewarding partners that help in the sales process. This will make partners more vested in the entire process and help customers get more value and attention. 
  • Evolution of Lync Voice Support: We are evolving support for Lync voice through a new offering, Microsoft Premier Support for Lync Partners, which will enable partners to offer end-to-end solutions backed by Microsoft IP, tools and Premier Escalation Engineers. Partners benefit from direct backing from Microsoft, access to resources, IP and a co-sales model and customers will see value from an end-to-end support offer from a certified support partner.  Already, global partners such as British Telecom, Dell, Dimension Data, Orange Business Services and T-Systems have signed up to work with us as introductory partners. 
  • Microsoft Communications Competency: Finally, in October 2011, the existing Unified Communications competency, which is the current competency relevant to our Exchange and Lync partners, will split into two separate, new competencies: the Messaging competency, focused on Microsoft Exchange, and the Communications competency, focused on Microsoft Lync. We blogged about this update in May, and we’re using WPC as an opportunity to connect directly on it with partners. This is an important evolution of the Microsoft Partner Network competency that allows partners to further differentiate Exchange and Lync expertise in the market. We know how much our partners invest in developing practices on Exchange and Lync, and these two new competencies will give them the chance to demonstrate these investments.

These are exciting times for customers and partners. Lync is helping customers transform their communications infrastructure and also help open new doors for partners. The opportunity is huge – and we are committed to helping our partners be successful and our customers have the best experience in their journey to change their productivity landscape. 

If you are interested in learning more about the partner opportunity with Lync, partner solutions built for Lync, or to find a partner to help you upgrade or deploy, visit our Lync Partner Solution Center. And be sure to keep up with all the latest coming from WPC this week on the WPC website and on twitter using the #WPC11, #ExchangePartner and/or #LyncPartner hashtags.

Ashima Singhal