Making a Microsoft Relationship Work

Microsoft is clearly having issues, but one big one, in my view, is that the folks who should be talking to them aren’t doing so effectively.
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There seems to be a never ending group of folks complaining about Microsoft. Whether the company doesn’t get it, or is out of touch, arrogant, or simply deaf, the list can go on for some time. However, there are a lot of companies who actually like working with Microsoft, which remains dominant in a number of areas.

Over the years I’ve had a chance to work with firms who hated and now really like the company and one big difference has emerged and that is how the relationship is managed. Today I’d like to share what I’ve learned, and what I suggest you do if you want both your relationship with the company to improve and have Microsoft become more responsive to your needs.

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Like in sports, the goal with any IT project or relationship isn’t to just show up, it is to move the ball. Too few people are focused on moving the ball, in my opinion, and that is why we aren’t seeing much movement right now.

Driving an Agenda

There is a tendency with any large vendor, or client for that matter (speaking to my peers), to tell them what they want to hear. Often they ask you for feedback and the generic response is a public, “we are very happy and content, or that was great” followed by private discussions on just what a disaster the product, event, or meeting actually was.

Or, instead of engaging the partner, at group events folks use the time to get caught up with email, catch up with co-workers who are at the event, or just enjoy the free food and entertainment. There are a lot of Microsoft events where groups get together to hear pearls of wisdom from the company and potentially provide feedback (part of that feedback might be to listen more and talk less by the way).

In groups, the one or two people who may actually be engaged and trying to provide feedback are overwhelmed by the well wishers and the general malaise that surrounds what often is a slide-fest, and feedback doesn’t reach the vendor, in this case Microsoft.

When there are one-on-one meetings with executives rather than having an agenda, folks generally just enjoy the moment. Analysts are probably the worst, often more interested in asking the memorable question rather than addressing subjects their own customers want addressed or they need for their own research. The other path is to simply rag on Microsoft, and neither is effective at improving things.

With people, the rule of thumb is typically 4 to 1 praise to criticism; with a vendor it can be closer to 50/50. But if all you do is praise, or all you do is criticize, you either won’t improve things or they will tune you out. It is the mix that keeps them engaged and listening, and the goal is to both get them to listen and to act.

Whether it is Microsoft or any other vendor, if you are meeting with them have an agenda. What is it you want to accomplish? How are you going to keep track of it? And are you prepared to escalate if they don’t listen?


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