Azure for Executives

Partnering with Microsoft and Growing Your Business

Episode Summary

This episode is for anyone looking to take their business to the next level by becoming a Microsoft partner, or for existing partners who want to make the most of their benefits. We’re joined by Casey McGee, Vice President for ISV Partner Strategy at Microsoft, who focuses exclusively on our thriving partner ecosystem. Casey shares ways to partner with Microsoft, the benefits this opens up, and the attributes of a great partnership. And, of course, we cover other topics along the way.

Episode Notes

This episode is for anyone looking to take their business to the next level by becoming a Microsoft partner, or for existing partners who want to make the most of their benefits. We’re joined by Casey McGee, Vice President for ISV Partner Strategy at Microsoft, who focuses exclusively on our thriving partner ecosystem.

Casey shares ways to partner with Microsoft, the benefits this opens up, and the attributes of a great partnership. And, of course, we cover other topics along the way. 

Show Links


Casey McGee

 Vice President for ISV Partner Strategy at Microsoft

In partnership with our Partner Ecosystem, I help Microsoft realize our Mission of Helping Every Person and Every Organization on the Planet Achieve More.

Today, I lead Microsoft's Partner Development in the US focusing on driving cloud growth and company transformation with ISVs, Industry Partners, and Private Equity Firms.

I was previously the Chief of Staff for the President and EVP of Microsoft's Global Sales Marketing and Operations based in Paris France. I was responsible for business planning, governance, overall business rhythm, employee and external communications and contributed to Microsoft's most strategic Business Development efforts. 

Follow Casey on LinkedIn

Microsoft US Partners on Twitter



Paul Maher is General Manager of the Industry Experiences Team at Microsoft. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

David Starr is a Principal Azure Solutions Architect in the Industry Experiences Team at Microsoft. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Episode Transcription

So Paul, I've got a great one for this week's partner spotlight. Do you remember a few episodes back when I was raving about a teams, partner Microsoft Teams, but I didn't want to name them on the show?

I remember that day. It was an episode about Microsoft Teams and modern work if I remember correctly with Jared Spataro?

That's right. Yeah. So I said the partner had a really great product and that I'd used it myself a few times and was really impressed. So it turns out it's no wonder they have such an amazing product. I learned later that they're Microsoft's partner of the year in the modern workplace category, which is really cool. So they have this great UX that introduces various interactive activities and learning sessions, things that you can do to keep your meetings more interactive. Audience engagement tools, like voting, challenges and building word clouds together. And you can even use these tools as a large event, right. As part of a conference talk or something like that.

So if I remember correctly, David, is it [Klaxoon 00:01:06]?

Yeah, that's right. Klaxoon, a French company that offers this full suite of collaborative tools for what they call efficient teamwork from anywhere, right. Their solution plugs right into Microsoft Teams and is available through the AppSource Marketplace. And I think it's a great tool for keeping engagement high in online meetings and even in teaching scenarios.

So could you share what some of the features you get with the solution are David?

Sure. We talked about it a little bit, but I'll go into more detail. You get this brainstorming feature, which is sort of a best in class white board. A really simple interface, lets you share ideas and updates, let's people who are involved in the interaction like them, vote them up, sort them, prioritize them directly from even your phone or tablet by the way, versions of teams that are on your phone or tablet, which is really cool. Other clerks and tools are things like this capsule adventure, where they have a little adventure you can follow, they build quizzes and surveys that are again, available on your phone or tablet. And the app actually creates a new tab when you add it to the top of your team's menu and you use that to create and manage these interactive experiences right there in Teams. And again, their solution is available right through the AppSource Marketplace.

Nice. What a great solution. Okay. So let's get on to our guest and then the rest of the show.

Welcome to the Azure for Industry Podcast. We are your hosts, David Starr and Paul Maher. In this podcast, you hear from thought leaders across various industries, discussing technology trends and innovation. Sharing how Azure is helping transform business. You'll also hear directly from Microsoft thought leaders on how our products and services are meeting industry's continually evolving needs.

Today's show is about Microsoft's rich partner ecosystem and the amazing partners we get to work with who build solutions using Microsoft technologies. In Microsoft vocabulary these partners are ISVs or independent software vendors. Now, partnering with Microsoft has a lot of benefits. And we'll talk about what some of those look like and what it feels like to become a Microsoft partner and make the relationship beneficial for your organization. Now, here to talk with us about partnering with Microsoft is Casey McGee. Casey is vice president for ISV partner strategy at Microsoft, which puts him at the center of partner relationships. Casey, welcome to this show.

Thanks David. Appreciate you having me here.

Welcome to the show, Casey. Great to have you here. So let's just kick things up for the audience. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your team and what they do?

Yeah. Thanks Paul. So Casey McGee here, I run our ISV business at Microsoft. Been at the company about 20 years. Most of those roles have been either in the field with partners or in some connection to strategy and operations. And so for the ISV business here at Microsoft, we are not only looking to help grow our existing ISV partners, so those that have already committed to the Microsoft platform, but also looking to reach out, connect and bring new ISVs to our platform. So we have both an appeal to these partners to build technology with us, and so that's bringing innovation and capacity to those partners, but then also building a top line revenue plans, really helping those partners grow.

And Casey, just for the listeners on the... Just so they're familiar, so when we talk about partners and we talk about ISVs, can you just confirm what that means for the listeners?

Yeah. So we talked about ISVs as any company that's building IP and bringing that IP to market. Most of those companies and the companies that we partner with are those who are focused on business to business relationship. So as much as there's a rich thriving ecosystem of B2C, our team focuses really on those that are focused on business to business. And these are companies who are building IP as their primary business model. We know there are a number of services companies out there who are also building IP, but it's not their primary go to market motion. We're looking for those companies that are using IP to solve customer problems. That will often stretch into companies that are using data to solve customer problems as well.

So for listeners out there that might be wondering what it's like to be a Microsoft partner, what that brings to their organization, can you describe a little bit what it means to have that special relationship?

Yeah, you bet. So we think about the partnership across three dimensions. The first is the build with element of the partnership. So this is really Microsoft partnering with an ISV to build across our three clouds. So we focus on Microsoft as a platform company on Azure, Modern Workplace and teams and dynamics and Biz Apps. So really building that IP together. Think of that as us providing some of that innovation and then coming up with new ways to develop product that help your customers innovate. So that's the first. The second is go to market. So once we've built those applications and built that IP out for customers, actually helping you land that message in the marketplace. That includes both awareness, product positioning, messaging and really making sure that we're reaching the right geos, the right segments, the right industries with that message.

The last dimension in the partnership is [sowith 00:06:50]. So this is the heart and soul of our partnership with you. Helping you grow top line revenue once you've built on our platform. And so with spans and number of dimensions. First it is the close engagement that you have with our Microsoft field, it is the side-by-side selling that we do with our joint customers and ultimately it's driving customer success once we've been successful there. So that co-sell engagement goes beyond just closing deals together. It really is a 360 relationship with the customer. And we focus on the outcome there. The outcome is really helping you grow top line revenue.

That's awesome Casey. So hey Casey, I'm going throw out there, of course stating the obvious. COVID-19 has had a huge impact to everyone. And so what I'd like to ask is maybe could you share some of the work perhaps you've been doing either internally at Microsoft helping around COVID-19 or of course the work that you've been doing with partners and how they've been helping with... I'm sure all listeners would love to hear about some of those initiatives and how the partner ecosystem has been stepping up and what's been going on.

Yeah, sure. So the COVID crisis is impacting, as you said, not only every person on the planet, but it's actually having longterm effects with the economy is that I think every geography are wrestling with. And so let me just be clear, there are really three phases that we've identified and we believe that Microsoft and our partner ecosystem can step in and help across all three of these phases. Phase one has been our response collectively, not just Microsoft, but the partner ecosystem to help support both first responders, educators, anybody that's allowing for either quick care for people that are suffering from the virus or people whose lives have been just dramatically changed as a result of shutdowns and forced quarantines and the immediate crisis has presented just so many challenges as it relates to work at home, remote care, and some of the rapid vaccine and treatment work that's happened. So step number one was making sure that we were providing where we needed the platform for all of the partners that we're solving problems across that first stage of this crisis. And that's the immediate and fast response to the crisis.

The second stage has been reopening the economies. And so think about this as supply chains turning back on commerce, restarting where they'd paused, small medium businesses starting back up after taking several months away from productivity. All of this is such an important aspect of the partnership. If I think about remote care, remote learning, companies like PowerSchool and Teladoc, providing this just great experiences for doctors and for teachers and students in stage one. Stage two it's companies like Blue Yonder and Siemens really stepping up to help with both the supply chain and manufacturing process, but really gaining insights about where efficiencies may exist for us to restart. And so that's just a such a critical stage that we're in now as many companies are just now re-establishing their momentum in the marketplace.

The third stage that we've thought about is actually what are we going to do in a new world of work? And this really comes down to number one, our modern workplace solutions. How do we work differently knowing that even in the next six to 12 months, how we work will change so dramatically? And that extends all the way through Biz Apps and our Azure platform. Really companies that are looking for new and creative ways to reduce costs, leveraging cloud. Companies that are looking for new creative ways to leverage the data that they've always been sitting on. Now, they want to make more use of that using our data and AI tools through Azure. So these three stages, the immediate response, starting the economy, and then working on the new normal have represented these three stages for us to engage with partners in a new and different way. So the only way we're going to be able to provide compelling solutions in the market is by these partnerships with ISVs, who've been working for decades to create IP that's ready to help across those three stages.

Thanks, Casey. And it's great to hear how the partner ecosystem has been able to step up. And as you said, it's understanding the new normal. So can you share a little bit about the benefits of this thing called the commercial marketplace? And maybe you can talk to the audience for those not familiar with the commercial marketplace, what it is, and really the opportunity, the commercial marketplace, which covers two storefronts for those listening, that's Azure marketplace and AppSource. But talk a little bit about how that plays into your team and also the partnerships, how marketplace can help in the GTM and co-sell motion.

Yes. So let me start just by saying we actually think of the commercial marketplace as one of three primary routes to market as part of the partnership. So the first and most obvious is through our co-sell engagement with the field. Like sometimes 20,000 sellers out in the field with deep customer relationships. And so we think about that route to market as a direct motion between our two companies. The second is through our partner ecosystem. So we have a rich partner ecosystem with Azure Expert MSPs, we have resellers, we've got distributor partners, we've got global systems integrator, systems integrators, super important partner ecosystem that also can act as a scale function for our ISVs.

The third is this commercial marketplace and while our partners and our field sales organization thinks about marketplace as a channel in and of itself as a distribution engine, we actually think of it as its own sales channel and so we made some exciting announcements this year at Inspire around things like the Mac, the Microsoft Azure [inaudible 00:13:03], consume expiration program that basically allows you to expire the Azure as part of the marketplace transaction. Super important both for our field and for our customers to know that we've got that benefit. It's also just such an important aspect of any ISVs distribution plan as you think about both marketing your services out to the masses as well as transacting those services through the transaction engine. Both of those are powerful aspects of marketplace that really increase the awareness of what we're doing out in the marketplace and then also makes the transaction more friction-free and long lasting.

So this marketplace is just such an important aspect than, as I said, a sales channel to the work that we're doing. I'll also say, as it relates to the field use of marketplace, really our 20,000 sellers in the field, they actually look at marketplace as one of the viable options for bringing IP to their customers. So one thing that you'll see year over year is our sellers really looking at marketplace as one of the viable options there. So let me pass back to you, Paul. I know that you have a couple of followup questions as well.

No, absolutely. So that's fantastic. And so of course, the key thing here I want to learn is that, of course Casey and team are working with some of the largest ISVs on the planet. And so, with marketplace, what we're now adding is the third leg of the stool if you will. Casey talked about obviously the traditional field sell emotion, the reseller channel, but now we have this new online distribution engine, this commerce engine in market place. And I just... Learning a couple of things and then I'll pass back to you, Casey. Commercial marketplace, we talked about covers two storefront. So we have Azure Marketplace, which is much more of the IT pro-focused storefronts. So think of that's where we'd go to provision the AMS operating systems, APIs.

And then we have a AppSource, which is the second commercial marketplace storefront. And this is where you have much more of the line of business industry type applications that I think... There's really those two personas as we think about marketplace. There's the publisher, so of course this is really where we think about the partners and the ISVs and the applications publishing those software solutions to marketplace. And then the second persona we have is really the buyers. This is the customers coming to marketplace to buy those solutions. And what I do like to land, and marketplace and the reason I'm so passionate about it is we have a broad and big vision, but it's also complimentary to a lot of the traditional sales motions that you're familiar with. But some of the key things I would talk to you on marketplace is you're getting things like global distribution, you're transferring the cost and effort related to things like invoicing, collections, currency translation, and tax remits. So that's great.

And where I'm going to go back to you Casey, is one of the biggest requests I think is how though the partners get access to all field sellers and the customers. And one of the big things with marketplace of course, is that you're on the Microsoft price list. And we have highly motivated and incentivized Microsoft sellers, as well as the reseller channel wanting to engage with marketplace. So if you were to think about, Casey, the question back to you would be that holistic dialogue that you would have with the ISVs as they're thinking about traversing from the traditional sales motions, to thinking about marketplace. My session back to you would be, it's complimentary versus it's overall. And I feel with the, what we have with marketplace and the external benefits as well as the internal benefits, it really is just an add on, especially in these times with COVID where, of course, being able to have the remote everything, geographical distribution mechanism with marketplace.

Back to you Casey, and what are your thoughts for the listeners who are kind of new to this and maybe obviously are familiar with much more of that traditional sales motions? What's your thought about bringing it all together about the benefits of the one Microsoft in terms of thinking about that sales motion?

Yeah. You bet. So let me start by saying we've built marketplace as an asset for any partner. Regardless of size, regardless of their segment focus, regardless of their industry focus. So first and foremost, we think of it as a foundational offering for every partner. And in doing so, that means that you've got the marketplace direct to business buyer channel, you've got the marketplace to the Microsoft account teams and you've got marketplace to the partner. So think of this as the foundational route to market. Now, just to be clear, there will be scenarios where you'll have partners who have local coverage with either a partner development manager or through their engagement with their enterprise channel manager. And in those local markets, you've got I think the route to connecting directly with those account teams.

The marketplace actually becomes a critical asset when you don't have that downstream coverage. So let's say you're looking to start up a new focus in a new geographic territory. So let's say you decide that you want to start to grow in Southeast Asia. Well, the marketplace actually becomes a powerful tool there creating awareness and a transaction approach for that particular part of the world. And so, even without local coverage marketplace becomes your best route to market. Now, so Paul, just to answer your direct question, we think of it as the ultimate scale and distribution engine for foreign partnership. And we've seen great examples of where this happens, right? So even large ISVs who are looking to expand into new territories are using marketplace to do that. Small ISVs who are looking to open up offices for the first time in some large city are also doing it. So there's a good base of experience with our marketplace team and our partner teams help execute that.

Casey, stepping back just a little bit, I am thinking about listeners who are hearing about all of these benefits and the work that they would have to do to be involved in Microsoft partnership relationships. You participated in a series of articles on the five attributes of successful Microsoft partners and those that are really getting all of the benefit they can from the partnership. Can you explain those attributes to the aspiring partners who might be listening today?

Yeah. Sure David. Thanks. So actually this was some work that we did in the US in my last role. I ran ISV in the US and Dave Willis there did some really important work to document what are the five attributes of the most successful Microsoft partners. He and I would get these questions all the time. What are the things that you recommend we do to really accelerate the impact of our partnership? And so, as a leadership team, Dave did a nice job of pulling together a group of us to come up with these five attributes. And so, yeah, I had a chance to speak to a few of them. Let me just maybe refresh the audience here on the five that we spoke about. The first is customer obsessed. So clearly we're looking for partners that are looking to solve some of the hardest, most challenging customer problems, looking for how we deliver true impact to the customers and really focus on customers first. This is also a Microsoft cultural attribute so first and foremost, if we have that alignment it's powerful.

The second is creating differentiated value proposition. So this really comes down to when the Microsoft platform meets the ISV solution. How are we differentiating that solution with customers? And so it goes beyond just knowing deep down in our heart that there's differentiation by actually building the material that makes that differentiation discoverable. This is a kind of direct tie into marketplace where the most successful solutions actually, they demonstrate that through some really strong differentiation. So that's the second. The third is alignment with Microsoft. And the way I talk about this with my team, Microsoft is a big company and we are at times very complicated and it's our responsibility to help Microsoft feel small to our partner ecosystem, but the very best partners have figure out how to both navigate with Microsoft and align at the right levels.

And so the right level might be geographically knowing who the area vice president of the UK is, it might mean knowing who the student leader of me is, so that we've actually got the right connection to the technical sellers. All of that work comes down to strong alignment. So there's both awareness of the partnership, but then also coordination in the activities that we engage them. The fourth is leverage of partner ecosystem. So really looking across all partner types to determine how best can they leverage the partner ecosystem to solve customer problems and grow. That is looking across all partner types, not just systems integrators, Azure Expert MSP, CSPs, but also even looking for integration opportunities with other ISVs.

And then the last is cultural alignment. I talked about customer obsession, but we operate here with the growth mindset at Microsoft and really the three core pillars of our culture, customer obsession, diversity and inclusion, and one Microsoft, all three of these are so important that we live those. Not just at Microsoft, but through the partner ecosystem. And so each of those has just a powerful impact on our success together. And so these make up the five attributes. There are others by the way, but really when an ISV is executing across these five, it is clear in our success together.

And there is a series, as I mentioned, of articles that goes into a bit more depth on each one of these attributes. And of course, we'll link to those in the show notes so that listeners can read a bit more about what it takes to be a really successful partner with Microsoft.

Your business and customers meet in the cloud. The Azure Marketplace can power your business with global scale and software from Microsoft and trusted partner solutions. Enhance your experience in Office Dynamics, Power BI and Windows with offerings from AppSource. Check them out now.

So with that, our listeners always love to hear some stories and my question to you now would be, could you pick maybe one or two of your favorite partner stories that you and the team have been involved in. Perhaps it's in one industry or multiple industries. Just pick one or two. What are your favorites? What did the team do? How did you partner with the ISV and what was the innovation and overall business impact?

I spent some time at Inspire talking about two partners. I'll just reflect on the same too if you don't mind. The first, we've got an incredible partnership we just re-announced with Citrix. Citrix represents one of the most longstanding partnerships we have in the company. For many decades, we've had a partnership with Citrix. But what we've done just recently in both acknowledging the realities of where virtualization needs to really advance almost every company on the planet capabilities of remote work, but also a renewed interest in company's interest in moving to the cloud, Citrix and Microsoft came together to announce what's I think ultimately one of the biggest partnerships we've announced in a long time. We are bringing a number of new offers to the marketplace, both for companies that are looking for full cloud migration, also companies that are looking for really taking their workplace environment and virtualizing that. So Citrix is such an important partner for us.

We'll have presence in all 14 of our geographic areas. And one of the things that really makes this partnership successful is our connection at the geo level, really looking across all of those 14 geographies. The companies that were serving our customers know and feel the presence of the partnership in each of those geos. So it doesn't feel like an HQ US led partnership. It actually feels like a local partnership. And so it's something I'm very proud of. Each of our geography is adopting that stance toward the partnership.

In industry one of the things we've seen, some industries are fairing better than others through the crisis but I think if you look at both retail and manufacturing, there's this unique opportunity to find new efficiencies in how we operate. And so, let me just say, I think Blue Yonder, they made a decision a couple of years ago to go all in with Microsoft and the cloud. And this has really brought some new intelligence to companies who are looking to glean data from their operational infrastructure, as well as help improve the intelligence of decisions made around supply chain. And so with their applications, they've got a pretty rich set of applications there that are not only built in Azure, but take advantage of our data [inaudible 00:26:23], infrastructure to produce really, really intelligent supply chain decisions.

And so both companies through, even through just the last six months of this COVID crisis, have stepped up to not only solve really, really hard business challenges for companies that are struggling through the crisis, but who are also stepping up and innovating in new and different ways. And so just two of the many partnerships that we've had a great opportunity and pleasure working with.

Casey, we're kind of wrapping up and winding it down here. But before we do, I have to ask about the fact that you're a board member for Habitat for Humanity here in the Seattle area. And I'm wondering, what kind of impact is the organization having in and around Seattle?

Yeah. I have to say I feel so fortunate to be a board member there and to participate in what is such an important mission. Habitat for Humanity has been around for decades. But if you just look at most of the big cities today, their mission has never been more relevant, especially in the Seattle area where housing is just such a challenge for all levels of citizens here. From homelessness at the very obvious and painful reality of the number of homeless people that are in Seattle all the way up through the under housed. And so the habitat mission to provide a decent home that ultimately brings strength, stability and independence to families it's something that I'm just so deeply passionate about.

And there's an intersection here between the work that the habitat community does, building homes that ultimately become homes that are owned by their inhabitants and technology and how technology can both help in that process, as well as, we benefit as a group of citizens here in the Seattle area by creating a better situation for citizens with better homes that ultimately create better productivity and better living condition. So I'm super pleased to be a part of the mission. And also just know it's so important here in the Seattle-King County area that we get it right.

Great work. Thanks for explaining that for us.

Thanks, Casey. I appreciate you sharing the story and shout again for Habitat for Humanity. So as we kind of close down, of course, listeners as always, we'll be sharing links to follow Casey through LinkedIn and also on the Microsoft US partner site on Twitter so please go there. But Casey closing words, how can listeners learn more about your team's work and maybe any additional learning you would recommend the listeners to go look up books, white papers, blogs, all that?

Yeah, you bet. The single best resource Paul, is So if you want to go online to explore the various offers, incentives, programs that we have available it's There's also just some incredible resources out at the Inspire website. So we successfully completed Inspire a few weeks ago and all of that content is available. So really want to give you the opportunity to explore that content. It's an opportunity to learn about where we're headed as a company, learn about where we're headed as a partner ecosystem and so I'd encourage you to visit that site as well. I'm hoping you can provide those two links to the team. I'm also on media so if there's an interest I'm both on LinkedIn and Twitter and we'll be sharing more on the Microsoft US partners on Twitter. I think the Twitter handle is MSUS partner if I'm not mistaken. And so let's keep the discussion live there as well. It's what's great about both the LinkedIn and Twitter platform. Just such an important platform for us to engage, to discuss and to share new information.

And then you talked about the five attributes of successful Microsoft partners, please feel free to check out the links that I think the team's going to provide here, but all three important aspects of the content that we're sharing. And let me just close by saying, I just deeply appreciate the opportunity to connect here today. I'll also say it's such a pleasure and an honor to be able to engage with this partner ecosystem. So for those of you out there who have long standing partnerships with Microsoft, just want to say thank you for the trust and commitment you've made. For those that are evaluating and interested in learning more, we're ready to connect and ready to help grow. So I just appreciate the opportunity today, Paul and David.

And as you mentioned, primary contact to follow through with that is Perfect. So Casey, thank you so much for being on the show and helping people understand what it means to be a Microsoft partner and the benefits that they get from it. We talk about partnership here on the show a lot, and this has really disambiguated any sort of questions that people might have about it. So I look forward to putting this in the hands of the listeners. Thank you for being here.


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