Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 106

June 16, 2020

#106 David Totten: The Secrets to Managing Alliances Like Microsoft

David Totten, Chief Technology Officer, US Partner Ecosystem at Microsoft, joins Chip Rodgers on this Ecosystem Aces episode.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

If you want to learn the best ways to do something, you need to turn to the experts.  You need to turn to the people and organizations with the kind of wisdom that can only be gained through years of experience.

So, when it comes to managing partnerships, you turn to Microsoft.

That’s why I am so happy I got a chance to sit down with David Totten, Chief Technology Officer, US Partner Ecosystem at Microsoft in our latest episode. 

David’s experience managing partners in the leading organization in the space makes him the expert to talk to. And at a time when the world is changing so dramatically, so rapidly, who better to turn to than a company that has weathered numerous global crises over the years and continued to thrive?

We had a chance to discuss:

  • The lessons learned from Microsoft’s 35 years in partnerships
  • How partnerships are evolving under COVID-19
  • The 3 pillars of nurturing talent

Microsoft’s 35 years of experience in the alliance space 

Not only has Microsoft been paving the way when it comes to partners for the past 35 years, but the company has products in almost every domain of technology.

And that means David has a big job.  Microsoft is committed to enabling its partners to leverage technology in any customer scenario they need a solution for. And that’s a huge array of applications. 

So, Microsoft is very much involved in all aspects of partnering — whether that be business development, engineering or change management. 

David says almost half of his team are technical architects who sit with a partner and actually help them craft a solution. In a company like Microsoft, which releases a thousand new services a month on its cloud platform, this is no easy task. 

It means keeping partners up to date, knowledgeable about what’s coming and apprised of the best ways to take advantage of these services. 

To accomplish this, the company uses “code fests” and other skilling and enablement trainings to keep their partners at the forefront of Microsoft’s offerings.

And to get the most out of this, Microsoft also develops its partners on the business-side of things, helping them solve customer problems, predict their needs and also grow their own profits while leveraging Microsoft technology.

The company also is committed to leading digital transformation at scale.

People are using technology at 10 times greater rates than 2 years ago, so transformation is vital for businesses to remain competitive. 

And that’s before even mentioning the pandemic.

Partnerships under COVID-19 

With the challenges presented by COVID-19, the race for digital transformation has only accelerated. The crisis has highlighted how powerful the array of digital tools already on the market truly are. 

And this means Microsoft’s partner program is busier than ever. David’s team of 200 are trying to deliver solutions to the 3 million architects, developers, technical resources and delivery resources within their ecosystem.

With all manner of organizations clamoring for the right technical solutions to update their offerings and transform their business, their customers and the problems they are solving, David’s team has the task of enabling at scale. 

Much of this is achieved through what could be seen as a sort of exponential evangelism for Microsoft. 

The company holds events and other training and enablement opportunities not just for those in attendance but for everyone they will go on to teach the knowledge and skills they’ve gained.

And in the midst of the crisis, enabling partners becomes even more pressing as they rely more heavily on the technological solutions the company offers to keep afloat.

Microsoft is also actively working with its partners to help them tackle the very real and challenging economic challenges that lie ahead — everything from forgiving debt, changing payment structures or help with the offerings they can provide their customers. 

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 era — and, in part, because of them — David is optimistic about the future of technological innovation. With the whole world united against a shared threat, now is the time when the technology created by Microsoft, and the partners the company has enabled to leverage it, will be the most powerful.

After all, the greatest challenges offer the opportunity to find the greatest solutions.

The 3 pillars of nurturing talent

Microsoft’s deep commitment to its partners can only be maintained by an equally deep commitment to its talent and their professional development.

Even though the task of developing the best people is so vitally important, David keeps his approach simple. 

David breaks this down into 3 key pillars:

  1. A simple roadmap for success 
  2. Talent retention and exchange
  3. Technical acumen

In the first pillar, David says the right mechanisms for success need to be simple. Talent should be able to know they need to do A, B and C every time they come to work to achieve successful — not a whole alphabet that only serves to clutter the roadmap. 

When it comes to talent retention and exchange, David says every employee should teach and learn from one another. That way passion for business development can be traded for passion for a product. 

Eventually, everyone will learn a little about what their peers are passionate about. The optimism and excitement for every aspect of the business will be shared across teams and not be siloed in a specific domain and department.

This lets people discover what they are truly passionate about and what they really want to be doing within the organization — which, ultimately, is where they are most likely to be effective.

Finally, technical acumen balances this optimism and passion with the core competencies required in a company with such a vast portfolio of highly technical products. 

If you want to work on digital transformation, or maybe you’re interested in machine learning or any other solution Microsoft offers, then you are free to go learn from these teams. Both the passion and enthusiasm for the discipline and the nitty-gritty technical knowledge and skills to perform in them. 

A complex ecosystem needs a well-rounded team to manage it — you can’t develop one without the other. 

To contact the host, Chip Rodgers, with topic ideas, suggest a guest, or join the conversation about alliances, he can be reached by:

The latest Workspan Insights, straight to your inbox

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

The latest Workspan Insights, straight to your inbox

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.