The new tool takes the complexity out of a variety of regional licensing configuration tools Microsoft had offered to partners.
"Partners spent a lot of time gathering information instead of spending that time working with customers or finding new opportunities," said Teresa Howe, director of business tools and licensing technologies at Microsoft. "Microsofts catalog of product part numbers or SKUs was so large and diverse across our programs they created challenges in keeping up to date and contributed to order inaccuracy caused by complexity.
The new LicenseWise tool is designed to remove that complexity while also providing partners with additional sales and pricing capabilities.
Whereas customers—mostly those in the mid-market space—use the MPLA wizard to come up with a beginning quote in terms of the SKUs and licenses they need, the tool did not provide partners who served those customers with any help in terms of specialized searches, reorders and other more complex ordering problems. In addition, the customer-centric tool didnt give the partner the opportunity to set pricing.
What it did was provide a starting point for a conversation between the partner and the customer about technology needs, said Howe. And the tool had grown more popular, recently doing about 500 such quotes a day.
"Licensing announcements that were made at the conference will have a significant impact for us. Because eCRM can be delivered in Outlook, it will become an essential part of our future offerings and the lower cost when compared to Salesforce.com will make it doubly compelling for our potential customers," says Ryan Toenies, the vice president of CRM for Inetium, a Minneapolis-based VAR.
The LicenseWise tool now provides partners with capabilities to better support that conversation between partner and customer. It allows partners to input a unique quote identifier number provided by the MPLA tool. Using that number, the LicenseWise tool, which is integrated with the MPLA tool, provides the partner with information about all the SKUs and pricing. From there, the partner can increase or decrease the retail prices for each SKU, depending on the specifics of the deal.
Microsoft released the technology this week. It is available online only through the Microsoft Partner Portal. Microsoft began a beta of the technology on June 1, and about 30 to 35 VARs and distributors participated in the test. The company is currently collecting feedback from the beta testers, said Howe.
Depending on the feedback from testers and others, Microsoft may make the technology available for download sometime in the next six to 18 months, according to Howe.
Microsoft will continue to support regional configuration tools until further notice. However, the new LicenseWise tool is already available in 85 countries and 10 languages.