Coffee Talk

Over the summer PowerPivotPro achieved our Microsoft Partner Gold Competency in Data Analytics. As part of our increasing focus on our partnership with Microsoft we invited Tamer Farag, the Global Partner Ecosystem Lead for Power BI, PowerApps and Microsoft Flow at Microsoft, to participate in our latest coffee talk. Below is a transcript of a Slack conversation held 8/30/2017, edited for clarity and brevity.

Introductions

Tom Williams
Hi I’m Tom Williams, President of P3 Northwest, the Seattle office of PowerPivotPro. One of the best parts of my job is working closely with teams at Microsoft, and today I’m happy to be talking with Tamer Farag. Tamer, tell us about your role and your time at Microsoft more generally.

Tamer Farag
Thanks, Tom. I’ve been at Microsoft for seventeen years, I’ve had a variety of customer facing field roles, as well as roles in Corp where I had the chance to develop strategies. Most of my career in Microsoft was around Databases and BI, especially SQL Server. I’ve been in this current role focusing on the Partner Ecosystem for Power BI, PowerApps, and Flow, for one year.

Tom Williams
So are you part of the sales organization?

Tamer Farag
No, in this role I’m part of the Engineering team, meaning the team that develops the software.

Engineers and Partners

Tom Williams
How does that relate to partners?

Tamer Farag
I am part of the Customer, Partners and Market Success team. This team is responsible for the interactions between engineering and the rest of the world; our team owns the public websites for the products, working with the communities, User Groups, Partners, our largest customers and all the analytics and insights. My job is to help partners succeed in the market.

Tom Williams
So what is your role exactly?

Tamer Farag

Microsoft has a large team focusing on partners’ success. In Engineering we don’t want to try to duplicate their work, so when we looked at where we could really add value we came to the conclusion that we have a lot of insights about our customers. Power BI is a SaaS service, so we have a lot of data available for us to learn about how they’re using the product, their needs, challenges and where they need help.

We also have a lot of assets at our disposal, from the public websites, the product itself and our marketplaces. If we can leverage our insights and those assets to connect our customers to our best partners then it’s a three-way win: it’s a win for customers because they get professional help to make them successful, it’s a win for partners because they get more business and it’s a win for Microsoft because we get increased adoption and customer satisfaction.

Tom Williams
Can you give some specific examples of how you make that happen?

Tamer Farag

Sure. we drive three motions to drive customer to partner connections:

  1. The first is the Partner Showcase that lets partners present interactive solutions and IP tailored to specific industries, departments, and geographies. This enables the partners to showcase their industry expertise and the customers to test drive published Power BI solutions.
  2. Second are the Solution Templates. These are templates built by Microsoft, and in some cases by third parties, that provide working solutions—data connectors, data models, analytic views—for common scenarios. Partners can customize these templates for a specific client to accelerate the sales process and gain quick traction and credibility.
  3. Finally there’s AppSource, and more generally the concept of a Consulting Services marketplace. Last year we ran a variety of experiments and pilots, we learned that the best chance for partners and customers to connect is if the partners can present customers with a clear offer with a clear price and timeline for delivery. We’re leveraging Appsource because that’s currently where the 100 million active monthly Office365 and Dynamics365 users go for SaaS solutions. Now Power BI partners can use that same platform to publish offers for consulting services and generate qualified leads.

Tom Williams
We have a Showcase entry. Can we also publish offers on AppSource?

Tamer Farag
Yes, having a Showcase makes you eligible to publish offers. We’d love to see PowerPivotPro’s training programs and consulting services offered directly to customers through this channel.

Tom Williams
I’ll get right on it! We’d love to see that, too.

Fitting the Pieces Together

Tom Williams
Your title says ‘Power BI, PowerApps, and Flow’. How do those all fit together?

Tamer Farag
We see PowerApps and Flow as key components for enabling Data to Action scenarios. In more traditional BI and reporting we talk a lot about Data to Insight, and that will always be important, but for organizations to get the most out of their data and truly become a digital business, you need to accelerate and maybe automate insight to action. So the ability to embed PowerApps in a dashboard, or to use Flow to trigger an event based on a KPI change, is a key extension of the functionality and value of the overall Power BI offering.

Tom Williams
What about Azure? Where does that fit in?

Tamer Farag

Power BI is optimized for self-service analytics but we all know that, in large organizations in particular, making self-service a reality requires a complete end to end solution. You still need ETL and modern data warehousing, you still need one version of the truth, you need advanced analytics available as easily consumed services. Azure can be the backbone for making all of that happen.

But it’s not a requirement, and it’s important to recognize how significantly Microsoft has invested in openness and working with other vendors and other technologies. Power BI lets you connect to so many different data sources, and has an open environment for creating custom visuals.

We’re committed to openness but we always want our products to work better together.

Tom Williams
I’ve heard “Better Together” used to talk about Excel and Power BI, too. Can you elaborate?

Tamer Farag

Excel is still the most popular and widely used analytics tool on the planet and we absolutely see it as a first-class component of the Power BI platform. We wanted our Power BI users to get a lot more than just the ability to export to Excel, which is what most other tools in the market provide. Users can publish their Excel sheets and reports Power BI, or publish entire data models from Excel to Power BI for others to use. Or they can go the other way and, as I mentioned, export from Power BI to Excel or, even better, connect to published data models on Power BI from Excel for additional analysis.

We know there will always be users who prefer the Excel experience or who have valuable models they’ve created in Excel and don’t want to rebuild, and we want those users to benefit from Power BI as well.

Working with Partners vs. Microsoft

Tom Williams
Great. Last question: when should a customer work with a partner and when should they work directly with Microsoft sales?

Tamer Farag

It’s not either/or. Microsoft has always been a partner focused company. From the earliest days we looked to partners to help us scale and reach customers. And the reason we do that is that our research tells us that accounts where partners are engaged see more sales, more usage and more customer satisfaction. This is why starting this Fiscal year we went even further and now our sales professionals can retire their quota by selling partner solutions. That’s how committed we are to the partner led model.

So customers can be confident that if they are engaging primarily with a Microsoft sales professional, that individual will bring the right partners in to help if there’s a need for specific expertise and depth. And if customers are engaged primarily with a partner, they should know that partners have access to almost exactly the same training and resources as internal sales, and that partners are encouraged to communicate with sales to make sure they have a complete picture of that customer’s current and potential relationship with Microsoft.

Tom Williams
Tamer, this was very helpful. Thanks so much for your time and more generally for the excellent work your team does on behalf of partners and customers.

Tamer Farag
You’re welcome, Tom. Always happy to talk with valued partners.

 

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