The other day I received an automated email from Microsoft informing me that Forceworks had been removed as the Partner of Record (POR) for one of our clients. Unaware that the client was dissatisfied, I immediately picked up the phone and called them. "Is something wrong?" I asked, "No, you guys are great" he replied. "Why did you remove us from Partner of Record?", "The migration was finished, so I did not think you needed it anymore. What does it mean anyway?"
This brief exchange prompted this post. It is clear to me that many customers do not understand the Partner of Record role and its significance to them, or to their Partner. Let me quickly clear up a couple of misunderstandings I have heard in the past:
- Having a Partner of Record associated with your account does not affect your cost.
- A Partner of Record cannot view any of your data or manipulate your account (you need to provide them with Delegated admin access for that).
- Partner of Record does not mean you are "stuck" with a partner that turns out to be lame.
- A Partner does not need Partner of Record to work on your account, it adds no capabilities for them. They can be added as a Delegated Admin without POR.
- While you can only have one Partner of Record with a product, you may have multiple PORs for multiple products. For example, one POR for Office 365 and a different POR for CRM, etc.
So now that I got that out of the way, why should you as a customer care about POR? First, let me explain why your Partner cares. Even though your cost is not effected, your Partner of Record is compensated by Microsoft. This compensation comes in two forms, an upfront bump for signing you up, and a small recurring monthly fee for as long as you are on the service. Removing a POR will not affect the fees they receive. Replacing a POR will however cause the new POR and the old POR to split the ongoing fees. So there is a financial value to a Partner of being your POR. The second, and potentially more important concern to a Partner, has to do with their status with Microsoft. Partners are "ranked" according to the number of customers and seats they have. These "rankings" effect several things for a Partner. As a Partner moves up the tiers, based on customer and seat count, they are granted higher compensation levels as well as other privileges and access to special programs.
So back to the question, why should you care? Obviously, POR is important to your Partner, even if they may act like it is not. This creates a bit of leverage for you, particularly if you have a high seat count for the Partner. But even a single seat customer is still part of the "Customer Count" which is also a factor.
No Partner wants to lose POR status for an account. Period.
So, how might you use this leverage? Removing a Partner as POR for no reason, creates no value for you and is really "uncool". But if your Partner has vanished and stopped returning your calls, removing them from POR might just pop them back up on the radar. When my client removed us I was on the phone with him within 3 minutes (he did add us right back BTW). Sometimes, you may just outgrow your partner. There are a lot of partners out there today, many of which are either new, or simply limited in their knowledge. If you find your needs exceeding their capabilities, you may be in the market for a Partner Upgrade. Your POR status has some value to the incoming partner, not a lot, but some, and better to mention that you are aware of it. If you signed up yourself and have never had a POR, this value is higher.
As a general rule, it is considered poor form for a Partner to actively solicit you to switch partners for no particular reason. If you are not unhappy, and a new Partner is not bringing anything to the table, they do not deserve your POR. But some Partners are not as honorable as others. For example, I recently ran across an offer for free Dynamics CRM tutorial videos on another Partner's website. I filled out the form to gain access to the "Free" content to check it out and received an automated email letting me know that as soon as I switched my POR over to them I would be granted access. To me, this is very slimy business. There are tons of videos available all over for Dynamics. If I were them I would have been content with capturing my email and occasionally sending me some tips and allowing me to access their content to possibly reach a conclusion on my own that they might be a "Partner Upgrade". Instead, to get access to their content, they expected me to replace or add them as my POR, which generates revenue for them for nothing. Another trick: "Sure, we might be able to help you with that, just give us delegated admin access temporarily so we can check it out". This is not an unreasonable request. You can grant and remove this access anytime you want. Many times, it is impossible to make a suggestion without taking a peek at what you have deployed. But some partners take this opportunity to use a little known trick to switch the POR... dirty pool. Please don't ask me what the trick is if you don't know. Sometimes you may bring on a new Partner for one thing, say CRM, and they change the POR for everything else... also not cool in my opinion.
So hopefully I have shed a little light on this obscure, but confusing topic. I don't want you thinking these "shenanigans" I discussed are rampant, they are not. It is very rare. But with 800,000 partners, there are bound to be a few bad apples.