Microsoft Development Funds
By Kevin Szady
Director of Technical Services
Over the past few years Microsoft has periodically run promotional programs whereby they give selected customers who meet specific purchase requirements free funding to help with the implementation of Office 365. Sometimes this financial assistance has been referred to as “ Microsoft development funds,” other times it’s an “Office 365 Adoption Offer” or “Microsoft FastTrack funds.” Whatever Microsoft calls it, it’s essentially free money for the customer to spend with a Microsoft Partner to offset the cost of doing the upgrade or implementation.
Customers love these Microsoft development funds offers
From the customer’s point of view, these offers are terrific. The customer gets free assistance—from a consultant with enough expertise to qualify as a Microsoft Partner—to implement a high-priority project. Who wouldn’t like that?
Coyote Creek does not love these Microsoft development funds offers
After helping 10 or 12 clients take advantage of Microsoft Office 365 Adoption Offers or FastTrack funding, we’ve decided that the entire process is so time-consuming and painful that it just isn’t worth it. In fact, we are no longer accepting this type of funding. Here’s what we have experienced with these programs:
- Pre-registration – As the consultant it is our responsibility to register the deal with Microsoft through their web portal. Unfortunately, doing so involves jumping through quite a few hoops.Before the project starts, Microsoft wants to see and approve all of the details of what we’ll do and how we’ll do it. But Microsoft will not simply let us upload our Project Plan. Instead, they want the information formatted in a very specific way and then typed into their input form. Since this formatting often does not align with how we actually do things, filling out Microsoft’s form involves changing our process so that we can input steps that match their process.
- Funding amount – The money that Microsoft provides is rarely enough to cover the entire project. When this happens things can go one of two ways. One option is for us to only do the amount of work for which Microsoft’s funding is available, after which the customer finishes the project themselves. The other option is for us to do the entire project and then bill Microsoft for some of the work and the customer for the balance. For this path we have to take extra steps to ensure the right amount is billed to the right people. Which means more work for us.
- Approval for payment – Getting paid by Microsoft involves jumping through more hoops. The customer needs to provide special sign-offs in a certain format. Then we need to upload that and other information into the web portal in a process that has always required a few go-rounds to make it work.
- Timing of payment – After getting through all of the above, there’s a good chance that we’ll be waiting quite some time before we get paid. With this type of funding, Microsoft usually will not pay until a specified percentage of users have been migrated over to the new system. For Exchange the magic number is 15%. But once the system is up and running, often times the customer’s schedule is such that four to six months go by before those 15% of users can be moved. Which means that we have to wait four to six months before Microsoft will even consider cutting our check.
The bottom line: Providing free funding to help customers implement Office 365 is a terrific idea, and we commend Microsoft for doing so. However, the devil is in the details. To make these programs pay for everyone involved, Microsoft needs to either greatly simplify the process or compensate us for the extra time we have to spend jumping through those hoops.