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Ask Me Anything Topic: Practice Development Playbooks

Melissa Mulholland_Photo.jpgIntroducing Melissa Mulholland, this week's Microsoft expert. Melissa is the Microsoft Partner Cloud Profitability Lead. She focuses on enabling partners and customers to accelerate their business transformation in the Cloud delivering increased profitability, efficiency, and scale across Microsoft's Cloud services.

What are the Practice Development Playbooks? These playbooks were developed with insights and best practices of over 1,000 Microsoft partners, and provide essential blueprint and tools to develop, analyze, manage and secure an effective cloud practice. Download them here.

Please ask Melissa any questions on this thread from December 6-13 and she will respond on the 13th; the top kudoed questions will be answered first.

This AMA is live December 13th 7-11am PST.

To ensure you do not forget, please download calendar invite below!

Level 1 Contributor

Hi Melissa, I hope it's not too late to ask.

How can I let Microsoft Partners in the UK that I'm available to hire as a contractor to implement and design Azure ML and/or Azure Databricks services to their clients? 

I'm currently finishing my master in Machine Learning at University of Essex (Colchester, UK) and I have more than 10 years of experience in Software Development and Software Engineering. 

Thanks in advance, 



Hi Heman,

My suggestion is that you should make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up to date and makes it easy to find you. Then I suggest that you join the IAMCP in the UK as that is a great group for finding business opportunities.


Regards, Per

Level 6 Contributor

I thought I asked this the other day. Perhaps it didn't get saved or I failed to click post.

My question was / is:

Is there a quick start guide?

The books in the links are great, but they are quite detailed. Is there an Executive Summary (perhaps from the books themselves) or a Quick Start Guide that can help partners evaluate the market opportunity more quickly. Then, if there is a desire to dig deeper they can open the eBooks and dig in.


Glad you asked!  I am a big believer that you need to serve up content in different mediums to tailor to people's individual learning process.  For the playbooks, the content is deep intentionally but I know it can be overhwelming to start.  To assist with this, we are working on breaking up the playbooks in their individual chapters that we can host on MPN in more bite size pieces.  For example, with SEcurity we will be launching a new page on MPN that will take the playbook contnet and will serve up just the Define Strategy section with the overview and a video to support that section.  This will be just the start of "digitizing" the content.  

In regards to general practice development, I am also working on building out a guided video series to train and skill partner's on business development in a cloud world.  This is an extension of the recent work I have landed with our new field roles (Partner Dev Managers - PDMs) to skill them up in their new roles.  This content will these topics for example: changing buyer behavior in a cloud market, partner profitability and impotance of IP, resources to hire, offer design, Industry GTM, etc. 

To accompany this content, we will be releasing short guides to help partners wtih business development which includes a new partner business plan. 

Does this help?

Level 2 Contributor

Where can i find these smaller documents that you mention?

MSCE - Productivity
MCSA - Office 365
Level 6 Contributor

Yes. I like the idea of JIT content. Where JIT = Just In Time.

It allows people to have a more seamless and continuous experience.


Wonderful, thank you so much! 

Not applicable

Any advice for a single person just starting out?


Great question, I would first start by getting educated on the topic as many people don't spend the time to understand the spectrum of services/solutions with AI.  First start with understanding the spectrum as there are 3 primary entry points for Partners.  The first is prebuilt services that are out of the box in Azure, such as Bots.  The second entry point is levearging Azure but starting to do custom modeling on top of the existing algorithyms.  And lastly, if you are a deep data expert with in house data scientists you can dive right into custom ML.  

I always suggest getting started with defining out the practice that you want to build, define one area of AI that you want to be an expert on vs trying to do all of it as you want to showcase your success with a win in order to demonstrate to customers that you are an expert. 

Suggested Steps:

1. Get educated and you can start with teh AI Playbook https://aka.ms/aiplaybook

2. Define your practice focus (for example prebuilt APIs with Cognitive Services or Machine Learning

3. Detemine the business model you want to approach such as Project Services or Managed Services or IP

4. Identify the resources and investment you need 


AI spectrum.PNG

Level 6 Contributor

Great Q Gary ... this is a big challenge facing new partners that want to get on-board with the Microsoft machine.

The way we are addressing this is with the IAMCP Seattle P2P efforts. Where we connect Partners to Partners. The idea is that partners that have varying skills can connect and work with each other. This allows the "single person" to focus on their passion and allows other partners to engage where their skills align. It has worked well so far and we continue to improve the process. 

The IAMCP is closely aligned with Microsoft and we work together to insure partners get everything they need to succeed.

I'm happy to discuss this with you in more detail. Ping me anytime ... here or at jeff.shuey@iamcp.org 



Thanks for asking! Is this a question referring to if someone is just starting on their journey in building a cloud practice? If so, I would recommend first really asessing what you want your business to be focused on, is it a specific to a customer segment of the market and or industry?  Where do you want to have specialization in your business and start to then determine how many HC resources you will need, marketing investment, capital, etc. 




Hi Melissa, 

I love your work and think that too many partners accept sub-level profitability! There is GREAT advice out there that shows the right path to take in order to make a successful journey towards sustainable high-level profitability! And we owe it to ourselves, our employees, our customers and our families to run profitable ventures.

A few questions:

1) In your opinion, how do you see the mix between investing in digital marketing and traditional sales? If you have a fixed budget, where do you focus your spend?

2) How can traditional SIs, that are billing hours today, become more profitable in the future? What steps do they need to take?

3) I'm a big believer in Specialization and Partnering (P2P). Do you see this as a strong trend for partners that are more profitable? 


Regards, Per


@PerWerngrenfantastic questions and I'm humbled by your feedback on the content I produce as it makes the work put into it worth all of the time and investment when I hear from Partners like you that you find it valuable.  Just a quick plug, i'm excited to share that we will be alunching a new ebook series with IDC that will be a replacement of the Modern Partner Profitability ebooks focused on Digital Transformation.  In regards to the questions raised please see inline below.  

1) In your opinion, how do you see the mix between investing in digital marketing and traditional sales? If you have a fixed budget, where do you focus your spend? (MM) From what we see from successful partners, they invest 11 - 12% of spend on marketing out of their total budget.  Ideally, we suggest a target of 7 - 10% and my guidance is to focus more on digital than traditional marketing. 

2) How can traditional SIs, that are billing hours today, become more profitable in the future? What steps do they need to take? (MM) Great one, we see many SI's are still doing a majority of their business doing professional/project based services.  While this is great, the challenge in doing so is that these are very specific projects that lack the ability to drive a repeatable motion.  My guidance is to begin thinking about how you can take the services that represent a significant portion of the type of Project services you are doing today and to begin packaging it up in a Managed Service offer.  If you can add a industry angle to it based on your customer base it will make it even more relevant to the customer and can increase your margins.  This is due to the fact that you are not having to recreate the project every time.  We see around 15% margin on project services and 45% on Managed Services and up to 70% on IP. 

3) I'm a big believer in Specialization and Partnering (P2P). Do you see this as a strong trend for partners that are more profitable? (MM) Love hearing this! I too am a huge fan of P2P as I find that it can cut down your time to market signficantly as you build upon other expertise that you don't have to source in house.  There are times when P2P is a better option as you can get out in front of your competitor much faster than taking the time to build it froms scractch.  For example, AI is one of the most hot emerging technologies in the market today, but many partners can't afford the capital to hire a data scientist let alone find the talent in the market so one option is to Partner with strong AI focused partner who can build the algorithm or solution...same could be said of cybersecurity and GDPR compliance, the list goes one. 😉 Check out my blog focused on P2P...so glad you rasied it! 




Thank you Melissa! A great set of replies! We are very aligned in our thinking!


Regards, Per


Great to hear! Would love to discuss further with you! Would you be interested in participating in the IDC digital transformation series that I am in process of landing? Would be great to have your expertise included.  Same for @jshuey , let me know if you want to participate. 

Level 6 Contributor

I'm happy to help. You know where to find me. <G>


Sounds great Melissa! Would be happy to participate and contribute! This is a topic that I feel passionate about and I have decent experience in building sustainable profitability!


Regards, Per

Level 6 Contributor

Is there a playbook for those interested in developing for the next generation of Microsoft products?

Specifically for Hololens (Mixed Reality); Artificial Intelligence; Machine Learning 


Thanks Jeff for asking, as yes we have a playbook focused on AI that covers Machine Learning, Cognitive Services, and Bots found at https://aka.ms/aiplaybook.  I don't have anything specific to hololens, as I am just about to launch Cloud Migration and a playbook for ISV partners moving to a SaaS model as the next in the series. 


Great question @jshuey!  In January, I will be launching a new playbook focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI) based on brand new research and partner input from those that have successfully built a practice.  Today, I will be promoting this in the AI blog I will be publishing.  We don't have a roadmap for blockchain yet, as it is still very much an emerging technology.