👋🏻 Hello and welcome to this edition of Interesting Stuff, your fortnightly dose of things I think you’ll find interesting if you’re in the world of Azure, partners, small business, and Microsoft. I’m James Marshall, SMB Azure Partner Success Lead for the UK at Microsoft, and if you find this content useful please remember to subscribe and share this with your network. Thank you! 😎 In this edition, you’ll find:
💭 Some thoughts on Azure success.
📝 A summary of the latest Azure updates.
📰 Interesting articles I’ve seen around the web.
🎙️ A podcast I was a recent guest on.
Defining Azure Success
You probably subscribe to something, right? A streaming service, a utility, a food box, perhaps. Subscriptions have us hooked, after all. But what goes through our minds when we hit that subscribe button? Two things: Do we need to? Do we want to?
At times, we don’t have a choice. To watch Ted Lasso, for example, a subscription to Apple TV is necessary. Ted Lasso isn’t available elsewhere. But in situations where choice is abundant, like selecting your Azure services partner, it boils down to one question: Why should I choose you?
The answer to ‘why’ is no longer a simple one. Rising customer expectations and a cutthroat partner market have changed the game. It’s not about low prices, quick quotes, or bundled support anymore. No, when it comes to Azure, success is a three-pronged measure: satisfaction, lifetime value, and churn management.
Let’s unpack these.
Top-performing partners already know what their customers need before they ask for it. They recognize unique industry challenges and spot opportunities to enhance productivity, increase security, or optimize costs. More and more, customers are pushing their partners to prepare them for AI, acknowledging the transformative potential of copilots for their businesses. Just as the cloud sparked digital transformation, digital transformation now lays the foundation for AI transformation.
Regular check-ins with customers to ensure you’re making a difference and meeting their needs strengthens the customer relationship. It’s when this relationship drifts that churn rates spike, spending levels drop, and customer satisfaction falls.
In the traditional sales model, closing the deal concludes the selling. But in the Azure world, the recurring revenue world, selling begins with the contract signing! Consider it like buckets of gold.
In the traditional model, you ‘win’ a pre-filled bucket (i.e., the contract’s value) when you close the deal. In the Azure world, the deal closure gives you an empty bucket to fill with gold. Delivering a $1000 per month project earns you $1000 per month. When considering lifetime value, it’s smart to plan for how to grow that $1000. There are standard patterns for cloud migration, but once you’re in the cloud, automation, scale, and innovation opportunities become accessible, which aren’t feasible on-prem. The first project you deliver to your customer won’t likely be the last, but staying proactive to line up more is crucial. It’s cheaper to grow existing customers than only to focus on adding new ones (we have to do both!).
Revisiting the bucket analogy, the subscription/recurring revenue model does have an issue. The bucket has a hole at the bottom - we call it ‘churn’. 😧 Many partners aren’t aware of (or don’t pay attention to) the hole, let alone its size or how much they’re losing through it. There’ll always be customers who need or want to leave for reasons beyond your control (acquisitions, bankruptcy, etc.). Often, however, they leave because they didn’t receive proper attention at the right time.
Churn isn’t always bad; it’s normal. But knowing why your customers switch partners, platforms, or leave the cloud is as crucial as knowing how you first acquired them. Consider Salesforce: their rapid growth masked the real challenge of losing customers. Once they realized the long-term impact of not addressing churn, they invested proactively in managing it and delivering customer success. You can’t plug the bucket’s hole permanently, but you can certainly reduce the flow.
Partners: Do we truly know why our customers stop using Azure services (I mean completely stop, not just shift)?
Customers: When was the last time our partner checked our satisfaction and whether they’re meeting our desired business outcomes?
In the future editions of Interesting Stuff, I will dive deeper into this, share my tips for supercharging your Azure business, and answer your questions. If you have any you’d like me to cover, let me know in the comments below! 👇🏻
There’s always something new to share, so here are a few highlights I think you should know about.
- Public preview: Azure Application Gateway for Containers
- Updated default TLS policy for Azure Application Gateway
- Speech-to-text REST API v3.0 will be retired by 31 March 2026
- Azure DevOps has had a bunch of updates, summarised on the Azure blog.
- Always encrypted with secure enclaves - DC-series databases with up to 40 vCores
Interesting Stuff from Others
In my feed the other day, I found this interesting piece from Leighton Searle. Shadow IT is one of those perennial challenges for any company to manage, so it was only a matter of time before ‘shadow AI’ was something to also consider. I like his straightforward tips, so you should check it out!
When I talk about Azure, it’s usually about how you can do more. Sometimes, you’ll want to have a bit of a tidy up; remove the resources from a completed project, keep your subscriptions in order. It’s good practice. Accidents can happen though, and this post from Thomas Maurer covers how you can use locks to add a layer of governance to your environment and prevent that “oops!” moment. 😧
A few weeks ago, I was honoured to be asked as a guest onto the ArrowSphere onAir podcast to chat about Azure migrations. I enjoyed catching up with James Woods, who heads up the Azure business at Arrow ECS in the UK.
Until next time…
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