Microsoft overhauls Direct Access portal

In response to partner requests for more solutions information, Microsoft Canada Co. has renovated its partner Web site.

The site, dubbed Microsoft for Partners Canada, officially launched Thursday and replaces four-year-old site Direct Access.

“The information we had on Direct Access was very product-specific,” said Jahnis Gillan, marketing manager for channel development, “and what we’re finding nowadays is that our customers and our partners are looking for more solutions-focused information.”

The revised site now includes more information on vertical (government, financial services, health care and education) and horizontal (e-commerce side, B2B, e-marketplaces, CRM, business intelligence) solutions. These include white papers and advice and how to approach these markets.

There are also more training and briefing facilities on the site, such as e-learning and customizable presentation packages, and a chat room environment where partners can swap information.

Gillan said she polls partners on a regular basis, and the site changes are a reflection of their answers. Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Web Front Communications Inc. said a solutions portion has been lacking from the site in the past. “Certainly as a company that’s focused on e-commerce solutions and Web applications, WebFront does look to Microsoft from time to time for guidance on full solutions and not just individual products,” said Chris Trauzzi, president of the Toronto-based company. “So anything that the portal is going to offer that is more than a simple product description but how that product can be used in a full solution . . . is something we are going to look for and are going to use.

“Certainly we’ve been in contact with them with that they can do with the site, and this sounds like a step in the right direction,” he added.

Microsoft may be listening to partners, but the new Web site is also an internal project designed to streamline access to the portal. The U.S. version of the partner site launched on June 7. Eventually all Microsoft partner sites globally will be similarly changed, but, stressed Gillan, the sites are not merely a cookie cutter design.

“We’re the second subsidiary worldwide to implement (the site). We have the ability to manage our own content, though, on a geographic basis. I’ve leveraged whatever I believe would be relevant to our partners here, but also I know, through working with Canadian partners for some time, what the differences are and what their requirements are,” said Gillan.

On July 15, partners will be able to subscribe to ‘Action Packs’ via the site, which will include not-for-resell software and technical, sales and marketing information. Canadian pricing has not yet been set, but in the U.S., the Plus package is US$449 a year, the Standard US$299 and the Light US$129.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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