Okay, I know I just wrote about AppSource last week, but the AppSource team launched a new capability for partners today that does not require you to build an App. It’s an “App-less” AppSource path for the app-challenged. It’s called “Consulting Services”. So what is this all about?
A Customer’s Journey
Let’s say you are a customer interested in, for example, Business Solutions. After you have been all over the internet, let’s say you settled on Dynamics 365…. your journey is far from over. After talking to a few Microsoft Business Solutions Partners, you realize that getting your head around what this endeavor may cost, is going to be challenging. The range of Partner proposed paths, and costs for those paths, varies wildly. Its like, “Were any of them listening to me?“. There is always that one partner, who mistook you for an Arab Sheikh, and proposed an insane cost. Then there is that one who proposed a very attractive cost, but kept calling it “Dynamical 360”. The rest seemed to be proposing different plans, and different hourly rates. When you ask “WTF is this going to cost?” they say “Umm, well, you know… it will cost what it costs“.
The Fixed Cost Model
I was listening to a podcast recently, where an Atlanta based partner was talking about their fixed cost model approach. I won’t mention his name, because it seems like every time I mention someone’s name, they call me and ask me to remove it. Anyway, he obviously understands that every customer is on a beeline to get to a cost. Regardless of scope, a fixed-cost provides a level of certainty, where T&M introduces a level of risk. For a large project, which could ultimately go several directions, as they all do, a fixed cost presents a high level of risk for the partner. But if you can wrap a
fence concrete wall around the scope, you can protect your margin. This is near impossible for a large undertaking, but pretty straight-forward for a small one, or even a small “phase” of a large one. So let’s say you have actually developed some fixed-cost “mini-scopes”, how do you promote them?
I have been telling you for a while that AppSource is your friend, and it just got out of the friend zone for the scenario above. Let’s say you have created one of these “mini-scopes”, that you are willing to perform at a fixed cost, you can now post that on AppSource. What kind of “mini-scope”? Well, the categories that have been provided so far include: Assessments, Briefings, Implementations, Proof of Concepts and Workshops. That’s a pretty good list to get started. But you might want to move fast; even though it is officially launching today, there are all ready 149 Consulting Services offering in there at the time of this writing. At that rate, I expect there to be thousands soon. You can’t, not be there. I know, bad grammar, but the best way to say it. BTW, I was pleased to see one of our key RapidStart partners in there, with a fixed cost offering for our solution, you can check out what one of these offerings looks like to a customer here.
An Opportunity for Abuse?
Some of you might be thinking, “Hmm… maybe I can just throw some vague services in there at a low cost, and convert them to bigger engagements“. The ole Bait and Switcheroo. Not gonna happen, at least not for very long. The AppSource team has been at this for a while now, they have already seen all of the partner gaming tactics. Shortly “Customer Reviews” will be a part of this. So your whole B&S plan better be worth one deal, because that is all you will get.
If you want to play in this new sandbox, there are a few rules you should know. For example, Consulting services offerings are customer-specific engagements that are conducted on-site and are fixed in scope, are fixed price or free, have a fixed duration, and have a clearly defined outcome. Okay, that just knocked out half of the ideas that were probably bubbling up in your brain. Also, for Dynamics 365, you will need at least a Silver competency. This all applies to the “Consulting Services”, but there is another way you can play, that offers a lower threshold. You can list yourself as an Implementation Partner for a specific ISV solution. Of course that ISV app needs to be listed on AppSource, and you must already provide implementation services for it, and the app publisher has to give the okay, but still… a lower bar. For this path you also will need to have created a Marketing Profile in Partner Center, but other than that you just need to be a Microsoft Partner, which if you are not, you can’t create a Partner Center Marketing Profile anyway. You should know, that how these two paths will be displayed is also a little different. Consulting Services are listed in the Consulting Services area, whereas ISV Implementation Services will be listed on the particular ISV’s App page. Still, not too shabby.
Uhh, what’s that?
I will assume that most of you noticed one particular item in the paragraph above: “Conducted On-site”. I will be trying to get some clarity around this, as it is clearly not being enforced, based on the Services I see in there. In the cloud based world we all live in today, where many of never visit a client’s location, or even meet a customer in person, this seems quite out of place. At this point the AppSource team has only two ways to go, drop it, or enforce it. Enforcing it would severely limit the value of this new capability, and exclude probably 90% of the potential offers… my vote is to drop it. I am curious though, about the thought process that led to it being there in the first place.
So, where do you start with Consulting Offers? Right Here