Microsoft Senior Sales Excellence Manager - Eric Ligman

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Microsoft Action Pack – Too much? Too little?

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Microsoft Action Pack – Too much? Too little?

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So there have been several threads, Blogs, conversations, etc. around the Microsoft Action Pack, what it includes, is enough included, etc. in the recent days.  As always, I have been reading these thinking about them from the Partner side and the Microsoft side, what’s accurate, what’s hype, etc..  So let’s take a look at this from a higher level:

What is Action Pack?  From the Action Pack site:

“The Microsoft Action Pack is available exclusively through the Microsoft Partner Program. It can be the start of an ongoing relationship with Microsoft that becomes even more valuable over time.

The Action Pack subscription includes a Welcome Kit and four quarterly updates. You get new Microsoft software for your business use, access to special partner training materials, and sales and marketing tools to grow your business.”

The Action Pack gets you:

·         Tons of Microsoft Software (Included software)

·         Tools and training to help you effectively sell, install, and build on the Microsoft platform.

·         Marketing resources and professionally designed materials that help you effectively target — and win — more customers.

·         Sales tools and assistance that you can use to close more sales.

·         Support that helps you and your customers.

How do you get Action Pack?

·         You must be a Registered Member in the Microsoft Partner Program ($0 cost)

·         You must purchase an Action Pack subscription ($299 in US)

So if you look at the offer at its base level, is getting all of the things included in the Action Pack for that price really that bad of a deal?  Really, is it?

Now I know there have been many pieces of feedback and concerns voiced by Partners over various aspects of Action Pack and I can honestly say that I for one do appreciate the input and feedback.  After all, feedback, input, communication, etc. are some of the main reasons the MSSMALLBIZ Community was established many years ago and continues to grow today.

A couple items I did want to offer some perspective on though:

1)     Yes, Action Pack is designed to provide Partners with access to Microsoft software to learn about the products and to use them to run their business; however, is it meant to be the “Golden Key” to give you ALL of the Microsoft software with ALL of the benefits and bells & whistles?  No.  As the description even says, it is the “START” of an ongoing relationship with Microsoft.  The Microsoft Partner Program is the progression of that relationship.

a.     You always have additional options such as various MSDN and TechNet subscriptions to help you access various Microsoft software in your business.

b.    Even if you do have to purchase some software, doesn’t the Action Pack give you a BIG jumpstart on that list with what it includes for the price?

2)     The Microsoft Partner Program is the actual relationship program that you build with Microsoft and use to access more benefits and features.  As you achieve additional levels, whether that be becoming a Microsoft Small Business Specialist, a Microsoft Certified Level Partner, or a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, you receive more benefits in software licenses (see full list of additional software licenses included on page 94 of the Microsoft Partner Program Guide), access to training and offers, marketing, etc.

a.     Yes, we do realize that there are increased requirements to achieve the various levels; however, as with any progressive program, there needs to be higher level of requirements to achieve higher levels of benefits.  It is the benefit of achieving these additional accomplishments.

3)     Yes, we also realize that some Partners do not want to grow above being a 1 man shop and that is perfectly fine.  No, we are not trying to tell Partners they have to grow, we realize it is your prerogative to run your business as you see fit.  Because the Partner Program is a tiered program though, there are certain levels that just cannot be achieved by organizations below a certain size based on some minimum requirements around # of certified individuals on staff.  As a Partner, one of the choices is whether striving to achieve these additional levels is a goal of yours.  If it is, knowing that # of certified people is a requirement, can being a 1 person organization still be a goal?  As a former business owner, I know that there are some decisions which require a shift in your business.  If achieving the next level in the Partner Program is a goal, then having the required # of people on staff would be a goal which means there needs to be a shift away from the goal of just being a 1 man shop.

4)     Could the way Action Pack subscriptions is run and the requirements be different?  Sure, anything can be different; however, we are talking about the program that is currently in place with its current set of requirements and operating procedures.  We are continually striving to make the Action Pack and Partner Program better and more beneficial and useful for our Partners.

a.     Please continue to submit your input and suggestions on how the Action Pack Program can be improved and a more valuable tool for you as a Partner.  Your input is valued and yes, we do want to hear your thoughts.  With that in mind, here are a few suggestions (do with them what you want, I offer them only to be helpful):

1.  Do not “shotgun email” if you have input and feedback.  “Shotgun emailing” is sending an email to everyone and every group you know at Microsoft and maybe even some you don’t just because you have their email address with your complaint.  First, you simply upset the people that have nothing to do with the item and second, those who do receive an email with a huge To: list realize what you are doing and this can immediately lessen your chances of having your email taken seriously.  Send the email to the appropriate people or group that can help you with your request, input or need since it is in their area to assist.

2. Avoid demanding statements.  We’ve all seen them.  You know, the emails that state, “You MUST do this or that,” or “I DEMAND that this or that happen,” etc.  Quite often this can actually have a very negative impact on the effectiveness of your suggestion or input and can often lead to it being dismissed completely as not an offer to work towards a solution together but rather an all or nothing proposition.   With all or nothing propositions, if you don’t get all, you will get nothing.  Is that really what you are proposing?

3. Please realize that just because you do not get a status update or direct reply, do not think that this means that no one is listening or that nothing is being done.  There have been many things that have happened or decisions made based on input and suggestions we have received, even though we have not publicly documented it online or in email with external individuals.  Our Anti-piracy team is a prime example of that.  We get reports and never give status reports.  Then one day you see a notification that we’ve filed a lawsuit against a list of organizations.

So to summarize:

·         Yes, the Action Pack is designed to be a starting point.  At a high level, is what you get vs. what you invest worth it to you?  Only you know the answer to that. 

·         No, Action Pack is not meant to be the end all be all of providing Microsoft Partners with all of the Microsoft software and benefits.  You have additional options such as MSDN, TechNet, Small Business Specialist, Certified Partner Level, Gold Certified Partner Level, etc. available to you.  Which, if any, of these are right for you and your business?  Only you can make that decision.

·         Yes, there are various levels of requirements and hurdles to accomplish each of these.  As such, when you make the decision around which is right for you, realize that those minimum requirements are now the baseline you must meet to achieve those levels.  If achieving those requirements is not something that is right for your business, then neither is that program or level of benefits.

·         Do I think everyone will like or agree with these requirements or the items listed in my post above?  Come on.  I doubt there’s any Blog entry anywhere on this list that everyone agrees with.

·         Yes, please continue to submit your input and feedback to us as we work together to build our engagement programs with you together.

Thank you and have a wonderful day,


Eric Ligman
Microsoft US Senior Manager
Small Business Community Engagement
This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights

  • Nothing was addressed in this post about what started this all; "No Downgrade rights".

    The issue that we will be in violation when we renew our subscribtion if we do not uninstall Windows XP, Office 2003, and others was not covered. That is what everyone was buzzing about yesterday. Not this stuff you posted.

    The thing that upsets me the MOST; why, being a MAPS subscriber, did I hear about this first from your blog??? That is just tacky. If I saw this on anyone elses blog I would have dismissed it.

  • Good points Eric.  When you compare the cost of the servers alone against SA versions (to stay current), the Action Pack is still a bargain for running our businesses.

    I think many folks are just used to upgrading when they have both the time and resources at the same time.  It's annoying to have a plan and then have an expensive flaw in our plan pointed out.

    We really do need to have previous versions of the stuff available to stay compatible with our clients.  Is the answer to use our TechNet products for this?

    I use TechNet+ for my testing/compatibility/VM training and I'm afraid to look at the EULA to see if it's the same as Action Pack with regards to throwing away the old version when the new one comes out.

    P.s.  Is it really too much trouble for someone to verify the validity of "Partners"?   Seeing obvous non-partners stealing MS software with no repercussions is really annoying.

  • Eric, I've been reading through the AP licensing information and it seems to me that the same strict reading that says we have to throw away XP and upgrade to Vista when our annual renewal comes up also would seem to say that we're not allowed to send or receive external email on our Action Pack SBS and Exchange Server.  

    <i>"The software included with the subscription can be used for internal business use, testing, evaluation, demonstration, training, and education only. For example, you can use the Action Pack software to host your company's intranet, but it cannot be used to host a commercial website. This is considered a production environment that is outside the scope of the software's intended purpose. "</i>

    Yes?  If so, then the Action Pack sure isn't much use for "running my business on it" and I take back my "bargain" statement earlier.

    Well I used to want to be completely legal.  Who opened this can of worms anyway?

  • I plead guilty to the counts of shotgun e-mailing, making demanding statements, and assuming that issues that are not being responded to are in fact being ignored. In my defense:

    -- I would not use shotgun e-mails if I knew exactly whom I should aim at. But the org chart at Microsoft is an impenetrable mess. This MAPS issue affects the partner program in general, the small business channel in particular, licensing, maybe sales, maybe marketing. There is a MAPS team, but nobody really knows who they are or what decision-making authority they have. So I blast out an e-mail to people I know -- at least I know them in the sense that they have personally handed me a business card with their e-mail address on them -- in the hope that at least one of them will be both sympathetic and influential. So until you suggest a better and more specific way of submitting our input and feedback to you (plural), I'll keep shotgunning when I think the issue is important enough.

    -- I think there is a place for emphatic statements, if used selectively. For example, I would never say that software  in the Action Pack "must" be delivered to partners before it gets released to the public, although it would be nice. And when I say the policy of terminating licenses to previous versions "must" be reversed, what I mean is that it must be reversed if you want the program to meet its original goals; not that it must be reversed or else I'm going to fly to Redmond and go medieval on someone.

    -- Why shouldn't we assume that if we don't get a response to an issue we raise that no one is listening and that nothing is being done? Which is more logical for me to expect -- that I will or will not have any influence on the decisions of a multibillion dollar company? I can understand that you want to keep actions against pirates quiet; you don't want to tip them off. But we are your partners. If you are doing something on our behalf, even if you are just *considering* doing something on our behalf, it makes sense to let us know about it. If you decide not to do it later on and have a good reason for it, we'll understand. Furthermore, we know that Microsoft -- and you in particular -- often *do* reply with status updates, so it's reasonable for us to assume in the absence of a reply that the issue is not a priority for you.

    As for the recent Action Pack issues, there are parallels here with the licensing policies and programs that I've railed against in the past, such as the Small Business Desktop SKU. We are saying to ourselves "wait a minute, we had this great thing going with Microsoft and now they're messing with it for no good reason." If we can't understand the logic of your decisions we get frustrated and angry, and that's when the e-mail shotguns come out.

    So what's next? Exactly how and with whom should we continue this conversation?

  • First, as I wrote in the MSSMALLBIZ community, my problems with the MAP is the time MS sends us the softwares. As a consultant and an OEM system builder, my costemers are not, usualy, "one man shop" and thus want that I'll know everything there is to know about a new product and have tested it for some time - mostly, because thay will have to by the "top of the line" from time to time. I don't htink that this is something so dificult fo MS to achive (send the RTM disk to the MAP sbscribers and delay for one month the release for the general pepole - for example, or let us download the CDs - second example).

    second, I don't expect MS to send me the most "top of the line" product (like Vista Ultimate). Do to the fact the Word from Office SBE is the same as Word in Office Pro, I think that MS dosn't have to send the Pro edition.

    Sorry for any grammer/spelling mistakes (there isn't a speller on my server machine).

  • Eric

    This is probalbly a real dumb question but for those who want to have downgrade rights would PA be an option?


  • As a 1 person shop, with family assistance, I went into the business knowing that it would be my business model and was comfortable with it. I do have very personalized clients and enjoy the interaction with them. As most anyone, I would like to make more money adn realize growth is the only way to do so. I have considered additional employees, but rememberingthe issues with them in my previous endeavors, decided that it won't work for me. Knowing all of this, I chose to be a Registered Partner adn have no issues with Microsoft keeping certain benefits for higher participants.

    The enclusion of Enterprise "Anything" software is of NO value to me. As a one person shop, I have no interest in any enterprise businesses, so to include them in the Action Pack is useless to me. However, the exclusion of certain software is detrimental. I do have client who wish to be included in the cutting edge of software technology. These would benefit from me knowing all about that software and how to help them include it into their business. A point would be MapPoint 2006, which is not in the Action Pack. I have some 10 clients who deliver goods within the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and have difficulty collecting data without a program setup to do that, MapPoint. I can at this time, only assit them with the current version and cannot help them with the new GPS enhanced version as I don't have access to software to learn upon. I didn't see any beta testing for it either.

    I would guess the point of all of this, is that Microsoft's various teams don't think Small Business, but think on the retail or enterprise level. Unluckily, it appears that the MAPS team has to fight each of the teams to be allowed to include software that is really needed by the SMB partners. I hope that one of the higher executives will finally address it.

  • Losing XP Pro will be a big hit for me too.

    The vast majority of small business owners I talk to are planning on staying with XP for the forseeable future.

    But I DO have clients who want me to know about Vista.

    Which do I choose?

    I don't suspect that many pirates are buying action packs; the pirates are downloading cracked copies from file sharing sites.

    And yes, I know...I can BUY single copies of Vista (or XP) or technet or something else. I bought the VS.NET special edition a couple years ago, I would not _expect_ development tools to be in the MAP. I WOULD expect the current desktop OSes to be available for me.

    I would be more than happy to e-mail the MAPs team, SBS team, or whoever is the appropriate group to contact with a convincing argument about my business needs :)

    -Greg C

  • The only real problem with the current Action Pack (from my perspective) is the requirement to upgrade _everything_ to the latest version when the subscription is renewed. Of course I'm upgrading at least a couple of machines to Vista, but I also need a couple of machines running XP Pro and IE6 because some LOB apps don't support Vista or IE7. (And Vista doesn't have drivers to support all my current hardware.) As I've suggested elsewhere, allow MAPS subscribers to _continue_ to use software from their MAPS for a reasonable period. I would prefer as long as Microsoft officially supports the product, but 2-3 years would also work. This would not be downgrade rights, but "grandfathering" existing use.

    Thanks for listening (reading?)

  • Since my Do I have Downgrade Rights for my software that comes in Action Pack? post last week, there

  • Am I reading this correctly?  After a certain period of time, we are forced to upgrade to the latest product or our current, non upgraded software ceases to function?  Please elaberate.  Thanks.

  • You would think that as partners showing customers what Vista can do for them, that MS would have thrown in at LEAST one activation of Vista Ultimate !!!!

  • I'm a one person shop..  I support small businesses and home users.

    Regarding the last posting about ultimate.  I agree with that and would like to see it go further.  Instead of 10 licenses of Vista Business - why not 10 licenses of Vista in any combination of version.  I'd like to be able to see and show the differences in the versions, including the home editions...

    It seems like a fair compromise to include downgrade rights for each item for one year (for those that had the previous version as a continued action pack subscriber).  I understand Microsoft's desire to have us promoting new software/operating systems -- it's also not very convenient to force upgrades - especially when there are higher hardware requirements.

    Also, I have to say that it's rather disturbing that customers have Vista before I do as a registered partner, having subscribed to the action pack for years.  I have not yet received my january update.  This launch is *huge* - we should have been working with the rtm code for a long time..

  • My gripe is that to be a Small Business Specialist you MUST subscribe to Action Pack. Why not let us choose either it or Technet or MSDN. Surely we should be able to use either????

    I just don't understand that.

  • Got my MAPS today.  Pretty annoyed that Vista is an UPGRADE version, not standalone, which requires an installed OS to upgrade FROM.  I'm sorry, but that's just plain dumb.

    Here's what I would like to see in some future iteration of MAPS:

    - A MAPS subscription is based upon "points", i.e. let's say a subscription is 500 points.

    - A MAPS subscriber logs into his/her account and sets up their subscription; the full range of MS business software is available, with each title or license worth a certain number of points, i.e. let's say a Vista license is 20 points per, a Win2K3 server license is 50 points, something like that.

    Doing something like this would allow for situations like the gentleman here who needed MapPoint, or for the one man shows who are never going to install Exchange or SBS.

    I also agree that the downgrade rights should be granted, so long as no more than 10 total desktop OS licenses are currently in use.  I can't upgrade to Vista (well, I would have preferred to do a clean install anyway) because none of my clients are running it, and none have any plans to do so.  XP and Office 2003 are more than enough for their needs, and they need more compelling reasons than some eye candy (that would be turned off on their shared video memory systems anyway) to shell out for an OS upgrade.

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