Grow your Cloud Business and Champion Digital Transformation with the Microsoft CSP Program

Author: Alexandre Laflamme, subject matter expert, Modern Workplace, Sherweb

Cloud solutions and services are exploding like never before. Demand for tools that enhance productivity, communication, collaboration, data analytics and business operations is skyrocketing to new heights year over year. Technology providers of all stripes are scrambling to capitalize on myriad opportunities presented by cloud growth, from managed services to hardware updates. How will your organization make its mark in this rapidly evolving landscape?

The Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program was created to facilitate the growth and success of your cloud business. As Microsoft’s primary vehicle for delivering cloud capabilities to small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) and corporations, the CSP program enables IT providers to resell leading Microsoft products and solutions to their clients while maintaining control over customer relationships and engagement. Enrolling as a Microsoft CSP can reward your business with diversified revenue streams, access to targeted sales and marketing assets and, perhaps most importantly, increased profitability.

This guide covers the critical points you need to know about the CSP program, including how to enroll and what model to choose. We’ll also go over the benefits of reselling Microsoft solutions through a CSP Indirect Provider, requirements for becoming a direct reseller, and how working with a partner can offer your business strategic support in different areas.

How you want to run your cloud business is ultimately up to you, but with so many tools and resources available out there to assist your growth, you’d be doing your organization a disservice to ignore them. For any managed service provider (MSP), independent software vendor (ISV), value-added reseller (VAR) or standard IT business looking to enhance their cloud offering, break into a new area of the cloud, or even launch your cloud business, there’s no better way than with Microsoft solutions. And the best way to deliver those solutions is with the CSP program.

Why join the Microsoft CSP program?

The Microsoft CSP program lets you take your cloud business further than just reselling software licenses. Becoming a CSP partner sets you up to be more involved with your clients’ operations and position yourself as their trusted IT advisor. Monthly billing cycles also create greater flexibility for both you and your customers, with opportunities for up-selling, cross-selling and adding value with your own unique services and IP.

Joining the Microsoft CSP program can benefit your organization in a variety of ways:

  • Lead digital transformation for clients: The CSP program equips resellers with everything they need to move clients to the cloud and streamline nearly every aspect of their operations.
  • Expand your cloud offerings: It’s easier to build a profitable product portfolio when you have access to globally recognized solutions from Microsoft as well as expert partners within the Microsoft ecosystem.
  • Strengthen customer relationships: With flexibility to set your own margins, deliver services of your choice and organize your business however you choose, the CSP program gives resellers the freedom to interact with clients on their own terms.
  • Bring your own unique solutions to market: CSP partners can leverage Microsoft’s base solutions for cross and upselling opportunities for their own IP and value-added services.

Of course, enrolling as a CSP partner also gives you (and your clients) access to the world’s most recognizable IT products and software. Which brings us to what you can offer through the CSP program.

What you can sell as a CSP partner

Microsoft 365

Arguably one of the most recognizable productivity suites on the planet, Microsoft 365’s popularity is unparalleled. The combination of trusted Microsoft Office applications, professional email services, cloud storage, intelligent tools for streamlining operations and advanced analytics and security features, Microsoft 365 is the ultimate set of tools to empower your best work.

Dynamics 365

Dynamics 365 is a collection of customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications that help business owners build better relationships with their customers and optimize their operations. It connects data from many sources to give you new insights into your company’s sales, customer service and back-end processes.

A truly versatile platform, Dynamics solutions include Sales, Customer Service, Marketing, Field Service, Finance, Supply Chain Management, Commerce, Human Resources, Business Central and Project Operations.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure gives you infinite possibilities to build and deploy the IT project of your dreams. It’s open and flexible cloud service platform lets you get more done by taking advantage of its ever-growing list of integrated services, applications and tools. By taking care of operating systems, development tools, business analytics, servers, storage and networking security, Azure enables IT providers to drive digital transformation for their clients.

Perpetual software licenses

Resellers in the CSP program can also offer perpetual software licenses, which allows them not only to address diverse customer needs, but also create additional opportunities for clients’ digital transformation. This is especially beneficial for delivering services to clients in hybrid environments.

Your own value-added services

In addition to reselling Microsoft products and solutions to SMB clients, transacting through the CSP program also enables resellers to offer their own value-added services. Whether as upselling, cross-selling or standalone opportunities, aligning solutions such as managed security, disaster recovery or consulting services with Microsoft’s global reputation makes growing your cloud business that much easier.

Direct vs. Indirect CSP

The Microsoft CSP program is divided into two models: Direct and Indirect. The primary difference is simple enough; Direct CSP partners purchase and resell Microsoft products directly from Microsoft, and Indirect partners purchase and resell Microsoft products through a CSP Indirect Provider. Eligibility requirements to participate in either model are, however, disparate.

It’s important to note that rules governing eligibility to be a Direct or Indirect CSP partner tend to change over time. We try to be as up to date as possible! As of October 2020, all new entrants to the CSP program must start out as Indirect resellers. To qualify as a Direct reseller, there are several other criteria that service providers have to meet.

Requirements for becoming a Direct CSP partner

  • Performance: Direct CSP resellers have to generate at least $300K (USD) in annual revenue during the previous 12 months as an indirect reseller.
  • Support: Direct CSP resellers are required to purchase a support package from Microsoft—either Microsoft Advanced Support for Partners, or Microsoft Premier Support for Partners. The advanced option starts at $15K per year, which can be a significant commitment for many tech providers.
  • Billing: Direct CSP resellers need to meet minimum infrastructure capabilities for billing clients and provisioning product licenses.

Due to these requirements, many resellers choose to remain on the Indirect CSP partner path.

Benefits of becoming an Indirect CSP partner

Satisfying direct CSP program requirements is no easy feat; becoming an Indirect CSP partner, on the other hand, is a much simpler process.

After signing up for the program, all you have to do is find a CSP Indirect Provider through which to transact. Working with an Indirect provider can also lead to additional opportunities for growing your cloud business by leveraging their resources, technical expertise and knowledge of the Microsoft ecosystem.

Billing and provisioning infrastructure are supplied by your Indirect provider, so you don’t have to worry about committing to any major investments before you even start making money. They’ll also handle technical support for your customers, taking the pressure off you to offer 24/7 service. Your Indirect provider should also have their own value-added services in place to support both your business operations and your product portfolio.

The Indirect route gives resellers greater flexibility to run their business the way they want, free from the specter of steep revenue and infrastructure requirements. For many IT providers serving SMBs, joining the Microsoft CSP program as an Indirect partner is a far more accessible path to offering Microsoft products and creating profitability for your cloud business.

To get started, all you have to do is sign up.

How to enroll in the CSP program

Regardless of what model you choose, the steps for enrolling in the CSP program are the same:

  • Join the Microsoft Partner Network: Visit the Microsoft Partner membership page to join.
  • Get a Microsoft Partner Network ID (MPN ID): Once you sign up for the Partner Network, you’ll be assigned an MPN ID. Locate it on the Partner profile page in the Partner Center dashboard.
  • Enroll for the CSP program as an Indirect reseller: Even if you intend on becoming a Direct CSP partner, you’re first required to enroll as an Indirect reseller and meet key requirements.
  • Find CSP Indirect Provider partner: Select an Indirect provider to help you with billing, provisioning, technical support and additional value-added services.

How a CSP Indirect Provider partner can help your cloud business

Working with a CSP Indirect Provider partner is one of the greatest advantages of enrolling in the CSP program as an Indirect reseller. There are the obvious benefits of not needing support and provisioning infrastructure in place, but your CSP Indirect Provider can also be an excellent guide and strategic asset for your business now and in the future. Other advantages include:

  • Hand off billing and support: Your provider partner takes care of these areas, so you can focus on service delivery, customer acquisition and other priorities. Furthermore, you don’t have to take on the expense of hiring qualified staff to fill billing and support roles internally.
  • Resources and expertise: Microsoft CSP Indirect Providers have earned their position—they know what they’re doing and will have enablement tools on hand to help you succeed.
  • Offers, incentives and competencies: A valuable Indirect provider partner should know the details of current Microsoft offers, as well as how to help you maximize your profitability through incentives, co-op funds and other initiatives.
  • Run your business your way: Avoiding various requirements and gaining a partner’s expertise gives you the freedom to take your business in whichever direction you choose on your own terms.

If you’re considering joining the Microsoft CSP program, there’s no better to do it than with an experienced partner by your side. Check out Sherweb’s Partner Guide to explore how we can facilitate your CSP journey. But regardless of which CSP path you want to take or Indirect partner you decide to choose, the fact remains that enrolling in the Microsoft CSP program will continue to offer both your cloud business and your clients valuable returns and solidify your position as a competitive IT service provider.

Author Alexandre Laflamme is a Subject Matter Expert, Modern Workplace at Sherweb. Read more guest blogs from Sherweb here.

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