The Muddle of being a Microsoft EA Customer

I can’t recall a better word than “muddle” to define the confusion of an EA customer. To some, it is a huge deal of pain to be an EA customer; to others it is a pleasure; however, to MOST it certainly pays a lot to be an EA Customer. So much so within the same EA.

Before I go ahead, for those of you who are not familiar with the term “EA”, please don’t perceive it is an “Emotional Atyachar” (as one of my old school CIO friend told me). In real terms, EA stands for Enterprise Agreement – Microsoft’s flagship Volume Licensing Agreement.

It is a pleasure to walk my worthwhile and patient readers through some perspectives on EA. Having experienced it at various levels, as a result of being an IT professional, and as a CIO, I hope to do justice to both Microsoft and its customers, and most importantly my readers.

In my knowledge and practical experience, EA is an enormous and phenomenal opportunity for Microsoft and Customers to align their businesses on technology road maps. For Microsoft to reap rich dividends, it acts as a prospect, leading the technology landscapes in customer businesses, thus becoming not only an IT vendor, but a strategic partner for IT & business effectiveness. As for customers, it is an outstanding tool, if I may say so, to simplify their Business-IT alignment, design an even more effective Enterprise Architecture, have predictable cost spends and, at times, cost savings as well.

The unholy piece!!!…..I have seldom witnessed Customers considering EA for Business-IT Alignment, or to make their Enterprise Architecture effective or to predict costs, if not save them. Making matters worse, Microsoft too, has a huge improvement opportunity to become a strategic partner for IT effectiveness.

Certainly, EA is a matter highly spoken about by both these parties, however, actions on the ground are not exactly the same. And as we know, actions speak louder than words, thus here, the muddle is born.

I have seen big CIO names and numerous Organizations struggling to find the value of investment over an EA. In fact, in some cases, it is plain speak – “justify”. I wonder, if there are even 10% of EA customers who don’t need to “justify” this expense, at least once a year to their CFOs, despite of the well-known 3 year contract deal. If I may be candid enough I would admit that, most often than not, Microsoft & its partners teams end up “justifying” more than the “efforts” to show value of EA during the course of the contract. This brings the muddle to its peak. What reintroduced the muddle, time and again, is the renewals of EAs. Here, the focus definitely exists but most often to simply maintain the mutual agreement.

Having said that, defining the problem is not the key to success, resolving it is. So we know, the muddle is massive and we all are in its roll, but is there a way to regain control over EA and reduce, if not fully remove, the muddle?

Yes, there certainly is! We, Creating Values, as part of our IT advisory services, enable our customers to do decision-making, and to unlock the potential of EA. We work with customers to see the real value of EA. I would love to share some of our success stories here, but the essential key is that, this is not a one size fits all proposition; every customer, every landscape is different.

In my opinion, the best thing to do as a customer is to take ‘action’ at the 1st (sign-off) and 3rd (renewal) terms. First and foremost, map any license purchases with your IT Strategic priorities. In some cases, you might not need an EA, but in others, you definitely would. Do your homework well. A customer’s decision to sign or renew an EA, should be based purely on STRATEGY, STRATEGY and STRATEGY fitment, and not on anything else. Also, this decision should be a cross-functional one, involving at minimum the Finance teams. The next best steps are during the tenure of the EA. If you are an EA customer, implement everything you have ‘purchased’. The results of my Organization surveys, conducted with a few customers, reflect a very gloomy picture – more than half of Microsoft EA customers use 40% of their EA offerings. This, in itself, is an evidence of an organization’s investment in EA, for which no strategy was formulated. The muddle resides here.

The next big question is, how can Microsoft help to eradicate this muddle? Sadly, but not completely unjustified, customers take Microsoft as the real culprit, despite making incorrect strategy decisions themselves. In saying so, I am not absolving Microsoft of its duties, but humbly attempting to put forward the fact that, when we point our finger at others, our thumb points back at us.

Well, Microsoft can do a lot, a huge lot. A customer not aligning with EA is an individual issue, however, Microsoft not aligning with a flock of customers is not an individual problem. It runs deeper than that. Microsoft is losing a great opportunity to use EA as a lever to align itself as the Strategic Technology Enabler for businesses. So what if it doesn’t have a great Business Apps stack? It does have the most lethal and wider Infra and IT optimization stack. Microsoft requires to focus on enriching customer experiences rather than enhancing sales experiences. The company needs a 3 tier architecture of EA ~ Sign-Get Value-Renew. And trust me, the value of EA can be seen, can be made visible and can really be leveraged. In my view, EA is excellent in Enabling Alignment of Business and IT. It will not only bring Microsoft closer to the customer businesses, but also make the company a preferred partner for new business from the same customers. But if Microsoft….do. It is letting a huge opportunity being passed despite speaking to go full hug for it.

The muddle can certainly be cleared, and EA be leveraged by and for, customers and Microsoft, provided ‘action’ is taken at both the ends.

Are you just recalling, you considered EA for license compliance!!! However, I did not use such a word anywhere above!!! Interesting.

It is essential to rightly perceive EA as a tool for Compliance, and not a compliance in itself. Until then, let’s call it Emotional Atyachar or Enabling Alignment as by the virtue of our own experiences. Been unsure of which category you fall into, do connect with us at connect@creatingvalues.in to assist you in carrying out software license review and help you visualize the real value of EA you may leverage.

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