One of my tasks has been getting us ready to launch on the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) and also making sure we are prepared to deploy via AppSource on the new ISV Connect program. As someone that has worked in the Microsoft ecosystem for over 20 years, I was keen to see what it was like starting on this journey from zero, although I have been involved in taking multiple partners through to Gold competencies in the past in several countries.
In the past couple of months, I have been preparing for the launch of a brand-new start-up. We have been working on getting all our ducks in a row ready for launch. Our chief Architect and Developer has been working night and day on our minimum viable product (MVP). It’s built on the Power Platform’s Common Data Service and uses all the great tools from Microsoft such as Azure DevOps, Azure, Power Apps, Power Automate with full integration to Office 365 so that all the Microsoft productivity tools can be used by our customers.
Here is my experience.
Microsoft Partner Network
The first step in creating a legal relationship with Microsoft as an ISV is to get your MPN setup. That means going to the MPN site and filling out your legal company details and address – note it needs to be the address that is on your company’s incorporation documents for validation.
Here is where I ran into a problem that has cost many, many, many hours on the phone to support. Microsoft’s site requires you to sign up with a company email address. You cannot use an email address such as firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org you must use name@CompanyDomain.com as an example.
Herein lies the problem if you are a start-up company and do not have your domain configured for email yet, how do you just get past the signup screen?
You can’t. I hate using that word.
So, what did I do? I signed up with another email address from a domain name that I knew was not attached to Azure Active Directory. BIG MISTAKE!!!!!!!!
Microsoft locks in this as your domain, and when I say locked in, I mean HARD-CODED in, and nothing you can do can change it. Support can’t change it; nobody can change it. I needed MPN so I could purchase an Action Pack to create an Office 365 instance and transfer the name servers for my domain to the Office 365 account so I could set up… you guessed it, my business email address.
It is clear that no one in the design process of creating the MPN portal thought that a start-up would come along and want to work with Microsoft. Based on the design of the MPN portal, Microsoft only want to work with existing companies.
So after getting the Action Pack under the wrong domain name, I proceeded to use the software licenses provided in the Action Pack and set up the correct domain name, with all the email accounts I needed and also the Azure tenant so we could move all our development to this environment. All licenses in the Action Pack provided via one-off use keys that active the credit on the tenant of your choice. All, that is, except the Azure credits, they are hardcoded in my case to the wrong domain name.
What I have left out in the above experience is that it took four weeks of back and forth with support to prove we owned the company and the domain name. Yes, that was four weeks with a big focus on answering: did we own the domain name? Could we prove it? The fact the domain was purchased ten years earlier did not make that easy. In the end, we did a one-off renewal on the domain to get an invoice to show it was ours. Now remember that was still all on the wrong domain name, because of that email address I plugged in at the start.
With the correct domain name all configured with Office 365, I came to the fast conclusion that the MPN name (wrong domain) for our company would not work as we are going to sell product via Microsoft AppSource. So back to Support. I was told you need to set up a new MPN account using the correct email address now that I had it and the process started again back and forth between support to prove that we owned the company (we provided a copy of the signed incorporation documents of the business). That was the easy part, now we had to prove again that we owned the domain name. Yes, nuts right.
As of today, I am still working with Microsoft Support to get the Azure credits transferred to the correct domain and Azure environment. I have been told the incorrect MPN account should just be left to expire in a year. Did I say that I had been doing this for the past twenty years? How dumb does this process make me feel? Will a start-up without Microsoft experience even bother?
Now let’s jump into AppSource. AppSource has been going through changes as it evolves to the new ISV Connect Program mentioned above. So, it is very focused on how you migrate but has no concept of a new ISV coming to the platform. I sense a pattern.
I am filling out all the forms online including tax details, payment details, validation etc. and then I get to an area that says you need to sign the new Program addendum, that link comes from the Innovate with Business Applications page. Look at the document, is there anywhere to sign it? Nope! So back to support I go, back and forth with support as they try to work out where I should sign it. In the end, they said I need to send an email to this email address email@example.com. I sent the following email asking for how I could sign the addendum, and someone responded with a link to where I could get a copy, yes, the link above with no option on how to sign it. I emailed back and said so how do I sign that and so far, nothing but crickets.
Let’s see what happens in the coming weeks. I hope we will be in the ISV Connect program by launch, maybe Microsoft is inundated with people wanting to get in the program.