End Customer Investment Funds: Getting Started with Microsoft ECIF

Skyler Butler, Director of Product Management

12.02.2020

Throughout the past year, we’ve heard from numerous organizations that are looking for ways to embrace Microsoft 365 security tools to protect their organizations’ critical assets. It’s a smart move. Microsoft has been adding to its impressive roster of security and data loss prevention (DLP) tools, and for many enterprises, those tools are included in their Microsoft E3 and E5 licenses.

However, although your organization may already own Microsoft data protection tools, leveraging them still requires a strategic approach—especially if you are using those tools to supplement or consolidate your overall data security technology stack. Building and executing that strategy requires funding.

Fortunately, Microsoft has a way to help with those costs: End Customer Investment Funds (ECIF).

If you’re not familiar with the ECIF acronym, you’re not alone. Many organizations don’t realize the funds are available—or they know the program as FastTrack.

As a Microsoft partner, InteliSecure can help you understand how you can use this money to better understand your current security posture and make the most of the data protection capabilities you already have in your Microsoft license. 

What is the End Customer Investment Funds (ECIF) Program?

The ECIF program is funding that Microsoft has set aside to support organizations in onboarding and adopting their solutions. The funds are included as a part of your initial purchase agreement with Microsoft and are available until that initial agreement ends.

Microsoft provides ECIF money for activities that drive utilization of their products, such as:

  • Evaluation
  • Proofs of concept
  • Product implementation

The funds can be used across a range of projects that fall under the Microsoft 365 and cloud umbrella—including security.

The funds pay for services that are delivered by Microsoft engineers or Microsoft partners—such as InteliSecure.

How Can the ECIF Program Help Us Develop a Data Security Strategy?

InteliSecure recommends leveraging ECIF funds to provide a low-risk engagement (such as a Microsoft Compliance Workshop for Data Risk Management) as you determine how you can make the most of Microsoft data security solutions in your data protection program.

Whether you are moving into a new technology or approaching data protection for the first time, you’re bound to have questions such as such as:

  • Does our current data protection program meet both the needs of our business and regulatory requirements?
  • Do we have skills or technology gaps?
  • How do we identify our critical business assets?
  • Can we discover where those assets are stored and used?
  • How would Microsoft solutions fit into our environment?
  • How do we implement a new solution—and move it into run-and-maintain?
  • Could we test a solution for a month with a proof of concept?

InteliSecure can help you answer these sorts of questions through an ECIF engagement.

How Do We Start Using the Microsoft ECIF Program?

Microsoft has an established process for accessing and using your ECIF dollars.

Step 1: Verify ECIF Availability

To determine whether you have ECIF money available, you can reach out to your Microsoft account representative.

If you are unable to determine who that person is, any Microsoft partner (including InteliSecure) can help you identify and connect with your rep so that you can locate your ECIF funding.

Step 2: Registration and RFP

To use your funds, you will need to register with the FastTrack portal. This is where you can manage your funds and specify what services you are using them for.

Types of services that typically qualify for funding include:

  1. Security program development
  2. Pilot or proof of concept to prove your business’s ability to adopt and integrate the solution
  3. Deployment and integration services

Once the project has been posted to FastTrack, your Microsoft representative will ask partners to respond to a formal Request for Proposal (RFP). The FastTrack team at Microsoft will work with responding partners to ensure that their proposal meets the requirements of the request—and that the ECIF can be used for the project.

Step 3: Validation

Finally, the Microsoft team vets the partner to verify that they have the capabilities to execute what is promised in the project proposal. Once vetted, the partner signs a Support Services Provider Agreement (SSPA) with Microsoft on behalf of the client.

The funding then becomes available for the partner provider to conduct the services engagement.

A Win-Win Data Protection Opportunity

In all our years of experience, we’ve never seen a vendor provide so much support to really test-drive their products and services. ECIF funds take the risk out of exploring Microsoft’s data protection offerings and give you a chance to determine whether the move is truly right for your organization.

Of course, the ultimate goal is ensuring your success with their products. Microsoft has created a wonderful process to start you on the right foot, ensure adoption and utilization of their products, and provide support from the experienced providers that work with them the most: Microsoft partners.

To see if your chosen provider is qualified to deliver this work, you will need to validate that they are a Microsoft partner and:

  • Is an ECIF Supplier
  • Can register in the FastTrack portal
  • Provides services that align with the ECIF requirements

Remember that your ECIF funds expire after your initial purchase agreement ends. Millions of dollars of ECIF go unused every year. If you are ready to discover how to improve your data protection program, now is the time to act!

InteliSecure is a Microsoft ECIF Supplier

Are you looking for an evaluation of your security posture, discovery of your data risk exposure, or a better way to leverage the capabilities of your Microsoft data security tools? ECIF-funded engagements such as a Microsoft Compliance Workshop can answer your questions and provide a practical roadmap for your next steps.

InteliSecure provides Compliance Workshops—and we’re here to help you get started. Contact InteliSecure to see if ECIF is the right move to kick-start your data protection program!