BOSTON, July 11, 2006 – In today’s crowded marketplace, businesses are overwhelmed by the number of choices they have when it comes to technology. So, too, are the IT specialists who bridge the gap between technology vendors and the businesses that rely on them to customize products and services to meet their criteria.
To illustrate the different ways IT consultancies can grow based on which vendors they partner with, Microsoft invites a select group of technology specialists to its annual Partner Executive Summit – held in conjunction with this week’s 2006 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston. The Partner Executive Summit provides in-depth information on topics ranging from Microsoft’s solutions and services to the company’s philosophy on partnering.
For a number of former summit attendees, the decision to partner with Microsoft has paid off handsomely. Over the course of one year, Sysnet, a Scotland-based business that specializes in networking and mobility, has increased profits by 25-30 percent. Over the same year, Knight Enterprises Inc., based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, has experienced a whopping 85 percent increase in profitability.
In addition to the quality of solutions they can provide by working with Microsoft technology, both companies say there is another ingredient key to the success of being a Microsoft partner: Microsoft’s overall approach to partnerships.
“Microsoft realizes that its success as a company depends on the success of its partners, and that knowledge is evident in how partners are treated and in the quantity and quality of support that we receive,” says David Kampel, president of Knight Enterprises.
Alan Hamilton, technical director for Sysnet, says, “The support we’ve received is tremendous. The local Microsoft sales office has invited us to attend sales meetings and encouraged us to get involved in networking events. They’ve shown a real and genuine interest in what we’re able to do, so when they’re in meetings they promote Sysnet.”
The promotion from Microsoft has proven its worth. “We’ve had opportunities come out of the blue,” says Hamilton.
He says that the migration to Microsoft was a natural one. Last year, Peter Burtwistle, Sysnet’s managing director, attended the executive summit. Hamilton, in tandem, got to work on a technical evaluation. “We looked at Microsoft technology to see how it compared with other offerings, to determine if it’s compelling,” he says.
Sysnet, which is based in Glasgow, Scotland, made the call that Microsoft’s offerings are indeed compelling. “Since we’ve started offering Microsoft’s collaborative solutions the market has opened up,” he says. “Everywhere we turn people are interested.”
Sysnet is currently a Microsoft Certified Partner but is close to moving up to the Gold level. For the past 15 years Sysnet has specialized in providing and supporting solutions for mobility, information management, messaging, business integration, collaboration and workflow.
Hamilton reports that the company has achieved a networking infrastructure competency – competencies are used to designate expertise and specializations within the Microsoft Partner Program – and that he’s now focusing on achieving mobility and information worker competencies as well. Microsoft products Sysnet currently works with include Microsoft Office 2003, Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2003, Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, Microsoft SQL Server 2005, and Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.
Hamilton says that another key benefit to being a Microsoft shop is the familiarity of the technology. “We have a development team working on mobile solutions,” he says. “By skilling up in Microsoft technologies our development team can make the switch to mobile solutions without a lot of training. It’s familiar in terms of the environment, the techniques and the syntax.”
Finally, he says Microsoft’s approach to working with customers eases the process of selling the technology. “Our experience with the partner program has been very refreshing,” he says. “It’s still about selling licenses, but there is an implicit understanding that customers won’t continue to buy licenses unless there are good solutions. The philosophy is that you’ll do well by driving value into the technology people have already invested in. That’s what we’ve done, and that’s what’s happened.”
In Canada, Knight Enterprises Inc.’s president David Kampel reports an equally high level of satisfaction – but for slightly different reasons.
Relationships with other vendors, Kampel says, have been primarily product focused. “Microsoft takes it a step further by showing us how to position the business moving forward,” he says. “The business-related seminars I’ve attended have given me a lot of ideas of how I can shape the business moving forward.”
And key to moving forward, he says, has been showing the company’s approximately 200 customers the value in switching to solutions such as Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0. “We were able to present the value of integrated solutions,” he says. “And every customer has continued with us.”
Knight currently employs seven people and has 21 years of experience in delivering network consulting and other IT solutions to small and medium businesses, most of which are in Calgary. The company, a Microsoft Certified Partner, has attained the Network Infrastructure competency and the Small Business Specialist designation, and is working on achieving Information Worker and Microsoft Business Solutions competencies.
Rose Crowley, vice president of Knight Enterprises Inc., says that in addition to Microsoft’s business savvy, the other area where she’s been wowed by partnering with the company is the sales and marketing support.
“Our technical staff is the best in town,” she says. “One of the things I love about Microsoft is that they understand that the strength of a reseller is its technical ability. We’ve built our business on those abilities, but that doesn’t mean we’re particularly brilliant in sales and marketing.”
To address that, Knight Enterprises Inc. has come rely on Microsoft Solutions Selling, which offers a wide array of training and sales resources that can be quickly tailored to the needs of the customers the partners are targeting.
“It’s one of the greatest business benefits,” Crowley says. “We’ve taken training, put it into our sales processes, and are now running sales activities based on Microsoft Solutions Selling. It’s already pre-tailored for a technical company. We just open the box and start using.”
But bottom line, says Kampel, is the bottom line. And these days the bottom line at Knight Enterprises looks good. “We did a 180-degree turn,” he says. Being a Microsoft partner has increased Knight’s overall win rate. It’s also fueled an 85 percent increase in profit, more than doubled customer adds, and increased revenue per customer by 21 percent. “We’ve only added one person into sales,” he says. “This is all a result of our customer co-marketing activities with Microsoft.”