Partner opportunity: Small and mid-size companies seeking an edge

HOUSTON — July 9, 2013 — In the information-age economy, technology can be a huge competitive advantage — particularly for smaller companies. As small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) gain a foothold in today’s markets, Microsoft continues to invest in ways to help them compete.

“Today, the Microsoft Dynamics platform can provide the flexibility and power to serve a multitude of business needs,” says Neil Holloway, corporate vice president of Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) Sales and Operations. “Windows Azure and cloud services are increasingly making it possible for smaller companies to have the same computing muscle as their larger competitors.”

Gaining an edge
Solutions built on Microsoft Dynamics by partner Abakion are helping small and midsize customers stay ahead of larger competitors.

Holloway says that while new technologies available today can level the playing field for smaller companies, it’s Microsoft’s competitive partner ecosystem that is really helping SMBs get the technology they need. At the Worldwide Partner Conference this week in Houston, partners from all over the globe have gathered to take a look at new solutions and technologies designed to serve companies of all sizes and learn more about Microsoft’s continued investments in partner programs.

Holloway says the sheer range of solutions for SMBs on display this week shows the strength of the partner ecosystem, while the flexibility of the Microsoft Dynamics platform means opportunities are still out there for partners to innovate.

“Our SMB partners are building solutions on Microsoft Dynamics to serve almost every industry,” Holloway says. “The past decade has seen unbelievable changes across markets worldwide. Whenever things evolve and change, there is opportunity, and many of our partners in attendance this week are seizing those opportunities today.”

One of those partners, Danish consultancy Abakion, has found new opportunities in the cloud. An ERP provider with a long history serving companies in professional services, law, distribution and manufacturing, Abakion has been working with Microsoft Dynamics NAV for more than a decade.

Kenneth Kryger Gram, Abakion’s founder and CEO, says using Microsoft Dynamics NAV with the Windows Azure cloud service has allowed the company to spend more time in the SMB market, growing its business with a higher volume of smaller companies that need rich business applications but not necessarily the huge overhead of an investment in infrastructure.

“We jumped at the opportunity to host Microsoft Dynamics NAV on Windows Azure,” Gram says. “Given we were not an infrastructure company, the opportunity to host Microsoft Dynamics NAV on Windows Azure was a perfect fit for us. We are transforming our business to provide customers with complete solutions.”

Using Microsoft Dynamics NAV on Windows Azure, Gram says Abakion has been able to shorten sales cycles from months to days with a repeatable process that allows the company to quickly build a customized demo for new customers and even let them try it out without any impact on their existing IT systems.

“If they want to start using the solution, a customer can be up and running on a full system within one hour, with no startup costs,” Gram says. “This used to take at least a month, as each case was a different scenario. This has been an amazing deployment experience for us.”

The reduced time to deployment means faster ROI for customers, as well as the ability to focus their resources to get the most value. Gram says Abakion’s customers have estimated a drop in operational costs of as much as 30–70 percent with the quick deployment and lack of up-front infrastructure investments.

“They have the flexibility to scale up and down according to their business needs,” Gram says. “Any upgrades are also easy since we are able to address them in a seamless manner.”

For Abakion, all this adds up to growth — Gram says his company expects to boost revenue by 25 percent with its holistic solutions offering for SMBs.

Another Microsoft Dynamics partner, The Netherlands’ Abecon Informatiesystemen, works with a diverse set of SMB customers ranging from five employees to 500. Abecon has helped a number of its customers implement Microsoft Dynamics solutions utilizing Windows Azure and other Web-based tools such as Microsoft SharePoint, Office 365 and the integrated social media functionality in Microsoft Dynamics.

According to Abecon customer Pier K, an organization that supports arts education across Holland, the tools made available through Microsoft Dynamics and Windows Azure have helped them not only collaborate, but also collect more valuable, relevant information.

“Most importantly, we can work together in an integrated fashion,” says Saskia van Ham, operations manager, Pier K. “This will benefit both our internal cooperation but, more importantly, our customer-centric approach. We can make segments, initiate customer contacts and communicate through social media with our target audiences. From now on, we will have accurate and representative management information.”

For Abecon solutions consultant Niels van Golden, Microsoft’s commitment to both the SMB market and the partners that serve it is helping to fuel a thriving new industry. Focusing on Microsoft Dynamics, he says Abecon has grown 20 percent annually over the past three years.

“With Microsoft, the richness of the product has just grown faster,” van Golden says. “Today, we can make enterprise quality solutions available for the SMB sector by taking an industry-standard solution from Microsoft and adapting it for each customer’s needs — and do so in less time, with higher quality.”

With so many smaller companies looking for an edge today, flexible technologies and knowledgeable partners are the winning formula to help smaller companies succeed in this information age.

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