By Don Grantham
Once a year, Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) presents me with the opportunity to highlight some of our brightest partners from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and underscore our commitment to the region. Indeed, CEE is a region with huge potential for our partners and customers around the world, with a population of 421 million people across 33 countries and a combined GDP of 2.7 trillion US dollars.
But WPC also allows me to get an insight into the business challenges and opportunities our partners are seeing in today’s highly competitive market. This year, cloud computing was one of the most widely-discussed themes at the conference, and it was fascinating to hear how our partners are growing their businesses through cloud solutions in a range of sectors. The opportunity in the cloud is expanding across our partner ecosystem, a trend that we’ve seen develop over a number of years. In fact, an IDC study conducted last year found that Microsoft’s cloud-oriented partners (those that generate over half of their revenue from the cloud) grow and win new customers twice as fast as their non-cloud counterparts.
Just one example of a business placing its bets on the cloud is Webzavod, a Russian IT company, which was crowned the winner of the ‘Collaboration and Content’ category at WPC. Webzavod was recognised for its work around transforming education through the School of Digital Age project, which relies on a range of Microsoft platforms hosted on the cloud, including SharePoint, Exchange, Lync and Office 365. Embracing the cloud has enabled Webzavod to expand in the Russian education market – one of the biggest in the world – by offering cloud solutions that can be tailored to match the specific needs of the customer.
However, moving to a cloud business model has its challenges, as many customers are still routed in traditional, on-premise solutions and their knowledge of the cloud can vary extensively. But the cloud doesn’t have to be a daunting proposition. Our partners tell us time and time again that selling hybrid solutions is a highly effective strategy, which opens doors to conversations with new customers less familiar with cloud. It gives customers the ability to adopt select cloud-based solutions, so they get a taste of the cloud advantages without the worry about any disruption to their business.
Comping is a great example of a Microsoft partner seeing success with a hybrid sales approach. This Croatian IT company was named the winner of the ‘Mid-Market Solution Provider Partner of the Year’ category at WPC for its focus on hybrid solutions that leverage both cloud and on-premise solutions. The company’s strategy has allowed Comping to drive value for its customers across multiple verticals – from tourism to financial institutions, insurance and pharmacy – to create simple solutions that match the specific business needs of the customer and adjust to the level of IT hardware on premise.
Although Central and Eastern Europe is clearly the home to some of Microsoft’s most dynamic cloud partners in the world, many partners still need support and advice around the array of options available, especially to equip them with the knowledge required to sell cloud solutions to customers routed in traditional IT. That’s why we’re committed to helping our partners on each step of their journey towards cloud. Through initiatives like the recently launched Cloud SureStep program, we help partners follow a simple path that reflects their cloud maturity level – from learning modules to delivering more detailed tools and assets as they establish and grow their cloud capabilities.
The transition to the cloud doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not without its hurdles. But, as we enter a cloud-first, mobile-first world, customers will increasingly require modern technology solutions to compete. This is the time for our savviest partners to seize the golden opportunity presented by the cloud, reinvent productivity and empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.