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In-Depth

One Year in the Microsoft Channel

For the Microsoft channel, it's July -- not the start of the calendar year -- that provides the best point for looking back on what's changed over the last 12 months.

The window of time between one Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) and the next is probably the most telling period for the Microsoft channel. Every July, the WPC is where partners are inundated with news about what others have been up to since the last time they met. And every July, some of Microsoft's biggest partners prepare to make the announcements that they hope will leave an impression for the conference's duration and beyond.

In this article, spanning the period between last year's WPC and this year's, we've distilled some of the biggest mergers, acquisitions, and business and personnel moves in the Microsoft channel.

Parallels Refreshes Channel Team
Parallels already has two former Microsoft executives in its upper ranks: CEO Birger Steen and Chief Marketing Officer John Zanni. Last fall, the Microsoft ISV partner brought in two more Microsoft veterans.

Mark Hindsbo, who had previously been Microsoft's vice president of application partner and development sales, was named senior vice president of customer success and head of the new Parallels channel team in October 2013. The new team also includes Jacek Murawski, former general manager of Microsoft's Poland business, and now the vice president of sales for Parallels EMEA. Parallels also announced new capabilities in its PartnerNet portal and launched the Parallels Support Exchange.

"There is still a lot of confusion on how to best offer SMBs cloud services. We're reducing that confusion by constantly improving the resources and services we make available to our partners."

Birger Steen, CEO, Parallels

All together, the announcements represent the Parallels goal of ensuring partner success in the cloud, according to Steen. "There is still a lot of confusion on how to best offer [small to midsize businesses] cloud services. We're reducing that confusion by constantly improving the resources and services we make available to our partners," he says.

Catapult Goes Global in Merger
In November 2013, Austin, Texas-based Catapult Systems LLC became a wholly owned subsidiary of ChinaSoft International Ltd. As part of the transaction, Catapult also appointed David Fuess as its new CEO in January of this year.

One of Fuess' top priorities as CEO has been to take advantage of ChinaSoft's scale to extend Catapult services to global markets. Established in 2000, ChinaSoft has a significant global presence, with roughly 19,000 employees and offices in 25 cities worldwide.

Accenture Launches Two New Divisions
Accenture, a 2014 Microsoft Partner of the Year winner alongside its subsidiary Avanade, announced a round of high-level executive changes in December 2013 that coincided with the launch of two new business groups: Accenture Digital and Accenture Strategy. The company promoted Michael Sutcliff to lead Accenture Digital and Mark Knickrehm was named head of Accenture Strategy.

Dimension Data on Acquisition Spree
Dimension Data has been steadily growing its portfolio since the beginning of this year through a series of acquisitions. In February, the company completed its purchase of European communications company NextiraOne. Two months later, Dimension Data acquired Nexus Integration Services, a 30-year-old company based in Valencia, Calif. And, most recently in May, Dimension Data snapped up telepresence company Teliris, a provider of managed video communication solutions.

Tech Data Launches Mobile Division
Global tech distributor Tech Data Corp. officially launched its worldwide mobile business, dubbed Tech Data Mobile Solutions, this past February. The company named seven-year Tech Data veteran Rod Millar as senior vice president of the new business group, overseeing both its North American and European operations.

According to Tech Data CEO Bob Dutkowsky, the launch of Tech Data Mobile Solutions "further solidifies [Tech Data's] commitment to the growing mobile space and better aligns our resources to this important component of our company strategy."

DocuSign Raises Millions for DTM
DocuSign Inc., this year's Microsoft Partner of the Year winner for Office and SharePoint app development, raised $85 million by March to improve on its "digital transaction management" (DTM) technology.

Microsoft in February entered into a "long-term strategic partnership" with DocuSign that's aimed at improving the integration between Office 365 and DocuSign eSignature DTM apps.

CSS Gets Cash Infusion from Plymouth
Certified Security Solutions (CSS), a gold application development Microsoft partner, received a multimillion-dollar boost from venture capitalist firm Plymouth Ventures in April.

The financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed, though the funding is focused on the marketing, product development and channel initiatives for two CSS information security products: its Certificate Management System (CMS) and its Public Key Infrastructure as a Service (PKIaaS) platform.

Hitachi Buys Customer Effective
Hitachi Solutions America Ltd. this past April acquired Customer Effective, a CRM consultancy and gold certified Microsoft NSI. As part of the terms of the deal, Hitachi inherited all 100 or so employees of Customer Effective, including President Scott Millwood, who was named head of Hitachi's global CRM business.

With this acquisition, Hitachi touts itself as one of the largest Dynamics CRM partners in the world. In a statement, Doug Kennedy, Microsoft Dynamics VP of enterprise sales and partners, described the combined company as a "CRM powerhouse."

Goldman Sachs Invests in AvePoint
AvePoint Inc., one of this year's Microsoft Partner of the Year winners, scored a $90 million investment from Goldman Sachs in April. AvePoint provides social collaboration solutions for enterprises, including big data, mobility, compliance and governance offerings. The funding will go toward product development and the company's global marketing efforts.

Xamarin Buys Clarius' Visual Studio Arm
Xamarin has closed the distance between itself and Microsoft, acquiring Clarius Consulting's 10-year-old Visual Studio Extensibility division in late May. Clarius counts Microsoft as one of its biggest customers.

"At Xamarin, supporting Visual Studio users is one of our highest priorities, and having these talented developers on our team will allow us to deliver an even smoother and more sophisticated mobile development experience for all Visual Studio users," said Xamarin CEO and Co-Founder Nat Friedman.

Private Equity Firm Acquires Autotask
Autotask Corp. was acquired by Vista Equity Partners in early June for an undisclosed sum. The $11.5-billion Vista portfolio includes Aptean, Websense and at least 20 vertically focused technology companies.

Mark Cattini, president and CEO of Autotask, said the investment will allow the company to more aggressively improve Autotask solutions for customers. "We are devoted to our clients' ongoing success and are confident that our partnership with Vista will drive innovation and growth and delivery of dynamic solutions as the traditional IT landscape evolves," Cattini said.

Scott Bekker contributed to this report.

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