Q&A with the CEO of RCP Rocket Award Winner Quisitive

The results of the sixth annual RCP Rocket Awards are in, and the winner is 3-year-old Microsoft technology giant Quisitive Technology Solutions Inc.

The award, sponsored by Redmond Channel Partner and Revenue Rocket Consulting Group, is open to all U.S.-based Microsoft partners with annual revenues between $5 million and $100 million, and whose innovative business strategies resulted in sustained growth over three years. While metrics of growth are a key factor, an equally important factor is innovative and sustainable business strategies.

Quisitive, with offices in Dallas, Denver, Ottawa and Toronto, meets the growth metrics, but is also trying to fill what it sees as a market need for a scale partner with a 100 percent focus on Microsoft technologies. We caught up with founder, CEO and Board Director Mike Reinhart, a longtime Microsoft channel veteran, for an interview last month about the company's strategy and positioning. The transcript is lightly edited for clarity.

RCP: What was the idea behind Quisitive and how was the company formed?
Reinhart: Microsoft has moved to leading with the cloud. What that means to the enterprise is there is a need for a different kind of partner team. We have this philosophy of start, right, finish, right. The whole purpose of the company is to create this mechanism to really help our customers and, as an agent with Microsoft, go drive and help organizations understand the journey to the cloud. What does that look like to move to the cloud?

But then, more importantly, the baseline is then how to operate in the cloud, and how that changes everything from skills to how they manage and operate. Then the next phase is really about innovating in the cloud to create a new business model. So we're really this expert on the Microsoft cloud platform that helps them through that whole cloud journey.

What's your current strategy for delivering business value around the Microsoft technology stack?
Our strategy is multifaceted. One is we see this need, and really have been led by Microsoft to see this need around [enterprises requiring] a different type of partner to emerge. [Microsoft needs] a scale partner to emerge in their ecosystem. They have this highly fragmented community that have point solution capabilities, where they might be able to cover one aspect of the platform or provide certain services around the cloud. What we're really trying to do is create a scale partner across North America. We're doing that through our organic motion to take our expertise around the Microsoft cloud and modern workplace and Azure and expand that into Dynamics and the three cloud pillars from Microsoft.

But in addition to the organic growth and things that we've been doing with Microsoft is an aggressive M&A strategy. So we've gone public on the Toronto Venture Exchange late last year and we executed our first acquisition [June 5] with Corporate Renaissance Group Inc. [CRG], based out of Canada. That was a complement to that strategy, both in terms of geographic reach, but also their specialization in the Microsoft Dynamics cloud platform, really giving us the foundation of all three clouds and our ability to take that to market.

"Winning or losing with Microsoft is my philosophy after partnering with Microsoft nearly 30 years now. They have a great footprint in the enterprise already and a much longer history than an Amazon or Google or somebody else. They have established relationships. We think they have the best product offer holistically across all the different pillars of the cloud."

Mike Reinhart, Founder and CEO, Quisitive

How far along are you in the acquisition strategy?
We're just getting started. We've really been developing what I call our playbook for acquisitions, both in terms of how we structure our deals, as well as how we build up a profile of the acquisition targets that we're looking at. Again, it goes back to things like geographic expansion and being able to have sales execution regionally distributed across North America with Microsoft to engage with the customer.

We're in phase one, where we built out that playbook. CRG is the first acquisition that we brought into the family, and we're looking to do two to three of those a year to continue to build and scale the business. Part of that strategy in going public on the Toronto Venture Exchange is having a capital market to support the acquisition process and use that as a vehicle to help fund that element of the growth strategy.

One of the things that stood out to us on the selection committee was your cloud assessment programs. Can you tell us a little about the process behind those?
It's always a challenge for customers understanding some basic things, right? What is it? What does that look like? How much is it going to cost me to actually make the move to the cloud? What's it going to do? What's my ROI going to be once I'm operating in the cloud? How do I actually take advantage and not have it just be about this cost and management piece, but rather about how do I really get things into the cloud and start thinking about key applications where I might be able to innovate in the cloud?

So we developed a process where we go out and have a programmatic approach. We assess their current environments but then also do some very specific things around ROI analysis. We understand their current costs, and the cost to move to the cloud. We look at, and do, what we call application rationalization, looking at their portfolio of applications. That's everything. It includes Windows Server end-of-life and SQL Server end-of-life and support, and what implications those have from a security perspective. It includes understanding how they might modernize those applications to take advantage of new capabilities in the cloud.

We do all that and put together a three-year roadmap for customers to help them understand how to establish the right foundation in the cloud. That way a customer will be able to go through their approval processes to understand not just what the first step looks like, but what the entire journey looks like.

On market positioning, you mentioned Microsoft has a need for national-scale organizations like the one you're building. How do you position yourself against some of the big systems integrators like IBM, DXC and Accenture/Avanade?

M&A Panel at Inspire

Going to Microsoft Inspire next week in Las Vegas? Mike Reinhart will be one of the expert panelists at the Revenue Rocket discussion for Microsoft partners, "M&A Done Right," in an event adjacent to the conference. The 2 p.m.-4 p.m. event on Tuesday, July 16, will be at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Islander I, and will include the panel and a cocktail and networking hour.

Panelists include Brent Combest, a general manager within the Microsoft One Commercial Partner organization; Mike Reinhart, CEO, Quisitive Technology Solutions; Axel Schulz, managing partner with EUROCON Consultants; Kyle Reesing, principal, Strattam Capital; and Linda Rose, retired Microsoft partner and author of "Get Acquired for Millions: A Roadmap for Technology Service Providers to Maximize Company Value." Mike Harvath, CEO of Revenue Rocket Consulting Group, will moderate the panel.

Register here.

With those partners, there's no question they have meaningful Microsoft service capabilities. But in most cases, it might only represent 25 percent of their total revenues. And the other mix of revenues that they have are going to be competitive platforms -- Google, Amazon, IBM, Oracle, whatever that might be. It's kind of this interesting relationship they have with Microsoft. So some accounts, they're tightly integrated, and others, they might actually be competing with Microsoft, right? So that's one element.

The second is those much larger integrators are dealing with the much larger enterprises. They're servicing that top 10 percent, or so. But there's that next tier -- the Microsoft enterprise accounts and the small, medium and corporate (SMC) account space -- that is not being served by that community. And from Microsoft, again, this is a key place where they need scale to emerge so that instead of in each region, or each city, they have to deal with tens of partners to try to engage customers, they can deal with a limited number of those to create efficiency on their sales side.

From a customer lens, this is also really important. One of the things that I got feedback from my customers on is they don't like having to have one partner helping them with maybe their Dynamics CRM, a different partner helping them move their datacenter to Infrastructure as a Service, and a third partner that might be helping them modernize their applications in a different way. It puts the burden on them to integrate that experience for bringing value to their transformation that they're trying to create. They want a partner that can do that. So we think there's this high need, and Microsoft has confirmed it for me in many, many conversations, to create that in the enterprise and upper-level SMC space, in particular.

How do you see partnering with Microsoft within that larger market for IT services? Is it a case where if you specialize in Microsoft technology, the whole market is still available to you just because they're such a significant player? Or do you view it as sort of playing within a significant subset with a lot of room for growth?
Winning or losing with Microsoft is my philosophy after partnering with Microsoft nearly 30 years now. They have a great footprint in the enterprise already and a much longer history than an Amazon or Google or somebody else. They have established relationships. We think they have the best product offer holistically across all the different pillars of the cloud. For us, it's a great opportunity for us to go win with them and there's significant growth opportunity.

When you're modernizing applications, it doesn't mean -- and this aligns with the [Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella] vision and how he's changed the business -- you're only modernizing using traditional Microsoft technologies. You might be using open source capability but then running it in Azure. We think Microsoft is the best-quality partner for us. We can be focused and really good at what we do, rather than having people one day working on Microsoft cloud and on a different day on Amazon cloud.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 08, 20190 comments

Microsoft Killing Its Most Popular Partner Benefit, IURs

Editor's Note: Due to partners' negative reaction to these changes, Microsoft on July 12 announced that it was rescinding the plan to end the internal use rights benefit. See RCP's coverage here.

An announcement on Microsoft's partner Web site indicates that the popular internal use rights (IUR) benefit will be discontinued in less than a year.

IURs allow Microsoft partners to run their business on Microsoft software, from their Windows desktops to all of the back-end servers to the newer cloud services. They were consistently rated one of the best features of Microsoft's partner program in RCP surveys and cited as a key benefit in partner interviews over the years.

"Effective July 1, 2020, we will retire the internal use rights (IUR) association with the product licenses partners receive in the Microsoft Action Pack and included with a competency. Product license use rights will be updated to be used for business development scenarios such as demonstration purposes, solution/services development purposes, and internal training," Microsoft said in the low-profile announcement on the partner Web site.

"Beginning October 1, 2019, the product licenses included with competencies will be specific to the competency you attain. Please review the benefits you will receive with your competency in Partner Center at time of purchase. Additional licenses can be purchased through commercial licensing to run your business," the statement continued.

The licenses, similar to not-for-resale benefits in other vendors' partner programs, were much more valuable than the sticker price of subscribing to the Action Pack or paying the fee to attain a Silver or Gold competency. In general, Action Pack subscription IURs would support a business of about 10 employees. Silver competency IURs could run a business of about 25 employees, and Gold competency IURs would support a business of about 100 employees.

In a Facebook post, former International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) president Kelvin Kirby described himself as "reeling" from the announcement.

"Another example, if any were needed, of the continued erosion of benefits to Microsoft Partners and evidence of complete chaos in the MPN [Microsoft Partner Network] program. This must be the worst move by Microsoft in 30 years and may see the end of the MPN program as we know it today. A very sad day. I hear on the Partner grapevine that there is uproar in the MPN community about this. Not at all unsurprising. Will be interested to see how Microsoft survives Inspire after this rather critical announcement," Kirby wrote in a reference to the Microsoft Inspire partner conference that starts the week after next.

IURs were one of the ultimate symbols of the enlightened self-interest of the MPN. By encouraging its competency partners and Action Pack subscriber partners to run their entire business on Microsoft's stack, Microsoft ensured that those partners knew the software and services inside and out and understood fully how to leverage the benefits of the tools by lighting up all of the features.

Update 5:30 p.m.: A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed the changes Friday afternoon with an e-mailed statement putting the decision on IUR benefits in a broader context:

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 05, 20190 comments

Microsoft Launches Premium Tier for Azure Files

After being in limited preview since last September's Ignite conference and in a broader preview since early May, the premium tier for Microsoft's Azure Files service has hit general availability.

With Wednesday's release, users with higher performance needs now have the ability to access managed file services on solid-state drives in Microsoft's public cloud.

"Premium tier is optimized to deliver consistent performance for IO-intensive workloads that require high-throughput and low latency. Premium file shares store data on the latest SSDs, making them suitable for a wide variety of workloads like databases, persistent volumes for containers, home directories, content and collaboration repositories, media and analytics, high variable and batch workloads, and enterprise applications that are performance sensitive," said Tad Brockway, corporate vice president for Azure Storage, Media and Edge, in a blog post.

Microsoft will continue to offer a standard tier of Azure Files at a lower price, with the standard tier positioned for general-purpose file storage, development, test, backups and applications that are less sensitive to latency.

In the United States, the premium tier is about four times as expensive as the standard tier per month at $0.24 per provisioned GiB rather than $0.06 per used GiB. The delta on snapshot GiB/month is slightly less, with premium going for $0.20 per used GiB, while standard is $0.06 per used GiB. (Editor's Note: The story has been updated to correct pricing. An earlier version was based on old information on Microsoft's pricing page, which was updated after the announcement.)

However, unlike with the standard tier, operations on premium files are free. That difference is reflected in the "per provisioned" (versus "per used"), which Microsoft contends makes it simpler to determine the total cost of ownership.

The premium tier pricing goes into effect on Aug. 1. A public preview discount of 50 percent will stay in force until July 31.

Brockway also said the Azure Storage team is working internally with the Azure SQL and Microsoft Power BI teams to help leverage the premium files for higher-performance solutions. "As a result, Azure Database for PostgreSQL and Azure Database for MySQL recently opened a preview of increased scale of 16 TiB databases with 20,000 IOPS powered by premium files. Microsoft Power BI announced a powerful 20 times faster enhanced dataflows compute engine preview built upon Azure Files premium tier," he said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 26, 20190 comments

Report: Be Consistent, Blog Long and Other Marketing Insights for Microsoft Partners

When it comes to digital marketing for Microsoft partners, few organizations are watching the trends, the space and the success metrics as closely as Fifty Five and Five. Founded five years ago, the firm each year releases a lengthy report recognizing the best in Microsoft partner digital marketing.

As the London-based organization gets ready to release its annual report at the Microsoft Inspire show next month, we caught up with founder Chris Wright for an e-mail Q&A. (The company is taking advance registrations for the free report here.)

RCP: What was the market issue that inspired you to start this series of reports five years ago?
Wright: Fundamentally, we wanted to change the way Microsoft partners thought about marketing. We spent a lot of the time, back then as a young agency, educating clients on "inbound marketing." We'd talk to prospects about the potential of this new way of thinking, of the power of becoming a thought leader, of giving great content away and focusing on inbound leads. We told a great story, but partners sometimes found it difficult to understand. Back then it was too new.

So, we created what was then called "The Microsoft Partner Inbound Marketing Top 50 Report." We devised a means to assess "good inbound marketing" and started ranking partners. It was a way to say, "Look, look over here and see what great inbound marketing looks like right now." Suffice to say it proved very effective, and the report has continued to grow since then.

As you look at the results this year, what are the things that have stayed consistent?
It's actually consistency itself. This year we've seen once again that consistency wins the day. Quality is key, but those partners who remain consistent in their output and their execution rank highly. Put simply, a big part of great content marketing is keeping your message consistently in the places where customers might find it. It is a clear trend in every report we've published.

What were the most surprising results from the survey this time?
We've actually renamed the report this year. We dropped the "Inbound Marketing" wording and called it the "Top 50 Digital Marketing Excellence 2019-2020 Report." This might seem a small thing, but it's actually very significant. The partner community has really matured in recent years, and as the levels of marketing competency have risen, many partners have come to see inbound marketing tactics as the only way to look at digital marketing. Inbound = digital. And the market is very tuned to that now. It's surprised me a little how quickly the market has matured in this way, but it is fantastic to see.

What do the most successful marketing campaigns include?
We are seeing a much greater focus on different content types this year. As partners have started to understand the power of inbound (or content) marketing, they are quite rightly realizing that there's more substance to a well-balanced strategy. Posting a 750-word blog once a week doesn't cover it.

We've seen far more longer-form content this year. Here at Fifty Five and Five we've preached the power of 1,600-word in-depth blogs for a long time, as well as much more visual content. Video and animation are, of course, popular, but even the odd interactive touch to an otherwise static post can make a huge impact.

"A generic blog titled '10 Tips for SharePoint Online' won't cut it anymore. However well-written and engaging your content is, blogs like this will simply get lost in the crowd."

Chris Wright, Founder, Fifty Five and Five

How have marketing strategies developed and improved in the last year?
As well as embracing different content types, we've seen partners apply a lot more creativity. We've seen clear trends appear such as highly specific messaging using clear language, and the adoption of a more "B2C" [business-to-consumer] tone.

A generic blog titled "10 Tips for SharePoint Online" won't cut it anymore. However well-written and engaging your content is, blogs like this will simply get lost in the crowd. The best partners know their customers inside out and can tailor content to meet their target audience's needs. This might mean creating content that focuses on a vertical, a job role or a highly specific problem a customer faces.

When you look at different approaches, what is the comparative success of Web site, blog and social media marketing?
Without giving away exactly how we score partners, blogs have always played a big role in the overall ranking. Good content marketing relies on regular fresh content, and blogs remain the perfect outlet for that. But some very advanced partners have started to look beyond the blog and embrace this sort of content across their site. Quite rightly they think, "Why should that content be siloed in a blog area?"

How would you rate the overall state of Microsoft partner marketing?
Fifty Five and Five have created this report for five years now. Our analysis shows that partner marketing is better than ever. We rank over 39,000 partners every year. Not only have the scores, overall, steadily risen, but the gap between places continues to narrow.

We work closely with Microsoft (in the U.S. from our Seattle office) and in the U.K. and Europe from our London HQ. The focus and sheer effort they put into Go-To-Market activity have really paid off.

If you were to recommend one thing for Microsoft partners to really focus on in their marketing in the coming year, what would it be?
Touching back on an earlier comment, I would say consistency. As an agency, the team here at Fifty Five and Five see it all the time, and it's borne out by the report. Consistency in execution is what earns the best results. Lack of consistency kills marketing efforts.

Partners need to think about their USP (unique selling point), what differentiates them and what their customers already like about them. Then they need to turn that into a marketing message. But the most important thing is maintaining consistency with this message. One blog every few months does not build an audience. The odd tweet or LinkedIn status update does not count as social selling.

Consistency is different to volume, that's also important to remember. There's an optimum level of output, of course, but cranking up the volume doesn't always yield better results.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 25, 20190 comments

Concern Mounts About 'BlueKeep' Windows RDP Flaw

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the lead U.S. government unit on civilian cybersecurity, has joined the chorus of warnings about the "BlueKeep" Windows security vulnerability.

BlueKeep refers to a critical vulnerability in the implementation of the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) used by several older Windows operating systems, including Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008. BlueKeep's Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) identifier is CVE-2019-0708.

Microsoft disclosed the vulnerability in mid-May and took the extraordinary step of providing patches for some of the involved operating systems that have fallen out of support -- Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows Server 2003.

Because the vulnerability is pre-authentication and requires no user interaction, Microsoft at the time warned, "The vulnerability is 'wormable', meaning that any future malware that exploits this vulnerability could propagate from vulnerable computer to vulnerable computer in a similar way as the WannaCry malware spread across the globe in 2017."

In an end-of-May blog post, the Microsoft Security Response Center repeated its warnings about the BlueKeep vulnerability in no uncertain terms. "It's been only two weeks since the fix was released and there has been no sign of a worm yet. This does not mean that we're out of the woods ... It is possible that we won't see this vulnerability incorporated into malware. But that's not the way to bet."

Earlier this month, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) issued a public warning of its own urging Windows administrators to apply the patch and update their systems. In the June 4 statement, the NSA wrote, "Although Microsoft has issued a patch, potentially millions of machines are still vulnerable."

Now comes the CISA warning, which also urges users and administrators to review Microsoft's advisory and "apply the appropriate mitigation measures as soon as possible." In addition to enumerating the previous concerns about the vulnerability -- such as a successful attacker's ability to add accounts with full user rights; view, change or delete data; or install programs -- CISA goes further with a discussion of its own tests.

"CISA tested BlueKeep against a Windows 2000 machine and achieved remote code execution. Windows OS versions prior to Windows 8 that are not mentioned in this Activity Alert may also be affected; however, CISA has not tested these systems," the alert states.

Attila Tomaschek, data privacy advocate at ProPrivacy.com, said the CISA warning should not be taken lightly, in part because of the agency's test. "The fact that CISA revealed that it was able to exploit BlueKeep to execute code remotely on a computer running Windows 2000 suggests that it is only a matter of time before malicious attackers are able to do the same," Tomaschek said in an e-mailed statement.

Tomaschek suggested that the CISA's critical warning indicates that authorities believe the threat of a malicious exploit with the capability to infect large numbers of vulnerable devices is imminent. "Organizations and individuals using vulnerable Windows operating systems should take heed and install Microsoft's security updates to patch the vulnerability and insulate themselves from an attack that could potentially take over their systems and compromise hordes of sensitive data," he said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 19, 20190 comments

Who Are the Worldwide Microsoft Implementation Services Leaders?

Determining the best Microsoft partners in the world is challenging. With a community as large, diverse and global as the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN), there are a thousand ways to look at the question.

Market research firm IDC took a crack at it from the standpoint of global implementation giants in a report released last month. The "IDC Marketscape: Worldwide Microsoft Implementation Services 2019 Vendor Assessment" is an analysis of 10 Microsoft systems integrators.

To be included, a firm had to have at least $125 million of revenue from a Microsoft implementation practice at a worldwide level, a minimum of 1,000 professionals related to Microsoft projects, and at least 10 percent of revenue and 10 percent of headcount in each of IDC's three macroregions.

Summarizing its findings in the form of a chart, IDC was careful not to rank the top 10. Instead, citing 34 evaluation criteria, IDC arranged the companies along a two-axis chart with "Capabilities" on the vertical axis and "Strategies" on the horizontal. Five companies are clustered around the lower edge of a "Leaders" category and the other five are clustered near the top of a "Major Players" category.

According to IDC, the leaders include Accenture and Avanade (grouped as one entity), IBM, Infosys, HCL and TCS. The major players are PwC, DXC, EY, Wipro and Cognizant.

IDC noted that although Leidos is one of the top five systems integrators based on worldwide revenue, the firm was excluded due to the concentration of its revenue. According to IDC, Leidos typically receives more than 80 percent of its revenues from the U.S. government.

IDC also cautioned that its evaluation should not be considered a "final judgment" on firms to consider for a project. "It is conceivable, and in fact the case, that specialty firms can compete with multidisciplinary firms on an equal footing," analyst Ali Zaidi wrote in the report.

In short, the IDC research provides a useful snapshot of the biggest and broadest systems integrators in the Microsoft ecosystem.

An excerpt of the report featuring Accenture and Avanade is available here.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 17, 20190 comments

What the Partner Awards Reveal About Microsoft's Priorities

Microsoft announced its Partner of the Year awards this month, and like every year, the structure and categories tell a lot about Redmond's priorities.

Microsoft has always used the worldwide partner awards to emphasize partner success in strategic growth areas or key competitive areas, and to reinforce to the channel what business areas will be most important in the coming fiscal year. Microsoft announces its winners in June and formally gives them out at its Inspire partner conference in July, which aligns roughly with the start of the company's fiscal year.

Here are six takeaways from a review of the 41 categories.

Digital Transformation
How big a deal is this "digital transformation" concept to Microsoft? Pretty big. First of all, there's a Digital Transformation Partner of the Year category. Kudos to Accenture for winning that one, although it's odd that there are no finalists. That suggests Microsoft may be struggling to get partners to join the Digital Transformation parade in a meaningful way.

Meanwhile, the phrase "digital transformation" has attained buzzword status in the winner descriptions. In the 30-page PDF featuring short descriptions of each of the 2019 winners, the phrase "digital transformation" appears 66 times. Compare that against the 52 appearances of the phrase "artificial intelligence" or "AI," and you get a sense of how important this digital transformation idea is to Microsoft.

Consistent Structure
Microsoft grouped its solution-focused awards this year into four main areas. They are Azure (Intelligent Cloud) Awards, Business Application Awards, Modern Workplace Awards and Other Awards. (Non-solution groupings are Industry Awards and Country Awards.) What's interesting is that those groupings are relatively consistent with the big partner classifications set in the major field and channel shakeup of 2017. At the time, Microsoft created four major buckets for partners: Modern Workplace, Business Applications, Applications & Infrastructure, and Data & Artificial Intelligence. Two of those remain in the awards structure, Modern Workplace and Business Applications. The other two are largely combined into Azure (Intelligent Cloud).

Datacenter Migration
There's not much in the way of on-premises-based awards. The closest are the ones that involve getting customers the heck off on-premises. Two of those awards are in the "Azure (Intelligent Cloud) Awards" area. There is the straight "Datacenter Migration" category, won by Microsoft awards veteran 10th Magnitude, a pioneer in Azure business practices.

Then there's the related "Data Estate Modernization" category, won by Cognizant Technology Solutions. Note also the "Indirect Provider Partner of the Year" winner, Arrow ECS. One of that company's major pushes is datacenter retirements paired with moves to Azure. Expect an ever louder drumbeat about datacenter migration to Azure as end-of-life approaches for Windows Server 2008 R2 on Jan. 14, 2020.

Business Applications
Evident in the business applications categories is the shift away from emphasis on terms like ERP and CRM and toward Dynamics 365 and elements of the platform underlying Dynamics 365. These categories reflect changes going on with the business applications competencies, as well.

Industry Verticals
The mix of industry verticals Microsoft appears most interested in has evolved slightly, but is still relatively consistent with the verticals Microsoft declared as strategic in the 2017 overhaul. At the time, it was manufacturing, financial services, retail, health, education and government. Those verticals continue to be reflected and rewarded in the current awards list, although the manufacturing category is "Manufacturing and Resources." Additional vertical awards for 2019 are automotive, media & communications and Microsoft CityNext.

SAP on Azure
One other awards category of interest is the SAP on Azure Partner of the Year, won by Capgemini. SAP on Azure is an advanced specialization within the Cloud Platform competency. In addition to the strategic importance to Microsoft of drawing SAP implementations to the Azure cloud, it's also a hint of things coming for partners. In the next fiscal year, Microsoft will be expanding its advanced specializations for partners to include Azure Stack, server migration, security and teamwork.

Trends and priorities aside, congratulations to the 2019 partner winners. See the full list below.

Azure (Intelligent Cloud) Awards
AI and Machine Learning Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Crayon Group
  • Finalist: AgileThought
  • Finalist: eSmart Systems
  • Finalist: Modis

Application Innovation Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Wapice Ltd.
  • Finalist: Infosys Ltd. 
  • Finalist: Wragby Business Solutions and Technologies Ltd.
  • Finalist: Zure

Azure Influencer Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Hanu
  • Finalist: Navisite
  • Finalist: SELA
  • Finalist: Sol-Tec Ltd.

Data Analytics Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Modis
  • Finalist: Cognizant Technology Solutions
  • Finalist: Pragmatic Works

Data Estate Modernization Partner of the Year

Datacenter Migration Partner of the Year

DevOps Partner of the Year

  • Winner: 10th Magnitude
  • Finalist: Dimensional Strategies Inc.
  • Finalist: InCycle Software

Internet of Things Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Accenture/Avanade
  • Finalist: PTC
  • Finalist: SoftBank Technology
  • Finalist: Telelink Business Services

Mixed Reality Partner of the Year

  • Winner: PTC 
  • Finalist: Bentley Systems 
  • Finalist: Kognitiv Spark 
  • Finalist: Meemim Inc.

OSS on Azure Partner of the Year

  • Winner: HashiCorp 
  • Finalist: SNP Technologies Inc.

SAP on Azure Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Capgemini
  • Finalist: DXC Technology 
  • Finalist: T-Systems

Business Applications Awards
Dynamics 365 for Business Central Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Bam Boom Cloud
  • Finalist: Bond Consulting Services
  • Finalist: NAB Solutions AB
  • Finalist: Wiise

Dynamics 365 for Customer Service Partner of the Year

  • Winner: PowerObjects, an HCL Technologies Company
  • Finalist: Cognizant Technologies
  • Finalist: DXC Technology
  • Finalist: Hitachi Solutions Philippines Corporation

Dynamics 365 for Field Service Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Hitachi Solutions
  • Finalist: eCraft Oy Ab
  • Finalist: HSO International
  • Finalist: Velrada

Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations Partner of the Year

Dynamics 365 for Sales Partner of the Year

  • Winner: SAGlobal
  • Finalist: Experlogix
  • Finalist: KPMG Advisory
  • Finalist: MASAO

Dynamics 365 for Talent Partner of the Year

Power BI Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Nihilent
  • Finalist: Campus Management
  • Finalist: Catapult Systems
  • Finalist: Expose Data

PowerApps Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Catapult Systems
  • Finalist: C Centric Solutions
  • Finalist: Mercury xRM Limited
  • Finalist: PowerObjects, an HCL Technologies Company

Industry Awards
Automotive Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Annata
  • Finalist: 4ward
  • Finalist: Bright Box
  • Finalist: Icertis Inc.

Education Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Edsby
  • Finalist: Blackbaud
  • Finalist: Insight

Financial Services Partner of the Year

  • Winner: PowerObjects, an HCL Technologies Company
  • Finalist: AKA Enterprise Solutions
  • Finalist: Finastra

Government Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Hitachi Solutions
  • Finalist: KPMG
  • Finalist: Planet Technologies 
  • Finalist: RapidDeploy

Health Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Health Catalyst
  • Finalist: KenSci
  • Finalist: Mozzaz Corporation
  • Finalist: Quest Software

Manufacturing and Resources Partner of the Year

  • Winner: PTC
  • Finalist: ABB Asea Brown Boveri Ltd.
  • Finalist: Hitachi Solutions
  • Finalist: ICONICS

Media & Communications Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Aprimo
  • Finalist: AdPushup Inc.
  • Finalist: SAGlobal
  • Finalist: Tech Mahindra

Microsoft CityNext Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Bentley Systems
  • Finalist: ABB Asea Brown Boveri Ltd.
  • Finalist: KPMG Adoxio
  • Finalist: Meemim Inc.

Retail Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Obase
  • Finalist: Brainpad Inc.
  • Finalist: HSO
  • Finalist: JDA Software

Modern Workplace Awards
Intelligent Communications Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Arkadin
  • Finalist: CDW LLC
  • Finalist: NBConsult
  • Finalist: Tata Communications

Modern Desktop Partner of the Year

Modern Workplace Transformation Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Phoenix Software
  • Finalist: Accenture/Avanade
  • Finalist: Content and Code
  • Finalist: DXC Technology

Project and Portfolio Management Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Wicresoft
  • Finalist: Innovative-e
  • Finalist: ProActive A/S
  • Finalist: Sensei Project Solutions

Security and Compliance Partner of the Year

  • Winner: InSpark
  • Finalist: Edgile
  • Finalist: Maureen Data Systems Inc.
  • Finalist: Onevinn

Teamwork Partner of the Year

Other Awards
Digital Transformation Partner of the Year

Learning Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Global Knowledge
  • Finalist: QA
  • Finalist: Shanghai Yungoal Info Tech Co. Ltd.

Partner for Social Impact Partner of the Year

Alliance Global ISV Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Finastra
  • Finalist: Cloudera
  • Finalist: Icertis Inc.
  • Finalist: Sitecore

Alliance Global SI Partner of the Year

Customer Experience Partner of the Year

Diveristy and Inclusion Changemaker Partner of the Year

Indirect Provider Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Arrow ECS
  • Finalist: Crayon Software Experts Spain S.L.
  • Finalist: Ingram Micro Mexico
  • Finalist: rhipe

Country Awards
Argentina: VU Security
Armenia: Dom-Daniel
Australia: Modis
Austria: ITSDONE Holding GmbH
Azerbaijan: SMART business
Bahrain: Almoayyed Computers
Bangladesh: Corporate Projukti Limited
Belgium: Proximus
Bermuda: Maureen Data Systems Inc.
Bolivia: SoftwareONE Bolivia
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Logosoft d.o.o.
Brazil: Brasoftware
Brunei: Tech One Solutions Sdn Bhd
Canada: Long View
Cayman Islands: Kirk Office Equipment Ltd.
Chile: GeoVictoria
China: SYSTEX China Ltd.
Colombia: Westcon Group Colombia Limitada
Costa Rica: ITCO
Côte d'Ivoire: INOVA Consulting Services
Croatia: Hrvatski Telekom d.d.
Curaçao: Inova Solutions
Cyprus: Dot.cy Developments Ltd.
Czech Republic: Unicorn Systems
Dominican Republic: C-ven Technologies
Egypt: HITS Technologies
El Salvador: GBM de El Salvador
Estonia: TVG Eesti, OÜ
Finland: Nordcloud
France: Talentsoft
Georgia: UGT Ltd.
Germany: Joint Entry: PHAT CONSULTING GmbH, Glück & Kanja Consulting AG and GAB Enterprise IT Solutions GmbH
Guatemala: Gensa Group
Honduras: Sega
Hong Kong SAR: KBQuest Hong Kong Limited
Hungary: T-Systems Magyarorszag Zrt.
Iceland: Advania
India: G7 CR Technologies India Pvt. Ltd.
Indonesia: PT Awan Integrasi Sandidata (ViBiCloud)
Ireland: Spanish Point Technologies
Israel: U-BTech Solutions
Italy: Var Group Spa
Jamaica: Inova Solutions
Japan: Fujitsu Ltd.
Jordan: Optimiza
Kazakhstan: M-SYSTEM LLP
Kenya: Cloud Productivity Solutions Limited
Korea: Zenith & Company Co., Ltd.
Kyrgyzstan: ALBARS
Latvia: Tilde Sia
Lebanon: Exquitech
Lithuania: Fortevento
Luxembourg: Devoteam S.A.
Malaysia: Rhipe Malaysia Sdn Bhd
Malta: ICT Solutions
Mexico: Ingram Micro Mexico
Mongolia: Mogul Service and Support LLC
Morocco: CASANET
Namibia: Salt Essential IT
Nepal: Tech One Global Nepal Pvt. Ltd.
Netherlands: ICT Automatisering NV
New Zealand: Umbrellar Limited
Nicaragua: Sega
Pakistan: Maison Consulting & Solutions
Panama: GBM Dominicana
Paraguay: OLAM S.R.L.
Peru: G&S Gestión y Sistemas SAC
Philippines: Crayon Software Experts Philippines Inc.
Poland: Synerise S.A.
Portugal: InnoWave Technologies S.A.
Puerto Rico: Nagnoi LLC
Qatar: Information & Communication Technology W.L.L
Romania: Asseco SEE
Russia: Awara IT
Saudi Arabia: eSense Software
Serbia: Comtrade System Integration d.o.o.
Singapore: Ingram Micro Asia Ltd.
Slovakia: exe, a.s.
Slovenia: Adacta
South Africa: Mint Management Technologies
Spain: CAPSiDE
Sri Lanka: Tech One Global
Sweden: Acando AB
Switzerland: isolutions AG
Taiwan: Systex Software & Service Corporation
Thailand: MFEC Public Company Limited
Trinidad and Tobago: Davyn
Tunisia: Neoledge
Turkey: motiwe
Uganda: Britehouse/Dimension Data
Ukraine: Infopulse LLC
United Arab Emirates: Netways
United Kingdom: New Signature
United States: Quisitive
Uruguay: Arnaldo C. Castro S.A.
Venezuela: CONSEIN, C.A
Vietnam: Tech Data Advanced Solutions (Vietnam) Company Limited

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 13, 20190 comments

Changing of the Guard at Avanade

Adam Warby will step down as CEO of Avanade after over 11 years in August and be succeeded from within the company by Pamela Maynard, the company announced this month.

Avanade is a giant in the Microsoft partner community with 36,000 professionals worldwide, a specialized focus on Microsoft technologies and a tight relationship with Microsoft. The company was originally founded in 2000 as a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft, and the company's board includes Judson Althoff, executive vice president of the Worldwide Commercial Business at Microsoft.

Since Warby became CEO in 2008, Avanade's revenues have tripled from $900 million to $2.5 billion, the company has expanded the number of countries it operates in by seven to 26 total, and it has closed seven acquisitions.

In a statement, Warby called the decision to leave difficult, but said that it was the right time for a transition. "On the eve of our 20th anniversary, I am confident that Pam is the right leader to take Avanade into the next chapter. During the last 11 years, she has driven unparalleled results for Avanade in the key roles that she has held and has been a vocal advocate for inclusion and diversity across the organization," Warby said.

Maynard is currently president of product and innovation at Avanade. She has held the role for two years and responsibilities included overseeing several practices, development of new offerings, advisory services and the delivery organization. Her previous roles within Avanade included running Avanade Europe as president and running Avanade U.K. as general manager. Maynard has also worked for Capgemini, Ernst & Young and Oracle.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 13, 20190 comments

MPN Changes: More Advanced Specializations, Security Competency, Higher Competency Bars

Significant tweaks are coming to the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) in the coming months, including more challenging competency requirements, advanced specializations, a new security competency and some additional benefits.

"To prepare you for new opportunities today and into the future, we are making large investments in many aspects of our partner business, with the Microsoft Partner Network as your entry point for partnership with Microsoft and with other partners," said Toby Richards, general manager of Partner Go-to-Market & Programs in Microsoft's One Commercial Partner organization.

Richards outlined the changes in a recent blog post that serves as a preview for topics Microsoft will discuss at the Microsoft Inspire partner conference in Las Vegas in mid-July. The Microsoft 2020 fiscal year begins on July 1, and that's traditionally the time of year when Microsoft makes the biggest adjustments to its partner programs.

The blog post was vague about the changing requirements for competencies, but Richards' comments suggested partners can expect higher bars for both the gold and silver tiers. "As cloud technologies advance, partner capabilities must keep pace," Richards wrote. "With this in mind, we are updating the requirements for several competencies to better reflect the market and more demanding customer expectations."

In a hint of things to come, he pointed to changes announced in April on the business application side. At that time, Microsoft announced the coming retirement of the Cloud CRM competency, as well as big increases in the bar for attaining competencies, including the Cloud Business Applications competency that Microsoft is steering Cloud CRM partners toward. For example, partners going for a silver competency in Cloud Business Applications need five different employees to pass exams; partners reaching for a gold competency need 15 different employees.

The specific requirement changes for other competencies will take effect in July and will be communicated directly to affected partners, Richards said.

Even as the Cloud CRM competency is going away, Microsoft will add a new Security competency, covering a critical area of customer need. The new competency will be available in July and will be designed for partners delivering security-related services on Azure and Microsoft 365.

Microsoft will also be expanding its advanced specializations for partners with certain gold competencies. The recent example is the SAP on Azure advanced specialization for the Cloud Platform competency. In the coming months, Microsoft plans to release more advanced specializations for partners, including Azure Stack, server migration, security and teamwork.

Richards also teased but did not detail additional benefits for competency partners. In addition to the flagship benefit of internal use rights for Microsoft products, competency partners will also have access to enablement and go-to-market benefits within their competencies. Richards also reaffirmed Microsoft's emphasis on the co-sell program, hinting that there may be more integrations between co-sell and competencies.

Microsoft also plans to provide go-to-market services that are tied to specific partner activities, such as creating a business profile in the Microsoft Partner Center for referrals, publishing and transacting an app or service in the marketplace, and attaining a first competency or renewing an existing competency.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 04, 20190 comments

Windows 7's End-of-Life Throws PC Sales for Loop

IDC's latest update to its 2019 PC market forecast is promising an "interesting year" for PC sales, with Windows 7's end-of-support deadline providing a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy market.

Overall, IDC now expects to see unit shipments drop by 3 percent for the year for a total of 392.5 million units. The main challenge comes on the consumer side of the market, where shipments are expected to decline 6 percent year-over-year, as consumers spend more of their budget on replacing smartphones than PCs.

Yet IDC is projecting that the average selling prices (ASPs) for the entire market are rising 2.6 percent for the year, keeping the dollar value of the market roughly flat at $237 billion.

The ASP increase, according to an IDC statement, is being "driven by new technologies, such as thinner bezels on notebook screens that have increased demand for 2-in-1 form factors, and ongoing demand for gaming PCs. Additionally, shipments into the commercial segment are expected to provide an uplift in ASPs in 2019 as many enterprises move to replace their PCs before Microsoft ends support for Windows 7 in early 2020."

That key date of Jan. 14, 2020, when extended support for Windows 7 ends, and the other ASP-lifting factors are prompting IDC to declare that "2019 is shaping up to be an interesting year."

After 2019, maybe not so much. IDC currently expects unit shipments to decline by an average of 1.6 percent per year, hitting 367.7 million units in 2023.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 03, 20190 comments

Veeam Reaches $1 Billion in Annual Revenues

Veeam is unusual among private software companies in that it regularly and publicly shares financial performance data via press release.

It's not the kind of comprehensive disclosure you'd see from a public company with net income, revenues and business unit results, but it's still a remarkable degree of transparency.

This week, Veeam provided an update at its annual VeeamON conference in Miami and revealed a significant revenue milestone.

"We achieved $1 billion in revenue bookings," said Ratmir Timashev, co-founder and executive vice president for sales and marketing. Timashev said the figure was based on revenues for the trailing 12 months.

The revenue marker trails slightly, but only slightly, behind Timashev's prediction in 2013 that the company would reach $1 billion in five years.

"We can blame [that] a little bit on subscription rights," Timashev said, referring to the shift in revenue models and the marketwide way in which businesses are buying software on a monthly basis rather than paying for licenses upfront.

Veeam also said this week it had 350,000 customers and was adding 4,000 net new customers per month and 50,000 per year.

Veeam sells backup and availability software for cloud data management.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 22, 20190 comments

Veeam Sees Partner Opportunity in Orchestration

Veeam is forging ahead with a second generation of its orchestration technology for disaster recovery that could present significant opportunities for the company's partners.

Failing over a complex environment in a disaster recovery situation is a multistep process. Processes and applications must be started in a precise order and spun up on the correct hardware or virtual machines. Orchestration solutions allow organizations to set the order that those automated steps are taken in case of need for a failover.

Veeam Availability Orchestrator v2 hit general availability on Tuesday during the VeeamON 2019 conference in Miami.

Danny Allan, vice president of product strategy for Veeam, said the flagship feature of the new version is that it now allows orchestrated business continuity from backups rather than strictly from replication environments.

"Doing it from backups means you don't have to be running 24x7 in both locations. This now democratizes orchestrated business continuity disaster recovery to the entire customer base, and not only the customer base but the whole industry," Allan said.

Allan described Veeam's vision of the cloud data management journey for customers as about a 10-year process. The first stage are backups protecting all workloads, followed by cloud mobility. Most organizations are in those two stages, Allan said. Because of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), companies in Europe are slightly ahead of U.S. companies in a third stage, visibility. Relatively few organizations have reached the fourth stage, orchestration, or the final stage, automation, he said.

One Veeam customer that is very interested in the automation tool is Tom Morley of ABM Industries, a large facilities management company. Morley, director of global technology operations and enterprise engineering, is an intensive user of Veeam technologies, but sees orchestration as a 2020 project after a current modernization overhaul is complete.

"As part of modernizing, our weakest spot is probably orchestration across all of our systems," Morley said. "Next year will be about orchestrating all the way down."

Veeam's v2 includes several other new features. Reporting and compliance capabilities have been enhanced to allow organizations to prove with the orchestrator that service-level agreements are being met. The tool also allows the ability to use the orchestrator for purposes aside from recovery, such as DevOps, testing and analytics. Veeam has also added role-based access control to allow for more fine-grained delegation.

Due to the complexity of orchestration environments, Allan sees Veeam's thousands of channel partners playing a significant role. "When you're doing orchestration, that is the automation of business processes. It takes an expert to do. Someone has to design it, probably partners," Allan said.

Cloud service provider iLand, a longtime Veeam partner with a substantial Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) practice, already has its own runbooks for orchestration of customer failovers. However, iLand Senior Vice President for Business Development Dante Orsini is very enthusiastic about some of the opportunities unlocked by v2's ability to orchestrate for non-DR purposes, especially security testing.

"One of the big drivers we see is security," said Orsini, referencing the ability to run vulnerability assessments and penetration tests on a copy of a customer's applications and data. "Now you can do this in a nonintrusive fashion, take a look if there are any challenges and make a plan," Orsini said.

Currently for an organization with 100 applications, the partner would need to find the 100 application owners and involve them in the testing process. With the orchestration, more robust tests could be done safely as a first step, making it necessary to track down only the owners of applications that had major security issues.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 22, 20190 comments