The Changing Channel

How a Microsoft Partner Found Success by Linking IP and P2P

Microsoft Partner of the Year winner Nintex kills two birds with one very effective stone by combining IP creation with partner outreach.

We're alternating between two themes each month with this column -- "Profiles in Partnering" and "IP for Your Future." Sometimes the two themes appear in one company, and that's the case this time.

Moving forward, we will often highlight partners that have tools that can be used by other partners to create their own intellectual property (IP), as well, with the primary goal of informing those partners that are seeking ways to create IP beyond becoming AppDev houses themselves.

Where better to begin than with the 2015 Microsoft Partner of the Year winner for Office and SharePoint Application Development, Nintex?

Nintex presents itself as the global standard for workflow automation, enabling enterprise IT to more quickly and easily create and manage simple to sophisticated business processes from the back to the front office. It currently serves more than 5,000 customers in 90 countries, through the company's global network of more than 1,100 partners who turn to the Nintex Workflow Automation platform to drive productivity and accelerate business results.

Want to be featured in "Profiles in Partnering" or "IP for Your Future"? E-mail!

When asked how a partner who uses the Nintex tools, templates and platform will know when they've created their own unique IP, Nintex CFO Eric Johnson answers, "You know when the market tells you. When there's enough there that someone is willing to pay you for it, that's when you have an application."

In the mid-2000s, Nintex took the journey it's inviting other partners to take, from a systems integrator (SI) to a provider of its own products. "We were a classic SI, very focused in the market doing SharePoint consulting. In order to make the process more efficient for ourselves we had built an initial workflow tool, which was part of our platform," Johnson says.

Summing up on creating IP using someone else's tools, Johnson points out that Nintex built its products by leveraging Microsoft platforms. "We consider ourselves to be in the middle," Johnson says. "Our partners build their IP leveraging both our platform and the Microsoft platform."

Johnson explains that many partners will custom-build things specifically for a given customer, but what Nintex built were things that many partners would want to use to build into their own practices.

Describing how the market told him the company had its own salable products, Johnson continues, "We had customers and, ultimately, partners who said, 'Jeez, we'd like to use that! We want to pay for it.' That was market validation that we had gone beyond just a little extension of the Microsoft SharePoint platform into something that had real meaning and value.

"Part of the reason we're unique is because we have a great appreciation and respect for what it is to be an SI or a VAR. That's where we started and then when we built our IP it was very valuable to other partners."

Nail Your Domain
Johnson's first advice to Microsoft partners trying to figure out where to focus the IP they create is, "Build solutions around where you already have domain expertise. What is in your partner DNA? Align the apps you create to that. Focus on your domain. Nail your domain!"

Talking about the use cases Nintex has seen most often, Johnson focuses on process automation around IT, including change management, project and portfolio processes. He suggests that partners review these and then go to their customers and help them automate other IT-centric business processes.

Making the Transition
Johnson talks about "crossing the chasm on the technology level," explaining that there will be a need for a change in skillsets.

"Our products are pretty easy to use, so instead of getting a high-end .NET coder you're typically going to be able to leverage someone at a lower price point, perhaps a business analyst.

More Columns by Howard M. Cohen:

About the Author

Howard M. Cohen is a consultant to IT vendors and channel partner companies and a board member of the U.S. chapter of the IAMCP. Reach him at


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