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Office 365 Business Analytics: The Secret Sauce for SMBs

The success of Office 365 in the small-and-medium-sized-business (SMB) space is making it a good year for the growing legion of Microsoft cloud partners. To keep that momentum going, building on recurring revenue each year, partners need to answer two questions: How do you help customers get so much value from Office 365 that renewals are a non-event? And what additional services will you deliver to build on Office 365 customer relationships?

For at least one forward-thinking partner in Atlanta, the answer to both questions is the same. The business analytic capabilities of Office 365 give SMB customers access to enterprise-level tools, and give the partner opportunities to make the magic happen.

Not Just for Enterprises Any More
Business analytics used to be the exclusive domain of large organizations, given the significant investments of infrastructure and human resources required to build data warehouses and dashboards. While some partners did build successful businesses around business intelligence (BI), the target market was generally not SMBs.

Joe Treanor, president of RoseBud Technologies, saw the change coming.

"When PowerPivot was released we saw that the capability which had been reserved for the enterprise was going to be available for SMBs. We knew that this presented an opportunity to bring BI to our clients without the big investments in infrastructure," he said.

"It's an exciting time for Microsoft partners to be able to show SMBs how to leverage those capabilities with Power BI," Joe continued. "The more Microsoft drives parity between the capabilities in the cloud and on-premise, the more we'll be able to put enterprise level BI tools in the hands of our clients."

The Value of Office 365
Educating customers about the depth of the Microsoft stack that they can access as part of Office 365 is the first step. Treanor's visits to customers always include explaining how much they can accomplish without any additional investment in software. (For an excellent overview of Power BI for Office 365, check out Kurt Mackie's in-depth article, "First Look: BI for Office 365.")

"All of these tools are part of Office 365. The client owns them and we want those customers to use all the functionality, driving real benefits for their business," noted RoseBud Vice President Greg Treanor. "From the partner viewpoint, the fuller the adoption, the more likely they are to renew at the end of the first year."

The flip side to that point, which should be top of mind for every cloud partner, is that customers who use only the bare minimum of Office 365 functionality may question their renewals. In that light, your role with customers has changed.

The Value of Added Services
"It takes a mental shift for the partner. It's different than the infrastructure approach. The value that the partner brings now has to be in helping customers be more profitable and more successful in the marketplace," Joe said. "Power BI gives you the opportunity to talk to clients about helping them improve day-to-day operations."

When speaking to business executives, Joe finds that reporting is a universal challenge and the perfect entry point to prove the value proposition of Office 365. "Most controllers and CFOs are held captive by software vendors with a fixed set of reports," he said. "When we tell them that we can connect the data from multiple departments and line-of-business applications, they see the value immediately."

As cloud partners build dependence on recurring revenue and new service models, BI for Office 365 can be a powerful tool. No matter what the size of the client, information is the life blood of their business. By helping customers tap into data that has been difficult to use, you add valuable services and help them leverage the full Microsoft Office 365 stack. Definitely a recipe for success.

How are you promoting Office 365 adoption? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share your story.

Posted by Barb Levisay on August 15, 2013 at 11:01 AM