Avanade has specialized in messaging migrations for quite a while. In fact, the company has migrated over 20 million accounts across the Exchange, Lotus Notes, and Novell Groupwise platforms. So when BPOS first started rolling out in the fourth quarter, it was a logical addition to Avanade’s lineup of supported products. In part because Microsoft still maintains a stake in Avanade, the company had direct links to the best resources for learning the cloud platform’s ins and outs. It also helps that Avanade participates in Microsoft’s invitation-only Technical Adoption Program (TAP), the vendor’s first line of deployment outside of its own walls. This status lets companies such as Avanade provide feedback during Microsoft’s product development cycles.
“Within Avanade, we regularly have conversations at the highest levels with the Microsoft BPOS team,” says Gregory Molnar, director of the technology infrastructure practice in Avanade’s Central USA region. “Both sides talk about what we have going on. That engagement goes all the way down into our field. Here in the Midwest, Microsoft has individuals dedicated to support their partner channel, and I probably engage with that individual on a weekly basis to discuss various things that we’re seeing with customers that we’re jointly pursuing as well as new opportunities, new things going on, when releases are happening, and so on.”
Having a TAP member isn’t necessarily essential when picking a BPOS advisor, but knowing you’ve got someone who got in on the ground floor, has more experience with the platform than practically anyone, and has a direct line to Microsoft’s best support resources sure doesn’t hurt. As interest in cloud computing has skyrocketed over the past year, Avanade has made mastering the model one of its top priorities.
However, it’s important to point out here that there are two types of channel partners in this role with Microsoft. The first are bona fide advisors, such as Avanade, and the second are actual resellers working to help customers into a closed sale. Typically, Avanade doesn’t resell product. Instead, it wants to engage with customers early on in the BPOS sales cycle and determine before anything else if BPOS is actually the right solution for the client. If so, then the transaction would usually be handed over to Microsoft, while Avanade stayed on to assist with migration planning and execution.
Now, there are situations where a reseller and an advisor work together. A traditional hardware builder might not have much experience with software services, for example, and when its client orders 100 new PCs as part of a divisional overhaul, the reseller could work with the advisor to make sure the systems are compatible with the software platform. The reseller would probably also get a bit of referral business for bringing the advisor into the loop, and the customer would know he’s getting the best support from specialists on both his hardware and platform changes.