In my role as the Partner Profitability lead for the Worldwide Partner Group, I am often asked to share insights into the best practices from partners who have made their transition to the cloud. The reality is that the journey to the cloud is different for every partner. Each partner I have met with has a very different story depending on their starting point and their aspirations for where they want to take their business.
I’ll start this series with a profile on Dot Net Solutions, 2014 Microsoft UK Partner of the year. Dot Net offers a slew of cloud services including core infrastructure, application development, Office 365 deployment and management, digital transformation, and cloud backup, disaster recovery and storage. I had an eye opening conversation this week with Founder Dan Scarfe. I have had the pleasure of meeting with Dan on several occasions over the last three years as he has led Dot Net’s transition from an on premise software development firm to the managed and project services infrastructure business they are today. Each time I have met with Dan, Dot Net has been at a new stage of transformation. One of the things that struck me after each discussion was how agile and connected Dot Net is to the trends and opportunities in the market.
Dot Net has taken a phased approach to their transition. They started by adding an infrastructure practice to their business two years ago and added managed services to their business nearly a year ago. Here is a quick summary of my key takeaways:
  1. Be prepared to restructure your company and your processes

    Dot Net’s transition has required a complete restructuring of their company to support the new business focus. They restructured their sales team and added a technical sales function as they have learned that the sale in the corporate accounts and enterprise space requires deep technical expertise during the sales process.

    Dan commented that “Infrastructure sales are very technical. Technical sellers are doing most of the work to land the customers.” The structure and process that these sellers take is also important. “You are dealing with mission critical applications and you have to be more structured in what you do. We took learnings from our agile heritage, for example breaking things into manageable chunks. We don’t try to boil the ocean.”

    In support of the addition of managed services to their practices, Dot Net has implemented a new policy to include their managed services in all of their proposals and has reinvented their incentive system to provide stronger rewards for managed services attach for their sales team.

  2. It takes investment

    Dot Net’s latest phase of their transition is the addition of Managed Services to their practice. “Managed services is a whole new world for us. We had to make some huge investments to get it going.” According to Dan this involved hiring and setting up a dedicated team to service their managed services customers. He indicated that he has seen a lot of partners try to use their implementation team to also run their managed services and this can lead to trouble if your implementation team is in the field with customers and then is also trying to support any issues that might arise in the managed service practice. In addition to hiring incremental resources, Dot Net has also made big investments in systems and tools to support their managed services practices including Parature and System Center tooling system. They are particularly excited about how the new Operations Management Suite can fit in to this lineup too.

  3. Sometimes buying is better than building

    While Dot Net chose to build their infrastructure and managed services businesses from the ground up, they opted to make an acquisition to speed up their Office 365 practice. “The market was so hot and was moving so fast, that we just couldn’t wait for organic growth on the 365 side.” Dot Net acquired boutique Office 365 specialists Aims Online in early 2014. “Aims had a great reputation in the market, great case studies, and great people. This acquisition saved 6-12 months of organic growth and was one of the best decisions we have made in our journey to the Cloud.”

  4. You must take a long term view

    Dan commented that it took 6-12 months of hard work to get their infrastructure business up and running and 8 months to get their managed services off the ground. Building a business in the cloud requires perseverance and focus and you need to be committed to making investments that may take months and even years to pay off.

I’m excited to report that Dan will be participating in a panel discussion in the “Learn What Successful Cloud Partners Know about Building a Profitable Cloud Business with Microsoft” session which is part of the Partner Profitability half day deep dive of sessions at WPC! If you are attending WPC, I highly recommend you join us Sunday from 1-4:30 or Tuesday afternoon from 1-5 for the Profitability Deep Dive. You can register for the Sunday deep dive here (registration required) or check out the full line up of profitability sessions during the conference.
My goal is to provide a realistic view of what it takes to be successful as well as bring some key lessons learned to the forefront. If you have a compelling story to tell, by all means, please reach out to me, I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time,

Jen

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