Business success in the information age requires 21st century communication and collaboration. The tools for working together are better now than they have ever been – with Microsoft Office 365, Windows, Azure, SharePoint, Dynamics CRM, and all the devices available to use them on, communicating and collaborating is getting faster, easier, and more secure.
At Sulava Oy, we help our clients identify and adopt the communications tools to be more productive and serve their customers better. Though we’re a relatively young organization, we’ve had great success helping our customers move to new platforms and utilize the cloud: we’ve deployed over 100,000 seats in Office 365, in a country of only five million people! And we saw 45% growth in this fiscal year. Maybe some of the strategies that made us successful can help other partners in their move to the cloud.
Know the “old work,” learn the “new work”

Before Sulava Oy was launched, I knew what roles we needed to fill, and I built a team to fit. We had the expertise in the architecture, software development, entrepreneurship, management and, of course, in sales and social marketing. The ten people who started the company were already experienced with Microsoft on-premise solutions, and I think that was key to our success. This expertise helped us identify what “new work” we needed to learn – how do these products work in the cloud? How do hybrid models operate, what does “mobile” mean, what is “identity access” in the cloud? Our background gave us a base to build on, and we haven’t stopped learning since.

Focus on business – not just IT – solutions

These days, we partners must provide more value to our customers by being focused on their business needs, not just their IT needs. Of course, it’s difficult to give up the revenue of on-premise solutions, but nowadays, the real value we partners can provide is in innovation and IP. For example, one of our first solutions was a knowledge-sharing platform for 40,000 employees of the City of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. This was the first city-level, social-collaboration solution that allowed employees to collaborate and innovate new ways of working across different functions. Jussi Pajunen, the mayor of Helsinki, described the new solution as a completely new way of managing and leading innovation in our capital.

Build relationships

When you’re working with customers to change how they do business, your relationship with them is ongoing. Look back at the Office 365 or Azure road maps – with so many things available and more coming all the time, our customers may not have the resources to explore every technological innovation. They rely on us to tell them, “There’s this new feature we think your company can use this way.” Because we know them, we know their business and the Microsoft cloud platform, we can really focus with them on their future and on getting things done.

Leverage Microsoft

We had great support from Microsoft from the very beginning. We especially developed a good relationship with local account executives, and by working closely with Microsoft, we were able to have 35-40 cloud-specific seminars, get early access to various programs, do press releases together, and more. Within four months, we became a managed partner. As we’ve proven that we are capable in the cloud and can migrate various customers very quickly, the support from Microsoft has grown. And it’s awesome. Sulava was chosen as Microsoft Country Partner of the Year in 2013 – we are probably the smallest and youngest company ever to achieve that recognition.

Our efforts as a partner have to be ongoing; we want to be in the front line in the future as well. We were the first partner in Finland to achieve Gold Competency in Cloud Productivity, and we have gained many competitive wins with Microsoft in FY15, too.

Whether you start a new cloud business or transform an old one, you have to shift your mindset completely – moving to cloud is going to change your business, how you manage it, your revenue streams, people’s roles, and so on. There are many possible revenue streams in the cloud, many ways to innovate and bring something new to the mix. Just stay focused and be determined to go all-in.