Office 365 From Verizon, Dell, Sprint: 5 Ways You Can Compete
As giants like Verizon (NYSE: VZN), Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) and Sprint (NYSE: S) agree to offer Office 365, can small Microsoft cloud partners continue to dance among those giants? The answer remains absolutely yes. Here’s why.
First, some background. When Microsoft unveiled Office 365 in June 2011, the initial strategy involved so-called Office 365 syndication services. The idea: Big service providers — typically telcos and cable companies — can leverage the syndication services to (A) sell the cloud suite to customers (B) wrap additional services around Office 365 and (C) manage end-customer billing.
Translation: Companies like Verizon, Dell and Sprint typically are NOT hosting Office 365. Rather, they are tapping into Microsoft’s data centers, pulling the Office 365 feed from there, and then wrapping more services around the offerings for end-customers.
So how can small channel partners compete against giants that promote Office 365? A few thoughts:
1. All Office 365 is created equally: Remember, Microsoft is doing all the hosting. So if a customer asks how your Office 365 service compares to Verizon, Dell and Sprint, just drive home the fact that everyone is tapping into Microsoft’s cloud. The big difference: As a local solutions provider you provide the deep business relationship and support that the giants can’t necessarily match.
2. Seek Out Hosted Exchange Partners: There’s a difference between Office 365 (served up by Microsoft) and third-party hosted Exchange services (offered up by Apptix, Intermedia, Rackspace, SherWeb and others). Do your home work. Figure out which of those Exchange service providers delivers the best partner program and partner up with them. Need more suggestions? Check our Top 100 Cloud Services Providers (CSP) list.
3. Consider Alternatives: A lengthy list of cloud services providers host alternative email platforms — such as Open-Xchange and VMware’s Zimbra. And many third-party cloud email services support Microsoft Outlook on the front-end — giving end-users the user interface they typically know best. And don’t overlook Google Apps. Many of the world’s top 100 CSPs offer Google Apps migration services. (In fact, there are now 6,000 Google Apps channel partners.)
4. Speak With Parallels: I believe no software company has more experience helping service providers to launch SaaS applications in the cloud. Parallels has assisted dozens of service providers with Office 365 syndication as well.
5. Same Story, Different Era: Rewind to the age of client-server deployments. Which companies made the most money deploying Exchange Server? Giants like Hewlett-Packard and Dell certainly come to mind. They migrated missions of corporate inboxes to Exchange. But smaller, localized channel partners dominated Exchange in the SMB market. I suspect the same story could repeat itself for Office 365 — if channel partners wake up to the opportunity instead of fearing it.
Check out Microsoft training and rewards efforts like Cloud Accelerate and Cloud Essentials to get educated.
Each week there’s a new giant offering Office 365. Don’t be intimidated. Do you research… and listen to your customers needs carefully.