Not too long ago an article posited whether Microsoft was irrelevant and it spurred a great conversation between myself and the award winning Microsoft experts Jerod Powell (CEO/Founder) and Dan Schneiderman (CIO) at InfinIT. Below is part 4 of what we’ve broken up into a 4 part series stemming from the conversation.

Part 1 – Is Microsoft Azure Still Relevant?
Part 2 – Thoughts on Azure Pricing, Support & Open Source Competition
Part 3 – Changes at Microsoft

Microsoft, Its Future and the Power of Azure

SEAN: What do you see as the future? One of the things that I love about you, Jerod, is you’re no-nonsense and you just don’t put up with any of the marketing and fluff. I’ve heard from a number of people that have been around you at the different Microsoft events you attend, where you’re like, “Look, guys, here’s some reality. We need this now; we don’t need it 6 months from now.”

Given the reality of what you’ve been talking about, how Microsoft is slow to move, what do you think is new and fresh that is going to be coming out of Microsoft that might help you do your job and deliver value to the customers that you’re working with?

JEROD: I think a lot of what holds them up as an organization is really the way that they define their boundaries, from a sales relationship, from the way that they define their business segments of small business, corporate accounts, enterprise. Just the way they’ve always done that has really set it up so that a few, like five distributors in the world, really controlled all that large accounts business. Accounts above 250 users in size were typically controlled in that way, which made it difficult from a partner perspective. I think also their licensing has hurt them in that it’s been so complex.

Some of the changes we’ve seen in programs is loosening up boundaries of where you can sell to as a partner; the size of clients that you can sell to is changing a little bit. That needs to change now, in my opinion. They should just take down all the barriers and let partners go and hammer it out. I think they would see huge sales results if they did that.

Customers are seeing a change slowly, and a simplification in licensing as well. I think that’s going to really help the partners as well. Microsoft is getting smart about involving partners earlier in new programs and initiatives, which has really helped. You see changes happen in the product a lot faster. Those are some of the things that I see. I’ve seen an improvement.

Things that I haven’t liked are some of the requirement changes and support that they’ve taken away in some of the partner programs. I didn’t like those originally, but fast forward to now, and I do like it, because what they’re doing is putting an emphasis on your performance as a partner across your sales performance, your technical aptitude to deploy the products, all of that. I think that’s helping because they’re refining this group of partners so they can go send out on new initiatives and get real feedback and then much more rapidly deploy new programs to the masses of partners.

That’s predominantly what they’re doing. I don’t have information on potential products they’re going to come out with in the future, but I would think that everything they make that would run on-prem today will be in the cloud, or that’s at least a relevant product.

SEAN: Last but not least, I’d love for you, Jerod, to do something that you don’t often do, but beat your chest: why should people take you seriously in the Microsoft space? I’d love for you to talk about your history there, the wars that you’ve won, why people should turn to you as thought leaders and people who actually know what the hell they’re talking about.

JEROD: For me personally, and for most of my staff, I’ve lived and breathed Microsoft technologies my entire IT career for the past 20 years. I did everything there: having every certification they had at one point, being a really strong Microsoft engineer, consulting on Microsoft solutions, to starting my own company that’s based on selling Microsoft and IT solutions.

I’m not so close-minded that I don’t realize that there are a lot of great solutions out there, and we’re always going to do what’s best for our customer based on their budget and where their business is going. But that being said, I think that’s why we really stick behind Microsoft. I think they have a great set of products to run your business on. That’s what we run our business on, and it works well for us.

And as far as reasons to go with us and why we’re thought leaders, we’ve been recommending and selling Office 365, which was the Business Productivity Online Suite for 6 or 7 years since it was an incubation product. And before that, we were doing exchange hosting and then moved our customers BPOS and then moved those customers on to Office 365. So we have a ton of experience across all the Microsoft cloud solutions.

In 2011, we were 3rd in the world for Cloud Partner of the Year and won Cloud Partner of the Year – West Coast. Two years later, we were West Coast Partner of the Year. And those are awards that we got for volume of implementations that we’ve done, for win-backs from competitors like Google Apps, and for just volume of sales.

I’ve also had the opportunity to go all over the West Coast and help train other partners, and often when Microsoft needs a group of partners trained or brought up to speed on Office 365 or Windows Intune, we’re the company they turn to. That experience really gives us a one-up to come in and be able to recommend the right solution for any of our customers.

I don’t know if that was very good chest-beating, but that’s the best I could do on short notice.

MIKE: The foundation of the InfinIT is built on cloud services, we live and breathe cloud, so that is what InfinIT excels at. Knowing Microsoft technology inside and out, while getting to know the client’s business inside and out, InfinIT will find and recommend the exact best solution for them. I think that’s InfinIT’s best strength.

JEROD: Yeah, our business is really our customers’ business. It’s putting ourselves in their shoes and selecting the right solution to support them, whether that’s Microsoft or not. Looking across our solutions set, we have a lot of different solutions other than Microsoft, and our #1 solution to our customers’ problems is and always will be our people. That’s just the way it is.

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