A Second Look at Microsoft BPOSBy Dave Sobel | Print
While many solution providers have considered Microsoft's online applications suite a direct threat to their businesses, a closer inspection reveals a surprising reality.
I get it.
I’ve been struggling to understand where Microsoft BPOS fits in my cloud strategy, and I finally get it.
Last time I wrote, I concentrated on the perils of the transition to the cloud. With multiple players and changes in our managed services strategies, I’ve given a lot of thought to how cloud fits into our plans. I still haven’t figured out how we’re going to tackle the issues I brought up last week, but I have made one of the pieces fit in the puzzle.
Since it was first announced, I believed that Microsoft BPOS was a direct play on my customer base. Certainly the criticism and problems with the product – and my main objection is still there – were all focused on how it wasn’t partner friendly. It seemed that Microsoft was making a play to own the customer.
I spent some time in Redmond last week for the MVP Summit. While I was there, I took the opportunity to meet with my friend Arnie Mondloch in the US Partner Group. Arnie and I have known one another for a while now, and kept in touch. He’d actually read my blog, and it led right into our discussion as he had some questions about my thinking. As I love talking with him and with Microsoft, we made time to sit down and compare notes on what we’re both working on, and he asked a very important question: "What more can we do to help?" He asked me to review some documents that Microsoft had put out in regards to BPOS for partner guidance. On the plane ride home, I did.
They’re pretty strong pieces. I focused on the Managed Services Provider one, although I read it and the Solution Provider one in depth. This paragraph struck home:
BPOS partners are finding that BPOS can help them create opportunities with new customers. For example, a partner may have a customer in transition that is seeking to lower costs or seeking less complexity than their current solution. When the partner has exhausted alternatives with its existing portfolio of on-premises or partner-hosted solutions, BPOS may prove to be the best alternative for developing a customer relationship.
I was struck with "when [a] partner has exhausted alternatives with its existing portfolio" – which I think is probably the most important phrase. In the guide, Microsoft appears to rank partner hosted solutions BEFORE BPOS. Is this the thinking? I was left thinking.
I know my own hosted offering is stronger than BPOS. This isn’t a slight on BPOS, but rather a reality check. My offering comes with front line help desk staff, and field engineers who can go onsite (or work remotely) and work with customers to answer their questions. Our hosted offering offers integrated ticketing, meaning customers can have their issues tracked across all their needs, and it offers integrated billing, so they can manage their relationship with just one vendor. Our offering is more feature rich while still offering the complete Microsoft Exchange solution. Our offering includes more robust anti-spam controls, as well as an easy-to-use archiving feature for compliance needs. We even have the ability to do encrypted email. But up until this reading, I had believed that Microsoft BPOS competed with my hosted offering.
It doesn’t. It says so in the Microsoft guides.
When I read the Microsoft guides, the "partner hosted solutions" piece sounds just like my offering! It makes my decision tree for offering solutions simple:
- Is on-premise best (or required)?
- If not, is partner-hosted best (or required)?
- If not, is BPOS best?
The third is important – of all the hosted solutions out there that aren’t mine, BPOS is the only one that not only does include me a partner, but is delivered by one of the partners I do the most with, Microsoft.
I’m not saying BPOS is perfect, or even channel-friendly. I’d much prefer it if I could handle orders, work, and billing as part of it. I wish it had integration to management solutions. I wish it had a lot of things it doesn’t. But I understand its position.
And that understanding is what is really important. With all the "air cover" around BPOS, you tend to think it’s the lead message. I don’t believe it is, nor is it intended to be.
I think it’s more important for us to get back to basics. Basics for us have always been assessments. Assessments continue to be the basics, and we simply add two new options into our toolbox for handle cloud questions. Our assessments become richer, and offer more options.
I get it.
Dave Sobel is CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Washington, D.C.-based solution provider, and is regular contributor to Channel Insider.