Thursday, August 25, 2011

What I learned about Office 365 customers



I recently had the privilege of attending the Microsoft Australian Partner Conference. In one of the sessions they brought two Office 365 customers onto the stage to speak about their experiences. Although it is only a very small sample what they said, I believe, resonates at a much greater levels. Here’s what I learnt:

1. Smaller customers are doing their own IT work. When asked whether they were using managed services from their new IT providers or simply using ad-hoc services, both said they couldn’t see much need for managed services. Why? Because most of the basic technology skills are pretty common or easily found using search engines, few are willing to pay for basic IT services.

What does that mean for your traditional IT reseller who believes managed services are the be all and end all? Simple, it ain’t. Traditional managed services will continue to work for those customers with legacy on site infra structure but if you want to sell cloud managed services you are going to have to rethink your business model, period.

2. Customers know what they want and more importantly want their needs taken seriously. The experience of one customer on stage demonstrated at how ‘old world’ most resellers are. The customer said they went through several IT providers and not one provided any option of moving to the cloud. When quizzed they all said it was a bad idea but didn’t really provide anything further than that. The client wanted to reduce their costs and complexity. They had done their research and they wanted to move to the cloud.

That should be a wake up call for traditional IT resellers. Your clients want to move to the cloud. They are doing their own research. They want to see at least the option worked into quotes. If you fail to do that as a reseller you look old, tired and obsolete. Worst of all, chances are the customer will go elsewhere.

3. The cloud delivers excellent solutions. Both clients where extremely happy and surprised at not only how well the process of migrating to the cloud went but also what additional functionality was available to them. The main reason for both customers initially moving to the cloud was for email but once they got into Office 365 they discovered the wealth of possibilities around SharePoint and Lync.

SharePoint and Lync represent the greatest opportunity for resellers to benefit from Office 365. Most customers have not seen what either product can do. There is also a wealth of additional consulting services that can be tied to each product that most customers are clambering in their business. SharePoint and messaging have been around for a while now so there is no excuse not to have some expertise in them. If you don’t then someone with the skills has the opportunity to step in and speak to YOUR customer in language that appeal to them. If this happens the chances are you’ll be more and more sidelined as the online relationship develops potentially to a point where you are no longer part of conversation.

I fully agree that two customers don’t make a majority but they are the saying the same thing I’m hearing and seeing from others out there. If you are a traditional reseller and you ignore this then you do so at your own peril, because at the end of the day you have no business without the customer.