Three Microsoft partners have joined forces to take on large system integrators and service providers across Australia, targeting the lucrative cloud mid-market space.
Dubbed Cloud Collective, the strategic alliance brings together Antares Solutions, Modality Systems and Quorum, with the trio striking a formal agreement to create a ‘super-partner’ in a bid to win new deals nationwide.
Endorsed by Microsoft and representing the first of its kind in Australia, the Collective will see deeper levels of collaboration between the partners, tapping into each unique skill set to provide end-to-end technology solutions.
Spanning the Microsoft cloud technology stack, the group has recently worked on projects across a range of sectors, with customers including MidCoast Council, UNSW Global, Accident & Health International and Evolution Mining.
Making up the Collective is Sydney-based Antares Solutions, which has built a business on providing expertise around SharePoint, Microsoft Teams and Yammer, alongside application developments based on .NET, Power BI and Dynamics CRM.
Meanwhile, US-headquartered Modality Systems is one of the largest global partners for Skype for Business, taking out the Microsoft Communications Partner of the Year award in 2016.
In representing the final third of the Collective, Sydney-based Quorum specialises in Microsoft Azure, with expertise around infrastructure, platform, ExpressRoute, Office 365 and OneDrive for Business.
“The Cloud Collective provides the boutique experience the mid-market requires, but maintains the benefits of smaller vendors, such as specialisation, access to senior staff and zero bureaucracy,” Quorum Managing Director and Cloud Collective Spokesperson, Mark McLean, told ARN.
“When you look at the three organisations, we ultimately cover the Microsoft stack end-to-end. Individually, we can not do that and would need to bring in other partners.”
McLean told ARN that the three companies already had an existing agreement in place due to complementary offerings, making sense to pursue a more formal agreement.
“Many of the mid-market organisations which we all traditionally focus on require a broad set of skills, that of a large GSI [global system integrator],” he explained.
“But ultimately they don’t have the required budget and don’t want to deal with the added complexity.”
McLean said the new entity will provide customers with access to expertise usually reserved for GSIs, while offering end-user engagement that many larger players cannot deliver.
For McLean, this is a section of the market largely ignored by the big end of town.
“Most of those organisations, especially in the sub-1000 seat category, don’t want to be dealing with the large GSIs,” he added.
“We’ve had good results with customers both in corporate and government, because we’re smaller niche providers that are more agile and provide the benefits of specialisation across the entire Microsoft stack.”
In drawing on over ten years of market experience, the trio have delivered complex projects for private and public organisations, both in Australia and overseas.
Through combining capabilities however, the Collective struck a deal with Accident & Health International (AHI) an IAG Company, working as one entity to help digitally transform the business.
“AHI, like the entire insurance industry, must become more resilient,” AHI Chief Operating Officer (COO), Hugh Ross, said.
“Accordingly, we need to transform digitally to leverage the power of technology. In our business, we are strategically investing to deliver new electronic platforms to our broker network and ramp up the modelling of our data to segment and analyse every facet of our portfolio.
“We required assistance moving from core legacy systems, to a newly redesigned IT infrastructure, including a new corporate intranet.”
The according to Ross, the Collective model ensures the customer “doesn’t have to worry” about multiple communication between different vendors.
“They take collective ownership of the end to end project, not just an individual piece of the puzzle,” he explained.
“We now don’t worry about one vendor ‘passing the buck’ on issues. At the same time, we still receive the high level of service and access to senior people that we require when we engage specialist partners.”
Creating a collaborative channel
Despite the launch of Collective however, Microsoft partners have traditionally been guarded when engaging in partner-to-partner relationships.
Because the term collaboration remains ambiguous in its definition, meaning many things to many businesses.
For some partners, collaboration can be used to access specific capabilities required to complete specific projects, while others view it as an on-going business asset to further growth.
As reported by ARN, and amongst the crowded channel in Australia, resellers remain who wouldn’t dream of joining forces with potential competitors, for fear of losing out on future deals.
But as the market shifts and customer demands change, reliable partner-to-partner relationships are once again demonstrating value in the local channel.
“The Cloud Collective is a great example of partners working together to better service our joint customers,” Microsoft Director of Partner Sales, Claudia McIntosh, added.
Demonstrated during the 2016 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, the tech giant is finding new ways to combine its vast partner base across the channel, assessing ways in which to utilise an expanding and ever-changing ecosystem.
“As a vendor we’re always finding new ways to cultivate partner to partner connections,” said former Microsoft Director of Partner Development, Phil Goldie, when speaking to ARN on the ground in Toronto.
“There’s an appetite for partners to find synergies between different businesses and areas of working together.”