By: Dann Anthony Maurno
SaaSplaza, which offers cloud services for Dynamics, has announced that Microsoft has cleared the firm to become the first Microsoft partner to work as both an Indirect Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) and a Direct CSP.
The firm’s dual status means SaaSplaza will be providing Microsoft Dynamics AX solutions to end-customers directly and through its own network of affiliates. While this approach is not typical, SaaSplaza CEO Berend-Jan Van Maanen and CTO Dik van Brummen explained to MSDynamicsWorld.com why they are confident the company’s experience, reputation, and approach can overcome any questions about how they will operate and how they plan to deliver value to prospective partners.
As the CSP Indirect Provider (formerly known as a 2-Tier CSP), SaaSplaza will transact AX deals on behalf of affiliates and handle the management of Dynamics AX after deployment on Microsoft Azure. The company’s affiliates can sell the new AX via SaaSplaza without making the commitment to become a CSP partner themselves. Instead, they can focus on the scope and value of Microsoft cloud solutions, along with their own industry expertise and other value-added offerings rather than on transacting the software.
At the same time, SaaSplaza has also been cleared to sell AX directly to customers, alongside its affiliates.
“You can bet that in three to five years, the majority of Microsoft products and services will go through this channel,” van Brummen predicts, referring to Direct and Indirect CSPs. But he believes Microsoft has been selective in designating firms to participate in the programs – especially both simultaneously.
“The reason is really value on top of the proposition of being an indirect partner,” he says. “A lot of companies have tried to apply for the [Distributor status from Microsoft], but have heard ‘We’re not accepting this because you don’t add value.'”
The value SaaSplaza provides according to van Brummen, is “the delivery of knowledge with respect to AX. [Industry experience is that] it’s used to delivering a product. We deliver a service – the necessary support and guidance around the Dynamics AX offering.”
CSP is inevitable, but, who gets the lead?
van Brummen says the SaaSplaza model lent itself to worldwide distribution of Dynamics AX as an Indirect CSP.
“Our company started in 2008 with Dynamics, and we have always been working in a way that has been [like the] 2-Tier Microsoft model – that’s why we’re happy to be an Indirect CSP.”
Because it is also a Direct CSP, SaaSplaza will sell AX directly to customers. But Van Maanen observes no conflict between direct and indirect Dynamics AX cloud sales. The company has had years to build trust with its partners, he says.
“Since our start we think ‘Let’s enable the partner channel to take those fantastic vertical solutions [of our partners] to the cloud,'” he says. But we also saw some larger clients who want to deal with us directly, for direct access to 24/7 support, for example. Besides which, leads go both ways; “In some cases the partner says ‘No, I don’t want to do that front-line stuff, I don’t want that liability. We’d rather have you do that.'”
If a lead comes from a partner, he continues, “we ask ‘Would you like to stay in control and hold that lead?’ They become the point of contact and we do the cloud enablement. Or they can prefer to say ‘You deal with the customer directly.’ Even if we take care of licensing, they get credits for registering; they are the partner of record.”
Here again van Brummen points to the company’s partner-centric perspective. “If you look at the partner channel, they all want to be recognized for revenue at the Microsoft level. Our main interest has been the channel for the last eight years. We don’t care about being recognized by Microsoft. We think it’s more important to give [partners] revenue in the Microsoft perspective…So every day we distribute leads to partners; we provide them with leads and it’s not a one-way street.”
Still, both are selling Dynamics AX after all. Doesn’t that create some friction?
“I think you always see always some of that, but it depends how you go about it,” says van Brummen. “They know us as a partner company, so they know if they bring business to us on the licensing side, they will get recognized and rewarded. We do not dilute or take any interest away from them, which we arranged with Microsoft because in the end we have a joint interest [in taking] companies from on-premise to the cloud, and to jump any hurdle to do it.
“So I would say the partners are very comfortable with it, particularly the ones who’ve been with us a while, because they know we will not bypass our trust with them.”
Year one goals for enrollment of affiliates and clients
SaaSplaza is actively seeking new partners. van Brummen says the company grew by 40 percent in 2015 and 2014,
“Only because of taking on more partners. They know whatever critical trust they give to us must be honored; that’s why the [CSP] model works,” he said.
“It’s a little early in the curve,” he continued, “but we see already a number of proof-of-concepts with large corporate clients; a lot of interest, and people value our consultancy approach to guide them through the journey. Our current estimate is currently 50 online Dynamics AX implementations in the first 12 months. We’re very enthusiastic about uptake, and think that’s a feasible number.”