The foundation for Softchoice’s managed services portfolio was laid when the Toronto solution provider acquired fellow CDN Top 100 member Unis Lumin three years ago.

The new Keystone Essentials for Office 365 name originates from Unis Lumin, said Richard Carson, Softchoice’s North American services marketing manager.

At the time of the acquisition, Softchoice leadership saw customers shifting the role of IT away from traditional on-premise to the cloud.

Richard Carson of Softchoice
Richard Carson of Softchoice

According to Carson, the fastest growing portfolio area at Softchoice is Microsoft cloud-based services, at a 45 per cent clip. The actual spend with customers has grown past 200 per cent highlighted by Office 365 adoption.

“This adoption is consistent with the pace from other partners in the market,” Carson said.

Christopher Wynder, an analyst at InfoTech Research of London, Ont., confirmed Office 365 acceptance in Canada is starting to go up. Wynder has, in the last three or four months, spoken to more organizations interested in Office 365.

“Those organizations are in education (universities, public schools) and large geographically distributed companies. But not so much SMBs or enterprises.” That’s because of data residency concerns, he said, noting that Microsoft doesn’t have data centres here for running Office 365.

But, many other solution providers are finding it hard to turn a profit with Office 365 because of its low entry price levels.

Carson says that it’s important for solution providers to realize Microsoft is falling in line with its revenues and those revenues are not focused on  license management.

“Today you have to help the customer deploy, consume and adopt technology that delivers business results. Software has been on this path for three years and keep in mind that we carry leading spots for enterprise agreement management. We recognize that customers expect more from us from a value perspective. The partner of the future; what it looks like is someone who helps out a customer in making tough decisions and can provision and secure devices around the cloud services,” Carson said.

Wynder added that the big concerns for customers with Office 365 are how to secure it and BYOD. And there is another struggle with SharePoint.

“Office is not the most important part of Office 365 – the most important parts are SharePoint and Lync from an IT perspective. Most organizations don’t do SharePoint well – 50 per cent (of on premise implementations) fail because they don’t know how to manage SharePoint – how to put up a SharePoint site, what to allow on it. Where most organizations have a problem is around how to bring a cloud service in securely and most organizations aren’t ready to secure a cloud service,” Wynder said.

Another factor that Carson is seeing in the market is that most clients want to move email and other business productivity tools out of the management game. The IT department is more interested in business process, analytics, business alignment and playing an advisory role in day-to-day management.

“Customers are conditioned to the idea that most things are going to the cloud and they want to hand the keys over. It’s a good thing, but the biggest thing we have to do is educatie the client on on-premise and that transition to a more innovative state. Helping them understand on-premise and hybrid cloud. We are educating customers on Office 365 and 99.9 per cent uptime and SLAs from Microsoft,” Carson said.

With files from Howard Solomon

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