Microsoft has always been a deliberately partner-centric organization. The rich partner ecosystem that has emerged around the Microsoft stack of technologies over the past couple of decades is proof that this symbiotic relationship has worked – and worked well. With that said, the new Microsoft we’ve seen take shape over the last few years is, in some ways, a very different Microsoft than the one we’ve come to know. The changes within Microsoft are a reaction to some amazing but disruptive changes in the overall technology industry. “Evolve or die” is a phrase that comes often to mind… and it’s truer than ever for both Microsoft and its partner ecosystem. So what does it mean to partner with this new Microsoft?
Aligning to Makes IT Admins’ Lives Easier
As an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) partner of Microsoft, AvePoint’s mission is to bring to market products and solutions that integrate, extend, and complement Microsoft’s technology to solve business problems and drive productivity. Classically, this meant working closely with the Microsoft product teams early in their three-year release cycles, understanding where they were heading (and where they weren’t), and devising a product strategy that filled gaps in which Microsoft didn’t invest – enabling usage scenarios that were missing or incomplete in the latest Microsoft release. Our development cycle progressed nicely alongside the Microsoft product team’s release cycle.
Historically, Microsoft invested in features and enhancements that drove sales and renewals. Oftentimes, that meant deployment, management, and administration features had lower priority in their product roadmaps. “Making the admin’s life easier” was never really a key sales driver for Microsoft as it knew in order to get and keep customers on their platforms, it had to focus on business drivers – not IT headaches. That created a natural market that we at AvePoint were only too happy to address. Backup, administration, permissions management, and reporting for Microsoft technologies—these were product areas we invested in starting in 2001 and these product lines are still strong parts of our overall portfolio today.
Supporting an Evolving Information Management Landscape
Change comes quickly in the technology world— and the world became cloudy, BECAUSE of “the cloud.” Organizations’ desire to increasingly cede the responsibility for maintaining and operating some (or all) of their IT infrastructure emerged just as internet bandwidth and web-based technologies were finally fast and stable enough to get real work done over a cloud-hosted service. The result is a world in which most IT folks now spend at least as much time talking about services as they do about servers.
The cloud brought with it a new model of how software is developed and released. The three-year release cycle has given way to a more agile process where releases are rapid and constant. For Microsoft, like all cloud vendors, decisions about what features to develop and how to implement them can be made, changed, and shifted very quickly as the market or telemetry data demand. Where Microsoft used to know its release scope two to three years in advance, now they may not know what they will be prioritizing six months ahead. In addition, where administration and management of the system used to be a lower-priority investment, Microsoft is now making serious investments in scalability and supportability of products like Exchange and SharePoint as the burden of supporting the largest deployments of these products now falls to their own operations teams.
As Microsoft has matured and grown in this period of change, AvePoint too has been on the path of evolution. Our investments in infrastructure management products for SharePoint have expanded into fully SaaS-based management platforms for Office 365 and support for complex hybrid deployments where an organization keeps some IT infrastructure under local control and “rents” cloud services from Microsoft as needed. As customers have grown more sophisticated about the nature and criticality of the collaboration in their systems, AvePoint has become a leader in governance and compliance solutions that enable organizations to drive productive collaboration with the confidence that their systems are being used as intended.
At the same time, the promise of the cloud is that organizations spending less time maintaining IT-related “plumbing” can spend more time driving business value. Microsoft is keying in on this shift with investments in productivity-boosting technologies like the Office Graph and Delve. AvePoint continues to embrace this shift with productivity solutions including AvePoint Meetings, AvePoint Office Connect, and AvePoint Citizen Connect, reflecting this evolving priority of the market to find new and innovative ways to work better, faster, and cheaper.
Working Together to Simplify the Productivity Road Ahead
The challenges to a Microsoft ISV partner like AvePoint are significant. We need to move faster, shift often, and build products for an increasingly sophisticated set of customers. It’s no surprise that what enables us to meet tomorrow’s challenges is the same thing that helps drive our success today – our deep and symbiotic partnership with Microsoft. There are many lessons we learn about market priorities and operating a cloud service at scale because of our frequent interactions with the Microsoft product teams. The willingness of the Microsoft sales and marketing teams to engage in planning and go-to-market strategies that create significant value and opportunities for our joint customers creates wins for both of us. The Microsoft of today seems more dedicated than ever to the partner ecosystem – it’s clear that even though technology, business models, and customer priorities change fast and often, we can only win in the long run by finding the common ground and going to market together.