Is there a fundamental shift in the economic landscape of cloud computing today? The cost of migrations which have historically served as a sizable barrier to cloud adoption for organizations of all sizes, are now being reconsidered by vendors. Microsoft, for example, has decided to help businesses sidestep the usual costs of migration through programs like FastTrack. Today we speak to Mark Haddad, VP of Microsoft Sales at SADA Systems, about how he sees this vendor approach impacting how partners bid for projects, and how customers can reap the benefits of these programs with the right research.
What about the typical cost and approach of migrating to the cloud has changed the most in the last 2-3 years?
Moving to the cloud is a very general statement. When organizations are thinking about going to the cloud, it’s usually because of either a forward motion of innovation, or an operational desire to reduce costs from a capital expense perspective. We’re usually called in to help explore more optimal ways of doing that move. Part of the change, which represents a significant portion of the challenge, is around equipping the organization with the right plan and business and technical consultants. Due to the overwhelming optics required for the change, leaders might wonder how to dip their toes in the cloud and focus on bringing one app or business tools, like mail, in to get the ball rolling. By the way, I’m not marginalizing the impact of moving mail! There are still many companies who haven’t moved to the cloud yet.
Generally speaking, moving to the cloud can feel like a costly endeavor. And, depending on just what you’re moving—applications, infrastructure, just mail or data libraries—the more stuff you have, the more costs there are. In some cases, it’s not very technical work though laborious, while most projects include larger organizational architecture work. In either case though, it adds up to a lot of time and costs money, which includes a promise of reduced, or changed, expenditures.
So how is Microsoft changing how organizations view the cost of cloud migrations?
Outside of what Microsoft is typically known for doing, they essentially hijacked a part of the budget issue for migrating to the cloud – surprise! While this has major impacts to the partner channel and how they operate as individual companies, the client side of the change is incredible. Rather than thinking about this heavy project load and budget that needs to be migrated, Microsoft focused on how can they attract these customers onto our platform, lower the cost barrier and increase usage (adoption).In a herculean investment effort, Microsoft set out to cut the legs out of key system migration budgets. They decided to reduce migration costs as an obstacle to entry and made it free for the customer through a dedicated group of support personnel as a direct connection for the customer.
Enter Microsoft’s FastTrack Center program (FTC). FTC is a complimentary benefit to customers where Microsoft helps coach the organization through parts of the implementation. In all reality, there are other reasons why Microsoft started the FTC concept, one of which was to get a better sense of how customers were adopting and using the services that were purchased. The intention, I believe, was so that they could help suggest new or additional services, like change management, to help a customer benefit from the investment more fully. For example, there could be parts of an organization not using the tools, or the organization may not be fully driving the change to a new platform. Both scenarios cost a company money and potentially lagging employee engagement.
Microsoft has chosen a select group of partners for the FTC program to provide the onboarding and adoption benefit of FastTrack combined with the opportunity to leverage SADA consulting for a more efficient and comprehensive cloud deployment.
Do you see this a lot? Users tolerating less-than-ideal solutions because they can’t validate the migration costs?
Yes. Look at the pain point of moving from Lotus Notes to Office 365. Lotus is a beast. It’s highly ingrained with many business processes. It’s a complex project to facilitate the move to Office 365 for well entrenched organizations. Not only is it a monstrous effort to move systems, the costs can continually delay the project.
With the FastTrack program,costs to migration can be greatly reduced while SADA consulting provides critical change management. First, the client will pay less which becomes an increasingly attractive way to bump up its priority. Second, the new budget availability can allow the business to get other stuff done. Think business process redesign.
Ultimately, this effort is shifting the way the market looks at these projects, and it has had a tremendous impact in the market. Competitors are having a hard time with it. I like to compare what Microsoft has done with being the Dollar Shave Club of migrations. They are recognizing a way to greatly reduce the cost of the business. This has nothing to do with me being bald. Promise.
How has Microsoft’s FastTrack approach eliminated one key obstacle to entry–cost–for organizations considering a move to the cloud?
I think what Microsoft did was look at the typical cost of migrations for both larger and smaller organizations. In organizations with large migration needs, the cost of moving the data can cost up to 50% or more of the wrench turning part of the implementation.
Also, the midmarket and SMB space, while requiring more transactions to get there, account for a huge portion of their Office 365 business. Microsoft aimed to make it easy to make that shift. As planned, the uptake in this program has been surprisingly larger than anticipated as enterprise organizations have jumped in the mix.
So what is the FastTrack Program? How does it work? Who can qualify for it?
The FastTrack Program is a complimentary benefit as long as 50 Office 365 licenses are purchased. In order for FastTrack to conduct the migration, 150 Office 365 licenses need to be purchased. In SADA’s case, the partner acts as Microsoft coaching the customer. We are very proud of the opportunity to be in the program. With all the partners in the world, Microsoft has picked a select few to work within the FastTrack Partners Program, and we’re one of them.
We have one of the highest Customer Satisfaction scores in the program, though I’d venture to say that we’re number one. Marketing will probably yell at me for saying that publicly. The capability we have invested in offers our ability to deliver that white glove service for a customer.
The ultimate experience is when one of our customers is shepherded through our consulting services while offering FastTrack capability. For the client, it’s a single, holistic customer experience. We position our services and account management offerings in a way that leverages our own customer engagement perspective. The client can then deal with one service organization, SADA, and have a great time doing it. Who would have ever thought that people would have a good time with a migration… Who knew?
Meet Jahnai Bilovsky, Partner Resource Manager for the Microsoft FastTrack Program.
Beyond the more obvious upfront savings for customers, are there additional benefits to the FastTrack program that participants will see? Down the road savings? Benefits in terms of better strategy or more robust product offerings?
Clients are in the business of moving needles for their organization and customer base – reducing cost, increasing customer growth, etc. There are more things to worry about than the basic blocking and tackling in a migration. Microsoft has truly adjusted their strategy to be more ubiquitous and open to organizations using different tech tools, and it also seems like they are listening to the market’s demands from a product management perspective. Look at Teams, Dynamics 365 and Skype for Business.
From a client perspective, that’s pretty compelling.