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The incentives are driving serious growth at solution providers that have made significant investments in emerging Microsoft technologies along with new technical certifications and competencies.
Navantis, for example, has thrived as a Microsoft partner for 15 years, starting as a three-person company. Now a $40 million, nearly 400-person company, Navantis has doubled in size in the past two years by focusing solely on Microsoft products and services from application life-cycle management to SharePoint to Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Office 365.
John Kvasnic, co-founder and CEO of Navantis, based in Toronto, sees the Microsoft opportunity quotient growing at an exponential pace. He expects Navantis to double again over the next two and a half years, given the onslaught of new Microsoft technology.
"It is Windows 8, the ability to manage it all, public cloud, private cloud, the ability to collaborate with SharePoint, Lync, slate[s]," he said. "It's about anywhere, anytime, anyplace on your phone, on your tablet, on your computer, on your TV set. It is seamless. There are lots of pieces, but it all connects and all works together. I don't think any other firm has everything covered [like Microsoft does]."
Kvasnic also cites the close working relationship with Microsoft from partner reps all the way to the top of the company. Navantis recently received a big sales assist from Microsoft COO Kevin Turner that was critical in closing a 5,000-seat Office 365 deal with Indigo, the biggest online book retailer in Canada.
"It was definitely as a team," Kvasnic said of the win against Google's direct sales force, which dropped its price in an unsuccessful bid to seal the deal. "We had everybody from Microsoft helping us, from the president of Microsoft Canada to Kevin Turner."
Turner's rallying cry to partners at the Worldwide Partner Conference was "be tenacious, compete, and escalate to me" to drive sales growth. He gives partners his email and telephone number and urges them to get in touch if they need help closing a deal. In his keynote, he told the audience that there are 1.5 billion people on the planet that use Microsoft products, but there are another 5.5 billon "we need to go get with our partners."
It's that kind of ambition driving a new generation of Microsoft partners such as Nimbo, a two-year-old New York solution provider building a synchronization and storage application suite running on Windows Azure aimed at displacing Google Drive and DropBox.
"We've seen unbelievable growth with our Microsoft professional services business," said Nimbo COO Ira Bell. "We're only in our third year and we've seen 200 percent end-over-end growth for the first two years of our business. To put it in perspective, Nimbo hasn't been in a business a single day without at least one job opening."
Bell said the criticisms of Microsoft and Ballmer--taken to task by Forbes as the worst-ever CEO and by Vanity Fair for Microsoft's "Lost Decade"--are unfounded.
"Steve decided to take control of Microsoft's future by saying, 'You know what? We're going to own the hardware experience for Surface rather than letting someone control our destiny.' Further, he is doing something which has never been done in history before, which is to create a single unified experience across all devices with the Windows 8 theme. Some of the things I saw him demonstrate in Toronto were mind-blowing. That guy doesn't read science fiction. He creates it."