A Cloud Turning Point For A Microsoft Dynamics VAR

The AIS Group

The "tipping point" came after a notoriously conservative financial customer that The AIS Group had worked with in the past decided to go with NetSuite rather than Microsoft Dynamics GP.

Whittle says The AIS Group was "surprised" by the customer's decision, given what had been a hesitancy among financial customers to "give up control of IT and data management for obvious reasons including regulatory" requirements.

The customer was impressed by NetSuite's ability to offer a global solution via the Web with full Asian double byte language support. That meant full support for Asian countries where the customer was doing some outsourcing. That language support and NetSuite's ability to provide solid 24 hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week support were critical factors.

That deal was also a wake-up call of sorts for The AIS Group, which decided to look at becoming a NetSuite partner. To The AIS Group's pleasant surprise, a number of the executives from NetSuite had their roots in the ACCPAC Software that The AIS Group had sold at one time.

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"The NetSuite guys heading up the channel were all old industry guys," he said. "They had been around the block just like us." That made the move more comfortable for The AIS Group which brought on the NetSuite product line last October.

Whittle says The AIS Group still represents Microsoft Dynamics GP. But the NetSuite addition has brought new life to The AIS Group, which closed a deal within a month of picking up the NetSuite offering and has a growing pipeline of NetSuite deals. He says it is likely that NetSuite is likely to account for 50 percent of new customers this year.

"At the end of the day it was important for us to have a second offering in the cloud/SaaS space," he said. "So many tech savvy companies in the Bay Area are virtualizing their IT and reducing their hardware infrastructure. All of a sudden cloud computing is a more viable option and we did not feel that having an on-premise solution (like Microsoft Dynamics GP) even if it was hosted was enough. There is definitely a trend of companies moving away from heavy IT infrastructure."

The big difference between the on-premise solutions and the cloud offerings is the "single interface" for cloud/SaaS offerings like NetSuite, says Whittle. "With cloud, everybody gets the same look and feel. Everyone goes to the same place. With on premise solutions there are different pieces to the puzzle," he said.

Pulling together those different puzzle pieces is no small matter for those eyeing cloud versus on premise solutions. With NetSuite, a third party shipping application tied to the platform is a seamless, said Whittle. But with on premise solutions it's another piece to the puzzle.

Whittle looks at the NetSuite addition as an epochal moment for The AIS Group. It doesn't mean that The AIS Group is abandoning the Microsoft Dynamics GP platform. "If people want an on premise solution we have one of the best -- if not the best -- in the midmarket accounting sector," he said. "If people want a cloud/SaaS solution we have NetSuite."

That said, Whittle views the NetSuite addition as a turning point for The AIS Group. "It certainly is a huge moment for us," he says. "To be honest, we have been reinvigorated as business owners by taking on this product. After a tough year, it has given us new drive and excitement and a really good kick in the pants. We are positively looking forward to this year and beyond."

Whittle says many of the Bay Area solution providers experienced as much as a 50 percent drop in sales. "Our industry has been under a lot of pressure," he says. "And the Bay area (IT business) suffered greatly."

Whittle says there were a lot of sleepless nights for him and his team last year given the IT downturn. These days, with the addition of NetSuite, he's sleeping a lot better. He sees the NetSuite business and the prospect of more recurring revenue bringing greater "financial security" to The AIS Group.

"We're looking forward to better days," says Whittle. "That is the bottom line. We are reinvigorated and excited about the outlook and growth of our business with the addition of NetSuite."