SHI Buys 18-Person Microsoft Services Maestro

Solution provider superstar SHI International plans to turbocharge its fast-growing Microsoft practice by purchasing a boutique partner laser-focused on streamlining volume licensing deployments.

The Somerset, N.J.-based company, No. 12 on the CRN 2015 Solution Provider 500, said its acquisition of Eastridge, an 18-person Microsoft shop based in Winston-Salem, N.C., will enable it to provide more support around technologies such as SharePoint, Office 365 and Azure.

"Microsoft is in every environment," Ed McNamara, SHI's director of marketing and communications, told CRN. "We've seen tremendous growth in that area, and we needed reinforcements."

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Terms of the deal, which closed Monday, were not disclosed. The acquisition does not encompass Eastridge's hosting arm and includes just its professional services employees.

SHI began expanding from the enterprise to the corporate and SMB spaces in late 2008 and early 2009, McNamara said, but came to realize that -- unlike enterprise customers -- these clients needed support beyond acquiring volume licenses. SHI has the largest volume licensing practice in the world, but small and midsized customers often didn't have the resources in-house to deploy or utilize these licenses.

"We needed to augment the post-sales support we could provide to customers of that size," McNamara said.

Bringing Eastridge on board will allow SHI to standardize post-sales support for Microsoft customers across the country, McNamara said. SHI has been relying on a network of Microsoft partners -- including Eastridge -- to provide services around Microsoft licenses, McNamara said, but vetting and researching those partners across many geographic areas has been a heavy lift.

"When you rely on a partner level, there is a level of maintenance that needs to happen," McNamara said.

SHI hasn't yet addressed whether its clients outside of the United States will be able to take advantage of Eastridge's offerings, McNamara said, as the company operates only within the U.S. today.

Eastridge President Travis Hargett will join SHI as part of the acquisition and continue to lead the Eastridge operation, reporting to Hal Jagger, SHI’s vice president and general manager of corporate sales. Eastridge's offerings will eventually be rebranded under the SHI moniker, McNamara said, and its employees will be aligned with SHI's existing field sales force.

A significant portion of Eastridge's existing customers already work with SHI, McNamara said. But for those Eastridge customers new to SHI, they will be able to tap into the solution provider's largest Microsoft support team and additional expertise on the program side.

Eastridge was founded in 1998 and works with businesses of 250 to 10,000 employees.

Although SHI is willing to listen to acquisition offers and consider the ones that make sense, McNamara said the company hadn't undertaken any significant M&A in recent years.

"Historically, SHI has not experienced M&A," he said.

And despite already being Microsoft's largest partner in the world, McNamara said, SHI delivered 12 percent sales around the Redmond, Wash.-based vendor in 2015.

"If you're serving customers' IT needs, Microsoft has to be a big part of that conversation," McNamara said.