AppDirect Beefs Up Its Platform For Selling Office 365

After partnering with Microsoft to facilitate a broad swath of solution providers in bringing Office 365 to market, AppDirect Tuesday added several capabilities to further empower solution providers distributing the popular suite of SaaS applications on its platform.

In advance of next week's Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, the San Francisco-based online marketplace developer told CRN it is offering a service to help Microsoft Syndication Partners transition to being Cloud Solution Providers by simultaneously participating in both programs.

Other new capabilities make it easier for solution providers to customize their online marketplaces, migrate customers to Office 365, and integrate Office 365 tools with back-end services from other software vendors, AppDirect CEO Daniel Saks told CRN.

[Related: AppDirect Enables Solution Providers To Sell Office 365 From Self-Branded Online Marketplaces]

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"Microsoft partnered with AppDirect to include as many reseller partners as possible getting easy access to sell Office 365," Saks said.

The push to add functionality comes as AppDirect enrolls new partners recently cleared by Microsoft to resell Office 365 as Cloud Solution Providers. While AppDirect's marketplace platform is vendor-agnostic, the Microsoft partnership inked in March has made it a popular vehicle for telecoms and other midmarket cloud service providers who want to distribute the software.

Two such partners, Spark Digital and Hawaiian Telecom, both started using Microsoft's recently introduced Crest API to manage customer subscriptions once they were certified as Cloud Solution Providers.

Through the AppDirect Express Program, both telecoms in short time were bundling Microsoft's productivity suite with other software they wanted to offer business customers, such as the Box file collaboration service, Saks said.

Richard Quin, head of product development at Spark Digital, told CRN the digital services division of New Zealand's largest telecommunications provider turned to AppDirect to power its customized marketplace after customers came looking for a relevant, flexible and cost-effective option to access and manage cloud services.

"Many are adopting cloud software already but starting to run into difficulties keeping on top of what their people have, managing licenses and who has what in a seamless way," Quin said via email.

Spark Digital tested AppDirect's concept with customers. It got rave reviews, and six weeks ago Spark Digital launched New Zealand's first fully integrated SaaS marketplace, he said.

"It's an opportunity for us to deliver more relevant, affordable services for medium-sized business customers,’ Quin said. "From our perspective, cloud has become an absolute necessity when it comes to delivering software and we needed to turn to a technology partner that allowed us to get up and running selling a variety of applications, while also managing the provisioning for our customers."

Selling cloud services is an imperative in the market, he said, because SaaS offers so many benefits over traditional on-premise software, including ease of delivery, installation, and management without IT expertise.

"Our customers look to us to help them make informed technology decisions and generally become more digitally oriented. Now we have the ability to not only make recommendations on which software they should buy and use, but we can actually deliver it to them directly from our marketplace. That's powerful for our customers, and for our own business," Quin said.

Microsoft has "really evolved their distribution model," Saks told CRN. By loosening restrictions, the software giant is looking to move beyond the Syndication Partner model and open Office 365 to thousands of providers like Spark Digital, rather than a much smaller number of larger distributors.

And for Syndication Partners still warming to the APIs required by the Cloud Solution Provider program, AppDirect is offering Dual Service Management functionality that they can use to transact through both programs as they make the transition, "running in tandem their old integrations as well as their new ones," Saks said.

AppDirect also has made it easier to customize the look and feel of the platform, integrate on the back end with billing and CRM systems, and migrate legacy users -- tasks that previously would have required a professional services firm, Saks said.

"It allows them to accelerate their time to market. Allows them to grow revenue by building a business around Microsoft 365," Saks told CRN.