Winners Circle: Microsoft Honors Partners For 'Innovative Solutions'

Microsoft Showing Love For Partners

Cloud dominance captured much of the talk this year at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston. Microsoft's message to the more than 15,000 people gathered there July 7-11 was that channel partners will be at the forefront of propelling the transition across the finish line.

Here are 14 North American winners of Microsoft's Partner of the Year Awards. Some of them are legacy companies, partners that are contemplating the cloud or have recently made the conversion, while others are cloud native. But, all were chosen for using Microsoft technologies to deliver "innovative solutions during the past year that directly address customer challenges." They kicked off WPC 2013 with a victory lap before Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage for his keynote speech on Monday, telling the crowd: "There's a place in this journey for everyone."

Here's a look at the winners.

Application Development: PROS

CEO: Andres Reiner

Microsoft awarded the top prize for Application Development to PROS, a partner based in Houston, where the Worldwide Partners Conference was held for the second time since 2008. PROS says its on-premises Pricing Solution Suite helps develop value-based pricing strategies by allowing businesses to understand key profitability drivers and then leveraging real-time integrated science to optimize prices.

"We are honored to be recognized as the Microsoft Application Development Partner of the Year, and I accept this recognition on behalf of our entire team," PROS President and CEO Andres Reiner said in a statement. "One of the hallmarks of our six-year collaboration has been our shared vision of bringing big data applications to customers that uncover insights about their client's buying patterns and create transformational selling advantages that help them outperform."

Application Integration: Dapasoft

CEO: Stephen Chan

Microsoft's Application Integration award went to Dapasoft, a full-service IT solution provider in Canada catering to healthcare and manufacturing. Its on-premises Electronic Checklist Application tool, for example, uses Microsoft technology to make an online library and procedural checklists available on handheld devices for residents, interns, students and staff to use as memory-recall tools and as an additional resource during their regular daily practice.

"Being recognized as a global leader by Microsoft gives all of our employees a tremendous amount of pride." Dapasoft President Michael Lonsway said in statement. "I can't thank our employees enough for their on-going commitment, dedication and effort. I am very proud of all the people at Dapasoft for being recognized at a worldwide level, and very thankful for the deep relationship that we always have with Microsoft."

Collaboration And Content: NC4, 6th Street Consulting

CEO NC4: Jim Montagnino (pictured)

CEO 6th Street Consulting: Ro Kolakowski

The Collaboration and Content award was shared by joint partners NC4 and 6th Street Consulting for Safecop, an app used by police during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. NC4 is a solution provider based in El Segundo, Calif., participating in Microsoft's CityNext initiative. The company partnered with Redondo Beach, Calif.-based strategy and consulting firm 6th Street Consulting to help architect Safecop, since renamed StreetSmart, and develop the SharePoint user interface, gather and document application functionality, and formulate an intuitive user interface. The app is now deployed throughout the Tampa Police Department.

Customer Relations Management: PowerObjects

CEO: Dean Jones

PowerObjects, a Minnesota-based solution provider tailored to business customer relations, captured the Microsoft award for CRM.

"We were thrilled to win Partner of the Year for Microsoft Dynamics CRM last year," COO Jim Sheehan said in a statement. "We are even more thrilled to receive this honor again this year. It speaks to our commitment and our 100 percent laser focus on Microsoft Dynamics CRM. We strive to be the number one partner in the world, and receiving this award for the second year running reaffirms we're on the right track."

Management, Virtualization: Hewlett-Packard

CEO: Meg Whitman

Microsoft gave long-standing partner Hewlett-Packard the award for Management and Virtualization. The two have one of the longest standing business relationships of its kind in the industry, according to the Palo Alto, Calif.-based giant whose solutions portfolio spans Desktop and Mobile, Unified Communications and Collaboration, Virtualization and Private Cloud, Mission-Critical SQL Solutions and Cloud Services for Microsoft Applications.

Messaging: Sogeti

CEO USA.: Navin Goel

CEO Worldwide: Luc-Francois Salvador (pictured)

Sogeti won Microsoft's partner award for Messaging. The Dayton, Ohio, branch of the international solution provider offers enterprise-class software delivered via subscription services hosted by Microsoft through the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite. The services include Microsoft Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live Meeting, and Office Communications Online. Teams can increase collaboration and information sharing without maintaining full-time IT staff or substantial up-front investments in IT infrastructure.

Mobility: Accenture/Avanade

CEO Avanade: Adam Warby (pictured)

CEO Accenture: Pierre Nanterme

Avanade and Accenture took home several awards this year, including the top prize for Mobility. Seattle, Wash.-based Avanade was founded in 2000 as a joint Microsoft-Accenture venture. The company now has offices in numerous cities and countries and is the largest Microsoft-only services company delivering mobility projects across the IT spectrum (Mobile Strategy to eXperience Design to Mobile Web & Application Design, Development and Testing).

Office/SharePoint App Developer: Dell Software

CEO: Michael Dell

Dell and Microsoft have a history of working together to deliver IT solutions that help customers grow and thrive, according to the Round Rock, Texas-based company. Dell was greatly honored to be recognized for its collaboration with Microsoft to deliver end-to-end offerings across vertical markets, Kevin Jones, vice president of Dell Services, said in 2012. That year the company captured eight partner awards from Microsoft.

"Dell and Microsoft have a strong track record of helping customers solve real-world problems by simplifying IT," Dell Vice President of Partners and Marketing Innovation, Russ Fujioka, said of this year's win. "We're proud of our collaborative relationship with Microsoft, and plan to continue working together to integrate our industry-leading hardware, software and support services to delight our customers with exciting end-to-end offerings."


Pre-Sales Specialist: Navantis

CEO: John Kvasnic

Microsoft awarded the Pre-Sales Specialist prize to Navantis.

Headquartered in Toronto, Navantis provides services and solutions based on Microsoft SharePoint, Dynamics CRM, Lync, Exchange Server, Azure and System Center, among others. Its signature Peopleworks product is built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform and helps customers eliminate repetitive work tasks, allowing staff to focus on core business.

Project, Portfolio Management: UMT Consulting Group

CEO: Gil Makleff

The Project and Portfolio Management award went to UMT Consulting Group. UMT specializes in project portfolio management consulting, software solutions and training. The international company -- with an office in San Francisco -- built the UMT Portfolio Manager, a top down portfolio management solution that was acquired by Microsoft in 2006 and later released as the Office Project Portfolio Server.

"In each of the last four years, UMT has been recognized as Microsoft Partner of the Year winner or finalist," CEO Gil Makleff said. "Creating innovation is difficult and implementing innovation successfully in Fortune 1000 organizations is both a science and an art."

Server Platform: NetApp

CEO: Tom Georgens

NetApp took home the award for Server Platform for its portfolio of solutions for business applications, storage for virtual servers and disk-to-disk backup. The Sunnyvale, Calif., solution provider specializes in storage and data management solutions aimed at reducing costs and accelerating business breakthroughs.

Start-Up Cloud: SkyKick

Co-CEOs: Evan Richman and Todd Schwartz

SkyKick, founded by two former Microsoft executives, won the award for Start-Up Cloud. SkyKick had a Fortune 500 distributor -- Synnex -- even before the Seattle, Wash.-based cloud native launched its Migration Project Application Suite, an integrated application package that helps partners sell, port and manage entire migration projects.

"Microsoft's Partner of the Year awards recognize some of the best in the Microsoft community, and we are both humbled and honored to be in their company," co-founder and co-CEO Todd Schwartz said. "This is just the start of a long journey for us, and we are excited to be awarded Microsoft's Cloud Start-Up Partner of the Year for our early contributions to Microsoft's partner ecosystem and the Office 365 business."

Volume Licensing: Zones

CEO: Firoz Lalji

The award for Volume Licensing went to Zones, a single-source, multi-vendor direct marketing reseller of name-brand IT products. The Washington-based company serves SMB, enterprise and public-sector accounts, as well as supports legacy Apple customers, in licensing, planning and deployment.

"This is the culmination of years of focus and investment around building the Microsoft practice to provide the best solutions for our customers," CEO Firoz Liraj said. "For this team, a key component of executing on our company-wide Five Star Service commitment is removing complexity from the Microsoft licensing process for customers and demystifying how our clients can most effectively purchase the vital software that sits in their infrastructure and runs their business."

Windows 8 App Developer: Posh Consulting

CEO: Vishal Misri

Posh Consulting took away the award for Windows 8 App Developer Partner of the Year. Founded in August 2009, Posh was an early partner in the Microsoft App Acceleration Program (MAAP), designed to help customers take advantage of Windows 8 OS features and development opportunities, according to the company.

The company now provides a wide range of technical and marketing solutions with headquarters in Redmond, Wash., and offices in Dubai, New Delhi and Singapore. Its services focus on three core areas: marketing, technical and recruiting solutions. The company also has specialized expertise in leading-edge technologies such as Office 365 and Windows 8.