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Office 365 managed services call for workflow, vertical skills

Subscription business models, a focus on automating workflow and becoming a thought leader are important for taking advantage of the Microsoft Office 365 opportunity.

Microsoft Office 365 is gaining traction among businesses of all sizes. Most organizations still rely on on-premises productivity solutions and need help migrating to the cloud. Consequently, channel partners are in a good position to grow their Office 365 managed services businesses, but they need to adopt subscription-based services, design automated workflows and develop vertical market expertise.

Companies are moving to public cloud and often start with their office productivity suites. In 2016, businesses ran 73% of their productivity solutions in their own data centers and 27% in Office 365 or hosted solutions, according to The Radicati Group. This year, the market researcher found the number relying on legacy systems dropped to 52%, and the volume of Office 365 users swelled to 48%.

The change represents significant opportunities to channel partners with the right Office 365 skills. One important element is moving away from single product sales to subscription business models, which create recurring revenue streams, according to Hunter Willis, product marketing manager at AvePoint, a Jersey City, N.J., company that provides software and services for Office 365 data migration, management and protection.

Here are four additional tips from Willis for partners pushing into Office 365 managed services.

Go with the Flow

With the move to cloud, software shifts from stand-alone applications where the vendor supplies all of the base functionality to platforms where third parties add value to the foundation. Office 365 includes SharePoint, a business content management solution, and Flow, a workflow automation tool. Every business is unique, so partners are in a position to use Flow to boost their customers' productivity, according to Willis.

Partners need to try and establish themselves as thought leaders within their areas of expertise.
Hunter WillisProduct marketing manager, AvePoint

Pursue vertical markets

Corporations in certain industries face common problems. Consequently, partners can develop workflows that streamline business processes in various verticals. Financial services, government and insurance rely on numerous forms and can benefit from such automation.

Develop a higher profile

Marketing is another challenge for channel companies. "Partners should become involved and try to create a high profile in the Microsoft online forums," Willis explained. In these communities, companies constantly look for guidance on how to solve their business problems, and sound advice often leads to customer engagements.

Create thought leadership content

Content is important. "Partners need to try and establish themselves as thought leaders within their areas of expertise," Willis said. Rather than generate sales materials, they must create content that focuses on common challenges that businesses face and outline techniques to solve those problems. Starting a blog is one way to do that.

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