Avanade’s advantage

When Avanade Inc. decided to open up an office here two years ago, the company’s CEO literally hand-picked Richard von Hagen for the job.

“”I was walking down the hall and (Mitch Hill) tapped me on the shoulder,”” said von Hagen, former Accenture partner and now general manager of Avanade Canada.

Von Hagen’s son, Eric, who was 16 at the time, asked him why he was leaving an established company like Accenture to work for one just starting up. “”I said the answer’s really easy. In my career I’ve always moved to where I thought the white space was — the next big opportunity for growth.

Seattle-based Avanade is a four-year-old joint venture between Microsoft Corp. and Accenture. Avanade’s offerings include .Net solutions, enterprise collaboration, security, business intelligence, enterprise business solutions and infrastruture transformation such as desktop refresh.

During his 24 years with Accenture, he worked across Canada in various industries including communications, high-tech and government and internationally in the U.S., U.K. and Spain.

Living in the basement

The Canadian subsidiary’s Toronto office is located one floor below Accenture’s, with an internal staircase linking the two. Or, as von Hagen describes it, “”like a teenager in his parents’ basement.””

“”(Microsoft and Accenture) are two pretty good parents,”” von Hagen joked. “”It’s nice to team with them in the market.””

Asked if this relationship is envied by Microsoft partners, von Hagen said, “”The market is abundant. Occasionally you’re going to get feedback from partners like Avanade is the new kid in town and is going to be favoured.”” He added the part of the original reason Avanade was created was to cater to the most complex global deployments at companies with upwards of 70,000 seats.

Von Hagen expects infrastructure transformation to be the largest technical growth area in 2005. He plans to double his infrastructure transformation team to 30 this year.

Looking to hire

Since 2002, Avanade Canada has grown to over 130 employees. The company, which also has offices in Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, expects to add an additional 30 employees by September.

While he refused to give a dollar figure, Avanade Canada has reported an average quarter growth of 100 per cent in the last two years. Significant growth verticals, particularly in Central Canada, include retail, pharmaceutical and manufacturing, he said.

Avanade has worked with over 40 companies and has over 70 projects completed or in progress. Von Hagen said the company gets about half of its business through Accenture with the rest from Microsoft and direct customers. Von Hagen would like to grow direct customers by up to 30 per cent in 2005.

To track its customers, Avanade divides them into three groups: Type A customers are looking to gain operational efficiency; Type B customers are looking to resolve technical challenges faster with reduced risk; and Type C customers are looking to innovate while solving business problems. Avanade services mostly Type A’s such as Indigo, one of Avanade’s clients.

“”(Indigo’s) trying to reduce the operational cost of their online ordering environment,”” he said, adding that the bookstore chain also exemplifies Type B and Type C in that it wants to upgrade part of its environment and is trying to create a new customer-serving environment.

When von Hagen’s not at work, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Cindy, and their three children up at the family cottage just south of Muskoka, Ont., on Georgian Bay. The couple purchased the land five years ago and recently built an addition to the existing cottage on the property. Von Hagen likens looking for a lake house builder to a customer seeking a solution provider to integrate Microsoft technology.

“”We went looking for the best lake house builder in our neighbourhood and we found him. Once customers have decided they want Microsoft, they then look for who’s got the best tools. Generally that’s when they start coming to us.””

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