Office 365 has greenfield opportunities for channel

Toronto – Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) launched Office 365, the cloud version of its productivity suite of applications, to more than 40 markets across the globe including Canada.

According to Jason Brommet, Microsoft Office Group Manager for the Canadian operation of Microsoft, told CDN that Office 365 is a revolution for the company. “I’ve worked most of my career in the SMB and the potential IT has to change businesses was great but in many cases it was out of reach or they had to settle for something of less quality. SMBs want to grow and with new workers on board that see the potential IT has to advance themselves; Office 365 is a no compromise solution for them at a price point that is affordable at $7 per month, which is the price of a sandwich in Toronto,” Brommet said.

To support this lunch event Microsoft Canada hired Leger Marketing to survey 500 SMB market customers in Canada and found that 85 per cent of them are not able to keep pace with technology upgrades. A further 79 per cent are forced to settle for older technology even though then know better options are available to them.

One of those customers, Ted Gorsline, founder and president of Mobile Vantage of Port Hope, Ont., said that his company’s software was out of date and went it was in date was not professional enough for his vision of the company moving forward. Gorsline said that it lacked collaboration features he needed to better help his own employees and meet customer expectations. “It was difficult to find something that was affordable that also had Microsoft Exchange. For the price of a sandwich I can move forward with Office 365 and we were able to integrate quickly and we are now up and running,” he said. For Mobile Vantage, Office 365 Professional Edition for small businesses between one and 25 users he will save about $900 a year paying just $7 a month. The suite will feature Exchange, Sharepoint and Lync.

But Brommet added that for the channel there are more lucrative selling opportunities with Office 365. For example, Office 365 sku “K” for Kiosk features Exchange and Sharepoint at $4 per month for users in retail and healthcare verticals who have an environment where many users share a desktop. There is also an upgrade to the “K” sku with Office Web.

While Office 365 is meant to be a step up for small business users it also provides many solutions for enterprise customers. In the Enterprise or “E” sku, Brommet said that there are four levels of solutions for channel partners to offer customers all the way up to a voice solution at $33 per month per user.

“Channel partners have to solve the five “C” for customers: cost, compelling event, content, capabilities, and customers/users and Office 365 has been designed for that,” he said.

Microsoft channel partner Bell Business Markets of Mississauga, Ont. “Customers are intrigued with the promise of the cloud, but what they understand not paying for start up costs and getting best in class software. All of this has appeal, but there is a lot of confusion because so many vendors and so many service levels that they don’t know who to call,” said Strahan McCarten, director of product management for Bell Business Markets’ hosting and cloud computing division.

With that the Bell Canada division established a 24/7 support line and have a network of 200 Microsoft certified consultants to support customer with Office 365.

McCarten added that his company was already promoting Business Productivity Online Standard suite or BPOS, which has been effectively replaced by Office 365.

Their plan is to start calling these customers and offering migration services through its network of professional consultants. He said that this process can have customers ready to go in just over a weekend.

“Office 365 can be implemented for a business of just three to four users for even collaboration services. For customers with employees on the road Office 365 can help them share calendar activity. This is a big need for them because email does not help you here. It can go up to 50 users, 200 users, and even 500 users but our sweet spot is five to 20,” McCarten said.

Existing customers of BPOS will receive the same services with new enhancements starting at $11.75 per user, per month.

There are no immediate plans for an Office 365 for the Mac, but Brommet said that Mac users can access Office 365 through their computer online.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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