4-page Partner Case Study - Posted 12/5/2008
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Team Augmentation Business Model Promotes Low-Risk Growth and Improves Profitability
Microsoft Dynamics® partners stake their business on deploying and supporting high-value software, and providing excellent service to customers. When all of the consultants in a partner company are busy doing just that, managers need to find ways to grow the business without compromising service quality or expensive hiring. The Start Team, a Microsoft® Gold Certified Partner, provides highly trained, professional consultants to augment partners’ delivery capabilities from presales through implementation and on to support. One of several similar providers, The Start Team is noncompetitive and sends consultants wherever the customers and projects are. With help from The Start Team, Microsoft Dynamics partners such as Ideaca and InterDyn AKA have created new business practices, won and retained additional accounts, strengthened customer responsiveness, and expanded their margins.
||Not only can we act on promising opportunities and generate additional revenue, but The Start Team also lets us do more business at healthy, sustainable margins.
||Jack Ades, Managing Partner, InterDyn AKA
In the extremely competitive enterprise resource planning (ERP) software market, Microsoft Dynamics® partners resell, implement, customize, and support valuable business management solutions for their customers. The partner companies are service organizations with highly trained professional consultants on their team. When these businesses thrive, their people tend to be fully occupied, which can pose challenges in pursuing new business or planning for growth.
Risks and Costs of Growth
InterDyn AKA, a Microsoft® Gold Certified Partner based in New York City, New York, spent many years building a successful, profitable Microsoft Dynamics GP practice. Leadership felt that staking the future of the company on a single software product, however excellent, was risky and potentially limiting. InterDyn AKA decided to broaden its offering by providing an additional product from the Microsoft Dynamics family of solutions. “Microsoft Dynamics AX was the right solution for our larger accounts with complex business operations,” says Jack Ades, Managing Partner at InterDyn AKA.
To create a new Microsoft Dynamics AX practice, InterDyn AKA faced the significant resource commitment of identifying and hiring the right technology consultants, acquiring additional capabilities in implementation and support delivery systems, training the sales team, and activating a pipeline of sales prospects. The costs of the effort could amount to several million dollars before InterDyn AKA would be able to conclude a single transaction involving Microsoft Dynamics AX. InterDyn AKA executives sought a way to realize their goal of a bustling Microsoft Dynamics AX practice with two to three active projects at a time, without incurring a large upfront investment.
Skills Shortages and Competitive Challenges
Other Microsoft Dynamics partners already have the proper technologists and consultants on their team, but nonetheless run into resource challenges if they want to pursue business opportunities. As Charles Finstad, Director of the Microsoft Dynamics AX Practice at Ideaca—a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner with headquarters in Toronto, Ontario, and several other offices in Canada—explains, “We cannot bring people on simply because we expect more business. That may mean we are short on staff when we do sign deals with Microsoft Dynamics AX and need to implement the solution for customers.” Much like many Microsoft Dynamics partners, Ideaca has hired from the limited talent pool of seasoned professionals, who can draw high salaries and may not always be ready to commit to an employer.
In addition, as Finstad points out, “Even if we were to hire all the consultants we could find, we would still face situations where we need a specific skill or specialization that we don’t have within our organization.” Not all Ideaca staffing needs are highly specialized, but the right person—for example, a consultant with technical expertise, financial management skills, and leadership qualities—can be difficult to find.
Microsoft Dynamics partners such as Ideaca and InterDyn AKA want to serve customers and run a profitable business, which compels them to operate as efficiently as they can. Both Ades and Finstad considered outsourcing work to other organizations, but could not justify the risks of doing so. Some of the companies that could have assisted them were also competing resellers of Microsoft Dynamics solutions, which posed the risk of losing accounts to them. Other outsourcing providers used staff in various locations worldwide, not always proficient in English, which can be a challenge for customers and team members when they need to get answers fast or collaborate productively.
Founded in 2006 and with headquarters in Tucson, Arizona, and offices in Toronto, Ontario, The Start Team aims to address the staffing needs of companies such as Ideaca and InterDyn AKA. Co-Founder and President Ronald Haantjes puts partners’ competitive worries to rest. “We are not in business to resell software or assume ownership of the customer relationship,” he says. “All we do is provide a service to Microsoft Dynamics partners who can use us in complete confidence.” The Start Team is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner with the Microsoft Business Solutions Competency.
||I completely believe in this business model. The Start Team delivers outstanding value by embedding the right people into our organization to enable us to pursue billable projects.
||Charles Finstad, Director of the Microsoft Dynamics AX Practice, Ideaca
Sending technologists and consultants to partners and their customers all across North America, The Start Team specializes in Microsoft Dynamics AX and Microsoft Dynamics NAV projects. Almost all of the more than 30 professionals at The Start Team are long-time employees. The company also pursues enduring relationships with the partners it supports. Currently, The Start Team engages with approximately 25 Microsoft Dynamics AX partners in North America, placing consultants into a wide variety of situations from covering for an employee’s leave to helping build a new practice. The company will fly people to locations outside of the United States and Canada when projects include sites that are more distant. In addition, The Start Team provides technical training and education to other companies’ consultants and can draw on software providers that extend Microsoft Dynamics AX, without any risk to the owners of the customer relationships. Such third-party software available through The Start Team includes offerings from TXT Demand Planner, Fullscope, Hitachi Field Service, Loki Payroll, and Red Maple.Productive Recruiting Strategy and Dependable Team Augmentation
The Start Team does not compete with other Microsoft Dynamics partners when it comes to recruiting staff. Says Ian Thurbon, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Start Team, “We don’t entice professionals away from other companies because that simply inflates labor costs for everybody.” Instead, The Start Team hires skilled professionals with at least five years of ERP experience—but no Microsoft Dynamics credentials—and retrains them within six weeks. These consultants become Microsoft Dynamics AX or Microsoft Dynamics NAV certified before they play a role in any customer projects. Most often, The Start Team consultants on customer projects use the implementation partner’s brand and identity, including e-mail alias and business cards.
For partners looking to augment their consulting team permanently, The Start Team offers a program called Consulting Capacity Creation or C3, during which The Start Team hires and trains a consultant and has the person work for six months on its own payroll before joining the other partner’s organization. Partners participate in screening, interviewing, and negotiations, and sign an agreement that commits them to cover training costs and six months’ salary.
End-to-End Response to Partner Resource Needs
Ideaca managers are frequently in touch with The Start Team to keep them informed about upcoming needs. For Ideaca, consultants from The Start Team perform a multitude of roles. They provide specialized and often-needed skills to serve customers, help scope and secure business with new customers or additional sales with existing customers, and boost Ideaca project teams on complex implementations that need a large number of technologists at a time.
In helping InterDyn AKA build a new Microsoft Dynamics AX practice, The Start Team assisted in the earliest stages of a customer engagement, qualifying customer needs and collaborating on proposals and product demonstrations. In addition, The Start Team helped plan the implementations, staff the implementation teams, facilitate user adoption, and offer subsequent support. As InterDyn AKA recruits Microsoft Dynamics AX consultants into the organization, The Start Team’s involvement might diminish, but then escalate again when InterDyn AKA reaches full resource utilization and eventually hires more people—a cyclical pattern.
For Ideaca, InterDyn AKA, and many other Microsoft Dynamics partners working with The Start Team, this relationship has helped them obtain business results that would not have been possible otherwise. “I completely believe in this business model,” says Finstad. “The Start Team delivers outstanding value by embedding the right people into our organization to enable us to pursue billable projects.”
Sustainable Revenue Growth and Higher Profitability
The Start Team directly contributes to the growth and market share of Microsoft Dynamics. Today, the company adds approximately U.S.$5 million of consulting revenue to the market. Within a year, Thurbon expects his company to become larger than many of the smaller partners it serves.
The new Microsoft Dynamics AX practice at InterDyn AKA has grown to produce almost 30 percent of the company’s revenue. InterDyn AKA is now pursuing new accounts in the industrial equipment manufacturing market. Through many Microsoft Dynamics GP projects, often combining that product with its own solution for media management and publishing, InterDyn AKA has a strong track record in the publishing industry. After porting the publishing solution to Microsoft Dynamics AX, InterDyn AKA will engage more aggressively with large companies in that market. Ades emphasizes that working with The Start Team makes great sense from a profitability perspective. “Not only can we act on promising opportunities and generate additional revenue, but The Start Team also lets us do more business at healthy, sustainable margins,” he says.
Ideaca won and retained several accounts with assistance from The Start Team. They include a research and development firm, where the variety of skills was crucial, and a coal company, where Ideaca deployed as many as 50 technologists at a time in a complex project. What’s more, Finstad notes, “Working with The Start Team, I’ve actually been able to increase my margins and still keep customer costs competitive.”
Effective Team Augmentation with Strong Trust and Uncompromised Integrity
||We are not in business to resell software or assume ownership of the customer relationship. All we do is provide a service to Microsoft Dynamics partners who can use us in complete confidence.
||Ronald Haantjes, Co-Founder and President, The Start Team
For the team augmentation service model to work, trust and a close match of values are essential. Competing successfully to win partners’ business, The Start Team shows uncompromised integrity in providing resources. Thurbon explains, “We empower our partners to sell with impunity. For that, trust is essential. We have abandoned business opportunities rather than betray a partner’s trust.”
Having surveyed the field, Ades confirms that, while several other organizations provide similar services to The Start Team, business ethics makes for a critical difference. “We have an open dialogue with The Start Team from the very beginning of a project,” he says. “We know we can trust them not to go after our accounts. And, they know to work in harmony with our company culture and values.”
At the frontlines of service delivery, The Start Team professionals demonstrate the company’s values as they support customers on behalf of the partners. Because of their skills and professional conduct, these consultants build lasting relationships with partners, returning to project after project.
Increased Ability to Respond to Customers
Customers are rarely aware of the role of The Start Team consultants in their software projects because they usually deal with a single contact from the partner organization. Most often, The Start Team technologists represent the partner’s brand and corporate identity, reporting to the account and business managers at Ideaca, InterDyn AKA, or other partners. Says Finstad, “Drawing on The Start Team resources, we can demonstrate increased depth to our customers and be a pleasure for them to work with.”
With a widely distributed and superlatively skilled network of employees, The Start Team lets partners keep customer service quality at a consistently high level. “We pride ourselves on always being within reach of customers and responsive to them, and The Start Team extends our practice so that we can serve more customers’ immediate and long-term needs,” says Ades.
Microsoft Dynamics is a line of integrated, adaptable business management solutions that enables you and your people to make business decisions with greater confidence. Microsoft Dynamics works like familiar Microsoft software such as Microsoft Office, which means less of a learning curve for your people, so they can get up and running quickly and focus on what’s most important. And because it is from Microsoft, it easily works with the systems that your company already has implemented. By automating and streamlining financial, customer relationship, and supply chain processes, Microsoft Dynamics brings together people, processes, and technologies, increasing the productivity and effectiveness of your business, and helping you drive business success.
For more information about Microsoft Dynamics, go to:
For More Information
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For more information about The Start Team products and services, call (520) 647-7326 or visit the Web site at:
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For more information about InterDyn AKA products and services, call (212) 502-3900 or visit the Web site at:
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