Umbrellar's Michael Foley: "No one owns the customer"

Umbrellar's Michael Foley: "No one owns the customer"

How Umbrellar disrupted its own business

Michael Foley (Umbrellar)

Michael Foley (Umbrellar)

Credit: Supplied

Specialisation was where it was at, with partners able to address diverse areas of deployment such as business intelligence and analytics, security, AI nd more as a means to deliver transformation.

One of the questions Microsoft asked during the process is key: How was Umbrellar itself going to avoid competing with its own ecosystem partners?

"We are going to be the managed service provider in our ecosystem. We set ourselves up as arguably the only Microsoft- dedicated MSP," Foley said.

As both a direct and indirect CSP, Umbrellar is part of a very small club globally, one of only two or three in Microsoft world.

"We go narrow and deep with Microsoft where traditional disties are shallow and wide," Foley said. "There has to be more value to be created."

Umbrella has 34 specialist partners in its ecosystem. All are resellers but they don’t have to resell and all are an entry point to a customer transformation initiative.

"Digital transformation is not a SKU [stock keeping unit]. Every one is different, so the model genuinely puts customer in the middle," Foley said.

"Partners are formally engaged. It's not a loose teaming thing." 

One or two have dropped out, in particular over the question of "who owns the customer?". 

"That's not getting it," Foley said. "No one owns the customer, each partner can bring something to it.

"The key thing is they will work and expose themselves to other parts of the ecosystem and expose that to customers."

Each ecosystem partner deals direct. 

"We don’t set ourselves up as prime – but we can," Foley said. "They can prime. We don’t margin skim anybody." 

Umbrellar earns as the upstream CSP and also direct as the ecosystem MSP.

"We need to be quite staunch about not succumbing to the temptation to bring another MSP in and that means we have to stay on our game and be the best Azure MSP.

"What we are really shit-hot good at is we manage the estate. Monitoring and patching and so on is in our DNA."

Foley said the effort is starting to gel, with partners starting to work laterally, getting together with no MSP involved.

If the idea was smart, it was smart because it was different, Foley said. But it also seemed an obvious evolution.

With analyst firm Forrester picking the emergence of marketplaces as a major trend, the shift was also timely. 

"The ecosystem is effectively a small marketplace," Foley said. "Very specific, narrow and deep."

The model also helps ecosystem partners deal with an emerging challenge - the fact so many opportunities are never notified to the market.

Tech Research Asia analyst Mark Iles recently told the Dicker Data TechX roadshow audience that 70 per cent of opportunities now never go to tender or get publicly notified.

As an major ecosystem partner, Umbrellar get introduced to accounts by Microsoft and co-sells with them. 

"We’ve got all the lines back into the right places in the Microsoft world and really good, tight relationships."

Other ecosystem partners also become aware of opportunities and bring those into the group as well.

Overall, though, the market opportunity is huge and big enough for everybody, Foley said.

"I find it hard to get to bent out of shape about competitive considerations because I genuinely believe that the latent demand for this hyperscale capability is more than in aggregate we can all service."

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