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Find this Podcast “Partnering in the SharePoint Ecosystem” on the ThreeWill Soundcloud, Stitcher, and iTunes.


Danny Ryan:Hello, and welcome to the ThreeWill Podcast. This is Danny Ryan, and I have Tommy Ryan here with me. Hey, Tommy.


Tommy Ryan:Hey, Danny.


Danny Ryan:How ya doin’?


Tommy Ryan:I’m doin’ well.


Danny Ryan:Good.


Tommy Ryan:It’s a sunny day …


Danny Ryan:It is.


Tommy Ryan:… Here in Georgia.


Danny Ryan:It’s a beautiful day outside. Have ya had a chance to get out yet?


Tommy Ryan:I did. Actually took lunch out, and about …


Danny Ryan:Good.


Tommy Ryan:… Got some fresh air.


Danny Ryan:That is a good thing. I haven’t got enough fresh air quite yet, but look forward to getting outside as well. Before we get started … The socks. Let me see ’em.


Tommy Ryan:Let’s see. Those are mid-grade socks.


Danny Ryan:You got two …


Tommy Ryan:These a couple of colors in there.


Danny Ryan:You got a couple of colors. That’s a very … That’s good. That’s a …


Tommy Ryan:A modeled look? Yeah.


Danny Ryan:That’s nice, and those are nice shoes too.


Tommy Ryan:Thank you. They’re very comfy.


Danny Ryan:Can I borrow those?


Tommy Ryan:No.


Danny Ryan:Okay.


Tommy Ryan:(laughs)


Danny Ryan:Just checking. Just checking. Today let’s talk about an important topic to us, which is partnerships.


Tommy Ryan:Right.


Danny Ryan:I think when we started the company out we were … Very early on we were … We knew we wanted to be the best in the world at something, so we wanted to focus in on a particular technology. We had a lot of experience with Microsoft, and so that was the default for us was that we would do a lot of Microsoft related projects. That led us to their collaboration stack, yada, yada, yada, then SharePoint came around, and all that good stuff. I think for us it’s been one of those positive things. Maybe in the last couple of years we’ve done … We’ve branched out a little bit with the cloud stuff, and have tried some things with Salesforce, and taking a look at what they’re doing. I just wanted to talk with you about our approach a little bit with working with partners, and how is it that through the years that we decided to partner up with Microsoft, and more recently even with some other types of partners.


Tommy Ryan:Yeah. I think the initial partnership with Microsoft was pretty much a no-brainer for us. Both you and I came from a Microsoft shop, so that’s where we got some of our initial experience in consulting, and learning how to build solutions for customers. When you look at Microsoft they just support their developers so well. Great documentation, great programs to make their partners happy. A very, very rich eco-system for their partners. That’s a partnership that we’ve had since the beginning. It was natural. It gave us goals to go after. We got the goal partnership I think in 2005 I believe, and we continue to keep competencies there. It helps with some focus of whatever types of solutions we build, so we try to map to those competencies that Microsoft has. It’s a safe bet at the end of the day that definitely Microsoft is here for the foreseeable future. I think they care about their partners probably more than the average, I think, organization. They’re very developer friendly, and put a big emphasis on keeping that eco-system happy.


Danny Ryan:More recently we’ve run into some situations where we’re … A lot of our projects have SharePoint as a part of the technology stack that we’re working with. Then within the SharePoint eco-system there’s options as far as what workflow tools are you using, what migrations tools are you using. Give me a little bit of background on have we … Are we staying … You can use any tool you want to in that eco-system, or how have things evolved over time for us?


Tommy Ryan:For us … Early on we were an active, focused company. We still are today, but we’re broadening some of our services. The core of what we do is going in there, and building things on the .net platform. Primarily, and in particular SharePoint customizations. In that journey we really didn’t come across too many situations where we had to dive deep, and learn a lot of third party tools, and create partnerships around that. Because usually we’re building it from scratch, or enhancing what SharePoint had. Then the typical SharePoint partner, which was maybe infrastructure focused would try to add on to their service, “Oh. We can configure Nintex for you. We can run this migration for you.” It wasn’t within our wheelhouse, but over time we found that in the maturity of our organization we wanted to diversify in types of services we provide.


I know we’ve talked about that before from migration services to portals, Appdev, and solution sustainment. When we started with a migration service it makes sense to have a tool, at least one tool, that you have very high depth of knowledge. As you pick a tool, our partner there, it’s allowed us to create expertise. Not only are we SharePoint experts, but we have expertise in Metalogix, and their content matrix that allows us to come in there. If someone’s picked that tool, just like they would pick SharePoint if they picked the Metalogix tool, we can come in, and really make that thing sing. That gives us the value add that we’re looking for of having some focus, and that focus being a benefit to our customers.


I think over time we’ve been very shy about going in that path of partnering with another partner outside of Microsoft when it comes to the different third parties in the SharePoint eco-system. I think the reason we’ve done that is we’ve tried to stay as much as we can in what we called a trusted advisor role. That trusted advisor role is, “You want to do this in SharePoint. What is the best way to do that?” There are a set of products out there. We can evaluate those for you, and bring to the table what we know already, and help you make a good decision, and then implement with that.”


We’ve done that with various tools. Like over time we’ve used both K2, and Nintex as workflow. We just found over time that it’s making more sense for the things that we’re doing, and what’s available in the tool set that Nintex is one that we’re in early stages of what that partnership looks like. In trying to really hone in on what does it do best, and make sure we bring that to the table, and be a good partner to get that accomplished to make the tool shine. Just like we work with SharePoint to make SharePoint shine.


Danny Ryan:This is a little bit of a … We want to make sure that we come to these projects with that additional expertise. Has this helped out … How has this helped us on projects? Is this making that choice is it where … Are we … I know the other day I saw that there a couple of people who got certified on Nintex…


Tommy Ryan:Right.


Danny Ryan:… Things like that. Is that helping prepare us for the next project, or what … How is that helping us to better serve our clients in the future?


Tommy Ryan:With anything like certifications, a good partner program’s going to look at: how can we assess our partners? How can we motivate our partners to get more involved in the understanding of our product? Just like taking a Microsoft SharePoint test to be certified as a SharePoint engineer. It might not tell you if you’re a great engineer, but it will tell you that you’ve done homework around that subject, and covered it well enough to be able to answer those questions. You’ve got the exposure, and at least it tells you, you’ve got that exposure.


Danny Ryan:Are you listenin’ to this, Austin? You have the exposure to Google AdWords.


Tommy Ryan:(laughs)


Danny Ryan:That’s certification. Austin just got a recent certification. Clapping.


Tommy Ryan:Wooo.


Danny Ryan:Golf clap. He’s AdWord certified. You’ve had the exposure. Now we need to go get you the experience …


Tommy Ryan:(laughs)


Danny Ryan:… To go along with that. (laughs) Soon to be Google Analytics certified, correct?


Tommy Ryan:That’s right.


Danny Ryan:Yes, he is … You couldn’t hear it, but he was actually crossing his fingers, so it’s going to come, baby. It’s going to come. Sorry, you were saying?


Tommy Ryan:That it gives you focus. It gives you something to achieve. I think we’re all looking for hitting milestones with things that we do. I think that’s the nice thing about things like the certification. The more that we invest in say taking one, and going deeper … I’m not saying that we won’t do anything with anything else. It’s just saying let’s … We have a limited time, limited resources, let’s dive deep here, so when we go in we have a competitive advantage. Like the stuff we did with [Metalogix 00:09:25]. We built that tooling around it to scale it, to multiple nodes, and run all this multiple thousands, or 20,000 lines of [Powershell 00:09:37] script to be able to orchestrate it, to be able to automate it to such a high level that you couldn’t do it coming into the door from scratch. We’ve got that as in our tool-bag to go out there, and do it much better and much faster. Everybody’s looking for things better, cheaper, faster. When you hone in on a few tools, a few partners, then we can come to the table armed with being better, cheaper, faster.


Danny Ryan:Yeah, it’s interesting. Because I know through the years, since we’ve been doing this for a little while, we’ve had partners try to … ISV partners come to us and say, “Get ramped up on our tool, and come, and learn what you need to learn about our tool. Then we’ll go find the project work.” What I think through the years what’s ended up happening is we’re letting our clients drive who we’re partnering with.


Tommy Ryan:Right.


Danny Ryan:Letting the project work drive where do we need to build our expertise. I think that’s been important for us to do that.


Tommy Ryan:To be really honest with it these things are opportunistic. You end up getting a really big project with a customer that uses that tool, that technology, and by the nature of working on that project you get some great expertise. You’re saying, “Now that I have this expertise what should I do? What’s the next step?” To be opportunistic about that is saying, “Let’s put a service offering around that,” or, “Let’s create that as a value add, add-on to what we do.” That’s what we’re looking for is a way to distinguish yourself, and sometimes certain tools, if you have the expertise, will allow you to come in the door and say, “We can do this better for you, because of this experience.”


Danny Ryan:One last question just to wrap things up, but to you what makes up a great partnership with another company?


Tommy Ryan:I think it’s having a good dialogue between the partnership in the SharePoint ecosystem. I think that’s hard with say a Microsoft partnership. We’ve worked with a partner account managers, and worked with people that have been resources for us in the partnership. I’m starting to enjoy some of the smaller partnerships, because you get that top-level management to top-level management experience. I think you can have some honest conversations that allow you to get through the bumps in the road. We’ve had some bumps in the road with different vendors, and I’m not going to say any names, but some of where we’ve had some hiccups. When you go through that, and you can work through it, and come up with a right answer, or a great answer for the customer that’s where you can test that partnership. I think you have to have an open, honest, transparent relationship, and that way you can grow fast together as a partner. That’s important.


I think having structure to the program that says, “This is how you can ramp up, and how you can get to learn our product faster, so having training opportunities I think is important if you want to create a partner eco-system. Then make sure you have a great product, and then continue to hone in on what you do as a third party, and do it very well. Because we care about that. When we get to our customers we want to do it very well, so I’d be concerned if we worked with a technology that is not doing it very well for what they focused in on. There’s always new products, there’s always pushing the envelope of the next thing that you’re going to do: an office 365, and it’s not going to be perfect, but I think you have to create that relationship to work through the not so perfect things.


Danny Ryan:I know there’s some gray lines with this, but it’s also nice if you’re not directly competing with them. Where they have a product, and a service offering, and it just makes it very difficult in those types of situations. We’ve run in this. This has happened a number of times including with Microsoft. They have … Microsoft has their own consulting services, and so we compete with them, and it comes up with us pretty often. It’s … In an ideal world we’re not competing against a product company. Services are.


Tommy Ryan:Yeah, and that’s the nature of a larger organization like Microsoft. Every organization like Microsoft is going to have a professional services program, and the breadth and depth of that will vary. I think at the end of the day … Yes, we compete with MCS, but at the end of the day I think we have a different offering. I think if they need that we’ve got to hang it on one vendor for about the services, and the product then it’s going to be MCS. If they’re looking for high-value, and expertise, and good process to take a difficult situation, and move it forward in the most effective way I think an organization like ThreeWill is going to be a better choice for those companies that want to have a balance of, “I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket.”


I think there’s some benefit of having a partner that is being that trusted advisor to tell you the truth of the situation versus I think it … Not that anyone would get dishonest, but I think you’re in a compromised situation sometimes when you’re doing both. I think it helps vet out more of the truth when you have that balance of working with different people to bring together a full solution with product and service.


Danny Ryan:Awesome. I appreciate you taking the time to do this, and …


Tommy Ryan:Sure.


Danny Ryan:… Talking about partnerships. This has been informative. Thank you, Tommy.


Tommy Ryan:You’re welcome.


Danny Ryan:Thank you, everybody, for taking the time to listen today, and have a wonderful day. Take care. Bye, bye.


Tommy Ryan:Bye, bye.



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