We know Microsoft as a colossus in the software industry. Now it is taking cloud by storm. Launched in 2010, Microsoft Azure is a growing collection of integrated cloud services—analytics, computing, database, mobile, networking, storage, and web—for faster moving, more achievement, and money savings. Azure is among the fastest growing and largest public cloud platforms in the world. With 54+ datacenter regions, availability from 140+ countries, over $10 billion in investments, and more than $1 billion spent on security and R&D annually, more than 66% of Fortune 500 companies are using Azure. Recently, Rob Turner, Adastra’s VP of analytics and cloud, shared his insights on the evolving relationship and shared successes with Microsoft. He discussed the high points of our partnership and our implementation of their competitive software, to provide a wide range of solutions for client organizations in a variety of industries.
TELL ME ABOUT ADASTRA.
We’re a consulting services firm of 2,000 people strong globally, that focuses in the data and artificial intelligence space. We have 500 of the best data management and analytics professionals in Canada. We leverage capabilities across the data value chain; meaning services that span the entire data spectrum from data acquisition to modeling, integration, visualization, data science and everything in between. The goal of our work is to build solutions for our clients that enable clean, reliable analytics to help change and grow.
80% of our revenue is from our Enterprise customer segment including: BMO, TD, CIBC, Rogers, Husky, Magna and Just Energy, who is our new flagship customer.
In addition to the interesting work we do with our Enterprise customers, we also do important work for cool customers like SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors & Music Publishers of Canada), where we’re delivering a master data management project to help improve song matching, and in turn musicians get paid earlier and more accurately. We’re implementing a budgeting and forecasting solution for Plan Canada, to help ensure more of the money they raise goes to help advance children’s rights around the world. For another client, we developed solutions to predict problem gambling and enabled early intervention before significant financial losses occur.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PARTNERSHIP WITH MICROSOFT AND WHAT THEY VALUE IN OUR PARTNERSHIP.
Initially Microsoft wasn’t a natural fit for us. We’ve been in this business for over 20 years and have had what I would call transactional partnerships with other technology partners. But we’ve always found them to be more opportunistic than strategic, so it was difficult for us to wrap our heads around what a strategic partnership would look like. That said, we’re in a business that requires continuous reinvention and a little over two years ago when we decided to pivot around cloud, we made a proactive decision to attach ourselves to the hyperscale provider that we thought was well positioned to win in Canada. I’ll highlight several key things we like about our partnership with Microsoft.
The massive investment that Microsoft has made in its data & AI tools on Azure, have made it very compelling and easy for us to tell and sell the Azure story to our customers. From plain old SQL on Azure to Data Factory, ML Studio and Power BI, the Azure ecosystem integrates very well and is on par (or better), with any of the best of breed competitors. The ranking that Power BI enjoys on the Gartner Magic Quadrant is not just about Power BI on its own, it is Power BI supported by the full Azure Data and AI ecosystem and the deep pockets of Microsoft to continue investing and evolving the stack.
We love Microsoft’s customer reach. It goes without saying that Microsoft has product presence at every one of our customers. Beyond that, Microsoft has Enterprise customer relationships that are very complimentary to ours. For example, for one of clients, a major national retailer, we are leveraging the strengths of our combined relationships to grow the Power BI base; introduce HD insight and expand utilization of AI/ML suite. We love CSP. As a professional services firm, whose success depends on winning the next project, we have a strategy to aggressively grow our managed services business and establish sticky, recurring revenue streams. CSP aligns perfectly with this strategy in that it allows us to stand in front of Azure and offers a bundled set of services including cloud hosting, application support and solution delivery. We are confident that this approach will accelerate the growth of our managed services business and allow us to continue to maintain a high customer retention rate, lowering our cost of sales as a percentage of revenue. We love the robustness and maturity of Microsoft’s partner channel network. There’s no doubt that Microsoft’s structure and processes can be overwhelming, especially for a newcomer but they do an amazing job of integrating partners into the sales processes, fostering relationships with key sellers and working together to build success plans. This is truly a well-oiled machine that has a genuine interest in joint success.
CONNECT TO BMO WORK – HOW DID YOU BUILD THOSE RELATIONSHIPS, HOW DO YOU- CO-SELL? HOW DO YOU CO-EXIST WITH MCS WHEN YOU ARE NOT CO-DELIVERING?
We’ve had a relationship with BMO for over 18 years and have built a network that spans number of business units and technology groups; we have worked on multiple generations of information management solutions. Our business at BMO is a mix of end-to-end project delivery, strategy, architecture consulting and managed services. Presently, we have 160 consultants engaged at BMO, onshore in Toronto and offshore at our delivery centers in Bulgaria. The timing couldn’t be better for the partnership between Adastra and Microsoft with BMO. While the partnership of Adastra and Microsoft is maturing, the relationship between Microsoft and BMO is at an inflection point with increased demand for Azure services, making the timing ideal.
Our Adastra BMO account team is working closely with a number of folks at Microsoft. The relationships we’ve brought to the table have been very complimentary. Microsoft has been engaged with the engineering, infrastructure groups and technology, application groups. Bringing the strengths of these relationships together has helped amplify trust and accelerate decision making. We have two active opportunities:
- First, we will lay the technical foundation for rolling Power BI across the bank. This is exciting as it will inevitably drag other Azure services into the architecture.
- Second, we will rationalize and migrate a large volume of SQL Server, Oracle and DB2 databases across to Azure SQL Managed Instance. This pursuit specifically leverages our SQL migration factory capabilities and drives significant Azure consumption.
We’re engaging together on these two specific opportunities by establishing an NDA with MCS; working jointly with MCS to create the content for the pursuit and delivery plan; having MCS be the lead with BMO; acting as the delivery machine. BMO is a big place and there’s plenty of work to go around. It’s still the early days however we’re establishing a good working relationship with their team. The plan is to have regular cadence on targeted accounts (including BMO) where we’re well informed of each other’s activities, including opportunities that we’re not directly in partnership with.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR ADASTRA? WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT?
We went from $0 Microsoft business to $2M this year and we’re planning to grow to $10M next year. We’re continuing to make internal investments in AI, Blockchain and other emerging technologies. We think these investments align closely to the path Microsoft is pursuing.