Dynamics 365 Expert
Chris Capistran has a few words of advice for Dynamics resellers who don’t see the point in working with the Cloud Solution Provider program.
Capistran is the president of Cobalt, a CRM Solutions company based in Arlington, VA. His company started working with SherWeb about a year ago because it wanted to resell Dynamics 365 through the CSP. He said Cobalt had been working with another large reseller but just wasn’t happy with the relationship.
“I think their problem was they were not a cloud-focused business. We just signed on because Microsoft said we needed to have the relationship. We really hadn’t sold any licenses through them. When I started to talk to people and said, ‘I really want to get serious about this,’ SherWeb’s name kept coming up. So I had some conversations and it just seemed like a good fit.”
Capistran was also impressed by the way SherWeb encouraged its Dynamics partners to help other resellers in its partner network. Capistran said he’s currently working with another SherWeb partner in Canada who is trying to help a customer migrate to Dynamics 365.
“What I think is really cool about SherWeb is that you bring partners together. You’re actually looking out and saying ‘there’s this partner and they need some help.’ You’re bringing partners together who can complement each other and work together. We see a lot of that going on with the team. So, that’s a cool story to tell.”
Capistran, whose company focuses 100 percent of its energies on Dynamics 365, said SherWeb made a big effort to help him understand the CSP program.
“Everybody has been really helpful. You are much more technology-forward than the other group was, much more focused on the cloud. That’s a very good fit for us because we’re only selling Dynamics. The fact that you actually have people who are knowledgeable about the product on staff (is great). I feel like everyone I dealt with at the other group were just sales people who had no real knowledge of the products they were selling.“
He also pointed out that SherWeb’s partner portal played a big role in his decision to go with the CSP.
“When we first started the process, we were looking at Direct CSP, but the interface and interacting with Microsoft directly was pretty daunting for a small partner like us. SherWeb’s partner portal was a huge help for us to get up to speed. It was just nice to have somebody who said, ‘We’ll give you a login’ and you just go click-click and you have licenses. That was pretty appealing to us.”
Cobalt, which opened its doors in 1996, employs 28 people and currently has about 200 clients in North America and the UK. Capistran, who has been working with Microsoft CRM products since 2003, said the company does a lot of work with non-profit organizations such as the National Association of Realtors and the Society for Human Resources Management. Cobalt’s software helps these organizations manage their memberships and certification programs.
Capistran agrees that a lot of Dynamics resellers are reluctant to join the CSP because they feel it’s just a way to sell software licenses. Why do that when you can make a lot more money going on-site and doing customization work?
“There’s really no money to be gained by selling through the CSP. I see it more as a necessary evil than a benefit. But SherWeb has made that necessary evil a lot better. I think the difference between SherWeb and some of the other distributors is that you actually do webinars, you offer training services. You actually read through all the promotions and provide education to the partners out there. I do feel like SherWeb is more of a partner (than just a Dynamics distributor).”
Capistran said Cobalt is very active in the Dynamics community and has developed a lot of its own solutions to solve problems for its members. For example, the company has a migration tool called Migration Dynamics that was created to help its customers move from older Microsoft CRM versions to Dynamics 365. He said although there are a lot of integration and data replication tools on the market, they still require a lot of configuration before the migration can actually occur. He said the easiest way to move forward was for Cobalt to create the tool themselves.
“We just figured we had to do 100+ of them (migrations) ourselves, so we’re going to build this tool, which, if nothing else, will help us do those migrations a lot faster. But then as we started to build it, we said, ‘No, there’s a need for this,’ so we packaged it as an offering that we sell to other Microsoft partners.”
The company also runs its own CRM Lab, an internal incubator that builds specific solutions for the Dynamics community. Two of its latest products are Snapshot, an internal backup and cloning tool and IQ, a tool that can write what are called not-in queries. This type of query helps end users search for specific data.
“The not-in query was the number one most-requested feature by customers of Microsoft and they kept pushing it off and not putting a solution out there. We decided, ‘You know what, we’re going to build something.’ And we put it out there and we got over 2,000 people who downloaded it.”
Capistran said Cobalt wants to continue to grow its Dynamics practice beyond the membership and certification verticals it currently serves so it can be more present in the general CRM market. He sees the growing need for migration assistance as a good place to start.
“There are thousands of partners out there, so we felt that focusing on this specific challenge (migration) was a great place to start. We are building great relationships with other partners and end users through our migration expertise and our CRM Lab efforts and we plan to grow our practice from there.”