Microsoft Canada headquarters in Mississauga, Ont.

Published: March 7th, 2018

Several years ago the CIO of Steamwhistle Brewery explained to Jason Brommet that managing servers and mailboxes wasn’t the lager producer’s core business – it was brewing “incredible” beer.

That comment has stuck with Microsoft Canada’s director of partner business and development since, and is a driving force behind Microsoft’s cloud strategy this year.

“Many customers in Canada value themselves and define who they are, not by their IT services they manage or provisions their users, or functionally manages their organization,” says Brommet. “But they want to be able to take advantage of, or have access to, the latest innovations.”

Cloud is the underlying capability that supports the digital transformation everyone is chasing, he explains, and on the heels of the company’s strong 2018 second quarter results, which saw Azure revenue grow 98 per cent and server products and cloud services revenue grow by 18 per cent, the company will continue to help customers not only adopt, but successfully scale, their cloud platforms. It’s a task that is becoming increasingly challenging for businesses who are always looking for more ways to be efficient, he says.

“Without question, cloud is here,” says Brommet. “But frankly, in many cases, the scale required to drive that innovation is not something they are able to fund.”

In some cases, they are refusing to adopt it entirely. According to a recent survey from Dell Technologies, 12 per cent of Canadian businesses reported that cloud isn’t for them, or that they’ve had trouble adopting it. It’s not a big surprise, says Brommet, suggesting Canada’s appetite for risk hasn’t been very high when it comes to innovation.

“We’ve made great strides, don’t get me wrong, but we haven’t always been the fastest to move forward,” he explains, adding a lack of clarity surrounding cloud security and compliance in Canada has played a factor as well.

But that is slowly changing as well. Shared Services Canada’s (SCC) recent announcement that it’s now offering public cloud computing services for the Government of Canada is providing some answers for organizations.

“There are still a lot of questions around security regulation compliance. SCC finally formalizing their cloud strategy, that’s taken time, and a lot of the reason why has been about accessing information, and about privacy and security. Those highly regulated industries are the ones that have continued to be a little slower than the rest of the pack,” says Brommet.

As a cloud services broker, SCC will help customer departments select the right cloud computing services for their business needs, a spokesperson told IT World Canada. SCC has awarded 22 contracts so far. Out of the 22 contract holders, 10 will provide Microsoft cloud services.

Targeting public and commercial sectors in 2018

Unlike in the past, Microsoft Canada is targeting six specific industries this year: education, health, and core government services in the public sector, financial, manufacturing and retail services in commercial.

“Industry has long been an important part of our business but in all honesty, we haven’t been clear in those focuses,” he says, pointing to the public and commercial sectors they plan to penetrate. “We’re focused on building both the ecosystems and the capabilities to support it.”

The retail sector is under a lot of pressure to innovate and deliver an omnichannel experience for customers, he says. The same goes for government services, which are continually trying to simplify the access of personal data.

None of this, however, would be possible without Microsoft Canada’s partners, of which there are more than 14,000. For the better part of five years, Brommet says the company has been building on its partner-first strategy and ensuring partners have maximum flexibility to reach an even wider marketplace in Canada.

This doesn’t involve building new data centres this year, although Brommet says they will continue to invest in the ones that are already up and running, but it does involve building upon Microsoft’s Partner Development Units (PDUs). Launched last year, PDUs help Microsoft partners – in Canada and across the globe – build new business strategies and revenue streams within their own organizations and for their customers.

“We want to make sure we’re equipping them with the right skills, helping them develop the right offers and develop a clear value proposition and pricing strategy,” he says.

Find out more about the cloud ecosystem in Canada in CDN’s latest digital magazine focusing on the top cloud providers in Canada.

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