John Orrock and Ken Struthers know CRM. They founded Cloud Sherpas, grew it to one of the largest and most successful Salesforce partners, then sold it. That was then. This is now. And now the two have founded Barhead, which builds CRM exclusively on Microsoft Dynamics 365. They say customers get better, more feature-rich solutions, and they have found their business is growing twice as fast as what they experienced the first time around.
John Orrock started building technology provider companies around Salesforce back in 2003 because, he recalls, he saw it as the Next Big Thing in CRM. He was right, and the company he founded with Ken Struthers—Cloud Sherpas—became one of the world’s top Salesforce partners by the time it was acquired by Accenture in 2015.
So what’s the seer of Salesforce up to now? He and Struthers have founded another CRM technology partner company, called Barhead. But this time the CRM effort is focused completely on Microsoft Dynamics 365—which Orrock says is today’s Next Big Thing.
“Simply the better choice”
“When you look at the advantages of building a CRM solution with Dynamics 365, it’s simply the better choice,” says Orrock, Chairman of Barhead. “That wasn’t true 15 years ago. It is true today.”
And customers aren’t the only ones winning big by choosing Dynamics 365, according to Orrock—so is the Australia-based Barhead.
Growing twice as fast
“We’re growing twice as fast with Dynamics 365 as we were in the past,” he says. “That’s largely a function of pricing and value. Our customers see so much value with Dynamics 365 that we can win more business, build more of our services into the solution, and still come in at or below other CRM solutions with less functionality. We’re a systems integrator. We make money from services. And we have made more of it with Dynamics 365.”
Orrock says that the Salesforce solutions built by his former company cost about 30 percent more than comparable Dynamics 365 solutions he’s building now, after adding in licensing costs for components that are included with Dynamics 365, such as reporting, analytics, and collaboration. In his experience, solutions, such as portals could cost up to 150 percent more without Dynamics 365.
A “greater-value” solution
“Understand, we don’t sell Dynamics 365 as a less-expensive solution, we sell it as a greater-value solution, one that customers can afford, and can afford to extend to the full functionality they really need,” says Orrock.
The value of Dynamics 365-based solutions is a competitive advantage for systems integrators such as Barhead. The breadth of the platform and the possibilities it enables for customers are another.
“Look at the extensibility of the Microsoft stack,” says Struthers, General Manager at the company. “There’s Azure and more than 60 Azure services. There’s smart chatbot technology to provide innovative customer service. There’s Power BI to bring analytics to any user on any device. Microsoft provides an incredible range of options and the ability to integrate them seamlessly.”
Barhead also gains an advantage from Microsoft’s local datacenters, which help them meet data sovereignty needs for customers in public sector industries including financial services.
Dynamics 365 has improved significantly
As much as they’re fans of Dynamics 365 now, Orrock and Struthers acknowledge that it wasn’t always that way with its predecessor, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. There’s a reason, after all, that they built their previous business on Salesforce.
“But Dynamics 365 has improved significantly,” says Struthers. “We had issues before around configurability for vertical solutions and with technology such as Power BI. Those issues have been addressed.”
In fact, the two entrepreneurs point to the burgeoning range of industry-driven solutions that contribute to a rapidly expanding partner ecosystem around Dynamics 365.
“People have created a big market around templates that couple directly with Dynamics 365 for office automation, Internet of Things, industry connections to Azure, and more,” says Orrock. “It’s another factor that makes Dynamics 365 solutions commercially compelling.”
Targeting the switchers
When Orrock and Struthers look at the market for Barhead’s services, they don’t just see companies making their first decision between Salesforce and Dynamics 365. They see the universe of companies running on Salesforce now—and that could benefit from a switch.
To help those companies migrate to Dynamics 365, Barhead offers a swap-out program to make migrations faster, easier, and more successful. It includes IP to address licensing issues and reduce risk. It also includes onshore and offshore development resources that can implement vertical-industry solutions cost-effectively.
Barhead’s offshore resources are in the Philippines, and Orrock and Struthers built that base when they operated Cloud Sherpa. Getting the developers there ready for Dynamics 365 wasn’t difficult, they say, and mainly required familiarizing them with the software, rather than calling for any formal retraining.
Inside the Microsoft DNA
Barhead also benefits from the fact that the partnership with Microsoft works two ways: Microsoft is Barhead’s partner too, say the founders.
“Partnership is in the Microsoft DNA,” says Orrock. “We make joint sales calls and they work closely with us throughout the sales cycle. We do joint marketing programs. They bring in the right folks to give us an assist on industry use cases and enterprise-level solutions. We don’t often need technical support but whenever we reach out to them with questions, they’re very responsive. We’re completely comfortable working with Microsoft, and we haven’t always had that experience in this business.”
They owe it to their customers
Some partners decide their businesses will be technology-agnostic, offering competing software and services so customers can have their choice. Not Barhead, which is 100 percent Microsoft.
“We thought of offering both Salesforce and Dynamics 365 but we see no reason to do so,” says Orrock. “Our customers look to us for guidance on the best solutions. We’re truly a trusted partner and that’s baked into our business. So we offer what we think is the best: Dynamics 365.”