Direct Billing vs. Indirect Reselling: Which Path Suits Your Business Best?

Billing Automation and Subscription Management solution  

Efficiency is critical in the business world, with bills and subscription management being the major components. This is where we fit in – we are that trusted automation billing and subscription management interface of yours. Our platform is designed to make your life easier by tackling four critical aspects: data storage and loading, bank and invoice, self-service, and payments.

billing subscription management for Microsoft partners

The beauty of our solution in its multi-functionality is precious implantable. Our range of CSPs is pretty diversified and consists of small, medium, and large providers working in various regions across the country and abroad. To some of them, technology is the main field of activity while others offer cloud solutions as an integrated part of their business. Whether it is a small enterprise or a large-scale corporation, we have the tools and capability to deliver your needs.

It is our never-ending drive toward identifying and tackling the consistent challenges of different businesses. These include repetitive revenue access, arising leaks of revenue, and streamlined operations. Our platform is designed to solve these problems inside-out with four functions which are core.

Let us embark on a path designed to simplify billing and subscription management, serving as a platform to help you operate with fewer hitches and provide clearer visibility of your income.

Navigating the Partner Ecosystem: Bill Directly, Sell Indirectly through Resellers, and Other Options for Vendors 

As technology partnerships develop in a continually changing scenario, finding the way through the technology jargon, is not always an easy effort.

Let’s break it down.

There are two key players: using direct bill partners who purchase directly from Microsoft and then sell it to the end customer, and the indirect resellers who in contrast to direct partners buy from distributors, who actually purchase from Microsoft and then reach the customer.

Direct Bill Indirect Provider Reseller

What is relevant is that these terms have evolved with time and do not indicate the business competence of the partner, but are instead a way for Microsoft to sort or classify its partners. It also gives a glimpse of the historical dimension of the industry.

What sounds interesting is the ongoing fashion in partners who change from what they were.

Some are shifting from being indirect resellers to embracing the direct bill model, while others are moving in the opposite direction based on their performance standards. It’s a dynamic landscape. 

Manufacturer Provider

Further down the chain, we encounter the manufacturers, the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), who provide the core services like Microsoft, Google, Veem, and Skykick. Then come the providers, those avenues through which you can acquire the software directly from Microsoft or through a distributor. 

Partners, on the other hand, come in various flavors. Some opt for the direct bill approach, procuring their offerings directly from Microsoft. However, the emerging trend is the rise of hybrid partners who engage in a dual strategy, purchasing from Microsoft and collaborating with indirect providers. 

In this session, we delve into the intricacies of these partner dynamics – exploring the advantages and disadvantages of each approach and uncovering how partners navigate this complex web of relationships. As a partner, your role extends beyond mere transactions; you’re expected to craft enticing offers, and package solutions and create bundles that resonate with your customers. Additionally, offering self-service support adds value to your services, bolstering your position in the competitive CSP business landscape. Stay tuned as we unravel the intricate threads of partnership in the tech world.

Navigating 16 Years of Software Sales: A Conversation with Rosalyn Arntzen of Amaxra 

In the fast-paced world of technology, adaptability is critical, and few understand this better than Rosalyn Arntzen, co-founder of Amaxra. Amaxra, a company with a rich 16-year history, has been at the forefront of services and software sales since the early days when Microsoft handled almost everything and partners simply earned a percentage. Over the years, they’ve witnessed the remarkable evolution of the industry. 

One of the critical transitions Amaxra has made is from being an indirect partner to becoming a direct one. Rosalyn is eager to share insights into the nuances and differences between these two approaches. While they still maintain a few ties with indirect providers, it’s not for Microsoft licensing purposes. Instead, these collaborations revolve around additional solutions that complement their core offerings. 

For Amaxra, the shift to direct licensing with Microsoft has been a significant pivot. It’s a journey that has reshaped their business management strategies continually. Rosalyn points out that introducing the New Commerce Experience (NCE) has been a game-changer for everyone in the industry, including Amaxra. NCE has revolutionized how they manage licensing, engage with customers, and run their operations.

Unlocking Success in the World of Microsoft Dynamics: A Journey with Jeffrey Goldstein of Q Associates 

In the realm of technology partnerships, few names shine as brightly as Q Associates, led by the seasoned Managing Director Jeffrey Goldstein. Q Associates boasts an impressive track record with a global presence spanning the Americas, Asia, and EMEA. Their story with Microsoft dates back over three decades, where they have primarily thrived as a Microsoft Dynamics partner. 

Their journey with Microsoft took an interesting twist when the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program was introduced. Having always purchased their software directly from Microsoft, the shift to working through distributors was a new challenge. However, change was on the horizon, and in late 2022, Q Associates applied for their Microsoft direct CSP agreement – a significant move that required a fresh approach to managing clients. 

Enter Work 365, a trusted partner in this transformative journey. Q Associates sought a solution that could seamlessly handle provisioning, support, and service needs for their clients. In the past, as an indirect provider, software was typically provided by the distributor. But now, as a direct partner, they needed their own software, a requirement set forth by Microsoft for approval. 

The connection between Q Associates and Work 365 was not serendipitous but resulted from years of interaction and relationship-building. Once the decision to become a direct partner was made, partnering with Work 365 became an obvious choice. 

Innovation and Adaptation: The Opkalla Story with Steve Ermish 

In the dynamic world of technology, adaptability often separates leaders from the rest, and Opkalla, under the leadership of Steve Ermish, exemplifies this quality. Based in Charlotte, NC, Opkalla is a high-growth technology company that emerged in 2019. This year, they achieved an impressive feat, landing at #52 on the Ink 5000 list – a testament to their remarkable growth trajectory. 

Steve Ermish has worn many hats in the company’s journey, and currently, he’s at the helm of all back-office operations. This encompasses finance, sales, operations, legal, HR/IT, and practically everything that fuels the engine behind the scenes. But Opkalla’s story is not just about its present success; it’s about how it seized opportunities and evolved in the ever-changing tech landscape. 

Steve served as the CTO in the initial stages, and then COVID-19 struck. With the world transitioning to remote work, Microsoft’s work-from-home solutions became paramount. For Opkalla, this presented a unique opportunity, and Microsoft became an integral part of their portfolio. As a startup, they embraced every opportunity, including Microsoft, and quickly grew as an indirect provider or indirect reseller from April 2020 to the end of 2021. At that point, they had achieved around 200K MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) and earned gold status. 

But they hadn’t initially considered being a direct partner with Microsoft, deeming it somewhat out of reach. They lacked a provisioning system, a billing system, and other essentials required for such a partnership. However, a chance encounter with Work 365 opened up new possibilities. 

The journey towards becoming a hybrid of direct and indirect partners began to take shape. Opkalla started exploring the potential of becoming a direct partner with the support of Work 365. Today, Opkalla is a prime example of adaptability and growth in the tech industry.

Decision Criteria

Rosalyn Arntzen of Amaxra 

The journey began roughly three years ago when Amaxra transitioned from one indirect partner to another. During this transition, Amaxra was already utilizing Work 365, a platform designed to simplify and optimize the management of Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) businesses. Initially, the decision was to remain an indirect partner, but as time passed, it became evident that this might not be the most advantageous path. 

A pivotal moment occurred a few months before the introduction of the New Commerce Experience (NCE) when Amaxra decided to reconsider its approach and explore the possibility of becoming a direct partner. Fast forward to today, and Amaxra has been operating as a direct partner for close to 18 months to two years. 

So, what prompted this shift from an indirect to a direct partnership with Microsoft? One of the key factors was the realization that even as an indirect partner, there were expenses associated with support. Additionally, promises of marketing expertise and support to grow the business from the indirect partner didn’t materialize as expected. It was a valuable lesson learned – sometimes, being closer to the source is the key to success.

Steve Ermish 

As we delve deeper into the intricacies of transitioning from indirect to direct partnerships in the realm of technology, Steve’s experiences and insights shed light on the subtle yet significant differences that can make or break a business. For Steve, the journey began with limited choices, and he initially embarked on the indirect partnership route. This choice was partly due to the necessity of the moment, as they lacked the infrastructure required for a direct partnership. 

One key aspect that Steve highlights is the challenges faced by newcomers in the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) arena. With a multitude of CSPs emerging, getting the support and attention needed can be a formidable task. Often, new entrants find themselves at the bottom of the hierarchy, left to navigate the CSP landscape on their own. The journey becomes a “sink or swim” endeavor. 

However, Steve’s experience took a different turn when one of their sales representatives secured a higher-tier indirect partnership, offering them a better margin than they initially had as newcomers. Despite this, they discovered that the support and guidance they expected were still somewhat elusive. Their interaction with their distributor remained largely transactional, focusing on the immediate deal at hand. 

Things took a turn during the New Commerce Experience (NCE) transition, a period marked by billing challenges and disruptions. Steve acknowledges that while some of the billing issues were attributed to Microsoft, the distributors also faced their fair share of struggles. It became evident that many distributors grappled with similar problems. 

An intriguing aspect of Steve’s journey is his interaction with multiple distributors. While he attempted to consolidate their business with one distributor, he discovered that no single distributor was a perfect fit. Each had its strengths and weaknesses, and finding the ideal partner proved elusive. 

It wasn’t until the end of 2022, when Steve stumbled upon Work 365, that a new avenue emerged. The concept of exploring the direct partnership route began to take shape. Work 365’s solution offered a glimmer of hope, prompting Steve to consider this as a potential path forward.

Jeffrey Goldstein of Q Associates 

In 2018, we entered a world little known to us at the moment when Cloud Solution Provider [CSP] services just became our priority. We learned only days after that we were going to have to contend with a terrain we had no experience navigating at an early stage. Similar to the experiences of Rosa and Steve, having a trusted partner was essential. Microsoft Dynamics, in particular, seemed to be a complex area where we needed assistance. As a result, we decided to enter into a direct support contract with Microsoft for CSP, specifically in the dynamic field – a decision that proved invaluable. 

While we gained solid support for Dynamics, we still grappled with the intricacies of the CSP side, including licensing, renewals, and the intricacies of sales. We were in constant need of assistance, relying heavily on various portals and tools. Fast forward four years, and we have become far more proficient in the CSP business. We felt confident enough to explore the possibility of a direct partnership with Microsoft. Our application was approved, signaling our self-sufficiency in the CSP arena. We decided to sever ties with intermediaries and go directly with Microsoft. 

What made this transition smooth and successful was the Work 365 portal, which equipped us with all the necessary tools for supporting our customers. In the past, we heavily leaned on distributors for these tools, but now, we have our arsenal for customer support, provisioning, invoicing, and more. This pivotal shift allowed us to evolve from being indirect partners reliant on distributors to becoming direct partners, firmly in control of our destiny. 

However, like many others, we haven’t completely severed ties with distributors. Depending on location and product offerings, we continue to collaborate with them. They still provide access to products that Microsoft doesn’t sell directly. In essence, we’ve become a hybrid entity, working closely with both Microsoft and distributors to offer our customers the best of both worlds.

Resources 

Watch our exclusive roundtable discussion on navigating the Microsoft CSP program. Click here.