Navigating the Microsoft Services Landscape

Spend Matters welcomes a guest post from Liz Herbert, a Principal Analyst at Forrester Research serving Sourcing & Vendor Management professionals.

It's no secret that Microsoft solutions are a core platform for information workers and the foundation for the connected enterprise around the globe. But the dizzying array of products and services – from enterprise applications to platform-as-a-service (PaaS) to application development – makes navigating complex and fragmented Microsoft landscape nearly impossible.

So how can you sift through Microsoft's deep product sheet and identify your organizational needs? In a new Forrester report, "Navigating The Microsoft Services Landscape," my colleagues and I maintain that firms must first outline the range of solutions, including:

  • Enterprise applications. Microsoft enterprise solutions are the backbone of many organizations – running financials, customer systems, and supply chains worldwide. Key products in this category include Dynamics AX, GP, NAV, and CRM.
  • Collaboration and productivity applications. Collaboration and productivity applications form the hub of communication for knowledge workers. SharePoint has become a central hub of document management for many companies, and productivity applications (Exchange, Office, and Office 365) are core to the way that employees collaborate and communicate.
  • Platform-as-a-service. Azure has quickly become a leading PaaS offering to build custom applications.
  • Desktop and device management. Microsoft is a major player in the desktop space with a dominant share of the market running on its Windows platform. Users are now demanding (and expecting) mobility with 24x7x365 access, so Microsoft has developed mobile and virtualized platforms to satisfy these needs.
  • Database and BI. Microsoft also has significant plays in the data and BI space, especially with its SQL line of products. Typical needs in this area include migrations from other databases and enterprise application management.
  • Application development, integration, and security. Key products in this category include .NET programming, BizTalk for integration, and Active Directory for user management and authentication.

Once you identify organizational needs – what's next? While Microsoft itself drives a substantial amount of R&D and innovation, providers of industry and deployment options make these products real for clients.

Service providers fall into three major categories:

  1. Business process and industry expertise. Companies partner with leading advisory and consulting firms to gain third-party insight into best practices for specific domains, such as supply chain, sales automation, or customer experience. Forrester recommends looking for partners with strong business acumen, industry-focused consultants and practices, change management skills, and tools built for specific industries or domains. Providers that have a strong focus in this space include Accenture, Infosys, PwC, and TCS.
  2. Outsourcing solutions that bundle hardware, cloud, and/or hosting to complete the "stack." Microsoft clients may seek a fully managed solution, which is proving popular with desktop and applications hosting. Clients should look for firms with an "asset heavy" footprint, global data presence, and strong skills around infrastructure management. Buyers will find the most complete range of solutions from Fujitsu, HP, CSC, Atos, CGI, Capgemini, IBM, and Accenture.
  3. Development skills including architects, programmers, and staff augmentation. Buyers seeking technology skills often turn to services providers to satisfy their needs. Look for significant numbers of resources offshore or in low-cost domestic sourcing applications, as well as providers that are able to offer SLA or outcome-based pricing where appropriate. Key providers with strength in technology categories include Accenture, IBM, InfoSys, TCS, HCL, and Wipro.

Microsoft partners with nearly half a million vendors, ranging from multinational corporations to smaller boutique options and specialist providers. Within this universe of Microsoft partners, this report helps clients navigate the capabilities of the major global services providers who are strong in Microsoft technologies.

- Liz Herbert, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research

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