Why the duo behind Cloud Sherpas switched to Microsoft

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Why the duo behind Cloud Sherpas switched to Microsoft

Two of the men behind Cloud Sherpas, one of the world's top Salesforce.com partners, have revealed why they shunned that cloud CRM to launch a Microsoft Dynamics integrator.

John Orrock (above left) and Ken Struthers (right) were directors of Cloud Sherpas, a global Salesforce and Google powerhouse that sold to Accenture in 2015. Cloud Sherpas, which was was a three-time winner of Google's Enterprise Partner of the Year, employed around 1100 people worldwide when it sold to Accenture, including 150 in Australia.

The sale to Accenture was the second transaction of a Salesforce partner by Orrock, who sold his company, Okere, to Fujitsu in 2007 in a deal understood to have been worth up to $30 million. New York-based Okere – where Struthers worked as a project manager – migrated some of Wall Street's biggest banks from Siebel to Salesforce, including Merrill Lynch.

Considering their background, "the low-hanging fruit was [to launch] another Salesforce business," Struthers told CRN at Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto. "We had all the connections, the skills, the clients, but when we looked at the market, and thought about what is right for the customer going forward, there were a few things. One of them was the premium Salesforce pricing when the functionality that Microsoft now has had become on-par. It is really hard as a consultant to put hand on heart and recommend to someone that they pay twice the amount of money."

Orrock anticipates aggressive price competition for Salesforce from Microsoft – both from its current CRM Online product as well as the soon-to-be-launched Dynamics 365.

"Salesforce will be very challenged commercially. They will have to change their pricing model. Microsoft is far, far more competitive," Orrock said. "Salesforce is just way too overpriced."

He added, "Salesforce has gone along for 15 years without a competitor but now for the first time in 15 years, there is competitor."

Struthers said: "It is the same inflection point as with Salesforce and Siebel. Everywhere did Siebel until Salesforce came along. We were on the forefront of that."

Australian launch

Barhead launched its Australian office earlier this year, after being established in the Philippines in 2013. Orrock founded the company after stepping away from Cloud Sherpas, anticipating a pending acquisition would go through (that deal fell over but the Accenture sale completed in 2015).

The company has 120 staff worldwide, with 10 in the Australian operation, which recently signed its largest deal, a half-million dollar enterprise project.

In a blog post to announce Barhead's Australian launch, Struthers wrote: "Microsoft's technology has matured to be competitive with Salesforce.com, especially with latest release and recent acquisitions, and Microsoft's commercial model has significant benefits for customers.

"Salesforce is a great product, and I'm very proud of the solutions I created over the last 10 or so years, but looking forward, I see Microsoft being the right thing for our customers.  Microsoft are getting their act together in the cloud space, and it looks good," he wrote.

Microsoft is also encouraging its vast network of SMB and midmarket-focused resellers to expand beyond Office 365 and diversify into CRM.

Barhead is going hard after Salesforce accounts with a swap-out program to simplify the migration to Microsoft. The company is also pitching to Australian financial services organisations, which may have been shy of Salesforce due to data sovereignty concerns, an objection that Microsoft can overcome thanks to Australian availability zones.  

Cloud Sherpas is also a significant Google For Work partner, and supported major Australian deployments including Fairfax and Woolworths. While Barhead will focus squarely on CRM, both Orrock and Struthers see Microsoft's broad product portfolio as a key asset.

As a first-time attendee to WPC, Struthers said: "This conference has opened my eyes a bit broader. I've realised that people might buy Salesforce as a strategic CRM but they buy Microsoft as strategic decision."

Orrock added "Everyone may say Salesforce is everywhere and they are–"

"...But Microsoft is everywhere," Struthers.

Steven Kiernan was a guest of Microsoft at Worldwide Partner Conference

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