The Tech Take: Cloud Transforms Competitors to Collaborators

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There wasn't a better case made for the dawn of collaboration in today’s cloud-networked world than the announcement of Microsoft and NetSuite forming a partnership between the two competitors’ cloud platforms and solutions.

Helping broker the deal between NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was NetSuite chief marketing officer Fred Studer, who joined the company six months prior—from Microsoft, where he was most recently general manager of the Dynamics solutions.

In speaking to Studer about the pivotal partnership he called “extraordinarily exciting to me,” it was clear an open-minded tone at the top paved the way to that handshake.

By the time Microsoft transitioned its leadership in 2014 from Steve Ballmer to Nadella, whom Studer knew very well from Nadella’s tenure heading the servers and tools group, Studer had already worked with him and his executive team in the re-envisioning of their partner relationships—including opening up to Apple and teaming up with Salesforce. These strides, according to Studer, represented “innovation that the market hadn’t had the chance to see.”

When Studer came to NetSuite last December, riding this wave of open integration, he acknowledged that Nelson was somewhat “blinded by the competition”—especially because, “on some level, [Microsoft] competes with everyone.” The best strategy was to pick a specific piece where the two companies could forge a mutually beneficial relationship.

Fortunately, Nadella, whom Studer  has a “ton of respect and admiration for” and Nelson, embracing NetSuite’s recent focus on disruption and “being comfortable with being uncomfortable” strategy, were the right minds to hammer out the deal.  

A meeting was set between Nadella and Nelson, which became “an intensely phenomenal brainstorm,” according to Studer. Over the course of an hour, Nadella asked about NetSuite’s pure cloud model while Nelson gained insights into Microsoft’s massive productivity platform and user base.  

“Our philosophy is not to build things people have already done,” Studer said. “Our entire philosophy is to buy the best, if we can afford it, and it makes sense for us. Microsoft has won the war. Office 365 is the definitive platform for productivity. We’re privileged to have that partnership.”

While NetSuite has staged “massive acquisition sprees” in the past, Studer explained that the company is always weighing the benefits of build vs. buy when adding any new solutions or capabilities.

Thus, the Microsoft deal is now a “potential playbook to consider as something that should be repeated,” he said.

“We will continue to look for partnerships,” he shared. “There aren’t many other partners doing the same thing [as us]… We’ve got our platform, what we know and love, and we are thinking of scenarios on other platforms, specifically Microsoft. Some scenarios we’ve been thinking about specifically are around the integration of cloud-to-cloud.”

Microsoft’s Azure cloud is a “great platform on which we can extend an ecosystem,” Studer continued, explaining that it’s an ideal environment for development, testing, and for ISV partners to build connections and other technologies.

As the integrations with Microsoft deepen, Studer also envisions NetSuite leveraging everything from Microsoft’s Excel to Skype, Lync, IM, video and collaboration tool Delve. He gets especially enthusiastic when imagining the possibilities on the upcoming HoloLens holographic computer. Through these integrations, both companies can build business insights and big data sets, as well as embrace all the platform mobility the Internet of Things hath wrought.

This powerful synergy is only possible with the cloud, which both prompted and enabled this collaboration between two innovative companies and CEOs.

After all, as Nelson proclaimed during his keynote to kick off the 2015 SuiteWorld user conference where the partnership was announced, “the cloud has won.” And so, it seems, have NetSuite and Microsoft. 

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