This year’s 2015 VAR 100 of top value-added resellers and solutions providers all responded to the business market’s growing appetite for the cloud, though the fastest-growing among them are already strategically positioned for the next big industry trends.

These Killer VARs recorded enviable revenue growth that kept them perched ahead of the competition and at a vantage point where these trends are no longer plans but client-mandated directives, especially in the hot areas of industry verticalization, specialized solutions and business analytics. The 2015 Killer VARs offer the expertise and solutions to meet these market demands by forging a true advisory partnership with their clients.

 

Map to the VARs

New York City-based Net@Work made some big moves this past year, all made possible by the IT consulting firm’s long-established strategic plan.  

Among its biggest headlines was a new partnership with NetSuite, adding the cloud ERP provider to a portfolio of accounting solutions that includes Sage and Abila.

In embracing NetSuite’s “best-in-breed true-cloud solution,” the company, which reported 11 percent revenue growth over the last year to land it at No. 9 on the 2015 VAR 100, bolstered its varied suite of solutions. “We’re focused on cloud solutions for clients,” explained founder and co-president Edward Solomon. “Not so much what software, but in taking their business to the cloud … by changing the way they focus on the business. First, you need a plan, a strategy.”

Once a plan is outlined, Net@Work can help clients fulfill it with their range of solutions, or via their Partner Alliance Program. The program, with more than 50 value-added reseller and consultancy members, serves as a referral network for not only new clients, but solutions, services and business strategies. Through their membership, companies follow Net@Work’s philosophy of providing the most tailored technology plan for their clients, and when they benefit from a new business opportunity, so does Net@Work.

“We try to get our partners these days, who used to be competitors, to embrace our strategy for the success of the business,” said founder and co-president Alex Solomon. “Our differentiator was we wouldn’t do just one solution, but understand the needs of our clients to recommend what the best product was for them from a whole slew of products — not just ERP or CRM, but a total technology strategy. We will handle everything for you.”

“We play that role of CTO,” Edward Solomon said. “We do a business process review and analysis, what the risks and opportunities are. We offer solutions, but if they’re not ones we have under our own product stack, we go to our alliance partners.”

An unexpected bonus of this alliance, according to Alex, has been software publishers relying on Net@Work to serve as a trusted advisor to their direct customers and prospects.

To maintain this role, Net@Work is deepening the expertise in each of its 12 divisions, and hiring accordingly. “Each individual practice and business unit becomes its own business,” explained Alex. “Every individual business unit has its own leadership, runs its own profitable P&L, has a growth strategy and a marketing strategy for profitability.”

For customers that might not be ready for true cloud solutions, Net@Work can offer cloud-based applications with the data centers the company built out two years ago, and that have become a bigger strategic focus over the last year for the infrastructure options they provide.  

Net@Work also continues to function as an “incredible integration shop,” Alex said, with customized solutions for partners like Vertex SMB maintaining priority for the roughly two to three integration opportunities that Alex said arise per week.

 

Forecasting in the cloud

For Top 100 Firm Armanino’s technology consulting practice, “Software is a means to an end,” said partner-in-charge of consulting Tom Mescall. “It’s not just about cloud software products but the cloud mission all companies are on. We understand from a business level what is driving transformational change. We’re helping companies rethink their whole IT strategy and providing the business case to them.”

Rising cloud adoption was undoubtedly a big driver in Armanino’s 35 percent revenue growth over last year, placing it at No. 4 on the 2015 VAR 100. Yet the diversity of the firm’s offerings keeps Armanino at the top.

Armanino’s Intacct solutions serve the fast-growing Silicon Valley start-ups in the San Francisco-headquartered firm’s own backyard, while their Microsoft Dynamics and Adaptive Insights offerings are particularly attractive to the chief financial officers and financial executives of larger companies.

Regardless of size and industry, all companies are demanding budgeting and forecasting tools, according to Mescall: “Even larger, enterprise customers — billion-dollar energy companies — are interested in better budget planning and forecasting.”

Consequently, Armanino is deploying Adaptive Insights’ corporate performance management solution for clients on platforms ranging from Intacct to Dynamics AX. The firm also introduced a Forecast Management solution for Microsoft Dynamics CRM and partnered with business intelligence software developer PrecisionPoint earlier this year. Armanino’s product development capabilities, which Mescall calls “a big game-changer,” offer custom and industry-specific solutions that can nonetheless still be used by a range of clientele, often at no extra charge.

In areas where an industry-leading solution already exists, Armanino will typically forge a partnership. “We are always looking for opportunistic ways to expand and fill out with more and more solutions of interest to us and our clients,” Mescall explained. “PrecisionPoint is a good example of that, with the forecast management and building out the intellectual property and bringing it to the market.”

While Armanino is often “classified as a West Coast or California company because of our location, clients are spread all over the country,” Mescall said. “Cloud implementation is breaking down the barriers .... It’s an amazing transformation for me to see, the portfolio of new clients spread across the U.S. And every year it increases more and more. It varies by industry, but as barriers break down, companies seek you out for your industry expertise across the nation… . [We also have the] ability to recruit consultants in different territories, which is great.”

 

Power to the people

Tribridge owes its success—and No. 2 ranking on the 2015 VAR 100—to three factors, according to the Tampa-Fla.-based tech services firm’s chair and CEO, Tony DiBenedetto.

First, customers are demanding more specific solutions to serve their business, instead of whole platforms. “It’s a big shift for us,” he shared. “We look at the platforms out there, and start to build solutions on top of those platforms and verticalize the applications.”

In line with another hot industry trend, Tribridge recently launched a series of applications and solutions under its newer business intelligence and analytics practice, headed by former Dell BI and analytics director Michael Porreca.

The second major client expectation DiBenedetto has witnessed is, unsurprisingly, cloud-related. He estimates that in two out of three of Tribridge’s deals, clients are asking for the cloud, while Tribridge’s cloud business alone has increased 100 percent year-over-year for the last four years.

The third factor in the company’s success, which recorded 10 percent revenue growth this past year, is the growing demand for talent management solutions. All companies are looking to improve their recruiting, retention and training capabilities, and Tribridge offers a solution with its Cornerstone OnDemand cloud-based talent management software. “The people function has exploded in the minds of a lot of our customers, as they figure out how a system can help them manage that part of their business,” he said.

As one of the largest Microsoft partners, Tribridge has also benefitted from CEO Satya Nadella’s dramatic shift to the cloud, with increased focus on its cloud platform and infrastructure Azure. “We are lucky that earlier in the year we launched a hybrid cloud with Azure, the integrated Concerto cloud with Azure,” DiBenedetto said. “The customer can choose Azure for testing and development and have certain applications in Azure and it integrates seamlessly to run in Concerto. It’s a drag-and-drop application in either environment and our environments run integrated with Azure.”

“When clients pick you as a partner, they make sure you have the cloud,” he said. “In 2014-15 that [demand] has accelerated. It’s part of the vernacular, the lexicon in buying solutions—they’re asking about the cloud.”

 

Great expectations

Vision33 had one of the most dramatic growth spurts of the 2015 VAR 100, increasing revenue by 78 percent over last year to propel the SAP Business One VAR to No. 11 on the list.

The largest driver for that ascension was the 2014 acquisition of Encaptis, a top SAP Business One partner in Canada, which expanded Vision33’s North American footprint and helped earn it the 2015 SAP North America Partner Excellence Award for the fourth straight year.

Irvine, Calif.-headquartered Vision33 only offers SAP solutions, and that loyalty has paid off, according to vice president Alex Rooney, especially in the wake of the acquisition.

“We played in the small to medium-sized space,” he explained. The acquisition “was a great opportunity in the SAP ecosystem to bring it to larger enterprise customers.”

With Vision33 adding four large enterprise customers so far in 2015, including active-wear brand Under Armour, the company is scaling up.

“The dynamics of dealing in large enterprises are quite different, with larger projects with full teams for an extended period of time,” Rooney said. “We’re adding the head count around that, and we’re not done yet. The current plan is to double the size of the business by 2018.”

Helping accomplish that revenue goal is the plan to enter the U.K. and Germany — SAP’s headquarters — in the coming months.

“A lot of customers are demanding the cloud infrastructure, to deploy ERP applications in the cloud. We’re partners with Amazon, the market leader, to drive business and satisfy the demand of the customers. We started out small [with Amazon], and in 2014 it hit its stride and matured into a real, viable practice. It’s significant because, for years, we were an SAP partner, delivering consulting services and supporting customers, but we stayed out of the infrastructure business. Amazon Web Services brought us into the infrastructure picture. Now we can be accountable to customers from the cradle to the grave.”

Vision33 has also responded to the market need for specialization, deepening their niche knowledge in the five to six industries they currently serve. “The other piece is a lot of experts in different industry verticals,” Rooney said. “Last year we started to crystalize those vertical offerings with subject matter expertise for specific verticals — that’s been a big focus.”

Vision33 provides products and portals through sister organization zedSuite, the company’s technical arm that holds all the intellectual property and builds integrations on SAP. ZedSuite’s output keeps pace with the increasing sophistication of their customers, who are especially hungry for data insights.

“We really want to leverage the data we have; take that collection of data, analyze it and use analytical tools,” Rooney said. “With the in-memory database of SAP HANA, we can make business assessments and the business decisions that are inherent and existing in companies today.”

Better insights support the fundamental goal of Vision33, according to Rooney, which was incorporated in 2004 by “by a bunch of engineers who love data and plan in excruciating detail.”

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