From Necessity to Success
Spinpanel leaves legacy behind and builds future-proof provisioning platform
In 2015, when Microsoft asked several IT distributors to adjust their provisioning tools to the cloud program (CSP) of Office 365 and Azure, Computron decided to rebuild their automation tool from scratch. A golden opportunity, as becomes apparent later. “We used the newest technology, meaning the solution is future-proof, unlike many competing tools.”
Koen Nicolasen is currently Chief Operations Officer at Spinpanel, the company that originated from Computron’s keen foresight. Together with CTO Vincent Mejan he stood at the root of the development of the software that makes it easy for distributors and Microsoft partners to purchase and assign Microsoft Cloud licenses and subscriptions. “With Computron we’ve been using Microsoft technology to serve education institutes for years. Even back then we had our own provisioning tool that made it easy for schools to add students and teachers to systems, and to assign roles and access permissions with a simple click of a button.” The business serves about 30 to 40 education institutes that combined cater to about two hundred thousand students and teachers.
In 2015 Computron was asked by Microsoft if their provisioning tool could be adjusted to allow support for the new cloud licenses program of Office 365, Azure, and Dynamics 365. “This question was put before several Microsoft partners, so we were not unique in the fact that we would be developing a system to support the CSP program,” explains Nicolasen. What was unique was the fact that they decided to built an entirely new system from scratch. “That gave us the option to work with the newest technology and use the insights we had at that moment in time. Many competitors continued building on their existing systems.” This means they often have to work on legacy IT equipment which causes them to be less flexible than the Spinpanel tool, notes Nicolasen. “Just yesterday I was having a conversation with a distributor and they had already spoken to a number of some of our most prominent competitors, but they were all dealing with legacy IT and were not able to offer the solution to their problem, namely supporting different layers of licensing models.”
App becomes platform
Computron dubbed the new tool Spinpanel and widely presented it to the market at the Microsoft Inspire event in the summer of 2016. “We were listed in Microsoft AppSource, the Microsoft Marketplace, which meant all kinds of IT organizations from around the globe were able to find us.” This created rapid growth, and resulted in the decision to house the tool in an entirely separate organization with its own people, shareholders, and investments. From the very beginning focus was on being able to onboard new customers quickly and easily. “We started by building what we jokingly called ‘an app’”, Nicolasen smiles. “But it became a full-blown platform. We didn’t want for customers to have to spend thousands of euros on implementation costs, we wanted it to be easy to setup and configure.” In the first few months focus was centered entirely on supporting the different countries in which Spinpanel was being used. “We have customers in Asia, America, Australia and of course in many European countries.”
Multi-channel, multi-tier and multi-tenant
Many of those customers found Spinpanel through Microsoft’s marketplace in their search for a platform that could help them provision Microsoft Cloud licenses. “Our biggest advantage by building Spinpanel from scratch is that we could take into account the needs of the market from the very beginning. A distributor has different needs than a reseller, and a reseller wants to see different things than an end-customer. We were able to build these multi-tier layers as we call them, directly into our product. Also several license models – multi-channel – were built into Spinpanel. In addition, the system is also multi-tenant. “Everyone in the chain needs to be able to see information relevant to them. In chain automation what’s often lacking is the connection of roles and rights, but because we already took this into consideration four years ago, we can easily support it.”
Nicolasen is proud of his team and what they have achieved over the past few years. “There have been moments with pressing deadlines and agreements with customers that required us to really step it up and sometimes work day and night. By putting in an incredible effort we were able to get everything right, which I’m very proud of.” But also the appreciation from the market does not leave Nicolasen unmoved. “We get a lot of positive feedback from renowned distributors and resellers in the Netherlands.”
And yet the managing director sought out cloudscanner that was offering similar technology to the market. The reason for this was that his organization was very technology driven and was mainly focused on the development of the tool. “At cloudscanner this was exactly the other way around; they had a technically inferior product, but they were very market and customer focused. This was what we needed to grow. We found we really clicked well together, and saw that combining the businesses would lead to substantial added value.” This merger became fact in 2018. This also opened the door to international expansion.
Now there is nothing to hold back Nicolasen’s ambition. “World domination”, he laughingly says. He wants to achieve this by correctly applying the scale-up method. He sees plenty of examples in businesses around him that are scaling up rapidly. “What we need is to go viral”, he says. “And that’s only possible when your customers are talking to others about the relevancy of our product, and that it’s easy to use.” This is therefore a short-term goal; perfecting the operation, support, and development. “World domination is only within reach when we stay relevant to our clients. And they want to have a platform that will help them better serve their end-customers by offering insights and solutions, and as a result realize more revenue faster.”