Akumina’s six-month old InterChange is designed to make SharePoint a pleasant experience for the business user, and newly-appointed David Maffei wants to make partnering with Akumina a pleasant experience for the channel.
Nashua N.H.-based software vendor Akumina, whose flagship InterChange product improves the SharePoint experience for non-IT users, recently hired David Maffei as their chief revenue officer. Maffei, who in his previous role built out a channel for Carbonite as it transitioned its emphasis from B2C to SMB, will be developing a go-to-market model for Akumina’s relatively new product.
Akumina, which has been around for nearly four years, is run by Ed Rogers, who used to be Chief Operating Officer at CMS vendor Ektron, and much of the Akumina brains trust is made up of people who were at Ektron in its palmy days, when it rose from basically nothing to a tech high-flyer. Maffei was one of those those, who worked for Rogers for almost seven years, and who moved on to Carbonite while Rogers was starting Akumina.
“Ed knew he wanted to start a company based on a software platform that solved a massive need in the market for Microsoft SharePoint,” Maffei said. “That became InterChange, which launched earlier this year.”
Maffei said that while SharePoint is an excellent product, business and marketing users have problems with it.
“SharePoint is typically championed by IT teams, the technical folks,” he said. “It’s very good at collaboration, user management, and workflows – the heavy lifting back-end data management. What it’s not so great at is enabling business users or marketing users to interact with the platform. They find its complexity makes it hard to use, while the IT people love the complexity.”
InterChange installs as a layer on top of SharePoint, either in software or the cloud.
“It provides a content management user experience layer that lets business users do their jobs – like managing the Intranet or Websites, by letting them interact with system in a way they couldn’t before, without having to navigate the SharePoint architecture,” Maffei said.
Maffei said that other SharePoint enhancement solutions are on the market, they tend to be point- based solutions, which make workflow easier, user management easier, or site deployment easier.
“What you don’t find though, is something that cascades across the entire platform, which is what InterChange does. “The other tools are more for SharePoint admins as well. Our interface is designed to be usable for business users. We actually hide the SharePoint ribbon, so they don’t have to deal with it.”
Maffei said that the market for SharePoint is now growing significantly with its availability in Office 365.
“The Office 365 push opens up the market for SharePoint on the back end, and enables SharePoint to be a much more integral point of organizations, whether they are big or small,” he said.
Maffei, as chief revenue officer, is responsible for both Akumina’s direct and channel business, but he indicated that the direct business is relatively small, and ideally will be phased out as the product becomes better known and more generally adopted.
“We have an extremely large channel focus, but the product is available direct,” Maffei said. “l do want to make sure our partners are implementing the product however, and want implementation to be 100 per cent channel. Right now while acquiring the software itself is hybrid, the hope is it becomes 100 per cent channel as it becomes mainstreamed.”
Their present channel is a mix of large and small partners – but which still has some gaps Maffei wants to fill.
“Today, we have a pretty wide partner ecosystem, which includes some big names in the space like PWC and Accenture, that have massive SharePoint practices,” he said. “We also have lots of smaller interactive agencies, which are not break-fix companies, but more 20-30 person organizations with practices based on the Microsoft stack.”
Going forward, Maffei said a top priority is to leverage his relationships to get more of the right kind of partners. This means building the infant partner network they have now to scale, rather than rethinking things and building up from scratch.
“It’s really a matter of reaching out to put an overall strategy in place, because the product has only been out on the street for a half a year,” he said. “It’s a matter of connecting with the right partners. I have the relationships and the ability to get to the right people in the organizations we want to partner with.”
That also includes relationship with big DMRs like CDW.
“Going through that channel will be big for us,” Maffei said. “We also have some more strong alignment with key vendor players, including Microsoft, coming up.”
Ultimately, Maffei said the key to channel success is having a product that does what is claimed, and which solves the customer problem.
“We make sure it is a product channel partners love, and know will never make them look foolish in front of their customers,” he said. “This takes advantage of a significant amount of demand in the market around solving a conundrum as it relates to SharePoint. We expect that a year from now, when people think about deploying SharePoint, they will see how we bridge the gap between technical excellence and the business user experience that needs to be there.”