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Inside the UK's Top Microsoft Partners

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12 min read

1. Microsoft Partner Insights - Benchmarking research

Featured Image

This is the first chapter of our 10 part blog series, for more chapters please visit Microsoft Partners Insights

About the companies and the research 


Table of contents

Key themes for 2021

  • Business outlook and financials: Revenue, profit and growth – did you grow or shrink compared to others?
  • People, culture, employee engagement and wellbeing, compensation – are you paying too much or too little for your staff? 
  • Current and future use of office space: Should you be downsizing or changing your use of office space? 
  • IT Systems used by Microsoft Partners to help them run their businesses efficiently – what systems do the most successful partners use?
  • The use of legal services among Microsoft Partners: attitudes towards lawyers, perceived value and pricing preferences. 

The research conducted over the last 6 years has been predominantly quantitative. This year’s study is the largest and most detailed, encapsulating both in-depth qualitative and quantitative research with this group – involving lengthy one-to-one interviews with every participant.


About the survey respondents

The companies who took part in the research cover a broad array of the Microsoft Partner market; not only in business type and size, although also in areas such as headcount and ownership structure.

Managed Service Providers (MSP) formed almost a half of the group, with System Integrators (SI)/Professional services consultancies accounting for over a third.

In prior years, respondents have been more clearly defined in terms of being either a consultancy (SI) or a support (managed services) business, whereas the current trend is that partners now provide a full service from consultancy to managed services and even their own software (IP).


Business Category

The group consisted of a good mix companies by headcount size, the most common being 26-50 employees. The largest companies with 100+ employees accounted for 14% of the participants and these tended to be the Microsoft Partners that were Private Equity (PE) backed. The average headcount was an impressive 66 employees, however the median was 33.

Total Company Headcount

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With regards to ownership structure, almost three quarters of partners surveyed were privately owned and these typically were the smaller Microsoft Partners.

Ownership Structure

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The largest companies (by revenue) in the group were typically backed by Private Equity (PE). PE backed firms have tended to raise funding mainly for acquisition purposes, often as part of a buy and build strategy.

When it comes to the composition of the board of directors, the average number of executive board members for the group was 3.4 with an average of 1.2 non-executive members. The PE backed companies generally had at least 2 non-execs, whereas the smaller partners may not have any external counsel at board level.

Board Composition Average

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When discussing leadership ambitions for the business, there was an overwhelming tilt towards building for exit, which accounted for two thirds of the participants surveyed. Often Microsoft Partners start small and build a very technically capable business, then mature and management start to build the business for a sale in the future.

Leadership Ambitions

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This is the first chapter of our 10 part blog series,
Microsoft Partners Insights.

Read chapter
2. Financials & Business Outlook


About IT Leaders

Established in 2012, IT Leaders is a group of CEOs and shareholding leaders of predominantly Microsoft Partners for shared learning and collaboration.

All participants are senior leaders or the singular leader of their business which creates a rich environment for discussion, comparison, problem solving and learning about the personal, shareholder and commercial considerations they face. Many have aspirations to grow and realise equity value. Some, during their time within the group, have realised that ambition and are now encountering a different set of opportunities and challenges. This evolution adds to the potential within IT Leaders as experiences and lessons are shared and compared.

IT Leaders are mainly clustered around various aspect of the Microsoft technology stack – some are leaders in a singular specialism, others offer a broader spectrum of expertise, most offer managed services of one type and some are entirely managed service providers. Many in the group develop IP either as part of their service or as software developers. The businesses range in size, headcounts averaging between 15 and 100, revenues between £5m an £15m, with outliers either side. The two things all participants have in common is an eagerness to learn and a driving ambition for success.
The group conducts annual benchmarking surveys to track and compare progress, pay scales, investment appetite, and their quarterly meetings involve discussions on current market conditions and topical industry issues.

IT Leaders has spawned additional meeting groups, one for sales leaders and another for technical and operational leaders. These additional groups have the exact same ethos and set-up and the connections established in the original CEO forum add value and understanding to the other groups and vice versa.

IT Leaders is a growing and thriving small institution of likeminded people. It operates by mutual contribution and consensus and is facilitated by Shaun Frohlich.


Just some of the Microsoft Partners in IT Leaders


About Shaun Frohlich, Founder of Incredible Results


With over 38 years of industry experience, Shaun is a well-respected figure amongst the IT leadership community and has spent the past 10 years helping people to shift their mindset from working on the business to realising growth potential and value from the business. His ability to inspire and equip others to create incredible personal and professional change is borne out of his own experiences – good and bad – in founding, growing, buying, transforming, investing in and selling IT businesses.
Shaun founded Bytes Technology Group in 1982 and Bytes Recruitment in 1997 and in 1999 successfully sold both via a trade sale before exiting in 2000. Following an interim management role at the early cloud services provider, Attenda, he led a buy and build strategy initially buying IT reseller Teksys, transforming the original business to create a software and services company, and more than doubling its revenues in 5 years via a combination of acquisitions and organic growth. After exit via trade sale in 2008 Shaun joined the leadership team at Microsoft as the director that led the partner channel. Shaun left Microsoft in 2012 to do what he has been doing ever since, helping IT businesses owners grow and realize equity value. In the past 8 years this has led to over 20 transactions comprising a mixture of MBO’s partial and full exits.


About Coeo

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Coeo are a trusted data partner, and for many years have helped Incredible Results collect, analyse and gain insights from annual survey data. They use Azure to host and report on the insights from this Microsoft Partner research.

Coeo were the first Microsoft Partner globally to be awarded with the prestigious Analytics on Azure Advanced Specialization. They also hold the Windows Server and SQL Server Migration to Azure Advanced Specialization and Microsoft Gold Partner status... so you can rest assured that your data estate will be in a safe pair of hands.

Coeo help businesses realise their full potential through better use of data. Since 2007, they have specialised in the Microsoft Data Platform and Analytics solutions with extensive knowledge in the finance, retail and technology industries.

Data is at the core of what Coeo do. Their expert team hold more Microsoft certifications than any other data platform specialist in Europe and are passionate about sharing their knowledge and expertise to help their clients become industry leaders.

Coeo works with clients to create the most appropriate technology strategy for their business and provide mission-critical support as and when they need it. They are experts in architecting, optimising and migrating mission critical transaction processing systems. They accelerate deployment of enterprise class business intelligence solutions that win business confidence and deliver insight.


About Emily Frohlich

Emily Frohlich - Headshot

A psychologist by background, Emily has over 15 years’ experience developing talent and driving performance in organisations, leaders, and teams. She has a Masters in Organisational Psychology and her work focuses on helping businesses understand and get the best from their people and customers.
Emily worked for business psychologists Nicholson McBride for 13 years, including 8 as a Client Director, before becoming an independent coach and consultant in 2019. As well as conducting client and stakeholder research such as the IT Leaders Survey, Emily is retained by EY as a Senior Executive Coach for central government where she works with senior leadership across multiple departments.
Emily has extensive experience working with global law firms, as well as in investment banking, private equity, management consulting, and in the public sector. At the heart of her approach is a focus on understanding behaviour and developing effective working relationships. Her work includes executive and board coaching, organisational change, leadership development, and research. Clients Emily has worked with recently include: Allen & Overy, Bank of England, Baird Asset Management, BCLP, Clyde & Co, EY, Fidelity International, HM Treasury, Home Office, Judicial Board, Ministry of Defence.

Further reading

This is the first chapter of our 10 part blog series, Microsoft Partners Insights. Read chapter 2. Financials & Business Outlook


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