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Partner Spotlight: Champion Solutions Group

Champion Solutions Group and their cloud business unit, MessageOps, is a longstanding cloud and managed service provider headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida. Over the last ten years, the company has migrated more than six million mailboxes into Office 365. In a recent interview, we picked the brain of Jim Canfield, Director of Online Services, to get his thoughts on Exchange 2010 migrations, how migration services support the overall business strategy, and the business impacts of COVID-19.

BitTitan: We know some of the consequences of running Exchange 2010 servers past the October deadline.  What is the incentive for your clients to move off of 2010 to something different, whether that’s an upgraded on-premises instance or into Office 365?

Jim: Well, 2010 was the first serious, stable Exchange instance, and people don’t want to get rid of it. I’m dealing with clients who are afraid to change. Nine out of ten of them finally got the note that 2010 is no longer going to be supported. One was literally on Exchange 2010 service pack zero. They have 1,000 users. I told them, “Look, you’re running something that’s ten years old. The hardware it’s running on is probably out of date anyway. It’s time.”

We’re pushing 98% of our clients who are talking about email upgrades to Office 365. I think, in the last five years, I’ve done fewer than ten upgrades on-premise. The last big one I did was for a credit union, and I’m like, “Why?” Then I made them go through the pain of learning how to use on-premise load balancers. That was fun.

Clearly, Microsoft is incentivizing the move to Exchange Online. What kinds of factors do your clients, or you as the partner, weigh? Where do they go next and how do they get there?  What does that conversation look like?

It’s rare for me to recommend on-premise. When I do get pushback, it’s from very large, 20,000-to-40,000 user organizations in financial or healthcare who have concerns around endpoints, security, or email conditioning. In those cases, I recommend that we maintain the best of breed third-party, whether it’s ProofPoint or whoever else, to deal with the specific concern. I tell them we’ll upgrade your email system from 2010 or whatever you’re on, to 2019. But your servers are going to be over there. At some point, they say “Ah, we understand. We’re not actually migrating an email system. We’re just replacing the backend mail servers.”

Organizations still say “I don’t trust the cloud,” but it’s becoming less and less a thing. When I get in a room with somebody who doesn’t believe in the cloud, I’d rather wait six months and have the conversation with them again because they’re probably going to change their mind.

We often talk about email being the gateway into the cloud. People put their email in the cloud and the files follow. Do you see that happening as well with these organizations that are running outdated Exchange servers? Does that email migration often lead to other business for you?


Yes, and one scenario that we’ve done extremely well with is GPO-based migration of \\server\userdrives into OneDrive for Business. I’ve moved 50 years’ worth of files in a week. I say “Bang, here it is.  Test it. Work with it. Here’s the documentation. Here’s the training. Here you go.” They say, “Okay, that was stupid easy.”

One that takes a little bit longer, and that we’re focused on, is utilizing Teams as the interface versus SharePoint. Teams is a better-looking shade of lipstick and people like it. They like the interface. For our biggest client, I think we’ve moved almost 50 terabytes. I think we moved stuff from 28 different organizations into one.

Are these migration projects typically longtime CSG customers, or one-off projects that then lead to other things? What’s your customer base look like?


About 25% to 30% of the engagements we do are net-new clients and most of them go on to multiple transactions. That percentage would be higher, except that we also do a significant amount of migrations for a very large LAR and so to be honest, I have to count those as their clients. We do have a high percentage of repeat clients that we’ve been working with for years and years. Organizationally, our average tenure is north of ten years, which is really unique. We maintain clients for long periods of time. We have client managers who have been at Champion for 20+ years.

I can’t let you go without talking about the COVID situation. Have you had an influx of customers saying they have some version of Exchange and need to get into the cloud? Same thing with file shares or servers. What’s that situation been like for your business?


It’s interesting. I talked to a thousand-user insurance company for the first time March 23rd. I said, “Okay. This is how I’m going to do it. Bang-bang-bang.” They went, “Really?” Two weeks later we had a signed PO. A few days later we were migrating them.

I think we’ve started 25 migrations in the last 30 days. That’s a big number because of the timeframe. They ask, “Okay, when should we start?” and we say, “Now.”  It simplifies things if everyone’s at home because we have the whole bandwidth to work with. It makes the whole process simpler, even with all the users at home.

What’s your long-term take on how this affects how people work from home and use systems like Office 365 to get things done?

I honestly believe that those people who believed that this cloud thing was a fad have just gotten their proverbial butts handed to them. The cloud has just been 100% proven to deliver what’s needed. I still think there’s going to be that percentage of people that have to be in the office, but remote working leveraging the cloud is going to become more and more the thing.

One of my personal sayings has always been, “My job is to allow users to work on anything, anywhere, on any device securely.” With Office 365, Azure, and all the other cool pieces, we can create identity-based access to everything, control versioning, control who is doing what, and control files as they leave the realm. It’s all a matter of doing it correctly.

Look at me. Previous to this, I was working remote two or three days a week, on average. But now, I’ve been home for five or six weeks — I don’t remember when they kicked us out of the office. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. My utilization of video has gone up significantly. About the only real change is my dry-cleaning bill went down.

Speaking specifically about Champion Solutions Group, what benefits do you bring to the table for a business who realizes that they’re at Exchange end-of-support and need to make a decision? Why come to you?

It’s really a matter of experience. Over the last 10+ years of Office 365, we’ve migrated north of 6 million mailboxes into 365 — a lot of those with MigrationWiz. We have the experience to do it securely and with minimal disruption of the daily business.

Long-term, though, it’s the value-add. We’re heavy CSP (Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider partner). We have a whole boatload of intellectual property that we make available to CSP clients. Customers come to us for that. They come for our 7×24 support team.  The training stuff, like how to use SharePoint. For our CSP boss, which is the management tool that we’ve put together in what’s called Inscape. It allows our clients to manage utilization of 365, license utilization, check for security holds, all kinds of cool stuff.

That’s the long elevator pitch. If we’re in the Empire State Building, there you go.

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