By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

Of almost 19,000 Microsoft partners in the United States, one stood out this year for its excellence in innovation and implementation. Started 11 years ago by a graduate of the School of Information Studies (iSchool), that firm has just been recognized as the 2014 Microsoft Partner of the Year.

New Signature, co-founded by alumnus Christopher Hertz, ’97, is a Microsoft National Services integrator providing IT solutions analysis, planning and implementation, technical training, and creative services. The firm has been selected for Microsoft’s highest partner system honor, which will be awarded at the mid-July 2014 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C., where the firm is headquartered.

In making the announcement, Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Group Vice President Phil Sogen said the designation “represents the best technology professionals our partner ecosystem has to offer.”

Over the last four years that the Partner of the Year award has been presented, two winners have been systems integrators, and both were large, 2,000-employee firms, CEO Hertz pointed out. Regardless, with 90 employees, his firm is only about 5% of that size, so the recognition is especially significant, he said. It means that “you don’t have to be an enormous business to have a big impact; in the new model of cloud computing, even a small company can have a big impact.”

The award also represents Microsoft’s recognition that adopting a business model which drives customers to cloud computing for IT solutions is “demonstrating operational excellence in a way that will be successful not just for today, but in the future as well,” Hertz believes.

The firm, which has attained an average annual growth rate of 50%, also has offices in 11 states, and it has been recognized with more than 100 IT industry and business awards since its founding.

Customer Experience Focus

Delivering an amazing experience to customers, partners, colleagues, vendors, and the greater community is the company’s founding mandate, Hertz explained. While the company has always enjoyed building “an amazing system,” it also understands that “building an amazing user experience is probably the most important part of any project. But you can’t just deploy a technology; you also have to deploy and wrap an amazing user experience and a user adoption experience around it.”

Model Culture

New Signature is known for its innovative company culture as well as its ability to deliver customer-centric integrated services and solutions. A core belief is ongoing learning for employees. Each staff member is asked to spend at least two hours each week in educational activities. That orientation is not necessarily typical of firms like his, but it’s a good investment, Hertz explained.  It assures that clients receive the best possible services from an up-to-date company which professionally advances its employees by providing a culture of employee well-being, empowerment, and continual education.   

“When you have that culture of learning, you can pivot as a consulting business much more rapidly,” Hertz said. “The way you’re agile is to keep your people agile. When you can adapt to business shifts, you don’t have to fire people and hire new ones. The investment in employee education is more important today in an era of cloud computing, where shifts are happening every week, Hertz emphasized. “We’ve really been able to be successful as a business and beat the competition because of that investment in education, and the passion our staff has for that culture.”

The firm integrates social responsibility as a core culture, too, serving disadvantaged groups in its communities, including urban youth at risk, those experiencing homelessness, and individuals with disabilities. It also is committed to environmental protection in all business practices.

After Syracuse

The days at Syracuse were “transformative,” recalled Hertz, who graduated in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in information science and technology and a dual major in anthropology.  He came to Syracuse originally as an Arts & Sciences major, “not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I was lucky enough to room with a student, Jason Senich '98, who was in IST. I never thought of computers as a career until I talked to my roommate,” he laughed. Now, he is a cloud industry expert who has presented in the U.S. and Europe and who holds 14 technical certifications from Microsoft.

Hertz remembers how his professors “taught an approach to business in a way that was really very successful and healthy,” and how he was inspired by then-Dean Ray Von Dran. “His demeanor and approach had tremendous impact on me as a business leader, when thinking of how I could be someone to look up to in terms of how to act and deliver a great experience.”

Hertz later went on to earn an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management in 2005. He co-founded the firm in 2003 with company President David Geevaratne, who holds four Microsoft Certified IT Professional and 11 Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist certifications and is a member of Microsoft’s coveted Microsoft Virtual Technical Solutions Professional corp.