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Big Changes Afoot for Microsoft Partners

Time will tell whether the reshuffling of responsibilities between soon-to-be former Channel-chief Allison Watson and her successor, Jon Roskill was a chance to allow both execs to broaden their careers and put new blood into their respective organizations or whether there are more pronounced changes in the works to the way Microsoft goes to market with its partners.

It's hard to be shocked that after nearly seven years Watson is moving to a new role. That's the Microsoft way and anyone who follows the company knows it frequently shuffles execs. By many accounts, Watson was overdue for such a change.

The move caught many partners and even those inside Microsoft off guard --just a few weeks before Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference.

"The new fiscal year is a week away, and that means kicking off and executing the 2011 marketing campaigns and Allison's new role will play an important role there," Directions on analyst Paul DeGroot suspects. "Microsoft's global sales meeting usually happens a week or two after the partner conference, so she'll be getting worldwide visibility right away."

Watson's move as corporate VP for Microsoft's Business and Marketing Organization (BMO) should not be viewed as a kick upstairs, DeGroot added. "BMO is a pretty critical part of Microsoft's sales organization, so leading the U.S. BMO is by no means a trivial role or a sideways move," DeGroot said. "Maybe they are grooming her for future roles in the corporate mainstream."

By most accounts, Watson was well regarded in the partner community. "Allison truly has supported our group and we were very happy to have the opportunity to work with her," said Kerry Gerontianos, president and CEO of  Incremax Technologies Corp. and the IAMCP's national president. "The most rational explanation for the change is she's been there awhile."

Now it is unclear whether she will share the keynote stage with her successor or will cede it to him. The message of course is that the two will work together. Watson said as much in a blog posting yesterday.

"As I shift into my new role, one thing that will not waiver is my passionate dedication to partners," Watson noted. "My commitment to strengthening and evolving our engagement, and the collective learning you've imparted will be a toolset I will continue to employ. Jon and I are eager to hear from you about how we can best serve Microsoft's partners and customers."

Yet if she knew this was coming as recently as two weeks ago, she held it close to the vest. In fact she spent nearly an hour just two weeks ago talking to myself and Redmond Channel Partner editor-in-chief Scott Bekker, outlining the importance that partners follow Microsoft to the cloud, which was to be the basis of her keynote at WPC.

"Microsoft is 'all in' but we haven't really been telling everyone what 'all in' is yet," she told us. "In a comprehensive way, that's obviously a major goal for WPC. And the roadmap is becoming very fleshed out during the course of the next 12 months."

How partners should follow Microsoft to the cloud will surely remain the theme of WPC (stay tuned for the July RCP cover story), still lots of questions loom. Perhaps the most significant is what this will mean for Julie Bennani, general manager of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group. Bennani is architect of the new Microsoft Partner Network.

Many channel partners are concerned about what the new certification rules will mean to them, particularly smaller ones. Under the new rules, as I reported, there will be no double dipping, but partners are hoping Microsoft will make exceptions.

While it appears the new rules are pegged at those that latch onto a certification without committing enough to those product lines, others argue the collateral damage can hurt those partners who can't afford to hire additional engineers, yet those they have are skilled in multiple disciplines.

"If they want to make bigger changes to MPN, they could use this re-organization as an excuse for a delay," suggests Howard Cohen, regional chairman of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP).

Also it remains to be seen what this will mean to Pam Salzer, Microsoft's Senior Director of Worldwide Partner Marketing. Many are bracing for additional personnel moves at some level in the coming days and weeks.

What's your take on all these changes? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on June 25, 2010 at 11:59 AM


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