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In-Depth

Knowledge Is Power: Who's Who at Redmond

Ballmer, Raikes, Watson are names we know already. Here's a list of other Microsoft execs -- like Flinders, Bennani and Park and 17 others -- that partners should keep in their sites.

Meet RCP's 23 "must-know" Microsoft executives. Our unranked list is selective, rather than comprehensive (we've omitted a certain chairman who's backing away from the business), and it includes both familiar faces and less-obvious choices. All share the potential to affect your business. One caveat: Given the pace of change in Redmond, view this list as a constant work in progress.

CORPORATE EXECS

Steve Ballmer
CEO
Hired as a business manager in 1980, Ballmer is Microsoft's longest-tenured employee after Bill Gates (and No. 31 on Forbes' wealthy-individuals list, which Gates tops). CEO since 2000, he's played the role of "partner guy" to Gates' "developer guy," delivering many major Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) announcements. Ballmer appears to respect partners, viewing them as valuable teammates: "You've got the same kind of interests and concern and dedication to seeing us get better that our own employees have," he said at the 2007 WPC in Denver. Watch for his vision for Microsoft's future to emerge as Gates steps back next year.

Kevin Turner
COO
Turner, who joined Microsoft in mid-2005 after 20 years at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., is directly responsible for partners. He pushes them to perform ("sell, sell, sell," he said in a WPC keynote in Denver); as a former Microsoft client, he's equally relentless about promoting great customer care. But he also champions partner-friendly initiatives such as simplifying licensing and improving partner account manager (PAM) service. He's promised partners that in the move to Software plus Services (S+S), "we will take you with us, and we will figure it out together." He encourages feedback, even giving several thousand WPC attendees his contact information. He's likely to be a major influence on the partner program for a long time to come.

Jeff Raikes
President, Microsoft Business Division
Raikes, with Microsoft since 1981, oversees several product groups, including the Microsoft Office system and the Microsoft Dynamics line of business apps that many partners represent. He's said that the forthcoming release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 "represents the next phase of S+S"-an evolution that, of course, offers both pros and cons for partners. Raikes also headed up Microsoft's Unified Communications (UC) initiative; at the time of the company's UC launch in October 2007, at least 50 partner companies were already offering UC products and services. Keep an eye on Raikes for product development news and opportunities.

PARTNER EXECS

Allison Watson
Corporate VP, Worldwide Partner Group
Watson, a Microsoft employee since 1993, is the point person for worldwide partner strategy. She led the launch of the Microsoft Partner Program (MSPP) in 2003; since then, she's overseen the creation of multiple initiatives designed to help partners succeed. She's acknowledged that S+S may create new channel challenges, but says the shift is critical for survival: "We must be in the position of leading through this evolution," she told WPC attendees in July. But she, too, promises that Microsoft will "help partners move comfortably into this new world." Expect Watson's team to continue rolling out programs designed to help partners ride the wave of change.

Peter Boit
VP of Enterprise Partner Sales, Enterprise and Partner Group
In 2006, Microsoft moved Boit to this newly created position from his previous job as a vice president overseeing enterprise business in several vertical industries. The 16-year Microsoft veteran's role involves making sure the 8,000 managed partners in the enterprise-and especially Microsoft's 90 biggest partners, known as alliance partners-are getting the attention, information and support they need to drive sales growth. If you're an enterprise partner, you'll see Boit's influence when your PAM is pressing to do more joint planning with you on how to drive deeper solution sales among your customer accounts.

Simon Witts
Corporate VP, Enterprise and Partner Group
Witts, who has been with Microsoft since 1993, is responsible for Microsoft's strategy for enterprise customers worldwide. But as an evangelist for Microsoft's "People-Ready Business" campaign, he's emphasized that the approach-which involves providing software to employees based on their roles-applies to companies of all sizes and in all segments. He's said that partners who understand the People-Ready approach will ultimately derive greater ROI from their partnerships with Microsoft. Looking for a more detailed definition or a specific sales blueprint? Just read Witts' 2007 speech spelling out the People-Ready story (click here to read the entire speech).

Cindy Bates
General Manager, U.S. Small Business Group, U.S. Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partners (SMS&P) Group
Bates is responsible for promoting Microsoft's efforts to serve the nation's 5.5 million small businesses, which Microsoft defines as those with fewer than 50 employees. Microsoft leaders now call the small business market a big priority-hardly surprising, as Redmond racks up more than $1 billion a year in revenues from such companies. Small Business Specialists and other partners looking to reach those customers should keep an eye on Bates' speeches and announcements-and make use of her group's resources for educating SMB owners.

John Ball
General Manager, U.S. Systems Group
The systems-builders community is an important one for Microsoft, and the software giant has a long-standing practice of relying on partners to deliver customized systems for all the myriad specialized customer sets. Ball is the point man for the estimated 15,000 to 20,000 U.S. systems builders. He's responsible for creating the promotions to help systems builders move new products, such as the "Buy Local" campaign and the giveaways designed to catalyze sales. When trouble strikes, he's also involved in finding remedies, such as the online workaround offered to fix problems that partners had in trying to exercise customer "downgrade rights" from Windows Vista to XP.

Julie Bennani
General Manager, Microsoft Partner Program
Bennani joined Microsoft in mid-2007, but she's no stranger to the company. In her previous job as a partner with the Accenture consulting firm, Microsoft was her main client for 11 years and she was involved in launching the Microsoft Partner Program in 2003. She's now responsible for the program's overall strategy and structure. Among her priorities: establishing a long-term program roadmap, examining partner benefits delivery and improving communications. Expect to hear more specifics as Bennani settles into her job in 2008.

Marie Huwe
General Manager, Partner Marketing/Partner Strategy and Programs, Worldwide Partner Group
Huwe, a veteran Microsoft executive who oversees marketing for the Worldwide Partner Group, has been instrumental in helping raise partner awareness about the full range of benefits available to them, including promoting a "benefits wheel" summarizing the biggest perks. In a partner program leadership reorganization earlier this year, Huwe picked up significant new responsibilities along with an additional title: global business leader for partner strategy and programs. She's noteworthy as an executive who's both promoting and directing the program's offerings.

Don Nelson
General Manager, Managed Partners, Worldwide Partner Group
In the leadership shuffle earlier this year, the MSPP divided its non-enterprise members among three "engines," whose leaders all report to Allison Watson. Nelson, who came to Microsoft with the acquisition of Great Plains Software in 2000, already oversaw services and resources for managed partners (Certified and Gold Certified Partners who qualify for a PAM); he also spearheaded the $30 million Partner Skills Plus training and certification initiative. Now he's added the title of global business leader for the Solution Partner Engine, making him a good person for partners in that category to know as well.

Todd Weatherby
General Manager, Product Management, Worldwide Partner Group
Todd Weatherby, a 12-year Microsoft veteran whose past experience includes a stint at Oracle Corp., already oversaw self-service resources for partners and customers, such as an online business self-assessment tool and the partner program's Solution Finder, which is designed to drive leads to partners. In the recent reorganization, he picked up the title of general manager of Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partners, adding coordination of product planning and roadmaps to his existing role-and cementing his status as a leader that every partner should know.

Jenni Flinders
Senior Director, Transaction Channel, Worldwide Partner Group
In the recent leadership shuffle, Flinders, who had been the group's director of business management, became global business leader for the newly formed Transaction Channel Engine. In that role, she's overseeing a group that had been overlooked a bit in recent years: Microsoft's distributors, large account resellers (LARs) and direct market resellers (DMRs). Her top priority: "to make sure we get really, really locked down around business planning" with those partners, Flinders told RCP earlier this year, adding that she expects executives in those companies to quickly "feel an impact in terms of the [higher] level of engagement." Distribution partners: Take note.

Naseem Tuffaha
Senior Director, ISVs, Worldwide Partner Group During the recent restructuring, Tuffaha also collected an additional title: global business leader for the ISV Partner Engine. But Tuffaha was an ISV advocate long before picking up those additional responsibilities. For instance, last year Tuffaha noted that many ISVs wanted better visibility into their pipelines, clearer ROI and better telesales capability. In response, he told RCP at the time, Microsoft was beginning to contract with professional telesales vendors that "understand how to take leads through the qualification process." ISVs should recognize Tuffaha as someone who listens to what they say.

Eric Ligman
U.S. Senior Manager for Small Business Community Engagement Ligman is uniquely qualified for his role as the point person for Microsoft's 13,000 or so Small Business Specialists: Before joining Microsoft in 2000, he ran a small software-reseller partner company. Ligman's lively blog alone has contributed greatly to bridging the gap that once existed between Microsoft and its smallest partners ("When I was a partner, the resources we had were each other," Ligman told RCP last year). But his public speaking, online presentations and other SMB-focused contributions all qualify him as a must-know executive for the SBS community and anybody else interested in serving SMB cutomers.

FIELD/REGIONAL EXECS
{The Field Team}

Michael Park
Corporate VP, U.S. SMS&P Group
Park, who came to Microsoft from SAP AG in 2005, leads a sales, marketing and management team focused on serving both the U.S. partner community and Microsoft's SMB customers nationwide. As if that weren't enough, Park also leads Microsoft's U.S. Dynamics business. At first blush, Park may not seem as obvious a "must-know" choice as others on our list-until you consider that he sets sales priorities in the field and makes budgetary decisions affecting PAMs and other issues. Such responsibilities indicate that while much of Park's partner-related responsibilities are behind the scenes, he's still a major player in the partner program.

Robert Deshaies
VP, Microsoft U.S. Partner Group
Deshaies, formerly vice president for the SMS&P's West region, now sets strategy for Microsoft's U.S. channel. Deshaies' plans for FY '08, which began July 1, include launching new sales/marketing campaigns, boosting telephone-based tech support for Certified and Gold Certified Partners and improving how Microsoft communicates with partners. He's also cited the need for developing "a holistic vision and program" for managed services that benefits both partners and customers. While a large part of Deshaies' job involves managing ISV and reseller relationships, any U.S. partner looking for insights into MSPP priorities should keep tabs on what Deshaies says and does.

{The Regional Team}
Margo Day

Regional VP, West Region, U.S. SMS&P Group
Day, who joined Microsoft in 2001, oversees sales of Microsoft products and services to SMB customers on the West Coast, in the Rocky Mountain states and the Southwest. It's a more customer-focused job than her previous role as the partner program's U.S. channel chief (the job now held by Deshaies). But she's still involved in partner relationship-building, especially with managed partners. And her prior experience-including seven years in sales at Lotus Development Corp.-makes her a valuable resource. She's also unusually accessible-West Region partners, look for a direct e-mail link on her region's homepage.

Lane Sorgen
Regional VP, Central Region, U.S. SMS&P
Sorgen, a Microsoft employee since 1996, currently oversees sales of Microsoft products and services to SMB customers in the Central region, which ranges from northern states like Ohio through the Midwest and the heartland to the Deep South. Now based in Dallas, Sorgen wants to build relationships with partners as well: "There has never been a better time to be a Microsoft partner," he writes in his region's homepage. "Together, we have the opportunity to reset the technology platform of millions of customers." Central Region partners should keep an eye on Sorgen's efforts to carry out that goal.

Dave Willis
Regional VP, East Region, U.S. SMS&P Group
Willis, a 15-year Microsoft employee, oversees sales to and support for the company's SMB customers in New England, New York, the mid-Atlantic states and the Southeast. Willis joined Microsoft's Canadian subsidiary in 1992, later holding various channel and SMB-related jobs. Like his peers in the Central and West regions, he remains plugged into the partner community, noting on his region's homepage: "We're excited and truly optimistic on what the future holds for our partner ecosystem and we look forward to working with you to make it happen." East Region partners: Keep tabs on Willis.

SERVICES EXECS

Ray Ozzie
Chief Software Architect
Ozzie, probably best known for helping create Lotus Notes, became Microsoft's CTO in 2005 following Redmond's acquisition of his Groove Networks; in June 2006, he succeeded Gates as chief software architect. But even before that promotion, Ozzie had become Microsoft's leading technology visionary. In a widely circulated internal October 2005 e-mail, Ozzie warned that if Microsoft failed to capitalize on the emerging "Software as a Service" trend, the company's future was at risk. Since then, Ozzie's been far quieter about what Microsoft now calls "Software plus Services"-but it's worth keeping an eye on him for his insights, especially after Gates steps back next July.

Maria Martinez
Corporate VP, Worldwide Services
Martinez, who previously headed Microsoft's communications sector, was little-known in the partner community when she was named to replace retiring services chief Rick Devenuti in early 2007. She's vowed to continue his careful strategy for working with Microsoft Consulting Services customers without creating fierce competition with Microsoft partners. Her approach includes organizing customer engagements into "service lines" that create reference implementations and intellectual property that partners can build upon. Consulting partners: Watch Martinez' activities and adjust your courses accordingly.

Ron Markezich
VP, Managed Solutions
Markezich, an All-American cross-country star during his college days at Notre Dame, jumped from Accenture to Microsoft in 1998. But he didn't land on most partners' radar until more recently, when he began heading up Microsoft Managed Services. Under other circumstances, that move might be worrisome to partners (especially hosting partners) that view Microsoft as a potential competitor. But even the general direction of those efforts isn't yet clear. Best bet: Sit tight and wait for a better sense of where Markezich and Microsoft are going with managed services.
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