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Major Shakeup to Microsoft Channel Organization

Jenni Flinders, a nine-year Microsoft veteran with deep channel experience whose most recent role involved leveraging distributor relationships to reach the breadth of Microsoft's 640,000-member global channel, on Tuesday became vice president for U.S. Partner Business Development and Sales.

Flinders replaces Robert Deshaies, who will be focusing on an unspecified "key strategic initiative" for the Microsoft U.S. Leadership Team, a company spokesperson said in an e-mail laying out a number of moves within Microsoft's channel organization.

The move takes Flinders from the Worldwide Partner Group (WPG), where she reported to Corporate Vice President Allison Watson. She now will report to Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president, U.S. Small and Midmarket Solutions and Partners (SMS&P).

Under various titles, including general manager and global business leader, Flinders has run the channel incentive and transaction channel operations within the Worldwide Partner Group for the past three years. Presumably, the move also gives Watson a close associate in the critical U.S. partner subsidiary.

Of the 394,000 partners who are formally registered in the Microsoft Partner Program, nearly a third (122,000) are in the United States. Flinders had served as Watson's chief of staff before her promotion to managing the transaction channel, which includes distributors, Large Account Resellers and other resellers. Flinders' previous Microsoft experience included stints as the marketing lead for SMB in South Africa and a regional role lead with Microsoft Latin America. (Click here for a September 2007 RCP Q&A with Flinders.)

Deshaies came to the partner role from the sales side. He was a regional vice president of the U.S. SMS&P East Region for several years before becoming vice president of the U.S. Partner Group in 2006. In July, 2008, Deshaies' title changed to vice president of U.S. Partner Sales and Business Development. A colleague, Cindy Bates, became vice president of Partner Strategy, Marketing and Programs at that time.

Bates' role was not mentioned in the e-mail, although Flinders' assumption of Deshaies second, more limited title, implies that Bates remains in the same position. In joint interviews last year, Deshaies and Bates said their roles involved working together extremely closely, basically as co-chiefs of the U.S. channel.

Two other executives will take up the torch for the distribution channel. "We will continue our deep focus on the Worldwide Distribution channel as a key mechanism for reaching SMB customers as announced earlier with the appointment of Birger Steen as vice president, Worldwide SMB and Distribution, and Thomas Hansen as general manager, Worldwide Distribution," the Microsoft statement said.

On Watson's team, 12-year Microsoft veteran Allen Boone will lead the Channel Incentives team, coming to the WPG from the Server and Tools Business Group, where his role involved pricing and business models for Software + Services.

Ross Brown, the WPG's vice president of Solutions and ISV Partners, will also expand his duties to include some of the transaction channel responsibilities previously handled by Flinders.

In other WPG management changes, Karl Noakes joins Watson's leadership team from further down in the multi-thousand employee group. Noakes has focused for the last year on Web design, Web developers, custom developers and ISV communities. Another of Watson's direct reports, Julie Bennani, continues in the same role, but with a new title reflecting the changes coming to the Microsoft Partner Program, which is to be renamed the Microsoft Partner Network. Bennani is now general manager, Microsoft Partner Network. Watson also named Caroline Goles, who formerly worked in Flinders' Channel Incentives team, to be her new chief of staff.

Management shakeups are common just before Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) as Microsoft begins a new fiscal year July 1. Partner organization changes tend to be announced right before the partner conference when such changes would be noticed by the thousands of influential attendees at WPC. This year's conference starts Monday in New Orleans.

Meanwhile, the one channel position that isn't shaking up is Allison Watson's. Named to run the WPG in August 2002, Watson has helmed the organization for nearly six full years, bringing a stability to Microsoft's channel organization that is remarkable for a company that moves people around incessantly.

Posted by Scott Bekker on July 08, 2009