Partner Advocate

More Hat-Changing in Microsoft Executive Ranks

The high-level executive org chart at Microsoft begins looking less like a London road map.

I don't envy the analysts at Directions on Microsoft who publish those posters showing the names, titles and reporting lines of hundreds of Microsoft executives. Even in a company notorious for constantly moving people around, Microsoft's HR department has been exceptionally busy in the last few months.

The headline item is, of course, Bill Gates' decision to hand over his chief software architect title to Ray Ozzie immediately and recede into a chairman-only position for now. He'll back away from being a fully engaged chairman into the more traditional chairman's role in July 2008. This is Gates we're talking about, so it won't be all golf and sailing, or whatever it is semi-retired chairmen usually do. He'll dedicate most of his time to giving away his and Warren Buffett's vast fortunes in the pursuit of a healthier and better-educated world.

On the business side, having Gates hand over more of the everyday issues to Steve Ballmer is a yawn for partners. Both of the Microsoft veterans understand and value partners, and Ballmer's been more visibly associated with improving partner relations than Gates has in recent years. On the technical side, elevating Ozzie is just another sign that Software as a Service is something real for which partners need to plan.

Nearer term, Microsoft is shuffling executives around to prepare for the dozens of new products coming out over the next 18 months. Many of these executive changes happened around the same time as Gates' big announcement, but they're probably unrelated. Instead, they are some of the last throes of the big departmental realignment of last fall.

In a set of moves relevant to many partners, Allison Watson got bumped up from vice president to corporate vice president. As the head of the Worldwide Partner Group, she'll still report to the vice president in charge of Worldwide Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partners (SMS&P), but she gets a little more influence higher in the organization by sitting on Kevin Turner's extended leadership team.

Having this formal, direct line to Microsoft's up-and-coming COO should be good for the partner community. Turner, meanwhile, will inherit the SMS&P from Business Division President Jeff Raikes. Earlier this year, Microsoft also put the Enterprise Partner Group under Turner's control.

Moving SMS&P out of Raikes' group makes sense for the partner organization. While Raikes oversaw some products critical to the channel, such as Office and Dynamics, it was still a bit muddy for part of the partner organization to be deep within a product division that didn't include Windows or the infrastructure servers. Having partners under operations rather than a product division is much cleaner. It should allow partner executives to focus 100 percent on partner issues, rather than wearing multiple hats within the Business Division.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.