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Consulting: New Microsoft Services Chief Introduces Consulting Options

At last year's Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Boston, Rick Devenuti, Microsoft's then-services chief, used his keynote to clarify how Microsoft Consulting Services picked its customer engagements.

That effort went a long way toward reassuring consulting partners that Microsoft had few intentions of stealing away their consulting work. But things got muddy again when Devenuti, a senior vice president, retired and was replaced in January by Corporate Vice President Maria Martinez.

Martinez, a communications industry veteran with prior experience at Bell Laboratories, Motorola Inc. and Embrace Networks Inc., was most recently corporate vice president for Microsoft's Communication Sector.

Martinez immediately vowed to maintain Devenuti's three-year plan and general direction, which involved deploying Microsoft consultants to provide "lighthouse" and "new- technology" engagements designed to create reference implementations and intellectual property that partners could build upon. At the same time, Devenuti had promised to try to limit "skin-in-the-game" engagements, where customers wanted hand-holding from Microsoft, rather than from capable partners, on their projects.

During her keynote at this year's WPC, Martinez reiterated her support for the company's current direction. "Something that everybody asks me first is, ‘What are you going to change, what are you going to do different?'" she said. "After spending the first couple of months with my leadership team, I became convinced that our mission is right on track, that our high-level strategy certainly is the same one that I want to continue to move forward, and I'm committed to the same three-year plan that [the consulting group] put in place before I arrived."

Meanwhile, Martinez, in conjunction with the Enterprise Partner Group, is solidifying how Microsoft defines those lighthouse and new-technology engagements by organizing them into "service lines." Examples of service lines include consulting that Microsoft provides around IT architecture and planning and proactive work around keeping customers' IT infrastructure healthy, Martinez said.

Consulting with Consultants

Microsoft Services is formally reaching out to partners for advice and help. At the 2006 Worldwide Partner Conference, former Senior Vice President Rick Devenuti announced plans to form a Partner Advisory Council (PAC) for partners that interact with Microsoft Services and Microsoft Consulting Services.

In her keynote this year, Corporate Vice President Maria Martinez said that PAC is off and running.

"I met with them last night," she said during her July keynote. "There are about 20 executives from partners around the world, both small and large, and with that partner community we really use that for the key feedback for us to set the direction for our business, to bounce some ideas off, and really to actually validate the direction that we're going." -- S.B.

The company will gradually roll out service-line offerings over the next two to three years.

"Our goal here is to engage in a few reference implementations, try to create the delivery IP. Once we get those wins and that knowledge, then [we'll] really proactively start focusing more in a systematic way on transferring that IP to partners," she said. Once the market and ecosystem have been "bootstrapped," the group will focus its resources on the next emerging technologies, she said: "As we mature in this model, our goal will be that we'll engage in these areas only when the technology is new or when the customer is really requesting a direct involvement with us."

About the Author

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