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Levers of Power

Microsoft partner account managers will see compensation more tightly tied to partner performance.

Internally, Microsoft is making a number of changes to the way it compensates and evaluates partner account managers (PAMs). If the changes work, partners could see new levels of attentiveness from their PAMs during Microsoft's Fiscal Year 2010.

According to an RCP survey late last year, managed partners, for the most part, were happy with their PAMs, with 87 percent reporting being "satisfied" or "very satisfied." Still, 14 percent were concerned that the quality of their PAM support was declining.

A year into his job in the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, Vice President of Solutions Partners and ISVs Ross Brown is playing with the available levers that could influence PAM behavior and quality.

The biggest lever is PAM compensation. A large part of existing PAM compensation is team quota. "There was no real method for us to have individual accountability," Brown said in an interview in July. This year, Brown put in place revenue- and commitment-based incentives around partner growth that will make up 50 percent of a PAM's compensation.

Brown said he also wanted to raise the status within Microsoft of the PAM role, and he's approached it in two ways. At a low level, he's eliminated partner account management as an entry-level position at Microsoft. At the top end, he's added a level of PAMs that are compensated on par with a general manager in the field. Brown said his goal was to make the PAM role a potential "20-year career path" for strong performers within Microsoft.

Just how will Microsoft evaluate performance? For starters, the company has created some new tools and incentives. One is around the partner business plans (PBPs) that PAMs create. In the past, a PAM was compensated for simply creating a successful PBP. Now, Microsoft will audit a few PBPs -- just like the Internal Revenue Service -- to raise the bar on quality.

"We're going to pull 5 percent of the PBPs. The mere act of knowing that folks like myself and Allison [Watson] are going to be looking at it should make a difference," Brown said.

New internal systems will allow Brown to stack-rank employees in their roles for the first time in Microsoft's history. "[When I got here], nobody could tell me who the best PAM was," he noted.

About the Author

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

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