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New Assignments for Microsoft U.S. Channel Chiefs

Two weeks after announcing that longtime global channel chief Allison Watson would switch jobs with Jon Roskill, Microsoft late this week disclosed major changes within the U.S. partner organization as well.

In an e-mailed statement Thursday, Microsoft said vice presidents Cindy Bates and Jenni Flinders, joint chiefs of the U.S. channel for the last year, will move into new roles.

Bates, currently vice president of U.S. Partner Strategy, Marketing and Programs, will now head a newly created organization as vice president of the U.S. Small, Medium Business and Distribution (SMB&D) organization.

"The SMB&D organization will collaborate with our partners to help small and medium businesses realize their full potential through delivering Microsoft and partner solutions," the Microsoft statement said.

Flinders, formerly vice president of U.S. Partner Sales and Business Development, becomes vice president of the U.S. Partner Sales and Programs Group (US PS&P) -- essentially returning the position of U.S. channel chief to a one-person job again for the first time since mid-2008.

Despite the change, both Bates and Flinders will continue to report to Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president of U.S. Small and Mid-market Solutions and Partners (SMS&P), Microsoft spokesman Todd Nelmes said in an e-mail interview. Nelmes declined to say how many Microsoft employees each VP had in her organization, or how or whether the U.S. Partner Group's field resources would be split up in the reorganization.

Covering the SMB market both through partners and through direct communication with customers is familiar territory for Bates, who served as general manager for U.S. Small Business in the SMS&P prior to her recent role in the U.S. Partner Group. In that GM job, Bates played a key role in shaping and promoting the Small Business Specialist Community of partners. That sector of the partner community is now in turmoil, as the transition to the Microsoft Partner Network first was supposed to include a Small Business Competency, but that idea was later withdrawn just months before it would have gone live.

Her new organization "will bring together our end-to-end SMB sales and marketing efforts to accelerate our momentum in this important segment," Nelmes said. "Cindy will be the primary voice of SMB -- ensuring that we have a laser focus on the SMB customer working directly with numerous partner types to deliver best in class solutions to this customer segment."

That work on the SMB side will include some engagement with partners. "As part of the SMB&D charter, Cindy will be directly responsible for aligning our distribution/VAR efforts into a cohesive SMB sales motion and engaging a vibrant partner channel that deliver world class Microsoft based solutions to SMB customers," Nelmes said.

In some ways, by creating the new organization, Microsoft is signaling that it is putting the SMB market and opportunity on a par with the Microsoft Dynamics organization, which has its own field-within-the-field resources.

Bates' organization will have the critical-to-Microsoft task of driving demand within the SMB market for Microsoft's cloud offerings.

"These changes will allow the SMB&D team to focus on SMB as a segment enabling Microsoft to better reach millions of SMB customers and help them to embrace our cloud offerings (BPOS, InTune, CRM Online, Azure, etc.)," Nelmes said.

On Flinders' side of the equation, the U.S. Partner Sales and Programs Group that she will now lead appears to be very similar to the U.S. Partner Group formerly helmed by Margo Day, then by Robert Deshaies before he was joined by Bates as a co-VP in 2008.

According to Microsoft's statement, "The U.S. Partner Sales and Programs Group (US PS&P) is dedicated to Microsoft's broad channel ecosystem in the U.S. and will continue to drive the evolution of the Microsoft Partner Network, as well as drive revenue through our nationally managed partners." Flinders' duties will be dominated by new challenges, however. One will be transitioning U.S. partners to the MPN. Another, according to the statement, "U.S. PS&P will help the channel evolve to ensure our customers reap the benefits of the new opportunities presented by the cloud and other emerging technologies."

Nelmes described Flinders as "expanding her scope" in the reorganization. "Jenni will be the primary voice for the U.S. Partner Channel, which spans across our broad partner ecosystem," he said.

The moves were announced amid widespread layoffs across the company, including reported job reductions in the Enterprise and Partner Group and from Microsoft's Canadian partner organization.

About the Author

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