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Microsoft Quietly Shifts Partner Focus to ISVs

As the new year begins, Microsoft is quietly increasing its focus within the partner channel on its ISV community.

Gavriella Schuster, the corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group (WPG), telegraphed the shift in a December "State of the Channel" briefing with channel media.

Her comments were focused on partners developing intellectual property (IP), which in most cases means that they are writing code, but can apply to business models or vertical expertise.

"We continue to invest heavily in helping IP services develop within our partner ecosystem, so we're focused on partners of all types actually who are interested in building out IP and creating new and differentiated services offerings. We've seen a tremendous groundswell, both within a traditional ISV channel, as well as within many of our systems integrators and a lot of the consolidation activity that you've probably noticed in the partner ecosystem, as well, where even some traditional resellers are acquiring organizations that have some IP services," Schuster said.

The next part was the kicker that should make infrastructure partners and straight resellers sit up and take notice that things may be changing.

"At the end of the day, I believe that within a year, the majority of our partners will be delivering some sort of value-added differentiation and IP services on top of the technology stack in some way to deliver more value to their customer," Schuster said.

Microsoft's Chief Evangelist, Steve Guggenheimer, made a related point in a separate conversation. Discussing the opportunity areas for Microsoft partners this year, Guggenheimer said the best was for partners to build vertical solutions for their customers built on Azure.

The most compelling piece of evidence about the shifting focus to ISV partners is the retooling of the partner organization that will take place on Feb. 1. Mary Jo Foley reported the changes on her All About Microsoft site in early January. Microsoft hasn't separately announced them, but a spokesperson has confirmed that Foley's report was correct.

The changes reach across Executive Vice President Judson Althoff's Worldwide Commercial Business Group, but the changes within the partner community indicate a clear shift to putting developer partners first. Previously, worldwide partner policy was coordinated in many places but primarily and most visibly out of Schuster's office in the WPG. Schuster reported to the head of Worldwide SMS&P, Vahe Torossian, who had broader business responsibilities in his portfolio than partners. Now Schuster, as well as the head of the Enterprise Partner Team, Victor Morales, and Kim Akers, who runs an ISV team, are part of a new One Commercial Partner business. That unit is run by Ron Huddleston, corporate vice president of the Enterprise Partner Ecosystem for Microsoft.

As Foley points out, Huddleston came to Microsoft last June from, where he was instrumental in creating the AppExchange marketplace and the rest of's channel. Microsoft has long sought to match the power of's AppExchange and Huddleston's arrival is seen as a renewed effort by Microsoft to bring that engine to Azure and its other cloud products.

In summary, Althoff has put the Microsoft WPG inside a business unit run by a new executive with a channel title who also has experience building a vibrant ISV partner community.

Altogether, partners who can help utilize more of Azure's built-out capacity can expect to be showered with the most love from Microsoft in 2017.

Posted by Scott Bekker on January 23, 2017