Microsoft to repair consulting arm/reseller rift

LOS ANGELES — Apologizing for past snafus and channel blunders in the services realm, Microsoft executives delivered a message of partner renewal and commitment at this year’s Fusion 2002 partner symposium.

That’s one

of the key messages Rosa Garcia, outgoing general manager of worldwide partner sales and marketing, dished out to more than 4,000 attendees at the sixth annual partner conference and expo in downtown Los Angeles. Allison Watson will take over for Garcia.

“We haven’t done some things well,” Garcia says, in referring to the negativity surrounding the stiff competition between the Microsoft consulting services arm and its channel partners. “Microsoft made things even worse. Microsoft consulting should be more responsive to customers. The places we felt the pain the most was in North America — shame on us. It took us six months to react, but we’ve learnt our lesson.”

But Peter Rakoczy, director of Microsoft’s consulting services in Canada, told Computer Dealer News the negative backlash hasn’t blown up north of the border. “Canada has a better history of working with partners. In the Microsoft world, Canada is further ahead.” To date, Microsoft has 150 consulting services staff in Canada (there’s about 4,000 worldwide), while IBM has about 14,000, he says. “So we’re totally dependant on partners for our services capacity,” he says, indicating Microsoft Canada stays away from certain accounts to avoid channel conflict.

Building on the message of partner renewal and commitment, Microsoft also launched go-to-market (GTM) plans in key solution areas. Essentially, the GTM plan helps partners shift from selling products to selling solutions in key verticals, says Andrew Coulson, director of enterprise partners for Microsoft Canada. “GTM is a fully integrated way for us to offer partners the consolidated access of Microsoft to go to the customer,” Coulson says. “So we take our services, IP, products and business value and bring it all together for the partners and customers.”

In Canada, some of the key GTM verticals include: financial, government, telecom and education. According to research firm IDC, top Canadian technologies include: desktop management, Web content management, portals, security, e-commerce and enterprise application integration (EAI).

And in a bid to drive GTM plans in the partner world, Watson says Microsoft is allocating 399 new employees to the channel (11 of whom are in Canada). Microsoft is also rolling out 11 new e-learning courses to partners, and has refreshed the partner Web site to reflect the GTM strategy, she says. “Partners are the key to Microsoft’s success both in the past and in the future,” she says. “We want to exceed customer expectations, increase partner revenues and satisfaction, and rebuild a healthy partner ecosystem.” She says the GTM partner strategy better reflects how customers use technology (and addresses their main technology challenges) as well as helps in terms of organizational productivity and knowledge worker productivity.

Organizational productivity helps partners and customers, for example, in the area of business-to-business integration and EAI. On the knowledge worker front, companies can now think in terms of mobility, new form factors, horizontal and vertical applications as well as unlocking business data, she says. Specifically, the GTM strategy includes: driving .Net and Web services, pumping up EAI activity and trading partner integration, as well as helping customers in the area of server consolidation (a 13 billion market opportunity).

Brian Donaldson, president and chief technology officer of Calgary, Alta.-based Quadrus Development Inc. (which clinched the worldwide BI Solution of the Year award at the show), says the overall strategy is a sound idea that should increase partner business. “The go-to-market strategies and solutions are enabling products to be integrated and adopted to focus more on the business.” He says it will increase the adoption rate of Windows XP. Other hot partner opportunities under the GTM strategy include Business Intelligence (BI), Intranet and portals, as well as security and mobility, Watson adds.

The idea is to better connect with partners, explains Gordon Mangione, vice-president of the SQL Server team. “We’ve had poor alignment and integration of sales/marketing, and a lack of coordination with partners.” Moving forward, partners can also set their sights on peddling servers (SQL Server, Exchange Server, E-business Server and Management Server). “The engine of growth is in the enterprise and the server space,” says Mangione. “At a time when our competitors are down 30 per cent year-over-year, we didn’t see any of that.”

Enterprise messaging, in particular, is “oxygen for a company,” he says, and a key reason why Exchange Server has 100 million seats sold. Stan Sorensen, director of SQL Server marketing agrees, saying the Windows .Net Server release — which is slated for next spring/summer — will take things a step further. “It takes the .Net framework and bakes it directly into the applications. It’s the big bet we want to make in taking it to the next level.” Additionally, the channel can also take advantage of opportunities in the small business arena, Ken Headrik, manager of small business and partner marketing for Microsoft Canada, told CDN. At the show, Microsoft announced a US$500 rebate to partners on the Small Business Server 2000. He says the company is on a major push to sign up new partners in the SMB arena in Canada.

In addition to the GTM strategy and partner commitment, the show also highlighted the road ahead for the next six to 18 months in terms of technology evolution. The main emphasis at this year’s show centered around the fall rollout of the Tablet PC XP edition.

For a closer look at Fusion 2002 partner activity, check out the next issue of Computer Dealer News.

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