Phil Sorgen steps up

Microsoft Canada’s new president may have officially started at the beginning of this month, but by the time he sat down with, he had already been on the job since January and had moved his family north of the border.

Phil Sorgen is replacing David Hemler, who announced he would leave his post in December to be geographically closer to his ailing father-in-law.

Sorgen, who is the third person to head up the division in two years, has been with Microsoft Corp. since 1996. His most recent post was general manager for the software company’s Gulf Coast district where he was responsible for building and executing strategies for sales, consulting, channel development and marketing. Prior to joining Microsoft, Sorgen, whose alma mater is the University of North Texas where he earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters degree in business administration, was national account manager with NCR/AT&T GIS.

Sorgen recently talked to about the job so far, his plans for the company and why this may be his last move for a while. How long is your commitment in Canada?

Phil Sorgen: It’s a very fair question. I’ve heard it from different partners and internal employees. Dave Hemler wasn’t here very long and it wasn’t by design, it wasn’t planned for. On the other hand, I’m fully committed to being here and going to be committed from day one. My family’s here and my daughter’s enrolled in school. We’re fully here. Partially I think it was an important message to send given that it was an unfortunate period of time on the last one. Equally, I wanted my daughter to get acclimated in school and have time in this semester before the summer. This isn’t bound by a contract. I’m here and I will be here for a long time.

ITB: What did you learn from Hemler during the one month you job shadowed him?

PS: Learning what the operating strategy was of the teams that were under Dave, I wanted to understand. That’s what’s so important about Microsoft Canada. Microsoft Canada is in place to make sure that as Microsoft Corporation creates products, messaging and does all of those things, we have to put it into Canadian terms. I needed to understand what is our small business strategy in Canada. What is our mid-market strategy? What is our public sector strategy? What are the subtleties in our messaging?

ITB: You created and led the worldwide Microsoft Oil and Gas Vertical and worked with Microsoft technology partners to provide solutions for oil and gas manufacturing customers. With a booming oil market in Alberta, how does this strategy play out in Canada? What role will Microsoft Canada’s partners play?

PS: If you look at any of our vertical strategies, they are all about our partners. The vertical integration of our products is largely through our partners. That is one of the biggest pillars of our vertical strategy.

Some of the advances that we’re doing around offerings such as high performance computing we’re working with the ISVs that do the reservoir simulation or do the seismic graphing. The ISVs are providing a lot of the industry expertise. We’re making sure that we have a very solid platform that those can run on so that the oil and gas companies can focus on what their core business is.

These verticals are also a feedback loop to our product groups. When they’re specific industry standards whether that be retail, financial or oil and gas, these verticals that we’ve created at Microsoft are enabling us to share information that’s relevant to that market of what the needs are so those can be developed into future releases.

ITB: What do you see as your biggest threat at the moment?

PS: The great thing about IT is it’s one of most innovative businesses in the world and there’s always competition. The way competition emerges is someone can be small or big in one area and as they extend their portfolio, they move into other areas. At the same time we’re continuing to innovate.

We have a number of threats in marketplace. I don’t refer to them as threats, I think of them as competition in a vibrant industry. How we’re addressing that is through extensive R&D that exceeds any other software company out there. That R&D is not just bound by the dollars Microsoft spends in six billion dollars but also the added R&D of the largest partner ecosystem in the marketplace.

ITB: More specifically, what exactly is your competition? Is it Open Source software?

PS: Open Source is definitely a competitor. We continue to compete with Oracle on the database side of business. We’re aggressively competing with Google in search. Open source is not a product statement. Open source spans database and development tools and operating systems and office automation. We’re competing on many fronts there. We even continue to compete in the categories of file and print with companies like Novell and for high performance computing with companies like Sun.

ITB: Back last April Microsoft Canada, in conjunction with the RCMP and Toronto Police Service launched the Child Exploitation and Tracking System (CETS). You mentioned in a press release that you look forward to leading this program among other corporate citizenship efforts. What are your plans going forward?

PS: One of the things that appealed to me before I came up here, and I knew this before I came, because Microsoft Canada is very visible in this area. It’s very in line with my own values and beliefs. The employees of Microsoft Canada want to be a part of a company that just doesn’t do business in Canada but is part of fabric of the communities they serve. Companies want to do business with companies they respect and they admire.

ITB: A Toronto-area reseller who was once sued by Microsoft for selling and distributing counterfeit Windows certificate of authenticity labels will be spending his weekends in jail after being convicted of copyright infringement. What will your role be in working with the Canadian team to prosecute people who pirate software?

PS: We are working with others in the industry. This is not just a Microsoft problem and its not just Microsoft’s responsibility to address this. There are legitimate companies that are challenged to compete if we don’t help them when other companies are exploiting whether counterfeiting or making things illegal. One is making sure that companies that are legit have opportunity to succeed in the marketplace.

Second with 6.9 billion in R&D we think it’s important to protect intellectual property rights. We think it’s important that we protect our own.

The third thing is we have a responsibility to our customers whether they’re business or consumer to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make it clear that it’s legitimate. They may have threats of their software being exploited or having security breaches because they’re not getting a real copy of the software.

— With files from Poonam Khanna

Comment: [email protected]

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