Microsoft director SMS&P , David Gage, took some time out from Microsoft’s Annual Partner Conference to discuss the company’s channel partner program across 2014.
Gage is no stranger to the Channel, having spent 15 years at Express Data where he finished up CEO, before leaving to join Microsoft in October 2013 as head of its small and midmarket solutions and partner business.
Allan Swann: This is your first Microsoft APC on the vendor side of the fence, how does it feel to have made the jump?
David Gage: “I’ve had a really warm reception from the channel, and I put it down to the fact that I’ve worked in businesses that are similar to a lot of those people. I’ve worked in an SMB, I’ve worked in a training organisation, I’ve worked in a distributor – so there’s kind of this feeling that I’m an advocate for them within Microsoft.
I’ve been trying to drive a culture, certainly across my team, but across Microsoft, that talks about a customer obsession. That’s the same for our partners and customers too.
We’ve been trying to spend more time with them and learn about how they make their money, rather than thinking about our own needs.
Because the fact is, if we genuinely look after our partners and their profitability, then we’re going to be the vendor of preference. We’ve made a big bet, many years before my time, that partners are our route to market. We are absolutely all in with our partners, and that’s something we want to continue and advance.
Do you miss having that spread of products to sell, rather than a single vendor’s offerings?
I loved my time in distribution, but, equally, I’m learning so much in this role. Probably more than I expected to – I’m loving working at Microsoft.
So what are some of Microsoft’s key changes to Microsoft’s channel partner programme?
We are continuing to work on the Microsoft Partner Network, so there are plenty of changes flowing out of there at the moment. Pinpoint is undergoing a full revamp, and so that’s our tool that connects customers with partners. It is also launching Cloud-based competencies for Office 365, Azure and CRM online.
Part of our role here is to encourage customers to go back and update their information. It matches customers to partners based upon their competencies – it’s important to us that partners are compatible.
So what are some of the key goals for these new programs over the next 12 months?
We want to continue to enable our partners to transition to the Cloud, we’ve done really well with that and especially Office 365. That’s because we have a good partner base, we’ve invested and we’ve co-invested in our partners – doing things such as making sure they had sales reps and technical. We have also put a fair bit of effort into business transformation, especially with our SMBs.
We have been guiding them through some of the business implications, cashflow, billing models – those sorts of changes, and the applications associated with that.
So what has been the response from your partners so far?
The response has been really good. If I look at the launch of Office 365 - which really caters to that SMB space - in April, it’s risen on a really steady trajectory, and then it just exploded across that June-July period. SMB is now the fastest growing part of our business. It’s exciting.
We finally feel like we have some products that really match up with SMB requirements, such as Cloud for business.
We already got some partners doing incredible stuff, such as Hands-on Systems. The work they have been doing with financials for Office 365 is a really strong offering.
So how do you feel the changes under new CEO Satya Nadella have been sitting with the channel?
It sits pretty well with me. I like the concept of the challenger mindset, and challenging the status quo – that sits very well with what I believe.
Anything come out of that locally?
I like everybody across the team to be able to challenge how we do business,to think of new ideas. We have done that within SMS&P, and the partner team since I’ve come on board.
We did a full business review recently and some fantastic ideas came from right across the team. We looked at how we interacted with partners and customers. We’re conscious of making that a business review by the business, rather than just management.
Out of that flowed increased investment in our partner team, and we also moved some of our corporate account sellers into the team to work alongside our partners.
We have had some changes in the SMS&P management team, with Phil [Goldie] moving into partner business and development, Dean [Swan] moving into partner sales, and we’ve got John Hennessey coming back from Singapore – he’s got a wealth of experience. He’ll be great for our corporate accounts.
Finally, we have John Leonard heading up our Dynamics business, previously out of the Chicago team. So we have a strong Dynamics lead with extensive experience, and clearly we see Dynamics as a huge growth opportunity area.