Kevin Turner, Microsoft's chief operating officer, promised to keep partners better informed about the vendor's product plans and road maps in the future.
He gave a lively and often impassioned keynote speech Thursday, the last day of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston.
Since joining Microsoft in September, Turner has crisscrossed the world meeting with about 2,000 of the company's partners and hearing their concerns. In those meetings, when he has asked partners to sketch out Microsoft's future product directions on a white board, he has frequently been greeted with an awkward silence.
"You need to know where we're going," Turner said. "The company is going to get great on software road maps next year."
For the first time in Microsoft's history, the company will introduce a single performance scorecard for all of its global field operations managers. One of the 27 metrics determining the managers' compensation will be an assessment of how well they have communicated Microsoft's road map to the company's partners. Another metric will gauge partners' overall satisfaction with Microsoft.
"We can be hard to do business with," Turner said, pointing to the number of Microsoft products and divisions as well as the complexity of its licenses. "We need to make it simpler for you to do business with us." Not only is Microsoft working toward becoming "one Microsoft," but the company also wants to get closer to its partners, he added. "We have to operate as one."
Being better aligned is vital for Microsoft and its partners to take on IBM, Novell, Oracle and Google, according to Turner.
"Let's get rid of all the Novell, let's get rid of all the Notes," he cried. "We're not going to let Google win in enterprise search. That's our place, they're not taking the food off our plates."
Microsoft is also going to go after Linux more aggressively, particularly the two leading distributors of the open-source operating system, Red Hat and Novell.
Turner encouraged Microsoft's partners to lead the charge against rival products by being early adopters of Microsoft's upcoming Vista operating system and Office 2007 desktop software suite.
"You be the first movers and commit to Office and Vista; you'll be better able to sell them," he said, adding, "We've got to get back to our roots -- demo, demo, demo -- this company was built on great [product] demos."
Turner said that Microsoft's best feedback channel continues to be its partners and encouraged them to contact him directly, giving out not only his e-mail, but also his phone number. "I'm open for business," he added.
Turner joined Microsoft last year after spending nearly 20 years at Wal-Mart Stores. He worked initially as a cashier at the retailer to put himself through college and stayed with the company after graduating. A stint in auditing put him in contact with Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, who suggested he consider a career in IT systems. After teaching himself to program, Turner moved on to management, eventually becoming Wal-Mart's chief information officer. He then left IT for business, heading up Sam's Club, Wal-Mart's wholesale chain.
Turner's contact with Microsoft dates back nearly 15 years when he was asked to pick up someone from the airport and show them around the store. The passenger was Steve Ballmer and he and Turner stayed in touch, meeting two to three times a year to talk about "technology, leadership and business."
Ballmer, who became Microsoft chief executive officer in 2000, called Turner two years ago to see if he was interested in joining Microsoft. Turner said he felt a pull to get back into technology and so flew to Redmond, Washington, for 14 interviews over two days. His final interview was with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and lasted one hour and 45 minutes. Gates stood up at the end of the interview and extended his hand. "He said, 'We really hope you want to come change the world with us,'" Turner said. "I'm a sales guy and that [comment] closed the deal for me."