Microsoft’s director of partner business and development, Phil Goldie has been a key figure in Microsoft’s channel sales operations since 2009, and before that covering Asian and European markets for Nortel. It’s a big year for Microsoft, with the local launches of Microsoft’s key Cloud products Azure, Office365 and CRMOnline, as well as Windows 10.
He sat down with ARN Editor, Allan Swann, to discuss the company’s big 2015 plans, changes to its channel partner programs and his wine collection.
What gave you your first steps into the IT market?
I grew up in Birmingham in the UK, and moved to Australia when I was 28. So I’ve been here for almost 13 years now.
I went to the University of Liverpool. I did the classic entry point – a university degree in computer science, and then worked in a couple of big end user organisations.
I worked in a couple of interesting places, in one of the largest stationery chains in the UK, Dudley Stationery, which is a very thin margin business. There weren’t any massively sophisticated IT systems at the time, although they did do a big implementation of SAP early on - which didn’t go so well. I then worked for Schroders bank in London. That was the opposite end of the spectrum – very large IT budgets, deploying big Cisco ATM networks and the like.
I made the move from end-user to vendor, working in security and firewalls technology, had the opportunity to work for Alteon Web Systems, who were famous for datacentre load balancing and layer 47 switching. At that time I was still a very technical pre-sales engineer, and then Alteon got bought out by Nortel in 2000 – so I went from a very small start up to one of the biggest companies in the world at the time.
So how did you end up in Australia?
I married a Kiwi. My wife is from Auckland, so we struck a compromise for an in-between – Sydney. I did the classic pommie thing and said we’d stay for a couple of years to see how it goes. We’ve been here 13 years now.
We’ve got a five-year-old daughter and earlier this year my wife gave birth to twins, so we’re becoming pretty deeply rooted in Sydney.
Probably one of the pivots that happened when I moved here was, instead of just relearning all the technical things over and over again, I became far more interested in the business side of things – the marketing, go to market, and working with our partners. So I did an MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management.
Working in a small company you do get an idea of what happens when technology fails a customer. In Alteon, there were literally a handful of us working Europe, so if a customers network’s down, you took the call personally.
10-15 years later at a giant like Microsoft, we run so many of those large pieces of infrastructure for customers. So we have to be thoughtful in terms of what it means for customers if IT goes down. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, what does it mean? How do we react? Those were key lessons learned at Alteon.
You mentioned you’re the new father to twins – does that leave you any spare time for hobbies?
99 per cent of my non-work time is looking after the twins. I’m a mad sports fan, and, being English, I’m a huge cricket tragic. Despite living here for 13 years, I still tend to support England in almost everything that they play.
I’m also a big red wine collector, so when we moved house, one of my pet projects was building out a wine cellar. We love going away to the different wine regions of Australia and New Zealand and cultivating our collection, and spending way too much money on good wine.
What are some of the key differences between the UK and Australian go-to-markets?
I really like working in the Australian environment. The business and market here is that perfect storm of being just big enough to be interesting, but not overly big and bureaucratic. It’s big enough to have fun and be meaningful, and the culture of entrepreneurialism and the can do attitude is good. The market here is seen as something of an innovator. Not just in terms of Redmond asking us to do their projects here, but that the actual ideas and innovations developed here. There are already so many examples of projects being built here and pushed out to Microsoft’s subsidiaries worldwide.
You spent nearly a decade at Nortel, what made you jump over to Microsoft in 2010?
I was running the product marketing organisation for Nortel across Asia, and one of the big things we were working with Microsoft on was around unified communications, back in the days of OCS and LCS products.
One of the guys who most people in the Australian channel would know is Oscar Trimboli. He was working at Microsoft at the time. I was intrigued by the company, the people, and culture. We had a number of discussions over months, and eventually found a role running the server business. So I moved from Nortel, took a few months off when my daughter was born, did some consulting, and then came across.
It was a bit of a baptism of fire in terms of the complexity and size of that part of Microsoft’s business. It was also around the time of Windows 7, so we were tackling a lot of the issues Microsoft had around Vista. Once that was worked through there was a good energy, a good mojo.
Microsoft has a new CEO, Satya Nadella, how has the first 12 months under him gone? Has it changed your strategy in A/NZ?
He has already had a big impact on the company, our mood, and just generally peoples willingness to try new things – from product innovation through to the types of companies we’re buying now.
It never stops really, in terms of the investment and acquisitions, and the big news just keeps coming. It’s a combination of things that are very enterprise and channel focused, but then there’s also a lot of cool stuff we’re doing in consumer, such as on Xbox and virtual reality, through Microsoft Hololens. There’s a ton of technology and innovation every where. It’s a great place to work at the moment.
In Australia, we’ve got this great partner network that has got to be the envy of most IT organisations, and an amazing pipeline of products that just keeps growing.
It's not just the product innovation, but the individual feature enhancements and new capabilities that are coming on a weekly basis through all the Cloud services now. A lot of what we painted as the dream of the Cloud a few years ago is finally coming to fruition right now – there’s just a steady stream of almost daily new feature updates – not just great for customers, but huge opportunities for partners.
You unveiled a new partner program at Microsoft’s APC late last year, has that kicked into gear yet?
Our Cloud Solution Provider Program (CSSP) is a real game changer in how partners interact with Microsoft in terms of Cloud services. At the moment its mostly focused on Office365, but it will come to focus on Azure and CRMOnline.
We’re in the process of appointing more two tier wholesalers for those products as well. Those are exciting convos, because at the individual partner level we’re already seeing some great ideas, not just in terms of buying and selling MS services, but about innovating on our Cloud platform.
When we then introduce the wholesalers into the market, you’re going to see massive reach that really changes the game in terms of the kinds of offers the broader partner eco system will have to offer.
That intersects pretty perfectly with the launch of local services for Office365 and CRMOnline, which will happen before the end of March. It's perfect timing for our partner ecosystem to get onboard. The last barrier to adoption has been put away with our local datacentre footprint.
There have been some worries that Cloud vendors may eventually cut out the channel and direct sell – how do you quiet those concerns?
Our point of view is that we don’t just want our partners to come on the Cloud journey with us, we want them to build their own productised IP and managed services around those Cloud platforms that makes them unique, that makes them high value to customers.
When the channel and partners focus on that, that’s going to give you them a recurring revenue stream that’s highly protected and very valuable to business. That view hasn’t changed. It’s still very much our POV.
Solely being a transaction engine is where you get stuck is a potential risk. It’s a risk for partners, and for us as well.
One of the big things we’re doing right now is another round of business transformation workshops. We’ve revamped the ones we ran a year ago and we’re taking that back out to the channel now.
They’re all available for anyone to sign up and register to.
So rather than look at the ‘how do I go to Cloud?’ – I mean that ship has really sailed – its more about ‘how do I do what I want to do with Cloud?’ These workshops look at the financials, how to become a referrals business, productising IP and the sales and marketing skills that organisations need in this new world.
Are there any plans for Microsoft to make more acquisitions in-region?
We’ve had a very active M&A set of activity in the market across the past few months, and that’s going to continue in 2015.
How are you and your partners approaching Windows 10 after the flop of Windows 8?
It’s still very early days, and Windows 10 is still in the early product build phase – it's unfinished. But what we’ve seen from our partners is that they’re very excited.
Any last words and predictions for 2015?
The Internet of Things is at that interesting inflection point that perhaps Cloud was at a few years ago. We’re all still digesting what it means. But its really about Big Data, the insights, the visualisation and utilisation of that data. I think that the end user tools and the back end engines of data and how it relates to IoT – this will be a year where it all becomes a bit more meaningful.