The announcement today that Jon Roskill will take over, effective July 1st, as corporate VP of Microsoft's worldwide partner group, seems to indicate a significant shift in channel strategy, or at least a significant shift in focus and priorities.
Roskill replaces Allison Watson, who by all accounts had a long and successful reign with numerous initiatives to help partners, and most recently has been heading up Microsoft's online initiatives such as BPOS and Azure. She tweeted "It is with emotions of excitement, nostalgia and pride that I announce a leadership change in the ww partner group".
Roskill is said by Microsoft in having played a key role bringing Microsoft's cloud computing offerings to market, and that seems to be one the priorities he will carry into the channel role. But what I found most interesting was this statement:
"Our customers are relying more and more on our partners," said Kevin Turner, Microsoft's COO, in a statement. "Jon deeply understands the critical factors a customer goes through in making IT buying decisions. He will leverage his depth of knowledge in his new role, and I'm confident he will ensure that our partners continue to win and grow in the marketplace."
The phrase "critical factors a customer goes through in making IT buying decisions" to me is the core message, and an exciting one.
I would roughly translate this to mean that Watson has been very successful in building the relationships between the partner community and Microsoft. Roskill has been briefed to move to the next phase of outreach and to help the partners learn how to build more successful relationships with their customers, and to grow more customers. Obviously these phases are not mutually exclusive, they build on each other, but it's a change of emphasis from here.
I think he will also carry the tough role of shaking out the channel community in the light of BPOS and Azure, as it needs to be reshaped and reinvented to successfully grow those offers.
One way to look at it is that Watson could actually seen to be too close and perhaps too emotionally attached the the many programs she implemented. On the other hand Roskill will take a more clinical eye, and as Peter Drucker suggests, ask "If we were to go into this now, knowing what we now know, would we go into it the way we are doing it now?"- the strategy of planned abandonment.
Not the least because the whole buying cycle has become disconnected from the sales cycle we've know for the last 50 years, because of social media. The way buyers, including business buyers, search, assess, evaluate and select products has moved totally away from the sellers 7-step sales funnel cycle. The disconnect is most profound in the first four steps as shown in the diagram, courtesy of Axel Schultze.
Social media, or rather the use of social media as a fabric of social business or "social CRM" provides the key to partners re-engaging with their customers. Because through this partners can engage in the client's buying cycle, not be trying to force-fit an outdated sales model.
Microsoft stands a good chance of progressing this well, since they are one of the most social media savvy organisations in the world, recently surveyed as #1 in the US. It's going to be interesting to see how they approach social media training for channel partners.
Interestingly, the outgoing Watson has more of a social network profile than the incoming Roskill who does not even appear to have a Linkedin profile, although he does feature in this SxSW (2009) video "Social Media Conversations". (Intriguingly the only "Allison Watson"+"Microsoft" Linkedin profile has zero connections, and no photo!)
Do you think Jon Roskill's appointment marks a distinct change of emphasis for Microsoft's channel program?
What role do you think Microsoft will develop for social media as a tool for helping partners better connect with their clients?