**Editor’s Note: Channel Partners and Channel Futures, in conjunction with our Spring 2018 print issue – available here via digital download – this week named Microsoft’s Gavriella Schuster our “Channel Influencer of the Year.”**
You might argue that holding the top channel-chief slot at a $290-billion multinational tech vendor, with the granddaddy of partner programs, makes you a shoo-in for stature and influence in that community — and you might be right. But one thing you don’t hear when talking with Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president, Commercial Partner Channels & Programs at Microsoft, is any hint of complacency.
Schuster has been considered Microsoft’s channel chief since July 2016, when she replaced Phil Sorgen, who held the top spot for just over two years. At a time when disruption is running rampant in the IT industry, with vendors, channel partners, distributors and customers trying to find their “new normal,” Microsoft’s partners, many of whom are struggling to evolve their businesses, say Schuster’s leadership style has earned their confidence.
“She’s the right person at the right time,” said Randy Steinle, vice president of Onsupport Corp., a technology consulting firm based in Austin, Texas, and president of the U.S. chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners. The IAMCP is an independent global organization of Microsoft partners, mostly small and midsize firms, with about 2,300 members globally and 700 in the United States. The word from IAMCP leaders, Steinle said, is that Schuster is making the right moves.
“She’s personally engaged, she shows up, she shows her support, and that goes a long way,” he said.
That trust is critical given major changes taking place in Redmond. Schuster describes Microsoft’s revamp of its commercial sales program, an effort known as One Commercial Partner, as “the biggest change that the company has made to its sales model in more than a decade.” The OCP initiative, formally introduced in July at the company’s annual Microsoft Inspire partner conference, upended the way the company works with its channel.
Sure, change is a constant in technology. But OCP is a huge reshuffling, and partners haven’t seen all the cards yet.
“We’re having the conversations, hearing about the layoffs and restructuring, people moving into different positions, and that has a lot of partners anxious as we try to figure out where we’ll fall after this,” Steinle said.
If that sounds like a lot of upheaval, you’re right. Now add in the sudden and unexpected departure in December, after less than one year on the job, of Ron Huddleston, who was picked to head OCP. But here’s the thing: If partners are any more rattled now than before Huddleston’s departure, they’re not saying so — maybe because Schuster was immediately tapped to replace him.
When she was named corporate vice president, Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group (WPG), in 2016, Schuster stepped into …