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Microsoft’s Gavriella Schuster: Channel Influencer of the Year

2018 Channel Influencer

… the coveted global channel chief position after serving for just over two years as the general manager, Worldwide Programs and Marketing. But she’s also a 20-year Microsoft veteran who has held 14 jobs at the company in several groups, including Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise Business, and in positions that run the gamut from sales, marketing, product management, licensing and pricing to services, training and certification to customer operations, with most roles touching the channel.

Clearly, she’s earned her Microsoft pedigree. A good thing?

Back in 2013, when embattled Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that he would step aside, the business world was certain that only an outsider could fix the bevy of problems — strategic, technical and cultural — that ailed the stumbling technology giant. CEO Satya Nadella, at the time of his appointment a 22-year Microsoft veteran, proved them all wrong. And Schuster, like Nadella, has come out right-side-up after years of hard-fought transformation at Microsoft.

The 2112 Group's Larry Walsh

The 2112 Group’s Larry Walsh

“She’s indoctrinated in that velocity, that wave, that came up to save Microsoft,” said Larry Walsh, CEO and chief analyst at The 2112 Group.

A guide issued by The 2112 Group listing “10 Strategic KPIs for Channel Chief Success” highlights the attributes necessary to make channel magic happen — that is, to assemble a diverse group of partners, bring value systems together and create lift that results in a positive return to the company.

According to Walsh, to do that today as a channel chief you must be a diplomat and a leader, meaning you can get people to follow you; possess a sense of humor; be a tremendous listener; and, whatever your natural inclination, present an extroverted face to the world because good channel chiefs are rarely at home base. They’re in partners’ offices and meetings and are willing to step out on the stage, literally. Things they do well: Communicate in concise and simple terms to management about business and product road maps through a channel lens and translate plans back to partners. Constantly work on simplification to make programs more approachable. Broker relationships and be responsive to partner needs and concerns. From the partner perspective, a good channel chief knows how to charm end customers, can referee when partner-to-partner dealings get dicey and is willing to coach and mentor all those relationships because if the ecosystem stays well-tuned, everyone makes money and is more successful, engaged and relevant.

Schuster must also satisfy a demanding internal constituency, namely, Microsoft executives and sales leadership. Remember, while 95 percent of Microsoft’s commercial revenue comes through partners, the company has a large consumer base and a diverse product portfolio. According to BusinessWeek, 28 percent of revenues come from Office, 22 percent from Windows Server and Azure …

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