Microsoft’s Gavriella Schuster: Channel Influencer of the Year

2018 Channel Influencer

… 11 percent from Xbox and 9 percent from Windows; the remainder is a mix of ads, Surface hardware and “other.”

A big challenge for Schuster is translating how the strategic business changes taking place at Microsoft impact partners. Foremost among those shifts is the move to everything running as a service, preferably in Azure cloud. Emblematic of that is how Redmond answered when we asked for a partner head count: “We can confirm that Microsoft has more than 64,000 cloud partners in its ecosystem, which is more cloud partners than AWS, Salesforce and Google combined.”

There are, in fact, hundreds of thousands of partners, and the company said the number is constantly fluctuating and growing, with the Microsoft Partner Network adding, on average, 6,600 new logos per month. How do you manage that sort of scale?

“It’s important for us to have clarity, to be transparent and to provide the inspiration, the view into the innovation for our partners,” said Schuster. “To help them understand what is really important to the customer, to the market and to us.” That includes not trying to be all things to all customers but instead to do “a few things really well.”

Not so easy.

While OCP reduces the number of programs that touch partners, from 150 down to six core plans, and supports three key functions — build-with, go-to-market and sell-with — many partners are still left scrambling to figure out how to engage with Microsoft, and with whom.

Combine that with the business transformation being driven by Nadella, who announced a mobile-first, cloud-first world agenda just 52 days into his new role in 2014 and hasn’t wavered. More recently at Microsoft Ignite, in September 2017, he asked the community to commit “to a world that’s going to be made up of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge.”

Viewed from ground level, most partners realize that Microsoft had to go all-in on the cloud, adopt a more open and integrated strategic vision and aggressively push partners to keep up.

They also realize, as an ecosystem, that some won’t make the transition.

“People who were selling machines, hardware and software and running networks — it’s challenging for them,” said Steinle. “They don’t make a living selling Office 365. You make a living coming up with creative solutions that work for people, that are specific to their business where you provide value, that you add on — that’s table stakes now and not the end goal.”

Schuster’s take on the challenges Microsoft partners face? Not surprisingly, she couches it in terms of possibilities.

“I think that the biggest opportunity for partners is to rethink the way they sell technology and who they’re selling to, because the buyers of …

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