A Microsoft (MSFT) reorganization, led by CEO Steve Ballmer, could arrive in July -- just as Worldwide Partner Conference 2013 (WPC13) starts in Houston. CEO Steve Ballmer has made some solid moves in the past two years. But Ballmer has also alienated channel partners multiple times -- with the initial Office 365 cloud release, the first Surface tablet launches, and the untimely death of Windows Small Business Server. So how can Microsoft's CEO make things right?
Ballmer can start by more fully empowering Channel Chief Jon Roskill and other partner team leaders. Over the past two years, The VAR Guy believes, Roskill and team have been strong channel advocates. But somewhere along the way, there's been a disconnect between Ballmer's leadership and partner needs. The examples:
- When Office 365 launched in July 2011 channel partners could not manage end-customer billing -- a basic feature that even Google Apps has offered to VARs. The Office 365 Open program, announced at WPC12, was supposed to solve that problem but it's still extremely limited.
- Microsoft's decision to kill Windows Small Business Server (SBS) also alienated some partners. Microsoft pitched Office 365 in its place, but partners and customers in rural areas with weak broadbrand infrastructure aren't eager to embrace the cloud.
- Microsoft's Surface RT and Surface Pro tablet launches lacked a formal channel partner program. Sure, the tablets were available from retail stores. But there's no formal way for VARs to resell the devices -- a major miss in mobile vertical markets like health care, retail, insurance, financial services... and the list goes on.
Partners Must Come First
So where does Ballmer go from here? It sounds like Microsoft executive changes are coming and a reorganization could arrive in July, according to AllThingsD.
Who stays? Who goes? Either way, Roskill and his channel team deserve more power this time around.
Ballmer's determination to compete head-on against Apple, Google and public clouds has -- at times -- made him overlook the company's two greatest assets:
- channel partners
Many ISVs are now completely occupied writing web applications, or iOS and Android apps. But Microsoft can still win back channel partners -- many of whom have yet to sort out their cloud and mobile strategies.
There's still time to get it right, Mr. Ballmer. Each time Microsoft launches a new product, the company must have an effective partner program in place from the start. That wasn't the case with the initial Office 365 or Surface launches.
Make things right at WPC13. And further empower the channel team with your company reorg -- assuming its really coming.