Top Gun 51 Profile: Microsoft’s Gavriella Schuster Says Don’t Create Boundaries
If ever here were a vendor that had to rethink its channel over the years, look no further than Microsoft, which launched a Microsoft Certified Solution Provider program in 1992. And if ever there was a next-generation channel leader, it’s Gavriella Schuster, corporate, vice president, One Commercial Partner Organization. Schuster is an inaugural Top Gun 51 channel leader.
With 24 years at Microsoft under her belt, Schuster maintains a healthy attitude for change and a channel leadership style that includes a vision in today’s world for a new level of partnering.
Channel Futures sat down with Schuster to discuss next-generation channel leadership, channel strategies that have worked over the years, those that don’t, and new strategies for today’s channels. We also talked about what keeps a channel executive up at night and got a few sage pieces of advice for aspiring channel leaders.
Channel Futures: Let’s start with you sharing channel strategies that have worked over the years, those that don’t serve the channel anymore, and what’s new.
Gavriella Schuster: What continues to work is trust, commitment and clarity — on both sides. That fact is that [the vendor-partner relationship is] a partnership and we work together and have mutual experiences built on trust and commitment, and we build plans for the long term, and we create clarity on our roles and the commitment from the partner and what they’re going to do.
We’ve found that the things we’ve done in the past that continue to work are around readiness, innovation, engagement and transparency. And, continuing to invest in partners as a core part of our overall business strategy in everything we do.
Another thing that continues to work but has taken a step up is co-selling. In the past, I don’t think that we necessarily had a strategy around co-selling, but we did co-sell with our partners. But over the past several years, we’ve realized that the access that we have within our enterprise customers is fairly unique and we’ve been more intentional with our sellers on what we expect from them and intentional with the partners we go to market with around various solutions and industry areas. Co-sell has become a strategic advantage for us and for our partners.
|We recently unveiled our “Top Gun 51,” a list of today’s channel executives who deserve recognition for building and executing programs in a way that drives partner, customer and supplier success.|
CF: Now talk about channel strategies that have fallen by the wayside and what new strategies you’re implementing.
GS: Our engagement used to be pretty formulaic — and that doesn’t work now. In the way customers have changed in what they do, how they use technology and what they look for, our formulaic approach with our partners doesn’t work.
Being focused on opportunistic or transactional engagement doesn’t work. We have to be much more intentional, more strategic and take the long-term view. That’s something that requires a great deal of change in the way that we have things set up and also in the way that we engage with partners. The old labels, the old categories and the old assumptions around what a partner will do, how they can make money, doesn’t work — the profitability isn’t there on things like pure software resell; there was profitability in services, IoT engagements — the same level of profitability doesn’t exist. We find ourselves being more fluid and more specific by partner on what is going to make that relationship work and what will our drive mutual profitability.
What’s totally new for us – because of the way cloud services work, building things in a dynamic nature with our customers – what works is co-development, co-innovation with our partners, more use-case selling, and more focus on the industry of the customer and joint business planning together so that we’re co-developing and co-innovating on behalf of customers, onsite in many cases. Our investment in this area is new.
CF: What keeps a next-gen channel chief up at night?
GS: The key thing is …