Top Gun 51 Profile: Microsoft’s Gavriella Schuster Says Don’t Create Boundaries
… staying ahead of our customers and understanding what they need and making sure that we’re building the capabilities to meet them. The fact that it takes us 12-18 months to build solutions and capabilities with our partners. Getting them into the market means that we have to be able to anticipate what our customers need — and customer needs change so fast now.
That’s been challenging. So knowing where we’re going to place our bets, knowing where we go in the market to build some of those capabilities, and the partners who are willing to place a bet with us and make an investment ahead of the curve, so that we’re both ready when the customer is there — that’s the thing that keeps me up at night.
We probably fail as much as we succeed together. The cases where we’ve been able to anticipate that well, we’ve driven some great innovation and opportunity for partners who made that investment and that bet.
CP: What has surprised you as you’ve worked in the channel?
GS: The thing I love about working with our partners is the level of innovation they bring to table, and it always surprises me. Solutions, they’re able to build with customers based on the little bit of fuel that we put into the fire. It’s why I love my job.
The thing that has surprised me, coming into this, there was a lot of concern within Microsoft that it takes a lot to boot or reboot our ecosystem around something new, and I haven’t found that. The level of agility that our partners have when we point out new opportunity, new capability, their ability to pivot their organization, rethink some of their business or business models is way faster than Microsoft. I’ve been very impressed and inspired by that.
CP: What advice do you have for next-gen channel leaders?
GS: My advice is to make sure that you have customer-first thinking, that you’re thinking about what the customer needs, because if what you’re feeding into your ecosystem – the insight you’re providing – isn’t based on the customer need and is more selfishly focused on your own business need, then you won’t succeed and neither will your partners.
And, you won’t be a very good leader.
Make sure you know how your partners make money, but then lead on customer need, where the market is going. If you’re running a business of any size and you create a category, then you should be the expert of where the customer opportunity is and then help the ecosystem around where you see that and build additional capabilities and services for those customers.
I would also say, don’t create boundaries for yourself. Go across the boundaries within your organization and the boundaries with your partners and don’t get stuck in categories. If you have a partner that you only traditionally worked with on hardware or in a particular customer segment, that doesn’t mean that’s where the partner’s boundaries end. You can cross those boundaries and you’ll often find there’s a lot more opportunity and engagement when you do.