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RingCentral's New CRO to Drive Channel 'Enablement and Readiness'

Phil Sorgen, the former Microsoft exec, is excited for "a lot of growth opportunities" in UCaaS.

Jeffrey Schwartz

May 22, 2020

5 Min Read
Q&A
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RingCentral earlier this month named former Microsoft channel chief Phil Sorgen as its chief revenue officer.

In addition to leading Microsoft’s worldwide partner program, Sorgen held various management roles during two decades at the company. At Microsoft, he led its SMB organization, U.S. commercial enterprise business, and was president of Microsoft Canada.

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RingCentral’s Phil Sorgen

Channel Partners interviewed Sorgen last week about why he UCaaS provider joined RingCentral. Here is an edited (for clarity) excerpt.

Channel Partners: What made you decide to leave Microsoft after 24 years to join RingCentral?

Phil Sorgen: If I was going to leave [Microsoft], it would be to join an organization that is innovative at the core. One that constantly pushes the envelope in its pipeline to be incredibly strong in its market, but also with a vision for the future. It had to have a product at the center of how companies are digitally transforming as a first-party creator of cloud-oriented products. I was interested in an opportunity to build plans and go-to-market approaches that take the best of [different] scale models, grounded on a very strong channel ecosystem. RingCentral clearly checked all of those boxes.

CP: Do you have an example of how their offerings enable digital transformation?

Phil Sorgen: UCaaS, as an example, is at an early stage of a rapidly growing opportunity. Now, some of that has been accelerated by this horrible place the world finds itself in [COVID-19]. But it’s actually an early stage market. I was very excited about the fact that RingCentral is a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant in that upper right position. But it’s also a market that has a lot of growth opportunities. Every company is trying to be more collaborative, more connected, more mobile and more data-driven. And RingCentral products are at the sweet spot of that.”

We recently compiled a list of 20 top UCaaS providers offering products and services via channel partners.

CP: What are your thoughts about coming from a company that had a very wide and broad product portfolio, to one that has a more narrowly focused set of offerings?

PS: Actually, the way I view it is slightly different, because the breadth of our offering, which I’ll call capabilities, may be more narrow. But what isn’t different is with every customer, you have to start with the business outcomes they’re trying to accomplish. Then you can learn how they measure success against those outcomes, understand the business drivers and apply the capabilities. When you think of the business outcomes that companies are trying to achieve, especially in terms of digital transformation, there are more narrow set plays in many of the customers scenarios.

So I always try to orient around the customer first. Now sometimes, obviously, in the scale part of the business, you’re doing it through more marketing and broader outreach. And on the enterprise side, you’re doing it more through a direct engagement with the customer. But the bottom line is, our ability to solve the business outcomes that companies are trying to achieve against digital transformation, is really comprehensive. I don’t look at that part as narrow.

CP: As you know, the telephony industry has a different kind of partner model. How would you describe the nuances?

PS: There’s certainly a fair amount of overlap in the partner ecosystem. So, the channel that I knew really well for many years, there’s a group of channels that if you drew the concentric circles, would overlap. As the capabilities around meetings, video and phone converge; you start embracing an open platform. And then you start thinking about some of the vertical applications. And then you start thinking about ISVs that play a role in that and how they extend your platform. All of a sudden, the concentric circles of partners just keep growing even more. I think that will be a big component of our growth in the overall ecosystem over time.

CP: What is your plan in terms of bolstering the partner ecosystem at RingCentral?

PS: I will continue to drive …

… enablement and readiness, especially as we’re bringing on and engaging many new partners. If you think of some of the partnerships we recently announced – key partnerships like Avaya and Atos – that by itself expands the partner ecosystem. The importance of enablement training and readiness will continue but it will expand to a broader set of partners.

CP: How about existing partners? What should they expect?

PS: We will continue to expand our demand-gen programs. That includes signing up a partner, then getting them active and getting them to a place where they can comfortably grow their business. It’s a multistep process and we’ll continue to enhance that. We have programs in place that are already working – like the Channel Harmony program – which we will continue to focus on. The things that I call net new — we will continue to refine our approach to industry-based solutions. Partners are key to that. And that also expands the partner circle because there are different kinds of partner solutions. There are different partner types will play into that. There will also be a continued focus on growing internationally. That will have us reaching out to additional partners that will be newer to us in our ecosystem.

CP: What’s your view of RingCentral’s competitive edge and how can the company leverage that to grow the business?

PS: Everything grows out of the fact that we have a commitment to R&D and to driving innovation. And we have a world class product that meets the needs of our customers. After you build off that product, we have a consistent and predictable partner ecosystem. My assessment to date is we have consistently listened to partners and our ecosystem. We have helped them grow their business and be successful in a competitive marketplace. We consistently drive customer demand and make sure our brand and value proposition are well understood. We’re going to keep investing in and working on that.

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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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