Internal Merger: Microsoft Joins Its Partner and Small Business Groups

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Microsoft folded together its Partner and Small Business Groups to improve synergies between the "symbiotic" units.

Microsoft Corp., is folding its Worldwide Partner Group into the same division and under the leadership as its Worldwide Small Business Group, to improve synergies between the units, the company disclosed yesterday.

Both units, previously separate and equal within Microsoft's Small and Mid-market Solutions and Partners Group, will be merged under one flag—Worldwide Partner Group and Worldwide Small Business Group.

The group will have one vice president, Allison Watson, who was previously vice president of the partner group, according to a letter written by Watson and distributed to partners.

She added later in an interview that she would split her time equally between the two constituencies, but each group is now directed by a manager.

Doug Leland, a Microsoft veteran, will lead the small business group, now coined the Small Business Segment Marketing Team, while Sherle Webb-Robins, a pickup from Sun Microsystems, will lead the Microsoft Partner Program, Watson said.

Watson described the reorganization as a way to recognize the symbiotic relationship between the software maker's small business customers and channel partners and to create synergy in the relations among the three.

"Everyday on the ground, the interaction between the two is direct and between each other before it gets back to us," she said.

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"We (the Small Business Group) are the customer-facing group that provides the input for product development, Web site development and marketing and that often comes back to us through partners.

"With both groups together, you are going to drive great products that can solve business solutions that drive business for solution providers."

Watson said partners and customers should see no affect on their interactions with the company.

The realignment is unrelated to the company-wide reorganization Microsoft announced last month. The reorganization aligned Microsoft into three operation divisions—Platforms and Services; Business; and Entertainment and Devices.

Resellers and business analysts who reviewed the reorganization said they expect little impact on the interaction between the company and the two constituencies, but saw little benefit beyond less red tape within the Microsoft organization.

"I guess it might make things a little easier getting word back to the small business group," said John Aingsolver, president of Advance Networks, Fort Wayne Indiana.

"The way we do business with small business customers, they go through us to get to Microsoft. They never even deal with them and I'm sure that's the case for most resellers. If you have one less wall between those conversations, that's going to make it easier."

"There shouldn't be much impact, as they two units sat next to each other in SMS&P all these years anyway," said Paul DeGroot, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, Kirkland, Wash., a Microsoft-focused financial and business analysis firm.

"It makes sense that they keep them together and that they're talking to each other at Microsoft," said DeGroot. "You can develop products, but you need partners to knock on doors to sell it. Why not try pitching to them, coaching to them, generating leads from the same people who helped develop the products. They're joined at the hip and always will be."

But the realignment, said DeGroot, could be only temporary, a way to secure the small business group while Microsoft finds a replacement for Steve Guggenheim. Microsoft denies this assertion.

Guggenheim, who previously ran the small business division as Watson's equal in SMS&P, is taking over the Application Platform and Development Marketing in Microsoft's Platform Division.

"Microsoft doesn't do a lot of changes like this in the fall. It's usually reserved for the spring and timed for the start of the fiscal year (July 1)," DeGroot said.

"It could be an easy way to put small business in safe hands [Watson's] until spring when they can determine if it's working or something to change in July."

The reorganization was accompanied by a slew of staff changes and hires at the Redmond, Wash. company, most notably, Webb-Robins, who until recently was a channel chief at Sun Microsystems.

Webb-Robins replaced Kevin Wueste as manager of Microsoft's Partner Program. Wueste may be leaving the company, Watson indicated.

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Leland, who previously held several marketing roles at Microsoft, will take the reins of the Small Business Segment Marketing Team from Guggenheim, and will answer to Watson.

Including Leland's and Webb-Robins' units, seven sub-units comprise the new Worldwide Partner Group and Worldwide Small Business Group, Microsoft said. Each unit and manager answers directly to Watson.

  • Small Business Segment Marketing Team, led by Leland;

  • Sales, Readiness, Competitive Strategy & Channel Development Team led by Don Nelson, to drive recruiting, enabling, activating, selling and servicing our managed and tele-managed partners (Gold and Certified levels). This team also drives competitive strategy and recruitment, as well as the engine for overall channel development.

  • Microsoft Partner Program team led by Webb-Robins, is responsible for the architecture and strategic direction of the Microsoft partnering proposition, both externally with partners and internally with all Microsoft business groups.

    The team is responsible for helping develop the partner business propositions across all channels to market for more than 350 Microsoft business products.

  • Partner Marketing Team, led by Pam Salzer, to direct to- and through-partner marketing, both online and offline, for all segments and the entire partner program.

  • Systems Strategy Team led by Todd Weatherby, to develop Microsoft's 3-year MSPP Systems Strategy, support Data Initiatives, guide technology/infrastructure direction and develop the PPMO (product and process management office) team.

  • ISV Partner and MBS Partner Strategy led by Kati Hvidfeldt, to drive increased focus and execution to capture the huge upside that exists with ISVs serving all technology areas and all MBS partners including MBS ISVs.

    The team is also chartered with enabling the synergy with ISVs on MBS at the top of the stack and MBS partners delivering across the stack. Kati's team includes Naseem Tuffaha's ISV team as well as the MBS core team in the Worldwide Partner Group.

  • Business Management Team led by Jenni Flinders to direct the business aspects of the entire body as well as manage Worldwide Partner CPE and strategic communications and business development.

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