Gavriella Schuster, worldwide channel chief at Microsoft

Published: July 12th, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Gavriella Schuster now has a year under her belt as the worldwide channel chief at Microsoft. And, at the Inspire 2017 conference she let 15,000 or so channel partners in attendance know her “personal moment of truth.”

It occurred on a dark, rainy day in all places Denmark in 2016. “I was in a room with four partners and its a dark and raining day even though I was in one of the most cloud-progressive countries in the world. As I was listening to their voices it hit me like a bolt of lightning. They have changed and we had not kept up. Now, we were in there way. We were missing out on an opportunity to work together because of all the constraints through licensing, geographic boundaries and we were asking them the wrong questions.”

Schuster added, the channel and Microsoft got themselves into such as routine in business it was like walking into a house you’ve visited a 100-times and never noticing there was a data centre in the backyard.

Microsoft as far back as 2008, the software giant has been asking the channel community to change because of the cloud. And, over that time the solution providers for the most part changed. But Microsoft stayed the same and Schuster said “did not notice until that day in Denmark.”

With that Schuster is ushering in some changes to its channel direction specifically in how the channel engages with its field team, removing the complicated structures and programs and work towards showing up together with the channel in a go-to market motion.

“This is the biggest change to our sales model in over a decade,” she said.

In the field, Microsoft has asked its partner account managers to do many things such as account management, building channel business, skill up channel business, understand the market, co-sell, and bring in partner executives into other field areas.

Microsoft will be splitting that job into two. One focused on building a solution and the other on selling that solution; or helping the channel to sell that solution. The account manager role will continue and Microsoft has created a new job called channel manager.

“We have never had this role. A channel manager is the type of person who can walk into a room with 1,000 people and they know everyone’s name, their kids names and their school names. And, they have 12,000 connections on Linkedin. This job is not to be your partner account manager, but to help you build a partner ecosystem with every single customer,” Schuster said.

As for channel programs, Schuster describe that as cleaning out your hall closet after a decade. Inside Microsoft’s closet there are programs, special offers and licenses and the company did not know how to fix them so instead her team will work on its own digital transformation and fix the go-to market motion focused on the four core solutions:

  • Modern Workplace;
  • Business Applications;
  • Apps and Infrastructure; and
  • Data and AI for Small, Medium & Corporate Customers (SMC).

“For every dollar of Microsoft revenue we generate it nets $9.01 into the partner ecosystem. We need to help you capture that opportunity,” Schuster said citing an IDC report.

New partner incentives will also focus on those four product groups and Schuster admitted the company needs to address the cloud solution provider (CSP) channel conflict. Microsoft sales reps will now get an accelerated total contract value for every Office 365 seat sold on CSP. When packaged solutions are sold such as ISV cloud with embedded license using the deal registration kicker, the Microsoft sales team will also get paid. Schuster believes this action will motivate Microsoft sales team to help sell partner-driven solutions.

“We are only going to pay sellers on Azure consumed revenue. This means they need you and they need you to sell an Azure solution. This is the biggest change in over a decade and the opportunity is exciting and scary,” she said.