ARN 2014 Hall of Fame inductee, David Gage, took some time out from Microsoft's Annual Partner Conference to discuss the company's channel partner programme across 2014.
Gage is no stranger to the Channel, having spent 15 years at Express Data where he finished up CEO, before leaving to join Microsoft in October 2013 as head of its small and midmarket solutions and partner business.
Allan Swann: This is your first Microsoft APC on the vendor side of the fence, how does it feel to have made that jump?
David Gage: "I've had a really warm reception from the Channel, and I put it down to the fact that I've worked in businesses that are similar to a lot of those people. I've worked in an SMB, I've worked in a training organisation, I've worked in a distributor — so there's kind of this feeling that I'm an advocate for them within Microsoft.
I've been trying to drive a culture, certainly across my team, but across Microsoft, that talks about a customer obsession. That's the same for our partners and customers too.
We've been trying to spend more time with them and learn about how they make their money, rather than thinking about our own needs.
Because the fact is, if we genuinely look after our partners and their profitability, then we're going to be the vendor of preference. We've made a big bet, many years before my time, that partners are our route to market. We are absolutely all in with our partners, and that's something we want to continue and advance.
Do you miss having that spread of products to sell, rather than a single vendor's offerings?
Look don't get me wrong I loved my time in distribution, but equally I'm learning so much in this role. Probably more than I expected to — I'm really loving working at Microsoft.
So what are some of Microsoft's key changes to Microsoft's Channel partner programme?
We're continuing to work on the Microsoft Partner Network, so there are plenty of changes flowing out of there at the moment. Pinpoint is undergoing a full revamp, and so that's our tool that connects customers with partners. It is also launching Cloud based competencies for Office 365, Azure and CRM online.
Part of our role here is to encourage customers to go back and update their information. It matches customers to partners based upon their competencies — it's really important to us that partners are compatible.
So what are some of the key goals for these new programs over the next 12 months?
We want to continue to enable our partners to transition to the Cloud, we've done really well with that and especially Office 365. That's because we've got a good partner base, we've invested - and we've co-invested in our partners — such as making sure they had sales reps, technical readiness and we've also put a fair bit of effort into business transformation, especially with our SMBs.
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