New Microsoft Channel Chief Speaks

Phil Sorgen, new worldwide channel chief at Microsoft

Phil Sorgen, new worldwide channel chief at Microsoft

Don’t expect any groundbreaking or revolutionary changes in the Microsoft channel program under Phil Sorgen’s watch. The newly appointed Microsoft channel chief is aiming toward stability and continuity in the mobile and cloud driven world.

Speaking to partners for the first time via a taped video message, Sorgen pledged continued commitment to Microsoft’s 600,000-plus solution providers as the company pushes forward into new technologies, including mobility, cloud computing, Big Data and social communications.

“The world isn’t changing. The world has changed. We all need to challenge our mindsets to make the value to our customers in this new world as powerful as the technologies we represent,” he said.

The four-minute message wasn’t revealing by what Sorgen said, but rather what he didn’t say. He made no announcements on changes in strategic direction, changes to the Worldwide Partner Group or mention of the challenges facing Microsoft over the next year as CEO Steve Ballmer retires and a new chief executive is installed.

Rather, Sorgen walked a safe path by talking about maintaining commitment to partners, ensuring solution providers have opportunities to succeed and safeguarding against radical changes. As with many new channel chiefs, Sorgen used the often cited “ease of doing business” phrase as one of his top priorities.

“We know that if we’re your best business decision, you’ll deliver for us. And we’re going to earn your commitment every day,” he said.

Sorgen assumed the role of corporate vice president of worldwide channels at Microsoft just five weeks ago, taking over for Jon Roskill who held the post for the last three years. He’s no stranger to the Microsoft channel, having served as president of Microsoft Canada and head of the SMB Solutions and Partners in the U.S.

While familiar with partners, he’s inheriting a much different channel ecosystem and market place than Roskill did in 2010 and the network cultivated under Allison Watson before. Microsoft is a market leader, but is being challenged on several fronts, including its stalwart Windows operating system, Office productivity suite, cloud and mobility. Solution providers remain loyal to Microsoft, but they also have numerous choices for sourcing technology and building solutions.

Solution providers are becoming increasingly restive regarding Microsoft’s devices and services strategy. Sorgen correctly points out that solution providers investing in cloud services are growing at almost twice the rate of conventional partners. However, solution providers are concerned that Microsoft’s ambitions to become a devices company will create greater channel conflict. In a recent study by The 2112 Group, solution providers ranked Microsoft second for worst channel conflict management.

Sorgen pledged to be an advocate on behalf of partners. He pledged greater transparency, enablement and support for partners. He message is well intended, but the realities are that the Sorgen era in Microsoft’s channel will be much different than any that came before.