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CDN Top Newsmaker: Microsoft Canada’s Janet Kennedy

Channel Strategy

Janet Kennedy is still living the dream. Kennedy told CDN on her first day as President of Microsoft Canada back in 2013 that her new position was her dream job.

As she enters her fourth year as the President of Microsoft Canada, Kennedy has set her sights on establishing Artificial Intelligence as a mainstream business opportunity. As the calendar turned the page into 2017, Microsoft announced it had acquired Montreal-based deep learning vendor Maluuba, a company described as one of the world’s most impressive deep learning research labs for natural language understanding.

But while her focus is on 2017 goals, Kennedy is CDN’s Newsmaker of the Year for what the Canadian operation achieved in 2016.

And, the list of achievements is a long one with four major initiatives that can’t be overlooked. The list starts with two data centres in the country, hosting the Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto and selling out for the first time ever, the acquisition of LinkedIn, and building on the Red Hat Canada partnership by fully committing to open source.

Those were the major moves from Microsoft Canada in 2016, but there was much more. The Bing Partner Program, a new chat service called Microsoft Teams, all the Surface news, the enhancements to the Cloud Service Provider program, Windows 10 for the Enterprise, the Surface-as-a-Service program, hiring Charlotte Burke to lead SMS&P in Canada, end of support for SQL Server, the Cortana Intelligence Suite, and even a relatively small thing like the SwiftKey acquisition made an impact; giving Surface keyboards rave reviews.

On the philanthropic front, Microsoft Canada gave full access to the Microsoft Cloud to the Missing Children’s Network of Canada under Kennedy’s watch.

“Coming into the year we had already a lot of momentum from 2015 starting from our partner ecosystem where we decided to double down our investment with our partners for cloud. And, this was not just for commercial but in all segments. For me I looked at 2016 and thought how do I help all the different parts of the organizations to be successful,” Kennedy said.

The other aspect to Microsoft Canada’s business Kennedy focused on for 2016 was increasing the value for customers and the partner ecosystem. Microsoft Canada placed second out of 13 in the Microsoft Subsidiary of the Year awards. Microsoft Canada won the top prize in 2015.

What set Microsoft Canada apart in the year of the data centre was that Kennedy managed to open two data centres in an effort to shut the door on the data sovereignty issue.

The two data centres were seven years in the making for Microsoft Canada. Kennedy said she and her team could see what was happening in Canada and the rest of the world when it comes to the protection of data. “A data centre is not built overnight and the fact that we opened two of them along with all the other cloud providers too I think it’s great because it validates our strategy,”

More importantly, the two data centres along with all the other facilities that opened in 2016, put a serious dent in the data sovereignty complaint in Canada.

Kennedy agreed that data sovereignty is no longer an issue in Canada. She told CDN that customers are signing contracts and talking about services knowing that the encryption is strong and that their data will be staying inside the country. The two Microsoft Canada data centres in Ontario and Quebec offer three services: Office 365, Dynamics and Azure.

WPC in the T.O.

For the third time in its history the Worldwide Partner Conference was held in Toronto. It was Kennedy’s first time hosting the top channel partners of the world. And, the event sold out for the first time ever.

“Toronto is a great place for WPC and Canada shows well with the downtown, the conference area, the hotels and all the restaurants are first class. It was my first time with new CEO Satya Nadella in Canada
and it was great spending time with him along with other CEOs and government officials,” she said.

Cloud Service Provider Enhancements

The many enhancements to the Cloud Provider Program (CSP) gave the channel community a clear direction. According to Kennedy, CSP enabled partners to think differently in how they go to market today. “There is no question that the CSP model is the future for Microsoft with all its subscription services,” she added.

The Open Source Pivot

In 2015 Microsoft surprised many with its Red Hat partnership, but in 2016 the Canadian team put extra importance on open source and furthered the Red Hat alliance in Canada. The move was a big pivot for Microsoft. “From the moment when Satya (Nadella) was at Open World wearing a t-shirt that said “I Love Linux” it became startling from my perspective and I went back and did the business case for Canada. Approximately 40 to 50 per cent is open source so it is important to me and Red Hat along with other partners to have this alternative and be more of a partner to them,” she said.

One of the items Kennedy’s team does for Microsoft Canada is produce a video tracking the last six months. She calls it a “living scrapbook” of her life. After a meeting in Ottawa where this video was played she reflected back in astonishment at all that was achieved in 2016 for Microsoft Canada for customers and partners.

And, in the end she said to CDN, “I can’t believe I get to do this!”