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One on one: Microsoft Canada’s new president is looking to do a reset

Eric Gales outlines his plans as he takes the helm of Microsoft Canada

Eric Gales, the newly appointed president of Microsoft Canada (NASDAQ: MSFT), paid a visit to IT World Canada’s office to discuss many topics with editors Shane Schick, Dave Webb and Paolo Del Nibletto.

Gales, who replaced Phil Sorgen, said the Canadian economy has suffered just like other world economies with the recession. However, customers and the channel should not lose sight of what IT is. And IT, he said, is a way to reduce cost and do new things. IT did the same thing before the recession, he added.

Gales made this argument to the IT World Canada editorial board: “The recession presents an opportunity to look at things more aggressively.” It is this belief that will carry Gales through his first few months at his new job.

The IT World Canada editorial board asked him about this approach, along with many other questions. The following is an edited transcript.

CDN Now: How will you approach your first few months as president?

Eric Gales: Well, I’m learning what it’s like to be a president. I’ll try to encourage more companies to invest in IT. If you look at the boom years, it allows companies to carry cost and it should be retired, but the order books are full so they have that slack. But, to some extent, any company with cash and resources will be facing an economy that’s in decline. The market is tough right now, and IT is even more important to leverage.

CDN Now: How do you view large business compared to the SMB?

E.G.: Typically, they work in granular levels. Large companies can look precisely at security and manage virtualization and the Web, and therefore we can talk at a more granular level with them. With smaller organizations, we have to translate it into business value and we try to do that for them. Make it more consumable for them. We also try to aggregate more pieces of technology for them so that it’s an entire solution.

We’ve certainly been evolving our approach with the SMB and have to be more sympathetic with small customers. They think all this technology is out of reach. Microsoft technology can scale and that enterprise capability is available to the small customers. It is our job to help them see that. We’re trying to evolve that customer interaction with partners so that they have the confidence to invest. But it’s different.

CDN Now: Where do you stand on the cloud or utility computing debate?

E.G.: Innovation is not static, and the way companies use technology and the possibilities it brings will evolve. If you trade in the B2B space then you will need a robust, secure Web solution that can interact with many modes of communication. The opportunity to deliver a competitive advantage across boundaries to gain that competitive advantage is the kind of technology they will invest in. How it is delivered will change and there will be more choices in the cloud or as a utility. Our view is that there will be a set of choices and those different things will work together.

One of the things we hear is professionals need help translating this value to the boardroom. Some of the companies I’ve met will see IT as an asset and others see it as cost centre. Over time, we’ll see IT as an enabler, I believe. It needs to be closer and IT can increase the potential to do new things. How it is delivered will be there choice.

CDN Now: Microsoft Canada has a new president and a new channel chief (Corinne Sharp), that’s a lot of change at the top in a very short amount of time. And the perception on the street is that there may have been some sort of coup attempt. As the new president, how do you go about changing that perception that’s out there?

E.G.: Whenever things change, people react and it’s just a coincidence in this case. When we made that change to the partner team and Lora (Gernon) left I had no idea that Phil (Sorgen) would leave. The changes we’re making to the partner ecosystem will put partners at the centre of the universe and it will translate all these things that we sell to customers. The fact that I took Phil’s role is an honour. I wasn’t planning for it.

These moves signals to some extent the importance of the partner and SMB communities because for the first time a president comes from the SMB side.

CDN: A few months ago, Microsoft stated that it was interested in establishing a presence at retail. Will there be a Microsoft store in Canada similar to the Apple stores?

E.G.: I heard that same announcement about three months ago. All I can tell you is that it’s not on my agenda right now. But we’ll look to simulate the market as best we can. The short answer is I don’t know.

CDN Now will have more from the discussion between Eric Gales and the IT World Canada Editorial Board along with a video in future editions.