One on one with Microsoft Canada’s new channel chief

A shake-up of the partner organization is underway at Microsoft Canada (NASDAQ: MSFT) that will see the software giant’s channel partners across Canada working with a new channel chief — Corinne Sharp.

Lost in the shake-up is Lora Gernon, the long time face of Microsoft’s channel business. Microsoft Canada’s Small Business, Mid-market Solutions & Partners (SMS&P) division is evolving in an attempt to better meet the needs of the customer and partner communities. The goal is a closer alignment between the company’s customer engagement and channel execution models to make better use of resources.

While vice-president Eric Gales will continue to lead the SMS&P division, under him will be a newly formed partner sales team led by Sharp as director, partner sales team. It’s a promotion for Sharp, who had previously held the position of director of the reseller channel for Microsoft Canada.

Sharp took some time to talk with CDN about her new position, address the changes at the company and even talk about her former boss, Gernon.

The following is an edited transcript.

CDN: How did this promotion come about? It seems from the outside that it happened very quickly?

Corinne Sharp: Microsoft announced job elimination changes and this is a continuation of that worldwide announcement. Microsoft in Canada did some restructuring to align with corporate and some of the changes are in the Eric Gale’s group. It’s coincidental that it happened in the same time. It appeared quick but it wasn’t, as the partner group aligns with worldwide structure.

CDN: Your appointment is part of a worldwide organizational change at Microsoft. Can you explain what the new organization is going to look like?

C.S.: As a result of the changes a new partner sales team was formed and it will be more partner-centric. We’re now all one group. The partner teams are now aligned with customer sales segments. As it relates to how it will impact partners; the engagement model with be left as is. The new changes will be to the partner account managers (PAM) and to the resources.

CDN: From a Canadian perspective, what will be different? What will the solution providers notice first?

C.S.: The model is very successful in Canada and we’re all proud of the partners and we want to continue that. Solution providers will notice that we’ve aligned resources around the partner business. So they won’t see any immediate changes on how they work with Microsoft. In this new fiscal quarter we’ll streamline the program and add many more resources.

CDN: Who are your key team members in the partner group?

C.S.: Phil Miller, partner sales manager at Microsoft Canada will be responsible for partner engagement. Alain Fournier, partner technical specialist manager at Microsoft Canada will focus on readiness and supporting partners at customer events. I’ll be responsible for partner marketing and all certifications along with marketing and communications, portals, and training. Carol Terentiak, senior partner development manager of Microsoft Canada’s Partner Program, is a key part of the team.

CDN: What kind of a leader are you going to be for the partnership?

C.S.: The great news is that I have lived in the partner channel and worked in the channel before at Hamilton Computer Sales and Rental and at GE Capital. For the last four years I’ve been responsible for resellers and the distribution channel. I’m very familiar with it and with the whole team together we can provide an end-to-end solutions and support for all channel players, whether it’s a solution provider or a Web partner, resellers of all sizes. The leader I am all about bring the opportunities to them and bringing everything together to support the partner community to help them grow there business.

CDN: Nothing much was said about Lora Gernon’s departure from this role. What can you tell me about her departure?

C.S.: It is Microsoft’s policy not to comment on employees.

CDN: You worked closely with Gernon for many years. I remember many a time Lora mentioned your name to me. How tough is it going to be working without her on the team?

C.S.: We’re going to build on the success that Lora helped to form. These changes will be a positive and her legacy will continue, and it’s up to us to carry that banner forward.

CDN: What are some of the issues you are taking on now?

C.S.: Partners in Canada and the world are trying to manage growth and business stability in tough times. I want to help partners to seize the opportunity in mutual customers and grow their business profitably even in these times. I will be out looking and working with new partners and continuing to make sure we’re a working on developing their growth plans; that will be first and foremost. At the big kick off event in New Orleans we will make a number of announcements across the platform and programs to make sure it is valuable for the partner community in Canada.

CDN: Did the software plus services strategy necessitate any of these organizational changes?

C.S.: No, it did not.

CDN: What is going to be the plan for the SMB market in Canada?

C.S.: Part of the changes go beyond the partner sales organization. We created a new major stream in corporate accounts and they’re for customers with 200 PCs or more and the second is the SMB plus distribution and it see us closely aligned with distribution and customers with 100 PC or less. The ISV team is merging the developers and partner evangelists. The reason we are doing this is to create a centre of excellence and develop partners in Canada.

CDN: Whenever people talk about the SMB they usually are concerned with the small business portion of the SMB. What about the mid-market area, any new plans for this segment?

C.S.: With Microsoft all segments are important. Mid-market is critical. We’re a mid-market country and we segment 3,000 customers that we land in our mid-market. We have a sales team that supports those customers and we align the partner organization to work in this area and we are providing more data analytics for them.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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