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Q&A with Microsoft Canada’s Max Long and Dennis Cerasoli

(From left) Microsoft Canada's Max Long, Greg Lardner and Denis Cerasoli.

HOUSTON – Over the past year-and-a-bit, partners have seen quite a lot of change in the executive ranks at Microsoft Canada. It’s been a little over a year now though since Max Long came on board as subsidiary president, and Greg Lardner took the reins as national channel sales director. The last piece of the puzzle came into place just recently, when Dennis Cerasoli filled the role of vice-president of small to midmarket solutions and partners, following the departure of Mark Dodds.

Following the Canada region keynote at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, CDN sat down with Long and Cerasoli to talk about the state of the subsidiary and the outlook for Canadian partners.

CDN: Max, there’s been a certain level of upheaval in the last year or two in the executive ranks at Microsoft Canada. With the recent arrive of Dennis, do you have the team in place now that you want?

MAX LONG: I’m excited about the team we have in place now. All the roles are filled now on our leadership team with Dennis on board. Every member is great for their role, and will deliver results for partners in Canada. There will always be changes as people take the next step in their careers, but this is the team I want with me for this fiscal year.

CDN: Dennis, you come to Canada from Michigan, and several regional management roles with Microsoft. What attracted you to this position, and to coming to Canada?

DENNIS CERASOLI: For me, the opportunity is the transformation of Microsoft. I feel I’m at the tip of the spear in Canada landing our strategy of cloud driving devices and services. My major goal is transforming our business model with customers and partners. I’m seeking to understand the Canadian way of doing business. It’s an amazing opportunity for me and my family.

LONG: Canada is very welcoming. There are certain differences. Canadians are very honest. They want to see you do what you say you’ll do.

CDN: One thing Dodds was working on before his departure was a closer alignment of the SMS&P and enterprise groups within Microsoft. Has that project proceeded?

LONG: We heard from partners at WPC last year that Microsoft Canada acted like whichever customer segment (a Microsoft employee) was working for was the most important. But a big enterprise customer still wants to sell into midmarket accounts and a midmarket partner into enterprise accounts. So we thought let’s take some of the separation out of those partner teams, and make it one team across those segments. We’ve been running that for several months now.

CERASOLI: It was a reflection of our partner community asking us to simplify and get consistent in how we engage. They don’t look at business in segments; an opportunity is an opportunity. We’ve simplified the opportunity and the ecosystem.

LONG: Partners said sometimes conversations weren’t happening because of the structure at Microsoft. Now, when a partner talks to our team we know what’s going on with different customers and partnes can have a single line of engagement with Microsoft across segments.

CDN: You’ve announced new Microsoft stores for Edmonton and Burnaby, BC, adding to the Toronto location. Why those markets, and when will they be open?

LONG: There’s no launch date on the new stores yet, but we’ve announced them and it hasn’t taken too long to open them after the announcement in the past. The Microsoft stores are there to make a profit; it’s a business for Microsoft. Microsoft Retail has a team that assesses markets, malls, value for the shoppers, and sets targets. And availability and retail footprint is an issue too. In Toronto the YorkDale Mall extension was a great opportunity.

CDN: Looking at the list of Microsoft stores and mall kiosks in Canada, the province of Quebec is noticeably absent. Is there a language law issue there; is Montreal on the radar?

LONG: As the Canadian president I’m excited to try to get Microsoft store coverage across the country. And I want that to include all the provinces of the country, including Quebec. Right now, stores are primarily in the U.S. and English Canada; I’m not aware of anything beyond that.

CDN: WPC in Toronto last year was a great success. This year was Houston, and next year WPC will be in Washington, DC. Are you lobbying to bring the event back to Canada soon? Maybe out West to Vancouver?

LONG: I was proud of what we achieved in Canada, and the way Torontonians accepted all of us into town. I don’t’ mind if it’s Toronto or Vancouver. Toronto was a fantastic experience for everyone, for Canadian partners, and for everyone around the world. So I think we have a good claim to the future. But I have nothing to report.