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A Match Made in Redmond

At first blush, they may seem a bit like the odd couple. But Microsoft believes its partner and small business divisions were made for each other.

Microsoft announced in October that it is aligning its Worldwide Partner Group with its Worldwide Small Business Group. Allison Watson, previously vice president for just the Worldwide Partner Group, now assumes responsibility for the small business segment as well. Based in Redmond, the organization will coordinate strategy for Microsoft's partner channel and its small business customer segment. Watson continues reporting to Orlando Ayala, who is senior vice president of Microsoft's overall Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partner (SMS&P) Group and COO of Microsoft Business Solutions.

While the inherent link between the partner and small business groups might not be immediately evident to outsiders, Watson says they actually have a great deal of synergy. "We have 42 million small business customers, and many of them interact with Microsoft products through our partners," she says. And, of course, many of Microsoft's 240,000 partners are themselves small businesses, often serving as the first test bed for Microsoft's small business strategy, as well as rolling out its solutions to its customers.

In her new role, Watson will continue to oversee efforts to help partners extend their market reach, cut costs, increase profitability and deliver innovative solutions to their own customers. To that, she'll add the small business mission of showing the owners and managers of companies with fewer than 50 employees how to grow their businesses on a Microsoft platform.

In addition, Watson announced several personnel changes:

  • Former Sun Microsystems Inc. executive Sherle Webb-Robins becomes general manager of the Microsoft Partner Program. Webb-Robins, who was most recently a vice president in Sun's Global Sales Organization, replaces the program's architect, Kevin Wueste; Watson says Wueste is considering other leadership jobs both inside and outside the company.
  • Doug Leland becomes general manager of Worldwide Small Business and head of the Small Business Segment Marketing Team. Leland's 14-year Microsoft career includes stints as director of marketing for SQL Server and director of university relations for Microsoft Research.
  • Kati Hvidtfeldt, with Microsoft since 1999, becomes senior director of ISV and MBS partner strategy.
  • Jenni Flinders, a five-year veteran, becomes director of business management.
What They Make
Microsoft's top executives enjoyed big salary and bonus gains for the year ended June 30.
Executive Salary & Bonus Increase
Bill Gates $1 million 11%
Steve Ballmer $1 million 11%
Kevin Johnson $1,052,386 15%
Jim Allchin $1 million 11%
Jeff Raikes $1,045,000 8.5%
Source: Microsoft SEC filings

All those changes represent "the continued incremental investment" that Microsoft is making on behalf of partner businesses and customer companies, Watson says, adding that the company will roll out new initiatives for partners and customers of all sizes over the next 24 to 36 months. "As a group, we have a heck of two or three years ahead of us," she says. "It can be a great time for all of us."

The partner-small business marriage follows the massive top-level realignment that Microsoft announced in September. That restructuring split the company into three divisions, each headed by its own president:

  • Kevin Johnson and Jim Allchin were named co-presidents of the Platform Products & Services Division (with Allchin announcing plans to retire at the end of 2006).
  • Robbie Bach was appointed president of the Microsoft Entertainment & Devices Division.
  • Jeff Raikes was named president of the Microsoft Business Division (created by the combination of the Microsoft Business Solution group and Microsoft's Information Worker business). The company also announced that company CTO Ray Ozzie will expand his responsibilities to help drive software strategy and execution in all three divisions.

About the Author

Anne Stuart, the former executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner, is a business technology freelance writer based in Boston, Mass.

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