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A Q&A with Sam Jadallah

Microsoft's original partner chief weighs in on today's Microsoft Partner Program.

As a young vice president reporting to then-sales chief Steve Ballmer, Sam Jadallah helped kick-start Microsoft's entire channel business. In a succession of roles over a 12-year career at Microsoft, Jadallah touched nearly every aspect of the Microsoft partner ecosystem, including worldwide marketing and sales, distribution, service channel efforts, training and certification.

Since leaving Microsoft seven years ago, Jadallah has stayed close to the industry and Microsoft. Currently, he's a general partner at the Menlo Park, Calif., venture capital firm Mohr Davidow Ventures. One of the sectors he invests in for the firm is software, which makes his inside knowledge of Microsoft highly valuable. In an e-mail interview with Redmond Channel Partner magazine, Jadallah assessed the changes in the Microsoft Partner Program since his departure.

RCP: What's the most promising change to the Microsoft Partner Program since you left in 1999?
Jadallah: The language and architecture of how they engage with partners. It's far more developed and much more comprehensive.

Former Microsoft Partner
Program head
Sam Jadallah

is now a partner at
Mohr Davidow Ventures
Sam Jadallah

What's the most troubling change to the program since you left?
Microsoft took their eye off the ball for several years. There was no one internal, passionate champion with a complete dedication to the success of the channel. The groups became organizationally diffused and maintained conflicting goals. They've since found the right champion with [Worldwide Partner Group & Worldwide Small Business Group Vice President] Allison Watson and have recovered.

How has the character of Microsoft's partnering efforts changed over the last seven years? How has Microsoft's growth changed the way it must deal with partners?
Microsoft, at its core, [has always been] about enabling partners. There are times when it was very strong and times when its execution waned, but the commitment and interest [have] remained. As a program develops, there's always a tendency to shift resources to the larger-scale partners. That's a mistake -- the midmarket guys move more quickly, make earlier market bets and were the people that brought you to the party. It's critical to have the strongest relationships there.

What advice would you give ISVs for succeeding with Microsoft?
Frankly, it's tougher than it should be. Microsoft took ISVs for granted for nearly a decade. They brought in Naseem Tuffaha, who in addition to being a strong leader is also my brother, to improve their worldwide strategy. He took on a big challenge. I've provided lots of constructive feedback to him. ISVs should e-mail him with feedback.

Microsoft needs to enable ISVs to build distinctive products on the Microsoft platform and, more importantly, provide a distribution channel via its sales force so the ISV can get early customers. I'm amazed at how they've completely dropped the ball on that part.

What advice can you give solution providers about succeeding with Microsoft?
Build a local relationship with the Microsoft field office. Show the local Microsoft reps how you can assist them with their top sales initiatives. That's Job One for any SP.

Are there any steps Microsoft should be taking right now to strengthen its channel?
Engage with the partners betting on Microsoft's success. Microsoft needs to prove that you, as a partner or ISV, can make money and grow fast by betting on Microsoft's new market initiatives. They need to invest to showcase the winners but, more importantly, they need to help those companies find customers so they can become the winners.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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