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Game Of Volume: Microsoft's MBS Roster Moves

A little-known reverberation from this summer&s Microsoft Tailwind sales reorg is a realignment of key Microsoft Business Solutions partners.

Tailwind sales reorg

In its quest for more ERP sales, Microsoft has moved some key MBS partners out of its nationally managed partner group and is managing them from the field, the company confirmed.

Word surfaced just before Microsoft&s Worldwide Partner Conference last month that MBS planned to chop the number of nationally managed partners from 14 to three. That caused such a firestorm that the company reconsidered, sources said. The current number of nationally managed partners stands at nine, including the usual suspects—Tectura, ePartners, Columbus IT as well as RSM McGladrey, Analysts International, Altara, Clients First, CBIZ and IBIS.

Microsoft Vice President of U.S. Partner Group Margo Day said at the conference that changes were under way but were still being sorted out. The goal, as in all of the Tailwind moves, is to maximize resources, Day said.

Even now a Midwestern partner said the whole plan still seems “fluid.” The issue with MBS, with its Axapta, Great Plains, Solomon and Navision ERP applications, is that the company has yet to hit the huge volume numbers it wants and needs, observers said.

“This reorg is a big deal because Microsoft was spending a lot of resources on these managed partners and wasn&t getting a return. They were trying to winnow it down to partners they thought they could get [that big] return on,” said one MBS channel source familiar with the plan.

When Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., spent more than $2 billion to buy its way into ERP with the Great Plains and Navision acquisitions, traditional ERP and accounting VARs worried. These partners are used to slower sales cycles and higher margins than the more volume-oriented Microsoft Classic partners. “Microsoft understands one thing—volume, volume, volume,” said one partner at the time.

Microsoft has not resolved that tension, but some say it wants a smaller number of big partners to push ERP into small and midsize businesses and departments in big companies.

InterDyn Business Microvar, an MBS partner with nine U.S. offices, was moved to the field group.

“We like the idea of a nationally managed program. There was some disappointment, but we&re looking for ways to get similar capabilities that we got some other way,” said John Hendrickson, CEO of InterDyn Business Microvar, St. Paul, Minn. “As long as we get our questions answered as in the past, we don&t care what they call the program.”

Another Great Plains partner concurred. “The truth is a lot of longtime Great Plains partners know all the execs and can call anyone in Redmond or Fargo [N.D.], but that may not be the best use of Microsoft resources,” he said.

American Express Tax and Business Services, VisAlign and MCA Connect also were moved to field management, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman.

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