Microsoft Gets New Worldwide Channel Chief

Effective July 1, Allison Watson, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, will take over as corporate vice president of the Business & Marketing Organization in the U.S. Jon Roskill, who previously held this role, will take over Watson's role as Microsoft's worldwide channel chief.

Roskill will report to Vahe Torossian, who in April replaced Eduardo Rossini as corporate vice president of the Worldwide Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partners (SMS&P) Group. Watson will report to Robert Youngjohns, senior vice president of North America Sales & Marketing.

Partners say Watson, who has led the Microsoft Partner Group since 2002, has done a solid job in this position and leaves a legacy of achievement that includes two revisions of Microsoft's partner program. "She brought stability to the role and had significant impact upon partner success, and now she's going to work 'in the business,'" said Andy Vabulas, CEO of Ibis, a longtime Microsoft partner based in Atlanta.

Microsoft often shakes up executive leadership at the end of its fiscal year on June 30, but some partners were surprised to see the channel reshuffle so close to Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference, which will take place in Washington, D.C. from July 11-15, 2010.

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"This does come as a shock," said Sandy Bateh, vice president of the Microsoft national alliance at Idea Integration, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based solution provider. "Allison has done a tremendous job over the last few years, and my hope is that we do not get mixed messages about the new Microsoft partner program; or worse, that we do not get a new partner program a year from now."

As head of the U.S. BMO, Watson will oversee all marketing activities for Microsoft's commercial products, with the exception of Xbox and MSN. It's a new role for Watson, but one that still has some relevance to channel partners.

One solution provider described the BMO as the liaison group in Microsoft between people who make products and people that sell products. "As a partner, BMO is important because it's responsible for all programs that release to the channel," the source said.

Although some partners told CRN they haven’t heard much about Roskill, he has spoken at previous WPCs and will appear with Watson at this year's event, presumably to discuss their respective transitions. Partners that have dealt with Roskill are confident that he'll pick up where Watson left off without missing a beat.

"Jon Roskill is a pretty straight shooter who has managed to get a lot of things done at Microsoft," said one solution provider, who asked not to be named.