CRN Interview: Jeff Raikes, Microsoft

Jeff Raikes, group vice president for the Information Worker Business at Microsoft, is perhaps better known as the exec behind the Office juggernaut. Raikes spoke with Editor Heather Clancy and Industry Editor Barbara Darrow about the company's Information Worker strategy and its reliance on partners.

CRN: How dependent are you on things not delivered on time by other groups?

RAIKES: It isn't too much of an obstacle in this context. After all, partners really only want to build on what's available. They're interested in what's coming, and we share that. But the solutions out there are built on Windows SharePoint Services in conjunction with Windows Server 2003, which is available, and Office, which also is available. One thing they're on the edge with is early work with Information Bridge Framework.

CRN: Some Microsoft messages call for partners to concentrate on one product and one technology, whereas what you're doing requires cross-pollination of products. How do you balance those messages?

RAIKES: This is why I don't think of myself as the Office guy but as the Information Worker guy. It was a conscious choice to go more to where the audience was vs. what my specific product development responsibilities were. Paul Flessner [senior vice president of Microsoft's Server Platform Division] will say his team and my team have very close relationship when it comes to business intelligence because of SQL Server, and what they're doing with Reporting Services is very important in business intelligence. But with any business intelligence out there, the number one customer request they get is to have Office--specifically Excel--as the front end. So I like to think of the end-to-end scenarios and how they come together, even if we don't deliver all the components.

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CRN: From an investment perspective, solution providers can go two ways: Get five or six certifications in different areas, or partner with other solution providers. How do you help partners get knowledge and have the ability to express it?

RAIKES: The first thing you have to do is really think about the customer. What problems are you solving for the customer? That can sometimes be hard for Microsoft.

CRN: So the message is, on one hand, concentrate and specialize, and on the other to get many competencies?

RAIKES: Well, the number one focus we have right now is this connected productivity go-to-market; in particular, team collaboration. That's a very broad area, if someone really gets the expertise in Windows SharePoint Services, document workspaces and meeting sites, or I should say team sites. As Randy [Shilling] would point out, that foundation opens [Quilogy] up for lots of things. He may tune it for a manufacturing customer vs. a health-care customer. In health care, such solutions would improve something related to HIPAA. The real answer is to take the lead from the partners

There are probably three levels. The lowest level--and the one that should be most insulated from the customer--is Windows Server System, Microsoft Office System, Windows SharePoint Portal Server, SQL Server, etc. At the next level, you have those products assembled into common types of solutions, such as collaboration, with connected productivity, portal, enterprise-project management and mobile productivity. At the third level, which should get exposed to the customer, the partner understands the customer pain point and opportunity to add value. Take that middle tier and then product-specific capabilities at the lower tier and turn that into solutions for the customer.