CRN Exclusive: Microsoft Names 21-Year Veteran As New Global Channel Chief

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Microsoft Thursday named Gavriella Schuster as its new global channel chief, where she is tasked with guiding tens of thousands of partners as they transition to a cloud solutions business model and tackle the massive Windows 10 upgrade cycle.

Schuster, a 21-year Microsoft veteran who has been Microsoft's interim channel chief since Phil Sorgen stepped out of the role in May, was formally named corporate vice president for the Worldwide Partner Group for the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant.

Ric Opal, vice president of Peters & Associates, a Microsoft partner based in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., cheered the new appointment, saying Schuster is "unquestionably committed, aggressive, and just no-nonsense in her approach" to the channel.

"I think when [Schuster] took the role as general manager initially, she did a few things that were very smart," said Opal. "She sought to understand the landscape inside of Microsoft and the partner perspective there. She went on a mission to make that experience better for Microsoft's interactions with partners in a few different ways, including improving … the partner portal and restructuring the [Microsoft Partner Network] competencies."

[Related: CRN Exclusive: Microsoft's New Channel Chief On Windows 10 Channel Compensation, Partner Plans For Surface And Cloud Opportunities]

Schuster takes over Microsoft's channel at a time of major transition and transformation.

"There's more opportunity now than there has ever been for our partners, not only cloud and customers embracing cloud, but what customers are calling their No. 1 priority, which is their own digital transformation," Schuster said in an exclusive interview with CRN.

As Microsoft customers increasingly look to technology to differentiate themselves in their respective markets, partners have the opportunity to "move from the back office to the front office," she said.

That shift "probably more than four-fold increases the potential and addressable market," Schuster said.

Schuster, whose appointment comes less than two weeks before Microsoft's annual Worldwide Partner Conference kicks off July 10 in Toronto, steps into the role at a time when many Microsoft partners are grappling with fallout from the free Windows 10 upgrade. In addition, partners are struggling to find their place in Microsoft's Surface go-to-market strategy after the company launched a membership service plan earlier this month that some partners fear will cut out the channel.

Schuster was Sorgen's top lieutenant for more than two years in her role as general manager of Worldwide Partner Programs. Sorgen, who took the position of corporate vice president of the U.S. Enterprise and Partner Group, was her mentor for a decade, Schuster said.

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