Microsoft COO Kevin Turner: The Man Who Would Not Be King

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But Turner's take-it-or-leave-it style has rubbed some enterprise customers the wrong way, former Microsoft employees told CRN. These firms generally don't like being told what to do and when to do it, and they're used to negotiating every aspect of deals. Turner's approach hasn't always played well in enterprise accounts, a source familiar with the matter told CRN.

"When managing a big client, you're always looking for gives and gets in the relationship. But Turner would walk into clients and say, 'No negotiation, take it or leave it.' This had consequences both for Microsoft's account managers and for the customer relationships," the source told CRN.

A few years ago, sources told CRN, Turner started questioning whether Microsoft was getting enough from its investment in enterprise partners. Although enterprise partners were profitable, and enterprise clients were lining up to support each new Microsoft platform release, Turner saw a chance "to get even more juice from those lemons," as one source described it to CRN.

Turner wanted more cooperation and explicit loyalty from enterprise partners, and he wanted partners to commit to the sort of hard-dollar business plans that midmarket partners already were committing to, the source said.

Simon Witts, an 18-year Microsoft veteran who was leading the enterprise partner group until he abruptly resigned in August 2011, was good at balancing the inevitable tensions that arise in enterprise channel relations, sources told CRN.

But Turner didn't see enough value in the program, and that led to friction with Witts. "Witts did a great job of building an effective partner program that the partners liked to participate in. He wanted to continue in that direction, but Turner would not commit the funding," said the source.

Eventually, Witts realized he wasn't going to get the support from Turner or Ballmer and decided to leave, sources said. Witts couldn't be reached for comment.

Microsoft's enterprise business has done well under Turner's watch, so it's not as if his influence has been a hindrance to the unit's performance. "Our published financial results say our enterprise business has never been stronger under Kevin's leadership," the Microsoft spokesperson said in an email. "Enterprise is truly the strength of our company, and our partners are a big reason for this success."

The spokesperson told CRN that Turner "meets with thousands of partners each year" for one-on-one meetings, roundtables and sales calls. He has visited partners in more than 25 countries and most major cities in the past 12 months, the spokesperson claimed.

"Kevin is personally involved in deals with partners and customers every week," the spokesperson said, adding that Microsoft is unable to talk about the specifics of these engagements because of confidentiality agreements.

Chief among the questions CRN wanted to ask Turner is how he and Microsoft believe channel partnerships should work in the scope of the company's ongoing transition to a devices and services focus. But this wasn't possible since Microsoft declined to make Turner available -- even to answer questions via email.

NEXT: Microsoft's Retail Missteps


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