Microsoft Channel Exec: CEO Nadella's 'Transformative' Leadership Is Benefiting Partners

Stephen Boyle, vice president of Microsoft’s U.S. partner group, has had a front row seat to the massive changes that have taken place at the software giant since CEO Satya Nadella took the helm.

Boyle, who joined Microsoft two years ago this month after 17 years at Oracle, said Nadella’s focus on cloud computing -- and on bringing Microsoft software to competing platforms -- is opening business opportunities for channel partners that didn’t previously exist.

’Satya has been a transformative CEO,’ Boyle said in a keynote Wednesday at the conference in Los Angeles. ’He has taken Microsoft to new places and to a new set of industries.’

Stephen Boyle discusses Microsoft's future at XChange Solution Provider 2016.

Microsoft’s Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, which began in 2014 as a way for partners to maintain a direct billing relationship with customers when selling Office 365, has since expanded to include other cloud services like Intune, Enterprise Mobility Suite and CRM Online.

Boyle said the CSP program has seen meteoric growth as of late. Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., had around 200 partners transacting business in the CSP program last summer, and now has close to 2,000.

Tony Safoian, CEO of Los Angeles-based SADA Systems, joined Boyle onstage and said the CSP program is ’disrupting’ traditional Microsoft channel programs that favored larger partners and leveling the playing field.

Safoian said his company has been using Office 365 as a springboard for sales of other Microsoft offerings like EMS, security and the Azure cloud. ’Winning the initial Office 365 business is very important because it sets the tone for the rest of the conversation with customers,’ he told XChange attendees.

Michael Lomonaco, director of marketing for Open Systems Technologies, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Microsoft partner, told CRN that while he sees potential in CSP, he’d like to see Microsoft help his company get started in the program, which is currently invitation-only.

’We are not asking them to hand us the work," Lomonaco said. "We will earn it and win it. But we need them to show us how are we going to make money with Microsoft and what is Microsoft's skin in the game as far as the introduction to the market.

’We have got the technical chops and business minds to get the work done at the enterprise level, but access to that market with Microsoft is huge,’ said Lomonaco.

Cloud isn’t the only business opportunity for Microsoft partners, however. In the future, Boyle said partners will have opportunities to develop business-related offerings with HoloLens, Microsoft’s augmented reality technology.

Users wearing the HoloLens headset can see and interact with high-definition holographic images projected onto real-world environments. Microsoft plans to begin shipping HoloLens development kits later this month.

’HoloLens is not right for everyone, but it’s going to change industries in ways most of us can’t yet fully imagine,’ Boyle said.

Boyle also told partners to expect Microsoft to work to bring its software to more platforms, an effort that has so far been one of the most remarkable aspects of Nadella’s tenure as CEO.

Microsoft has brought its Office suite to Apple iOS and Android, and is bringing other important products to other platforms because ’customers are demanding it,’ said Boyle.

Microsoft earlier this week revealed plans to bring its SQL Server database software to Linux for the first time. This follows Microsoft’s landmark partnership with Red Hat last November, in which Red Hat Enterprise Linux and other products will run on Azure.

Boyle said these are examples of Microsoft’s changing stance on open source and support for competing vendors’ platforms.

’This is not the Microsoft you might remember from the late 1990s and early 2000s,’ Boyle told XChange attendees.

Sponsored post