Gavriella Schuster, Microsoft’s former channel chief, wished her successor Rodney Clark good luck as he leaves the channel chief position and shared advice for Microsoft partners, including a suggestion that they look at new independent software vendor partnerships that can further their practices.
CRN caught up with Schuster about eight months after she left Microsoft, during which she has continued as an influential figure in the tech giant’s ecosystem and in the areas of diversity and inclusion.
Schuster – who spent more than 25 years with Microsoft and left with the formal title of corporate vice president over the One Commercial Partner team – recently joined the boards of Microsoft partners Nerdio and Open Systems while also continuing her work in diversity with groups such as the Women Business Collaborative and startups like Included.ai.
Schuster told CRN in an interview that although Microsoft partners and the channel overall continue to grapple with changes in technology and business, their importance to customers has never been greater.
“There is no better time to be an MSP,” Schuster said. “It’s something that we – when I was the global channel chief at Microsoft – had been encouraging partners to move to for the last five years. Which is, really, think about cloud MSP and help customers to understand that they can outsource all of their technology needs to you, that you can provide that ongoing value and subscription support.”
Where Does Former Microsoft Channel Chief Gavriella Schuster Work Now?
Schuster spoke with CRN about her current board work, the virtual desktop market and advice to partners on exploring possibilities with new ISV partners, among other subjects.
In April, Schuster joined the board of directors of Nerdio, a Chicago-based Microsoft independent software vendor (ISV) partner that markets a packaged Azure application to managed service providers (MSPs) building practices in Azure, Azure Virtual Desktop and Windows 365.
In the fall, Nerdio announced that it had passed 1 million users under management across its manager products, reflecting the popularity of Azure Virtual Desktop. In February, Nerdio announced that it had reached 2 million users under management.
She’s also about seven months into her role as a board member of Open Systems – a managed security services provider (MSSP) that has offices in Switzerland and Redwood City, Calif. The Microsoft partner is also a security MSSP of the year finalist as part of Microsoft’s Security Excellence Awards.
And Schuster has also been busy as an advisor to diversity- and inclusion-focused startup Included.ai. Earlier this month, Included raised $3.5 million in seed funding and announced more than five times percent growth in annual recurring revenue year to date, according to a statement.
When asked about her successor, outgoing Microsoft channel chief Rodney Clark, and his move to Johnson Controls, she wished him luck and shared advice for the next channel chief.
“I wish him luck in his new role,” Schuster said. “It is a pity he wasn’t able to stay in this last role longer, as I think there is a lot of unfinished business and I would have liked to see him see it through. I hope the new leader understands the value and breadth of Microsoft’s ecosystem and takes the time to meet the thousands of committed and loyal partners that have built up the business over the last several decades.”
Schuster also shared words of encouragement for Microsoft partners navigating a number of changes to the tech giant’s partner program.
The most controversial recent changes to the Microsoft partner program have been a 20 percent premium on month-to-month commitments to popular Microsoft software packages – including Microsoft 365 – and a new partner capability score that determines who qualifies as a Microsoft “solutions partner.”
“The key thing is to take what’s valuable to you as an organization and decide – what’s the business I’m in and how much value does this add to me? Is it pushing me to do more for my customer in a way that I hadn’t really thought about and to see more upside and opportunity? Or is this just a lot of overhead,” Schuster said. “And to really make the decision for themselves about – am I good with where my business is, or what are the other opportunities I may be not seeing right now?”
Schuster herself navigated Microsoft’s channel program through controversial decisions, including the proposed halting of product internal use rights for partners. Microsoft ultimately backed down on the proposal.
Here’s what Schuster had to say in her interview with CRN.