Microsoft replaces global channel chief role with 'chief partner officer', days before Inspire partner-fest

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Microsoft replaces global channel chief role with 'chief partner officer', days before Inspire partner-fest
Nicole Dezen (Microsoft)

Two months after Microsoft channel chief Rodney Clark decamped, and less than a week until Microsoft’s major partner event Inspire, the tech giant has named Nicole Dezen as its chief partner officer and changed roles for other key partner executives.

Along with Dezen’s newly created title, she will also hold the title of Microsoft corporate vice president of the Global Partner Solutions organization, according to a blog post from the tech giant.

This title was formerly held by Nick Parker, who has been promoted to president of the Industry & Partner Sales (IPS) organization, according to Microsoft. Dezen will report to Parker.

The news comes ahead of Microsoft Inspire, which will be held online Tuesday and Wednesday. Unlike other tech conferences, which have returned in person or done a mix of live and online events, Microsoft held Inspire entirely online as the world continues to grapple with COVID-19. Dezen and Parker are set to speak during Inspire.

A Microsoft Australia spokesperson told CRN Australia that Dezen's role was part of "a decision to evolve what formerly had been a single role into two distinct areas of responsibility is a reflection of the growing importance and breadth of our partner ecosystem all-up".

Who is Nicole Dezen?

In a post on her LinkedIn account, Dezen said “I am both humbled and thrilled to take on the new designation of Chief Partner Officer for Microsoft. This is a new title, and one that speaks to the enormous opportunity we believe we can unlock in concert with partners around the world.”

Dezen – who in August received the title of corporate vice president of device partner sales – said she has experience working with global systems integrators (GSIs), independent software vendors (ISVs) and other partner types worldwide.

“As a long-time Microsoft employee and someone who has deep ties in our sales and partner organizations, I have always been motivated by the opportunities for growth and innovation that our partner ecosystem presents,” she continued. “The companies that comprise this ecosystem – device partners, GSIs, ISVs, services partners and others around the world – are enabling digital transformation for customers every day in ways that were unimaginable even a few years ago. It would not be a stretch to say I am passionate about helping these organizations harness the power of the Microsoft Cloud through services like Azure, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Mesh and others.”

Under the description of her new title on her LinkedIn, Dezen said she leads “the commercial partner business and a global team responsible for building and selling Microsoft Cloud applications, services and devices with partners.”

She continued: “We collaborate with a broad set of commercial partners including Advisory partners, device partners, Global System Integrators (GSIs), Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), and services partners to drive digital transformation, scale, business growth and profitability with partners.”

Dezen has more than 25 years of tech sales experience, including 15 at Microsoft. Dezen joined Microsoft in 2007, according to the tech giant. Past titles include general manager for consumer device sales in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Before Microsoft, Dezen worked in the telecommunications industry, according to the tech giant.

New Microsoft IPS Group

The Industry & Partner Sales organization Parker now heads includes “Microsoft’s multi-billion-dollar sales business spanning industry, partner and enterprise commercial teams,” according to the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant.

“The alliance of global Industry Teams, the Strategic Partnerships Team (SPT), the Enterprise Commercial Operations team, Global Partner Solutions (GPS), and IPS Strategy & Operations, adds increased dimension to Microsoft’s sales capabilities,” according to Microsoft.

In a blog post announcing Dezen’s new role, Parker said that her new designation as chief partner officer “demonstrates our continued investment in our partner strategy and commitment to the importance of the entire partner ecosystem to Microsoft.”

“As Chief Partner Officer, Nicole will have singular accountability for the commercial partner business,” according to the post. “She will have a tremendous opportunity to lead, innovate and grow our mutual business with partners. I couldn’t be more excited for Nicole as she takes on this new leadership role for our phenomenal partner ecosystem.”

Parker has worked at Microsoft for more than 20 years, according to his LinkedIn. He held the title of corporate vice president of Global Partner Solutions starting in August 2020.

More Microsoft executive changes

Other title changes to accompany Dezen’s include David Smith becoming vice president of channel sales and Julie Sanford serving as vice president of partner go-to-market (GTM), programs and experiences. Both will report to Dezen.

Smith “will focus on sales and business growth with our channel partners,” according to the post. Sanford “will be accountable for partner programs and GTM engines.”

“These new roles and the increased investments we continue to make in our partner business demonstrate the importance of our ecosystem, the needs of our partners and the opportunity we have to serve customers together,” according to the Microsoft post.

The post continued: “Our mission in the Global Partner Solutions organization is to build and sell Microsoft Cloud applications, and services and devices with partners, empowering people and organizations to achieve more. We will deliver on this with partners across our solution areas and industries, to create new customer value, and you’ll hear much more about this at Microsoft Inspire next week.”

Smith previously held the title of vice president of US partners, according to his LinkedIn. He has worked at Microsoft for more than 23 years.

Sanford has worked at Microsoft for more than 15 years, according to her LinkedIn. She has held the role of vice president of the GTM Strategy and Programs team within the Global Partner Solutions organization since May 2021.

In May, Rodney Clark – then Microsoft’s corporate vice president of global channel sales and channel chief – announced he was leaving Microsoft as the tech giant rolled out controversial changes to its partner programs. The most controversial changes included a 20 percent premium on month-to-month commitments of popular software packages including Microsoft 365.

Partners alleged that the premium pushed customers to annual commitments – which lock customers in with their current managed service providers and lock MSPs in with their distributors. Annual commitments also prevent customers from changing their number of Microsoft licenses if they lay off employees or go out of business, potentially leaving partners on the hook to pay out the rest of the contract.

The other major change – set to take effect in October – is the introduction of partner capability scores to determine which Microsoft partners classify as “solutions partners” and receive “specializations,” replacing the old gold and silver system and giving partners more incentives and training from Microsoft.

In June, Clark started his new role as vice president and chief commercial officer of Johnson Controls.

During the unveiling event of the partner capability score (PCS), Parker said that Microsoft has seen $28 billion in annual contracted partner co-sell value since the 2018 fiscal year, with 37 percent co-sell revenue growth.

Other new channel chiefs named recently include Zoom Video Communications channel chief Todd Surdey, IBM channel chief Kate Woolley and Amazon Web Services channel chief Ruba Borno.

This article originally appeared at crn.com

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