Microsoft reveals major investment in Australian channel team

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Microsoft reveals major investment in Australian channel team
Phil Goldie and Gavriella Schuster, Microsoft

Microsoft is increasing the headcount of its Australian channel team to both help existing partners diversify as well as enlist partners from competitors such as Amazon Web Services, Oracle and Cisco.

The cloud and software vendor is establishing a 'practice development unit' (PDU), as part of a global program. The team, reporting into Microsoft Australia director of partner business Phil Goldie, will comprise practice development professionals and cloud solution architects.

These people, some of whom will be hired externally and others cross-recruited from within Microsoft, will be tasked with upskilling existing partners and also sniffing out new ones to fill gaps in the Microsoft channel across five categories: data and analytics; cloud infrastructure; security and mobility; cloud application development; and enterprise voice.

The recruitment drive will see the total number of partner-focused staff at Microsoft Australia grow by 17 heads to more than 100 people; over 10 percent of the Australian business will now work within the channel team.

The practice development unit will be "a group of people within each subsidiary who are focused on advanced workloads and on helping partners to build practices around those advanced workloads", said Microsoft's global channel chief, Gavriella Schuster. "It frees up the traditional partner sales executives to go to market and co-sell with our partners.

"One of the challenges we found last year was we had a lot of inconsistency. If they [partner sales executives] spent too much time helping new partners come along or to build practices, they weren't co-selling with enough partners. You need to have a good balance so we decided to split that and make an investment in new people.

"We also found that based on the advanced workloads we had coming to market, we need more technical people." This is why Microsoft hired 1,000 cloud solution architects globally in the previous fiscal year.

Current channel partners that add a new practice in one of the five categories will be the beneficiaries of additional "enablement resources" from the vendor, including marketing funds, training support and co-selling.

Under the PDU initiative, Microsoft will have more people to go out and actively woo partners working with other vendors, added Schuster, who was in Australia for Microsoft's partner conference on the Gold Coast.

"It is also about looking outside our existing ecosystem. Are there a set of partners or developers who are building practices on open source who don't really know that Azure is an opportunity for them? We want to proactively outreach to them and bring them into the Microsoft community," Schuster said in an interview with CRN.

Microsoft's PDU team will recruit DevOps partners currently specialising in areas such as Amazon Web Services, Chef and Puppet to cross the aisle and shore up Microsoft's cloud application development reach. Oracle or Tableau partners will be pursued to set up data analytics practices focused on Microsoft.

Voice companies that are currently selling, say, Cisco, Shoretel or Avaya will be encouraged to move into Skype for Business. "The voice channel is massively ripe for disruption," said Goldie.

The author attended Microsoft APC as a guest of Microsoft.

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