Microsoft's Channel Maestro Fine Tunes Partner Program

Microsoft's Channel Maestro Fine Tunes Partner Program

Sam Jadallah

Sam Jadallah, 34, exudes that mix of wit and charm that can help one leap tall corporate buildings in a single bound. And the head of Microsoft Corp.'s global business division that focuses on channel organizations seems to be doing just that.

Starting as a sales engineer in 1987, the one-time leader of federal sales also has served as general manager of worldwide business strategy for Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's president.

As vice president of the software giant's Organization Customer Unit, Jadallah oversees three areas: the non-retail channel, small and medium-size companies, and training and outreach efforts for IT professionals.

Among his duties is forming strategic partnerships with the channel. He also guides the Microsoft Certified Solution Provider and Direct Access programs, which combined reach more than 700,000 channel businesses in 49 countries.

Jadallah spoke about his company's unique channel partnership efforts in a recent interview with Washington Technology senior writer John Makulowich.

Q. What is the focus of Microsoft today?

A. One important part for your readers is the consulting organization [formally called the Microsoft Consulting Services, or MCS]. It started in 1990 as a worldwide division to work with our enterprise customers and partners. It provides knowledge transfer and helps people work successfully with our products.

In fact, we have less than 2,000 staff worldwide in consulting. Understandably, we have to be a leveraged resource.

More importantly, we are not a profit center. We are a cost-recovery business, similar to Microsoft Technical Support and Premier Support.

The goal is to build customer satisfaction with Microsoft products through knowledge transfer. The MCS model is not to build a huge army of Microsoft consultants, but rather to build a highly skilled team of consultants that solution providers can leverage to help facilitate successful projects around Microsoft technologies.

Q. Can you share more details about the company's motivation in the consulting space?

A. We see ourselves as enabling enterprise customers and the channel, that is, system integrators and Microsoft Certified Solution Providers. We see ourselves helping them be successful with and grow their business around our products.

Let me frame it around our Partner Program Manager (PPM) program. This is a resource designed specifically to help Microsoft Certified Solution Providers grow their Microsoft services revenue and readiness and overall quality.

Some key federal Microsoft Certified Solution Providers have engaged MCS in the PPM program. [They include systems integrators Federal Data Corp., Unisys Corp. and Wang Global.] We have strong indications that others are planning to do the same. It's important to note that these PPMs are engaged specifically in these companies' federal business units.

Q. What drove the need for such a program?

A. As Microsoft technologies penetrate the enterprise, which includes the federal space, the need is rising for qualified technical professionals who can plan, build and manage solutions based on our technologies.

To increase our service capacity, Microsoft tasked MCS to develop partnering relationships with the MCSP channel, to empower MCSP's to plan, build and manage solutions based on Microsoft enterprise platforms. These services are delivered through a number of programs, one of which is the PPM.

In short, the PPM is a strategic IT planning service delivered by a Microsoft consultant to our strategic MCSP partners and integrators with a focus on three primary areas.

Q. What are those areas and what are some key features?

A. The three areas are revenue, readiness and review.

First, we provide architecture and technical solutions strategy to support not only technical bid response preparation and presentations, but also selected business development and engagement scoping meetings internally and with customers.

The second area offers internal knowledge transfer and guidance so MCSP staff are informed about Microsoft's technology road map from a solutions perspective. It also provides assistance with MCSP recruiting and staff development and analysis of services capacity requirements. Further, it promotes best practices through injecting them from Microsoft and our customers and identifying best practices within the MCSP.

In the review area you find quality assurance through oversight, review and input on key aspects of engagements/deliverables and through assistance in developing project plans and conducting technical quality audits, such as design reviews.

Q. How is the theory working out in practice?

A. Well, it depends on the size of the organization. They may use the service in a number of ways. In some cases, there is one person at the site. Others may have larger and dispersed federal integrators.

We really just started the PPM program in the federal market in January. We feel the model that works for us is arming and educating [a systems integrator] or MCSP, not competing with them.

Basically, it is to help them grow their business. That amounts to helping them do technology trade-offs and showing them what business to go after. It also opens new areas.

For example, we don't make ERP software, but we can be a platform for ERP software. It boils down to trying to teach the channel how to fish rather than fish for them. So a PPM really allows an MCSP to grow its core competency faster, which ultimately could lead to more business.

Q. What are some broad indications of the direction the federal government is taking?

A. Well, the enterprise customers, which includes the government, are really the market for NT. We see the government heading toward NT on the desktop and on the server.

Working with the channel means scoping out business opportunities and working inside the organization to help them, for instance, on bid responses.

We also see rising demand in the government for high quality, architecture planning and design services all the way to deployment and support.

You may also see more and more Microsoft consultants living in the field at key federal hubs in order to stay close to the customer.

Currently, the MCS Federal Practice has business relationships with over 50 MCSPs who focus their resources on the federal government.

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