Meet Phil Sorgen, Microsoft's New Channel Chief

Sorgen sat down for this exclusive interview to talk about Microsoft’s partner community, how SMB partners fit in with the devices part of the company’s strategy, and more. By Rich Freeman

Phil Sorgen was named the new head of Microsoft's worldwide partner group in August. Last week, ChannelPro-SMB caught up with him to discuss his goals and priorities for the company's SMB partners. Sorgen began the conversation with a few introductory words about himself.

Phil Sorgen: I certainly wouldn't highlight my bio. That's been out there. But I tell you two things about it that maybe might be interesting. The first one is my almost 18 years at Microsoft have been always in various field sales and marketing leadership roles...So my entire career at Microsoft and even prior to Microsoft has been working hand in hand with partners, working with our customers, finding ways to help them grow their business, solve their problems, and recognize the value of our joint solutions.

Maybe just a couple of things that I would say...going into this role...We have a goal and a mission, an achievable goal, of transforming our company to a devices and services company. I'm a fundamental believer, as is the leadership in this company, that we can't be successful in making that transition without an incredibly powerful partner ecosystem like we have today...

We have to be agile in the things we do, and you can only be agile if you have great rigor in your processes and you keep simplifying the ways in which we work together.

The second thing is something I believe that all great companies have to be great at, and that is consistently, from wherever your starting point is, consistently working hard to be an easier company to do business with. Now, I point that out specifically at this point in time for us because we're in a market, in an industry, that's rapidly transforming and Microsoft as a company is going through probably the greatest transformation that I've seen in my fairly long tenure at Microsoft. And that means we have to be agile in the things we do, and you can only be agile if you have great rigor in your processes and you keep simplifying the ways in which we work together...

And then probably the third one that is an important message to leave behind is we're in the second month of our second quarter, which is really a time for execution and ensuring that I take my predecessor's plans and pay close attention to what the team was starting out to do and committed to doing, and that we do it really, really well...

ChannelPro-SMB: What was it about this particular job when it became available to you that led you to accept it? What is it about this role that you're excited about?

Sorgen: If I could maybe answer that in terms of a story...I still remember my very first sale at Microsoft. And we closed that business because we demonstrated great business value to a customer beyond what our competition could represent, and I did it with a partner sitting in the room with me, bringing their value plus our value. And it opened my eyes quite quickly to the power of partnering and the success we can drive when we bring the capabilities, repeatable IP, methodologies, the innovation of our partners together with the great R&D and innovation Microsoft brings. That's when we bring these solutions to life, and I've been a believer in that my entire career.

And fast forward to today, I think we have the greatest partner ecosystem in the industry. We're also at a juncture where the industry is evolving rapidly and Microsoft is evolving rapidly and I thought what cooler challenge than to come in and to get to represent this ecosystem...to Microsoft and ensuring that as we go through this transition that we have a rich partner ecosystem going through it with us...

ChannelPro-SMB: Thinking beyond this year, do you have any larger aspirations for the partner program? What do you see as the biggest opportunities for change or improvement?

Sorgen: I put it into two categories. In one category there's the things that you can do better, that you can streamline...There's a whole genre of things in that bucket, and you should just do those things...

The other one...goes back to the transformation we're going through. Steve Ballmer made a bold announcement [this summer] about the reorganization of our product groups. He aligned our entire development and engineering and our product groups for a devices and services world. We've aligned our engineering team to optimize for this new world. We have one OS team, one cloud team, one devices team, one services team, and those reduced number of siloes means more, deeper integration across our products and services and can lead to a superior customer experience. Now, if that is what we're trying to do as a company, we have to continuously evaluate what that means in how we enable our partner ecosystem...That's the biggest thing we have to work on...

We're also at a time when the partner ecosystem itself is evolving rapidly. We've been in this industry quite some time and we used to like to refer to partners by partner type, and you can neatly fit partners into a lot of those buckets. Those are blurring faster than I've ever seen. SIs are becoming ISVs. ISVs are becoming SaaS hosters, companies are becoming managed services providers. Lots of new opportunities are being created and we have to look at it as business models and how those business models are going to be most important bringing our solutions to life for our customers.

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