Microsoft Realigns Sales Force

Microsoft Corp.'s enterprise group is refocusing and growing its sales and services teams.

Microsoft Corp.s enterprise group is refocusing and growing its sales and services teams, raising the question of whether enterprises will want to purchase more software directly from the Redmond, Wash., company or continue to buy from their longtime partners.

Over the next five years, Microsofts enterprise group plans to boost its sales force by 60 percent while developing more vertical specialties, said Simon Witts, corporate vice president of Microsofts enterprise and partner group. The vendor will continue adding to its on-site services team, which will help the company grow its enterprise sales and services staff to 23,000. These moves are likely to increase tension between Microsoft and channel partners, who already feel the vendor stepping on their toes, say analysts. Simon Hayward, an analyst with Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn., said Microsoft needed to align its sales force with vertical solutions as it had "pretty much saturated one area of the market."

Witts denied channel conflict, adding that Microsoft is "taking the serious step" of moving the selling of services into its sales force under a program known as One Microsoft, where there is now one account team and one opportunity pipeline.

The number of specialists in the enterprise groups sales force is likely to double to 50 percent of the overall enterprise force in the next five years. The enterprise group is also setting up industry and specialist units to cover vertical specialization and support the account teams that cover the clients, Witts said.

Some customers, such as John Engates, chief technology officer for Rackspace Ltd., a managed-hosting provider in San Antonio, with more than 6,000 Windows servers, welcomed this greater involvement. "We have to manage hundreds of customers who all have different needs. Microsofts management and monitoring tools, as well as Active Directory, have always been designed for a big IT shop rather than for service providers," Engates said. "The focus on vertical segments will enable us to have more input into what our specific needs as a hosting company are and see those reflected in the various products like IIS [Internet Information Services], SQL Server and its management tools."