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Microsoft's Tatarinov and the emerging matrix model

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy March 5, 2014
Microsoft recognises the need to adapt to new business models. It is a huge ask for a tech led vendor moving into the business space. Ealry signs are very promising.

This week's Microsoft Convergence was by far and away the most interesting I have attended in years. The emphasis on customers, the relaxed manner of executives at a time of considerable change and for me, the emergence of what some will call a 'matrix model' for go to market.

It was this matrix model topic I wanted to address when meeting with Kirill Tatarinov, EVP for Microsoft Business Solutions. As a side note and following on from Stuart Lauchlan's meeting with Tatarinov, I could hardly let the opportunity go by without expressing thanks for giving us such great fodder with which to ruffle a few feathers. He enjoyed the (half) joke.

Banter aside, I wanted to press Tatarinov on the go to market topic for several reasons. This is how you might think of enterprise sales scenarios in the Microsoft matrix model environment:

  1. Some of Microsoft's solution sales are clearly complex, requiring the engagement of services, hardware and software sales people for highly customized deals. These are relatively easy to negotiate because the totality of the deal is sufficiently large that everyone in the different Microsoft divisions gets a piece of the action and the attendant credit.
  2. However, as Microsoft productizes some of those initial deals - and here I am thinking of the Delta case - things tend to get a bit trickier. Here I am told that Microsoft has a healthy pipeline of other opportunities. How do these work out?
  3. Then there is the type of sale that some might put into the 'mass customization' bucket. This is where, the suggested solution might start out as an apparently simple 'do cool stuff with Office/CRM/Dynamics' that turns into a more complex deal involving different parts of the business but which eventually reaches thousands of users.
  4. Finally, there is the deal that a partner like Avanade brings to the table. This will typically be a complex deal where the bones have been laid out but which need fleshing out among the various customer stakeholders.

Of all these deal types I see (2) and (3) as being the most challenging for Microsoft to work out. Why?

Deal type (1) I've discussed. Deal type (4) is one where the partner can pre-select or assist in setting the solution parameters going in and secure a lead champion for the deal who, in turn can rally the Microsoft troops for the eventual deal. This smoothes out a lot of wrinkles.

The problem for deal type (2) (3) is that different sales people have different agendas and don't necessarily have the same compensation models. So for example a bag carrier on the Windows phone franchise will want all users to be on that platform. That won't necessarily work when the customer already has mixed devices. Delta believes it has this cracked by virtue of the Windows Surface device capabilities that happen to fit the needs of the users going forward. A sensible bag carrier will 'get' that as an upsell opportunity. Microsoft for its part needs to recognise that potential and not penalise sales for failing to deliver the full enchilada at the first pass..

Even so - this wont work all the time and in questioning, Tatarinov was less than crisp in his answers:

Mobile is the first class citizen in the user experience. First and foremost we are thinking about mobile. HTML 5 applications all the way. The enterprise today is highly heterogeneous. We have a technology and strategy to do that, HTML 5 is doing that very well. Applications will light up best on Windows devices so we believe customers will naturally adopt.

Vinnie Mirchandani provides a more nuanced view of this based upon other conversations:

Mike Erhenberg kicked off a pre-event analyst briefing spending nearly 30 minutes on the evolving Microsoft mission statement

Create a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value most.

In a one-on-one he spent some time on the evolving matrix organization and how different Microsoft units decide who takes  the lead across various initiatives and the cross-unit meetings that are much more common than he has seen in his long Microsoft career.

Erhenberg is a 'big thinker.'  He totally gets what needs to happen in the real world. Among a straw poll of live Microsoft customers I discovered that while they are willing to listen to the 'hybrid' story, they want to know how Microsoft will help them get to the 'one' vision with minimal disruption. They want innovation but they also want control.

All of this requires a radical rethink about go to market. It would be a tough ask in any market. But in the shifting sands of the current enterprise market, vendors need a compelling story to get commitment while ensuring those pesky bag carriers don't overstep the commission line.

Microsoft is in a wholly unique position. It owns (a big piece) of the device equation yet it has made clear it will support any browser. One demo was deliberately fielded on Chrome - yet another heresy - and that is to be welcome.

The BIG question has to be how well Microsoft transitions its salesforce to meet this present situation against a backdrop of largely technology selling. Tatarinov is clear that Microsoft is doing the needful in that regard. Yet he tacitly acknowledges it is early days. In that sense I am encouraged by his candor.

This is a story to follow because for the first time in many a year, Microsoft is positioning itself as a genuine leader both in thinking and execution that benefit customers in real and tangible ways.

I - for one - am excited to see how this pans out. It is a huge change in the way software/services and devices are marketed. If Microsoft executes well then it can only serve as a benchmark for the rest of the enterprise industry.

I wish them well.

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