The era of Doug Burgum is almost over. That of Satya Nadella is just beginning.
And so, Microsoft has begun changing leadership at Microsoft Business Solutions, the unit now more often known publicly as Microsoft Dynamics, after its product line. Nadella is taking over as Burgum phases out by next June.
What MBS will be is different. Changing people always brings changes to environment and culture. But few executives operate like Burgum, who relishes the role of guru and whose speeches are often peppered with as many references to human potential as they were to business software.
Nadella will be different. As the corporate vice president of research and development, he is much more technologically oriented than Burgum, whose roots were in the McKinsey consulting organization. Nadella has a master's degree in computer science; Burgum has an MBA from Stanford.
I don't think Nadella will be doing talks about famous explorers and, at each conference, we won't be wondering what length his hair will be. We won't be talking about "Friends of Satya" the way insiders talked about "Friends of Doug." There won't be trips to Satya's childhood home the way there were visits to Arthur, N.D., where Doug attended high school.
And I doubt Satya will often visit Fargo, N.D., the home of Burgum and Great Plains. The seat of power has shifted west to Redmond, Wash.
Nadella has great charm -- he seems comfortable on stage, and has a knack for saying the right things. It's what looks like a good corporate political sense. Microsoft points out that he ran Dynamics R&D globally, so it's saying he has proven leadership skills.
But the announcement signals changes ahead. One noticeable thing was the use of the nebulous title, "leader of Microsoft Business Solutions." Burgum had been president of MBS, a title that seemed to disappear some time ago -- lately he was just senior VP of Microsoft. No other title, other than Nadella's current corporate VP status, was used in the Microsoft-conducted interview that was posted on the press section of its Web page.
The other noticeable thing was that, after asking why Nadella was chosen, the next question posed was, "How did the introduction of Microsoft's Office Live strategy impact the search?" Those first two questions were answered by Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division, which includes the MBS operations.
The reorganization of MBS under Raikes' division and that Office Live question illustrates that financial software is not a central thrust. It is viewed as part of a larger platform.
The message to the channel is -- learn how to speak Internet. I think the message is also that there is a danger for the Dynamics reseller channel to get lost in the larger Microsoft channel, unless VARs are really big. We're going to see a lot more M&A to cope with these developments.
Above all, learn to love the stack even more than you do now. And if you are in the Microsoft reseller world, that statement doesn't need much explanation.
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