At the Microsoft Convergence Conference last month, there were no lengthy expositions involving lessons from the travels of great explorers. But there was a slide with the new leader of Microsoft Business Solutions wearing a cheesehead. It was clear that Kirill Tatarinov, who wore the Wisconsin symbol, would not evoke lessons of  Lewis and Clark. But neither could I picture long-time leader MBS Doug Burgum performing karaoke at the house of blues as Tatarinov did (to bad reviews).

What do differences in style mean in leadership? It’s a question we will be asking over the next year because three major players in the accounting midmarket have new leaders. The others are Intuit’s CEO Brad Smith, who took over in January from Stephen Bennett and Sue Swenson, the incoming CEO of Sage Software, who takes over next month.

It’s Tatarinov that we know the most about—although it’s hardly in-depth. Nevertheless, he’s carries more of an “all-business” approach, despite the touches of humor, than Burgum, whose guru-style was unique. It’s better to say that Tatarinov’s message is more quickly accessible while Burgum’s, obviously effective, was more subtle. Clearly, Burgum was highly successful, judging from the name he created for Great Plains and how well his trusted lieutenants have done with Microsoft.

But Tatarinov looks more decisive. Certainly, the first Convergence that he conducted without Burgum’s presence was the first one in which Microsoft curbed its wild proliferation of keynote speeches. Perhaps, not coincidentally, it was the one in which CEO Steve Ballmer gave his most effective speech to date involving the Microsoft Dynamics line.

Tatarinov was also quick to say that Project Green, the now defunct effort to bring the four Dynamics ERP products together with the same database, was a bad idea to begin with, although the project, started under Burgum, came to a halt under Burgum.

Yet, as long as these new leaders are competent, they won’t change the basic trends, including the fact that margin pressure continues on resellers and that the market for mid-market accounting applications is saturated and the real growth is in CRM. For Intuit, which is just starting a reseller channel, the challenges are a bit different. But the fact that its QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions is fundamentally changing the market on the low end will also not be altered.

In fact, there’s only one message the resellers care about—that these leaders care about how well the resellers' businesses fare.

 

 

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