Microsoft was caught double-crossing the channel this month after it tried to poach Microsoft-certified technical staff from dealers to work for its consultancy division.
Outraged resellers discovered that a recruitment agency, hired by Microsoft, was trying to lure technical staff away with job offers from Microsoft Consultancy Services.
One said: 'It's bloody great. Microsoft encourage you to learn skills and then bugger me if they don't try to poach your technical staff. In the last few months they've talked to all my guys.'
Another dealer said: 'We pay to take on people with no Microsoft experience, and do it to put more skills in the market. So it's diabolical when you spend a fortune on training and you find Microsoft contacting resellers' people. Why can't Microsoft do what dealers do? They shouldn't be causing problems like this.'
A Microsoft-certified systems engineer (MCSE) is estimated to cost about #10,000 to train.
According to Microsoft, the upset was caused by a mix-up on the part of a recruitment agency.
Gordon Smillie, manager of the corporate customer unit at Microsoft, claimed it was an 'oversight' and that some staff at the agency had not been not fully briefed.
'Some of our partners were targeted,' he said, 'but it was an administrative error. They were contacted when they shouldn't have been. It is not our policy to actively target the channel.'
Smillie refused to reveal the identity of the head-hunter. He explained that Microsoft had given the agency access to all dealers' MCSEs and Microsoft-certified professionals to let it know who not to call.
The botch-up has highlighted the skills shortage in the industry. Harry Thuillier, chairman of Fraser Associates, said: 'I believe Microsoft should put any available money into training in the channel because there is a severe shortage of skills and the danger is we'll all steal from each other.'
Another source said: 'There is a desperate need for skills on Windows NT and Exchange. Microsoft is always recruiting consultants because they make good business for it.'
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