Microsoft's imminent job cuts could lead to more cohesive support for the service and support the vendor can provide to the channel, partners hope.
Speculation has been rife that Microsoft was looking to trim staff in its sales and marketing teams, and this morning Microsoft sent a statement to CRN confirming the rumours.
Microsoft stopped short of putting a number on the cuts, but a figure of 3,000 has been widely publicised in the media.
A Microsoft representative said: "Microsoft is implementing changes to better serve our customers and partners.
"Today, we are taking steps to notify some employees that their jobs are under consideration or that their positions will be eliminated.
"Like all companies we evaluate our business on a regular basis. This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time to time, re-deployment in others."
The job cuts come six months after Microsoft announced it would reorganise its structure to combine its Enterprise Product Group EPG with its Small and Mid-market Solutions and Partners (SMS&P) division.
Kelvin Kirby, CEO at Microsoft partner Technology Associates, told CRN that the job cuts could make Microsoft easier to deal with for partners, explaining that partners who service clients in between the SMB and enterprise ends of the scale can find it difficult to get the right support.
"This is an effort to try to address the bridge between the SMB space and the enterprise space," he said.
"For a long time you were either in EPG or in SMS&P and actually for a lot of partners they have customers that sit in the middle and are five, six, 700 employees - a bit too large for the SMS&P, but too small for EPG.
"This move will be better for partners in the long term, but it remains to be seen what happens in the short term."
Kirby said he hopes the reshuffle will boost the support Microsoft offers to partners which has waned in recent years, as it struggled to direct partners to the right members of its team.
The UK in particular, he said, was hit hard by job cuts a couple of years ago - leaving inexperienced team members to serve the channel.
"I'm hoping the new organisation will beef up the level of support that partners get from Microsoft because I know there are lots of challenges in that area," he said.
"I speak to lots of other partners on a regular basis and I know that they're getting very frustrated with the fact that they've moved from being a managed partner to being tele-account managed, and now you can't even get a tele-account manager for support unless you're a Gold cloud competency.
"It seems like Microsoft are driving their partners into a very exclusive, elitist group and if you're not in that group you kind of get left behind.
"The comparison I make is that if you ring Dell, you speak to somebody and it's like a concierge service. That person takes responsibility for your problem and sees it through right the way to the end.
"At Microsoft you have an issue, ring support and someone passes the buck to someone else and it's very frustrating so I'm hoping that the new organisation, in particular the gap between EPG and SMB, will narrow and I'm sure we'll get a more cohesive level of support out to partners."
Alongside the reorganisation, Microsoft has quietly launched its new Microsoft Partner Community (MPC) - a social media website for partners to access information as well as write, comment on, and share posts.
In a blog post Microsoft describes the website as "a centralised online platform right on the Microsoft Partner website where partners can connect with each other, with Microsoft SMEs and with the industry leaders who will make a difference in this community".
"The goal of MPC is to become the one united community platform that drives partner and Microsoft business conversations. Through it, we will be streamlining access to key content, subject matter experts and networking opportunities with other partners," Microsoft added.
Dan Scarfe, founder of Microsoft partner New Signature, said that Microsoft has taken steps to put more of a focus on partners - particularly those with a focus on solutions-led business.
"It's the final piece of their big reorganisation," he said.
"With the reorganisation, the STU (Specialists Team Unit) lead now reports directly to the UK CEO, which is a really positive step forward because it is demonstrating that the solutions specialists are the real key to driving all this stuff going forward. The STU used to report to EPG but now they're a part of the senior leadership team effectively, which is a really positive move.
"It's moving away from account managers to specialists. The account managers sell stuff from a product list and the specialists are the people who understand it.
"It's the solutions people who are key to winning this new battle so you need more specialist individuals, even if there are fewer of them."
The reorganisation at Microsoft has been received well by partners but the timing is also more convenient than in the past, Kirby said.
He explained that Microsoft partners have become used to job cuts around the week of its Worldwide Partner Conference, known from this year as Microsoft Inspire.
Partners, however, were becoming frustrated that meetings were being cancelled as Microsoft employees found themselves out of work just days before.
"Three years ago there was the annual cull that actually happened during the week of WPC," he said. "We had some meetings with Microsoft people on the Thursday of that week and they were cancelled because the people who were going to be at that meeting were literally out of a job and had been told the night before.
"There was a lot of discontent because partners that had meetings during the conference suddenly found that those people were out of a job and they were going to have to reinitiate all those conversations, so partners were getting frustrated."
Kirby added that in all likelihood, some of the employees facing redundancy may end up returning later this year.
"Some of those cuts won't happen until September, but Microsoft tends to take on board a lot of contractors who tend to be on a nine- or 10-month contract," he explained.
"The reality is that Microsoft will then go through this whole recruitment process again in September or October and re-employ people, so a lot of those people will probably get taken back on board as contractors rather than permanent staff because it's a lot easier to turn off contractors."
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