TORONTO – Microsoft Canada used the grand stage of the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference here to introduce its partners to its new channel leader. But it’s not an unfamiliar face.
The company publicly introduced Greg Lander, longtime channel executive and most recently head of sales for central Canada at Compugen, as its new channel chief during its keynote to the Canadian Microsoft partners at WPC.
Larnder said that with him as channel chief, reporting to Canadian SMS&P chief Neil Tanner, the Canadian channel has an unusual experience ahead of it – two vendor-side executives who are facing the channel, but come from the channel themselves. Like Larnder, Tanner was in the channel before joining the software titan.
“I’ve worked with various channel chiefs for 27 years now, and I respect them all,” Larnder said. “But I’ve never worked, other than with Neil, with a channel chief that actually worked in the channel. They really didn’t understand the language of the channel. You have to kind of live it and breathe it to understand it.”
But Tanner and Larnder contend that now, that language will be spoken fluently by Microsoft Canada’s partner team.
“Meeting up with Neil was interesting, because he understood my pain [as a channel leader,]” Larnder said. “He’d lived through my pain.”
Larnder said that even over the course of his first few days on the new job – he just officially joined the software giant in time for WPC – that channel familiarity has served him well.
“There’s an instant understanding,” he said. “I know exactly what their issues are because I’ve lived it. I think I can bring to Microsoft a deep, deep understanding of what [partners] have to live through every day, and make sure that whatever we’re doing it in their best interest.”
But that’s not to say that Larnder believes he already has the answers as he heads into the job. Like most new channel chiefs, his early-day prioirities involve a lot more listening than talking. In fact, he said is to “do as much as I can to listen, and do as little as I can to offer opinions and cast judgment.”
Tanner said that while Larnder was a natural fit for the channel chief role, he was conflicted over selecting an executive from the channel to fill the role. After all, he feels recruiting top talent into the channel, and keeping it in the channel, is a top priority.
“When Greg reached out to me, I had a dilemma of wanting to bring a strong Canadian partner leader into Microsoft, a man with a passion for both the channel and our solutions. But I was conflicted because Compugen is such an incredible partner for Microsoft, and because [Compugen CEO] Harry [Zarek] is such a strong proponent of Microsoft,” Tanner said. “I wanted to be clear that we’re not doing this to take great talent out of the channel, it just happened at the right time.”
Larnder said the time was right for a variety of reasons. After 27 years in the channel, he said one of the items still on his career “bucket list” was working for a major international corporation. Secondly, he said he felt secure in leaving Compugen when it’s at the top of its game, having just been acknowledged as the top solution provider by revenues by CDN.
But the biggest reason for Larnder to make the move was the big theme of WPC itself – the strength of the Microsoft portfolio, and the fact that the company is moving into “a new era” in this new fiscal year. He said he saw momentum for Microsoft against VMware in the virtualization sphere, a cross-platform management strategy developing with System Center, and most importantly, a new and unified Windows interface that he feels will be a compelling differentiator in the era of consumerized IT.
“It really struck me as I was watching my kids play on the Xbox, then looking at my Windows Phone and realized we were looking at the same interface,” Larnder said.