March 5, 2003 5:14 PM PST

Microsoft shakes up sales division

Microsoft plans to reappoint its head of worldwide sales in a reorganization of its sales group, a company representative confirmed Wednesday.

Orlando Ayala will give up his duties as group vice president of sales, marketing and services of the world's largest software company, according to Microsoft representative Melissa Harris Thirsk. Ayala's move is effective July 1, the beginning of Microsoft's fiscal year, according to Matt Rosoff, an analyst at research firm Directions on Microsoft. Microsoft declined to confirm the timing of the management change.

The 12-year Microsoft veteran, who reports directly to Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, will be reassigned to lead Microsoft's drive to sell products to small and midsize businesses and to grow its partner network, Harris Thirsk said. Microsoft has yet to name a replacement for the top sales slot. Ayala's move comes after the company's transition to a new sales model, she said.

The executive change is part of a long-standing plan between Ballmer and Ayala, and the two had been discussing Ayala's transition to a new role for more than a year, Harris Thirsk said. She declined to discuss further details about the plan and the new sales model.

Rosoff, who was briefed by Microsoft on the changes, said Ayala's move is part of the company's plan to create a new sales organization for its Business Solutions division, the group charged with developing the business-management applications that it gained in the acquisitions of Great Plains and Navision. As head of the new sales group, Ayala will seek to expand the distribution channel for those products by signing up more partners from Microsoft's large pool of resellers, Rosoff said.

Ayala's new assignment is telling because he is one of the most powerful people at Microsoft, according to Rosoff.

"It shows Microsoft is really serious about the small and midsize business market and wants to make sure they have a coordinated story and a coherent sales strategy when they talk to these companies," Rosoff said.

The plan is part of Microsoft's overall effort to bring Great Plains, which operates out of Fargo, N.D., and Navision, which operates out of Denmark, further into the Microsoft fold, he said. In the same vein, Microsoft recently introduced the Business Solutions brand as the umbrella under which the two acquired units fall. The company is also working to unify the division's numerous products on one code base.

"They have a strategy in place," Rosoff said. "They know where their product road map is going, and now they want to step it up a level."

Speculating on who might replace Ayala as head of Microsoft global sales, Rosoff said Kevin Johnson, senior vice president of Microsoft Americas, and Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), are both likely candidates. Both currently report to Ayala, he said.

 

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