Microsoft Sales Organization Lands Successful Initiatives and Sets Itself Up for a Multi-Year Business Model Transformation
Microsoft US Small & Midmarket Solutions & Partners Group
Microsoft’s US SMSP organization (Small and Midmarket Solutions and Partners group) is a major growth engine for the company, serving the rapidly growing and increasingly tech-savvy small and mid-size business segment of the market.
To drive the growth opportunity in this market, the organization determined four critical breakthroughs were needed: 1) develop greater agility to turn on a dime and pursue emerging opportunities; 2) align the business model and structure to the shifting market requirements; 3) radically increase organizational efficiencies, particularly across functions and regions; and 4) make SMSP a great place to work, so it attracts and retains top talent.
Historically, such initiatives at Microsoft had been approached as discrete change projects, forced into an annual planning cycle, with executives keeping changes closely under wraps “to avoid employee churn.” Much attention would be focused on the design of the solution, or “content” of the change, with too little attention paid to people or the intelligent design of change process. Often, there would be too little upstream strategic context-setting and alignment work and insufficient attention paid to downstream impacts and implementation planning, to ensure a successful “landing” of the change initiatives.
Based on our audit of past change initiatives, Being First helped the change process leader to reframe the initiative from “a field re-structure” to what it really required – “a multi-year business model transformation.” We supported the change leaders to generate a clear, long-term vision, broader engagement in planning and design, greater transparency and communication, and more rigorous implementation planning.
We pulled together a small core team, which included representation from each function and region as well as HR, communications and change consulting expertise, to develop an overall change strategy. We ensured that historic oversights were adequately addressed, such as 1) engaging the workforce early to understand the case for change and vision, 2) developing clear design requirements, 3) creating an explicit and effective governance structure, roles and decision-making, and how projects would be integrated for speed 4) creating a disciplined process to test design options and determine best bet recommendations for a new field structure, and 5) developing a robust impact analysis process and integrated implementation strategy.
The initiative was built for speed, progressing rapidly through a series of working sessions including Context and Design Requirements, Design Option Review, Impact Analysis Workshop, and Implementation Planning. Much work was done in parallel between these working sessions by designated “workstream teams.” We created a small, representative Fast Track design team to keep the overall process moving while workstreams engaged a broader spectrum of the organization in the work. A small Change Office kept the initiative aligned with the executive team, while also centralizing key support resources for each of the workstreams, such as HR, Finance, Communications, Program Management and change consulting.
We further supported teams with a comprehensive communications strategy, which “provided an ongoing and consistent drumbeat for the organization’s journey over the coming 3-5 years, with messaging continually being reinforced to provide a stable context for all of the change initiatives still ahead.”
In the project debrief, the team summarized the overall results this way: “We landed all the initiatives successfully and with less organizational upheaval than we’ve ever had.”
A subsequent review provided this reflection by one of the team members: “Over the following years, we continued the transformation of the business and leveraged what we had originally put in place – the governance model, workstream structure, communications strategy, change tools, and change leadership skills Being First developed in our original team. This enabled us to reach our ultimate breakthrough target of increased sales revenue.”
Other results reported by the team included:
- Increased speed of implementation even while engaging more people than usual
- Better and faster buy-in across the organization
- More robust two-way communications that provided useful employee input, plus better coordination of messaging
- Reduced risk through cross-workstream impact analysis and collaborative work in mitigating impacts
- Reduced resource requirements and duplication of effort while also providing stretch opportunities for our current and future leaders
- Building muscle in working more collaboratively across the system
- Developing the change leadership capability that set us up for future successful change initiatives
- A real-time experience of agility: the clear design requirements and scenario planning work allowed us to generate a robust “Plan B” when the EVP had issues with our original proposal; we course corrected on a dime due to this discipline.