Sorgen comes to Microsoft Canada

It’s going to be a busy year for new Microsoft Canada president Phil Sorgen, with new releases of Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office and the flagship Windows Vista OS all due by the end of the year. Taking the helm in February from David Hemler, Sorgen comes to Microsoft’s Canadian operation after stints running Microsoft’s Gulf Coast business from Texas and its U.S. sales operations from the Redmond, Wash. corporate headquarters. Sorgen sat down recently with ComputerWorld Canada to discuss his plans for Microsoft Canada and the year ahead.

You’re still in your early days in Canada, but what are some of the unique challenges and facets of the Canadian enterprise market you’ve identified so far?

One of the things that has struck me…is the focus on driving increased productivity. Microsoft has an important role to play in that through [new products coming out this year] because they’re all about increasing productivity, [from] mobile devices to how knowledge workers work to how, through integrated innovation, we connect and share, publish and collaborate. While communications and information technology is not going to be the only thing to increase productivity…we can play an important role in that.

Where do you want to take Microsoft Canada in the next year or so?

This isn’t something where I have to come in and take Microsoft Canada in a significantly different direction than my predecessor. The most important thing we can do…is ramp up our organization so we’re aligned around this next wave of innovation that’s coming over the next 12 months. That means how we work with partners, how we work with customers, how we communicate and how we train our people. We’re setting up for some very important releases and launches of products in our next fiscal year. The wave of innovation doesn’t just stop with those mainstream products like Office, Vista and Exchange. We’re incubating a number of very interesting new technologies, whether it be in the Windows Mobile space, in security, or in other areas. That requires, again, making sure we have the right organization in place with the expertise to articulate those products.

Microsoft Canada is primarily a marketing, sales and service organization. Is the goal just to sell products or is Microsoft looking for more of a leadership and development role from Canada?

About three years ago we created a business group alignment for every one of our business groups. We have someone that runs our information worker business here in Canada…and they are a direct link to the [information worker business group] in Redmond. Their job is to take what’s coming out of Redmond and localize it, but there’s a clear bi-directional loop. We define requirements that are necessary at every stage of product development, and we’re making sure Microsoft Canada has a voice.

It is looking like Office 2007 is making a philosophical shift to be more of a collaborative environment rather than just a suite of applications. What will this mean for enterprise users?

It’s a much more integrated world. Work groups don’t span cubes anymore; they sometimes span time zones and even continents. I may be traveling on a plane having previously synched my laptop so I can work on a document, land, post it to SharePoint Portal Server…then I get a workgroup collaborating on that (document), and when we’re done I (want to) publish it…so I need the HTML or XML capability integrated. It’s on the standards level that we need greater integration. It’s the ability to work and how we work with other tools in an interconnected world. It’s how we publish to another person, all in a more efficient and productive way.

There’s been some loose release dates thrown around for Windows Vista. Given Microsoft’s bumpy record on meeting release date commitments, what confidence can you give our likely skeptical readers?

We don’t quote release dates because it’s really important that we don’t dictate the schedule with a release date commitment and instead focus on making sure the product is reliable, available and secure. We have to make sure the product is ready and has been tested and we can’t shorten that software development cycle at any stage. I think our customers want us to do our due diligence…and release a secure product that meets their expectations rather than meet a commitment to a ship date. We have to be a company that stands behind our technology…and part of [that] is being willing to stand up and say ‘it’s not ready’ and whatever consequences that may have for us in the marketplace we have to stand behind it.

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