Although with Microsoft since 2005, Sherle Webb-Robins was recently appointed General Manager for the newly formed Enterprise Partner and Industry Solutions Team in Microsoft’s U.S. Enterprise and Partner Group, where she’ll lead industry and partner-facing sales efforts.  The Microsoft Vertical Industries blog team spoke with Sherle to learn more about her priorities in this new role and key industry technology trends to watch.

What are your top priorities as you move into this new role as GM of U.S. Enterprise Partner and Industry Solutions?

This new organization aligns our U.S. partner and industry teams to try to help simplify and deepen partner relationships. We’re also seeking to drive greater return for our partners and customers. Our team is focused on working with our strategic partners to deliver industry solutions to the market, increase satisfaction, and help our customers gain an edge with technology.

Looking across the industries your organization serves, what common trends or challenges are top of mind for your customers?

Enterprise organizations, across every industry, want to deliver superior service to their customers, run their operations efficiently, and drive sales. Every industry has been dramatically transformed by changes in the economy, making achieving these goals an evolving dance. The good news is that technology is at the heart of navigating these changes and mastering the new steps.

In fact, there’s a wide range of next-generation tools available to help deliver mission-critical functionality. Software today can help standardize business processes, manage operations and deliver a great customer experience. 

For example, with BI (business intelligence), customers gain visibility to analyze and respond to things like supply chain disruptions in manufacturing, product promotions, out-of-stock store shelves or customer service issues at a bank. Sales and service solutions, like CRM and Clienteling, help a law firm or financial advisor manage and grow their client base and the opportunity to develop more long-standing relationships with their clientele.

 We’ve heard a lot about cloud computing recently.  In your mind are customers and partners beginning to embrace and move to the cloud?

Yes, in fact there’s an incredible amount of excitement and momentum from our customers and our partners about the cloud.  Cloud computing gives companies in all industries the flexibility to lower costs and take advantage of new ways to do business.  Kia Motors is a great example of a company that adopted a cloud-based solution in a short period of time, while simultaneously saving costs. In an effort to drive sales, Kia used the Windows Azure platform to create a website that was capable of handling millions of visitors. Kia launched the site in only two weeks, quickly scaled it as demand dictated and avoided more than $100,000 in expense.

The cloud enables companies to focus on their core businesses without any limitations of physical and technical boundaries. Godiva Chocolate is another great example. Rather than have its IT team upgrade and maintain its messaging software, Godiva wanted to focus on growth opportunities that help drive chocolate sales. Since migrating email to the cloud using Microsoft Online Services, Godiva eliminated $250,000 in annual maintenance and hosting fees 

Additionally, the cloud provides a great opportunity for partners to grow and evolve their business. According to a recent Microsoft study, 23 percent of IT decision makers surveyed hired vendors to assist in deployment of cloud projects, a trend certain to grow as cloud computing increases across businesses. We’re excited to engage more deeply with our partners on their cloud strategy.

What advice can you give partners for when talking to customers about moving to the cloud?

Our partners have a great opportunity to educate their customers on what’s best for their business model, acknowledging that the cloud is not a “one size fits all” solution. The real opportunity for today’s business leaders is to have the power of choice across in-house and online tools, allowing organizations to move at their own pace and integrate cloud computing as appropriate into their business needs.   

 Additionally, smart organizations know their best assets lie within their IT department.  Today’s technology guru can lend more to a company than fixing a network or ensuring emails run smoothly. Cloud computing allows IT decision makers to be more strategic and focus on business process issues.

Anything else you’d like to add for partners?

Our partners have a great opportunity to learn more about how they can take their business to the next level with cloud services, Office 365, Windows 7 and Windows Phone at the upcoming Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. This July, our partners from around the world will unite in Los Angeles, network among each other and learn more about Microsoft’s technology roadmap. I encourage all of our partners to attend and take advantage of this opportunity and look forward to seeing you at WPC!