Microsoft’s Kevin Ackhurst is moving to Singapore next week to become the vendor’s vice president of sales and marketing for Asia Pacific.
Ackhurst says the local business has been successful in the past couple of years, but admits strong relationship building was needed at the outset of his term and there is more work to be done.
He is frank about the initial challenges he faced when he took over the New Zealand operations in 2007.
“When I first got here, a lot of people called me – CIOs and a variety of different business partners - and they said, ‘Look, the only thing Microsoft cares about is the money that they earn.’ Now, the conversations I have with these same people are very complimentary of the relationship and the value that they see and what they get from Microsoft.
“I also think Microsoft in New Zealand did not have the reputation that we are starting to have today,” he says.
However, he attributes this shift to the calibre of his team. “I am not sure I did anything as much as the team that I work with.”
Ackhurst prefers to describe the years he has led the local Microsoft office as a time of a “shifting economic situation and the way Microsoft is changing the way it delivers service” – a reference to the global financial crisis and Microsoft’s push into cloud-based services.
Looking back on his time here, he says, “I think our business in New Zealand has been quite successful in the past couple of years and that was because we have been honest in terms of our dealings with customers and partners, and we work hard to make sure we build strong relationships. I hope to establish the same sort of approach across the Asia Pacific.
“The thing New Zealand probably reinforced to me was how important it was to make sure you develop, cultivate and grow these relationships and help the customers and partners you are working with.”
Asked if there was anything he would have done differently, he says, “lots of things”.
One of them, he says, is starting his engagements with government earlier. “It probably took me about a year before I started focusing on our government engagements [and] relationships.”
He acknowledges Microsoft has a lot of work to do in its relationships with Kiwi firms.
“I think we have made improvements in terms of how we do our licensing,” he says, adding Microsoft “is willing to try new things within New Zealand which it wasn’t before”.