Life After Jodi Uecker-Rust At Sage Business Solutions

Yesterday’s news of Jodi Uecker-Rust’s departure as the leader of Sage Business Solutions in North America didn’t really come as a total shock.

Surprise? Yes. Shock? No.

Prior to joining Sage in February 2009 Jodi had spent her career first at Great Plains and then led a division at Microsoft (after they acquired Great Plains for $1.1 Billion in 2001) playing a key role in the Navision acquisition.

By my personal observation during her tenure at Sage North America she was all but invisible to most VARS while Paul Johnson, Executive VP, served as the public face of Sage and emceed many events including the Sage Presidents Circle in Phoenix.

When the announcement arrived yesterday that Jodi was leaving for what were described as personal reasons there were several things that stood out to me.

First, the surprise announcement came from two people who either reported to Jodi or were below her on the organizational chart.

The announcement of Jodi Uecker-Rust’s hiring came from Sage North America CEO Sue Swenson. It seems that the departure announcement should have too.  Instead the notice that Jodi was leaving came from two people below her in the organization chart.

When asked-  Sage public relations explained that the two people who made the announcement, Paul Johnson and Tom Miller, were considered to ” have been the principal senior-level communication links”.

Partners in the Sage channel who hadn’t previously followed and known about Great Plains and their outstanding management team likely had no idea who Jodi was. Jodi was never the primary channel communicator at Sage. That’s one possible reason behind her departure.

There were VARS who knew of Jodi from Great Plains. And those who knew her had nothing bad to say. The problem seems to have been that somewhere Jodi’s talents where squandered in an office either in California or Fargo (where I’ve been told she was commuting from).

Back in December 29 2009 I made 10 predictions for Sage. Number 4 on my list was that Jodi would take a greatly expanded and more public role in the channel. That expanded role never occurred – at least  visibly to the channel. And if there were signifiant changes Jodi spearheaded they weren’t noted in any of the departure announcements.

I’m also told that the lengthy Fargo to California commute might have been a key reason for this departure. Perhaps that’s true however at President’s Circle Jodi described how she moved her entire family overseas to quarterback the Navision acquisition –  which doesn’t make me think she’s a person who avoids  travel.

Second, the announcements contained no list of accomplishments during Jodi’s nearly 1.5 year tenure. There was only vague re-assurance that Sage is committed to the partner channel. As most of these types of departure letters go – this one was no different and reads like a generic press release.

The letter that Jodi penned to announce her departure makes vague reference to Sage’s channel commitment and fails to mention the people remaining who will be leading the channel or any reasons to have faith that they’d continue.

Taken together this sudden departure is a big change for a few people:

– Jodi recruited many former Microsoft executives. Tom Miller – the VP of Channel Management was reportedly lured to Sage primarily at the request of Jodi. Since then Sage has hired several former Microsoft executives (Robert Deshaies, Jon Witty).  I’m sure the behind the scenes communication network at Sage is buzzing like crazy.

– Sage Business Partners – The next leader of Sage Business Solutions will provide big hints on where the division is going. If it’s a sales oriented leader (as I believe it will be) expect to see more of full course direct sales effort. If the leader is someone with a strong channel management background then expect a continued commitment to the channel.

– Taylor Macdonald. For those who don’t know Taylor was the head of channels for Sage and one of the energizing forces behind growing Sage’s channel management efforts. When Taylor left in a management shakeup there were many VARS who followed him to his next efforts at Deltek. Now Taylor’s at Intacct managing their reseller channel. If he had trouble getting phone calls returned from Sage VARS before Jodi’s departure –  he’s likely not having that problem now.

Overall I don’t think Jodi’s departure means that Sage will sell around or eliminate their channel. Rather what’s more likely to happen is the channel approach is restructured to focus on large firms (much as Microsoft has done in the last few years) and to more directly service the smaller software customers.

All we can do is wait for the appointment of a new leader for the division. Who do you think that might be? I have a few suggestions/guesses that I’ve set up on Quora where you can weigh in with your ideas as well.

Who will be the next President of Sage Business Solutions?