Microsoft NZ managing director Kevin Ackhurst is moving onward and upward in the organisation, to become vice-president of sales and marketing for the Asia-Pacific region. He will be based in Singapore.
Ackhurst leaves these shores after three years in the top position – a period which has seen some reverses for Microsoft and unsettled times for the local ICT industry as a whole. Last year, for the first time, the company failed to come to its usual triennial software purchase agreement with the New Zealand government – the so-called G2009 accord was negotiated hard under Ackhurst’s leadership, but the parties were unable to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
In the wake of the setback, the company came under increased sniping, particularly from the open-source movement, but there was little sign of a reverse in its relationship with the government or a major drift away from the comfortable Microsoft fold; in fact some argue being committed to individual negotiations with agency CIOs has left the company in a better position than it would have won under a bulk agreement.
Beyond Microsoft, Ackhurst spearheaded the evolution of the industry lobby which became NZICT. For a time, it appeared destined to be restricted to a subsidiary role as simply one more member of the Digital Development Council, but all that changed with the change of government and abandonment of DDC; and the international companies (including, of course, Microsoft) which are most influential in NZICT gained a powerful channel to influence government.
Local software developers, however, criticise the lobby (most recently in the context of software patents, which Microsoft and NZICT support) as a mere mouthpiece for international companies.
The Ackhurst years have been rather ill-starred for Microsoft on the international front, and this has been to some extent reflected in its fortunes in New Zealand. The impact of the global recession was compounded by the underwhelming response to the Vista operating system. Recent days have seen Microsoft abandon its Kin mobile phone plans and international media, for example ZD-net, are predicting a possible change at the top.
On the bright side, Microsoft’s local success led to the NZ company being accorded “Tier One” status in Microsoft’s international market structure, meaning local customers will get an earlier look at new Microsoft products and services.
During Ackhurst’s tenure, says Microsoft, the company donated more than $12 million in software and funding to over 750 New Zealand non-profit organisations throughout the country. This is primarily through its TechSoup programme. In addition a number of strategic partnerships were developed with the Computer Clubhouse, 2020 Communications Trust, Barnardos and Plunket.
In May, Microsoft was also named the Recruit IT Employer of Choice winner in the annual New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards, for its flexible working culture, career development, and health and wellness policies.
Ackhurst takes up his new role from August 2. “A replacement is currently being sought and will be announced once confirmed,” Microsoft says.