Satya Nadella’s name was included as one of the short-list members when the CEO search started late in 2013 once Steve Ballmer announced he was retiring. Other names came and went in the process. Then last week the rumors started flying that he was going to be picked. Today, Microsoft made it official and announced Satya Nadella as the 3rd Microsoft CEO. What’s interesting is that he asked, and got, Bill Gates to spend 1/3 of his time to be involved as Founder & Technology Advisor, stepping down from his previous position as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Microsoft.
Satya has a long history with Microsoft going back 22 years. He’s a successful leader, a strong technically minded person and has the business experience of running a $20B+ annual cloud business for Microsoft. I think he’s a great pick, the one I was hoping for when I stated my 2014 predictions in my podcast… but he’s got a big task ahead of him. I love the move of Gates being move involved. Within Microsoft, he’s so well respected, and feared, that it could bring back the internal aggressiveness from years ago.
So far I’ve heard a few pundits say that this pick signifies Microsoft’s commitment to enterprise, the cloud and dismissing the consumer market. That’s absurd IMHO as it rushes to judgement that he is going to ignore every part of the business he wasn’t already responsible for. That would be like saying, when Steve Jobs came back to Apple, “oh so Apple is going to get out of the hardware business and focus on the movie business” as he was heavily involved in Pixar at the time. I saw another analyst from FBR Capital Markets say “As Microsoft continues down the right lane of the highway at 55 mph with its new CEO in hand, the fear among many investors is that other tech vendors from social, enterprise, mobile, and the tablet segments continue to easily speed by the company in the left lane of innovation and growth” in response to not picking an outsider.
From my point of view, I like the pick. Satya knows Microsoft. He’s shown to be a successful leader. He’s respected by the markets. He’s got a technical background and shown business sense. Now it’s time for things to get interesting and not rush to judgement on where this will take Microsoft.
My Ask to Satya Nadella: Shake the Microsoft Tree
My hope is to not see Microsoft continue on the same path, but rather to see some hard core shake ups. We already saw them dismiss the stack ranking late in 2013 which was killing them talent wise. As someone close to the company, I’ve seen a great many more good and talented people leave the company than the other way around by a significant margin.
We’ve all seen the tech world organizational chart spoof where Microsoft divisions are shown holding guns to each other. That is so true… everyone has their own turf, does their own thing, and it creates a mess of products. Look at the file sync/sharing story today between SkyDrive/OneDrive (for consumers & for business… two very different products) and Work Folders. There are two different instant messaging systems (Skype & Lync) that don’t even work all that well together.
Then on the other hand you’ve got this great company who’s shown to be so successful in running services for businesses (Windows Azure) and consumers (XBOX Live), yet… well I’ll just say not be nearly as successful & smooth in other services (Office 365). How can that be? There are so many similarities across the board… why are the experiences so different form support to services to communication to extensibility & APIs… how can one side be so good and another be so bad?
You’ve got this company who has tried so hard in recent years to be so much like Apple in saying “it’s this way or no way”, an attitude that has failed in a dramatic way with Windows 8.x (metro, start bar, desktop, etc) and only recently has shown significant pull back form these areas. This “our way or the highway” attitude has made it’s way to other areas of the company. Being someone close to the Office division as a SharePoint guy, it’s this attitude (or virus) is quite visible with the whole “it’s all Office 365” and virtually ignoring the on-premises customers. Customers noticed and no matter how much they’ve tried to taper this message, it’s still widespread across their customers. Thankfully we’re seeing hints of this message, which was very strong at the 2012 SharePoint Conference start to be toned down (note: it will be very interesting to see the message at the 2014 SharePoint Conference in early March 2014).
My hope… my ask to Mr Nadella is to shake up the tree. Break down the walls and operate more as a cohesive unit. Listen to your customers, look at the competition, don’t be afraid to cut bait and move forward.
I’m a fan of Amazon, Apple, Google & Microsoft but Microsoft has been the significant part of my professional (and consumer) life for over a decade. In the last few years the others have moved forward while Microsoft, while having plenty of hits, has had a significant number of misses. I was always labeled the “Microsoft fanboy” by friends & colleagues for years, yet it says something when on January 1, 2013 I owned a Microsoft Windows Phone, Lenovo PC with Windows 8, Surface RT and did exclusively SharePoint to one year later where on January 1, 2014 I now use an Apple iPhone, iPad Mini, MacBook Pro & MacBook Air and spend my time split between OS X & coding in Windows for .NET / SharePoint projects.
I’m an optimist. I see today as a tremendous opportunity for Microsoft. What defines you is what you do at times like this. Do you seize the opportunity, take risks, acknowledge and learn from your failures and move forward? Or do you do more of the same? We won’t see the results of this for months… maybe even a year or two. But I’m rooting for Mr. Nadella!