No matter what, redundancies are a tragedy. The thousands of job losses announced by Microsoft recently were a result of a doomed business strategy. The tech giant believed it could compete against the behemoths of Apple’s iPhones and the smorgasbord of Android devices. Hardware has never been Microsoft’s bread and butter. The supposed three-way clash of the Titans never was. In fact, it has so far been an epic – and expensive – disaster. However, I believe the tide is now turning and one man is responsible for that, its new CEO, Satya Nadella.
Microsoft is a giant that has touched almost every aspect of human life from its founding in 1975 to the present. As late as 2009, 90% of all devices that connected to the internet ran on a Microsoft product. But today that’s down to just 20%. And that’s a serious problem. However, with Satya Nadella taking the reins from Steve Ballmer last year the company has seen a remarkably quick turnaround both in corporate strategy and culture.
Satya was born in Hyderabad, India. After completing his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in India, he was accepted onto the M. S. program at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee where he studied computer science. Not done yet, he was accepted into the prestigious Booth School of Business where he received his MBA. After the completion of his MBA, Nadella joined Microsoft where, for the last 22 years, he has been integral in shaping the company that he now leads. Looking back over the course of his personal and professional life, it almost seems like every step taken was meant to get him to the position he is currently in.
Take your partner by the hand…
The management style that Nadella has taken since taking the reins of Microsoft could not be more different than his predecessors. Compared to Steve Ballmer, who some people have described as a “manic” and a “fist pumping sales guy”, Nadella is described as having “clarity of vision” and an “empathic listening style”. While under Ballmer, Microsoft did increase its revenue, the company missed some of the most important tech innovations of the last decade – mobile and search.
Since stepping into the role of CEO, Nadella has gone out of his way to change the way things are done at Microsoft. One of the more surprising changes has been his willingness to partner with firms that would have been seen as enemies just a short while before. This change can be seen in the new partnership with Salesforce. Instead of trying to outmaneuver the CRM solution, Microsoft is working with Salesforce to integrate it with Office, SharePoint and other applications. Salesforce’s Marc Benioff once described the door to Microsoft as “Closed. And locked. And barricaded”. Nadella is changing that with more partnerships with former rivals such as Dropbox.
A Microsoft metamorphosis
One of the more exciting products being developed at Microsoft is Project HoloLens. Like Google, Samsung and Facebook, Microsoft has decided to experiment with Augmented Reality and Project HoloLens is its first attempt. HoloLens aims to revolutionize the computing experience much the same way the PC did decades ago. In the past, different divisions in the firm tended to fight meaningless turf wars at the expense of promising projects. With the implementation of One Microsoft and a flatter organizational structure, projects like HoloLens have a greater chance of making it to market.
The end of Microsoft’s fiscal year heralded some major changes in the upper echelons of the company. Key executives such as Stephen Elop and Eric Rudder are leaving and Terry Myerson and Scott Guthrie will be handed more responsibility. As a result, the once separate Operations Systems Group and Microsoft Devices Group will now be the Windows and Devices Group. This reorganization will allow the company to become more nimble and open to future change. An example of this is the sight of Office apps appearing in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store – sometimes even before arriving on Microsoft’s own mobile platform. Or what about the Apple-like clarity that has been brought into advertising: “the tablet that can replace your laptop”? Satya is slowly but surely transforming Microsoft.
Can do better?
It may be too soon to assign a grade to Nadella’s tenure as CEO but it definitely looks like the company has begun to turn itself around. Microsoft is not going to be the company it once was, a bloated giant. New Microsoft – Satya’s Microsoft – will unquestionably be much leaner, innovative and agile. Already you can see that he is working to turn Microsoft into a leader again in the enterprise and cloud space. Nothing summed up vision more for me than a statement he gave earlier this year “We want to move from people needing Windows to choosing Windows and loving Windows. That’s our goal.” With Satya at the helm I am again excited to see what comes out of Microsoft.