With New CEO, Time To Reboot Collaboration At Microsoft?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Microsoft just appointed a new CEO: Satya Nadella, a 22-year employee of the Redmond, Washington software behemoth.
Nadella is the third CEO since Microsoft was founded in 1975, following after Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. He takes the reigns of a company with enormous resources, but also enormous challenges ahead of it. It is a company that has been in transition for much of the last decade – and arguably without much to show for it.
The cognoscenti have declared Nadella’s appointment as a ‘new era’ at Microsoft following the stormy reign of Windows focused Ballmer. The new CEO’s pedigree as the chief of Microsoft’s Bing search engine division and, more recently, its CloudOS project would seem to orient Microsoft for a computing era that will be defined by mobility, as well as by cloud-based computing resources and powerful data analytics.
And, as Microsoft-watchers have noted, Nadella is presented with a number of tactical challenges in his new role: how to re-invigorate security research, what to do about Microsoft’s consumer business units like xBox, not to mention finalizing the purchase of former mobile giant Nokia.
But the Redmond, WA, company will almost certainly need to re-evaluate and revisit their Business Solutions arm that includes Microsoft Dynamics, and Applications and Services such as the collaboration software Sharepoint, and email products Exchange and Office.
The fact is that Microsoft inhabits a very different business environment than the company did 9 years ago, when then-Chairman Bill Gates penned his famous “Wave” memo. Apparently Mr. Gates sent a foreboding message to the senior executives of his company, alerting them to a “disruptive wave about to wash over the entire world, forever changing the way we get information and do business.”
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That e-mail was sent when every business computer ran Windows and Office and all documents were stored on mapped drives – many times with a 50MB limit per user. Fast-forward to today’s office where MacBooks, Smartphones, Dropbox, Google Drive, JIRA, and Skype (I get the irony) proliferate. Business users are expect Gigabytes of storage, and fill their devices and drives like never before with emails, documents, notes, slides, charts and images.
While document storage is getting cheaper, the cost of information retrieval is exponentially growing. Today, Microsoft products like Sharepoint, Office and Windows Search have not kept up to date with the changing business environment demographics and use cases. Once the bread and butter of a business users toolkit, these products are being put aside in favor of Bring Your Own Applications (BYOA) like Evernote and Box.
How does Microsoft get its Business Solutions groove back? As with other areas of its business, Redmond, under the leadership of its new CEO, needs to shift from a device focused view that emphasizes ‘lock in’ to their set of products. Microsoft need to improve their Business Solutions line so customers can drive more economic value out of existing investments. It needs to invest in tools, technologies and talent that bolster both its collaboration and document management capabilities against the oncoming Bring Your Own Application movement.