All Change @ Microsoft

Posted on June 5, 2013

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Opportunity knocks, a refresh at Microsoft, or so Steve Bulmer hopes –‘Microsoft Plans Dramatic Re-Organization’ Take 2? As I think I have read this one before over a year ago ‘Executive changes at Microsoft likely’.

Well we can but hope this time things will happen as the time is very ripe for Microsoft to go from market laggard to a leader and shake up the complacency of the current mob regarded as the darlings of the current IT wave of innovation.

Microsoft has already demonstrated its innovation and Steve Bulmer in combative style stared down the nay-sayers over the Skype acquisition, which now looks like the deal of the century and we are only at 2013!

In a unique Home Run Microsoft is now on the brink of becoming THE internet telco of choice, and Cisco’s late moan to the European Commission about it shows the weakness and lack of vision from a once leader in that sector.

The Skype acquisition and its recent interconnect with Lync demonstrates that Microsoft recognise the need for a more joined up product stack. ‘Microsoft Connects Skype and Lync

This places Microsoft’s Software as a Service (Saas) right in the sights of every business and Premium Home user. If proof is required then just look at the speed of take-up – ‘Office 365 reached 1 million subs faster than Facebook

With the march to the cloud never before has the need for a unified strategy been so critical. Increasingly with the ‘Ever-Green’ IT model of cloud Software as a Service (Saas) and its brethren’s – Platform and Infrastructure as a service (Paas & Iaas) – systems need to work seamlessly. The concept of ‘Ever-Green’ aiming to deliver rolling upgrades and up to date versions of software so subscribers have availability of the latest in:

No more lagging the technology curve and exposure due to creating technology obsolescence and the raised spectra of security weaknesses of yesterday’s software. All with the luxury of conventional offline desktop functionality and the cloud in one familiar family of products.

The Achilles heal here is SUPPORT. Never before has this been so visible as it begins to sit in the middle ground between the businesses that subscribe to cloud Saas services and their fulfilment partners. Where an internal organisations IT would absorb that ‘hidden cost’ of support as they field the day to day demands of their users, increasingly this is now transitioning to Technology Partners where its cost is becoming unavoidable visible. So where a business see’s the value in moving IT to the cloud, it is also surfacing hidden costs that have largely not been accounted for. Thus ‘The Cloud giveth and the Cloud lays bare all and the Cloud taketh’!

The future of Cloud will be in the continued trust relationship that can be fostered on the new battlefield of Service SUPPORT, and this is where Microsoft has to see its massive advantage over any of the competition with its HUGE Partner ecosystem. A new age of working with its Partners is going to be key to delivering the service support, and key to this will be the way Microsoft can connect itself more directly with its customers through these trusted Partnerships. This will require some unique leadership from Microsoft.

It is not all plain sailing though. Many of us who have been in the Microsoft user base for years and especially the Partner community are only too well aware of the challenges the broad product set sitting on a long lineage of code iteration has posed for Microsoft, this fragmentation that sits largely behind the scenes raises its ugly head from time to time and poses real challenges when in full view of customers. Historically this fragmentation is an outcome of the silo effect that the Microsoft product groups have operated in over the years, resulting in duplication (multiplication) of authentication, storage and many other similar resource/functional dependencies that would logically have been shared if not consolidated, but at Microsoft each product group does its own ‘innovative’ thing.

I recall a memorable comment from the great Ross Brown (Former Microsoft Vice President) that went along the lines of ‘orientating Microsoft is not like the familiar super-tanker analogy, it is like thousand(s) of kayaks all paddling away furiously on their own in a general heading’.

That accounts for why if Microsoft built cars they would fall off the production line, not roll. Perhaps the recruitment of someone who has successfully produced a car is a good starting point for recruitment. Challenging as Cloud is driving greater integration, and logically an economies of scale as functionality is optimised around common underlying code asset. Some suggestions for Microsoft would be:

  1. Take CRM functionality and embed into SharePoint – Remove the conflicting choices for organisations who developed applications on both Microsoft CRM and SharePoint. After all that is what happened to Pro-Clarity and the Business Intelligence functionality, CRM is no more ‘precious’.
  2. Microsoft Exchange:
    1. Use the Microsoft SQL database instead of its own proprietary data store.
    2. Use SharePoint Document Libraries instead of Public Folders and Mailbox’s as an extension service, after all SharePoint already has mail enabled document storage assets.
    3. Adopt Fast Search.
    4. Add what is left of Exchange Mail routing and Transport layers into SharePoint as an additional service extension. After all SharePoint already has mail enablement!
  3. Integrate SharePoint Offline features currently in SkyDrive Pro into Outlook, it’s already there in part, and would remove the ridiculous naming confusion between SkyDrive Pro and the consumer SkyDrive (the 2 have no common heritage).
  4. Outlook should be a first class citizen Yammer client.

Whatever happens at Microsoft it has to start getting a little more joined up under the bonnet, and their unequalled commitment to the cloud is already driving this, albeit with some thunderstorms on the way end users.

The biggest challenge is in the legacy code that exists in many of its products. Veritable spaghetti no-go-zones for developers, as they iterate functionality many no longer know what has gone before and whether critical dependencies lie. This bulks out applications such as Office with millions of lines of code that is being retained ‘just in case’ because removing it could break some little know dependency that no one in the product group has any idea of.

Returning back to the Microsoft partner channel, the envy of the industry, requiring some much needed attention in terms of presentation to the market. With the latest iteration of its Partner Program ‘Microsoft partner Network’ (MPN) Microsoft it seems has focused on what it needs from its Partners in terms of visibility and reporting. The market has largely been left to work it out itself with a fragmented and variable result as Partners are left to fend off questions.

Lots to do and Steve Bulmer is the man to get it done, I hope the shareholders and nay-sayers allow him get on with it.

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