17 July 2014

Microsoft is jumping ship to leave the bloat behind.

Not long ago I typed on these pages about a Microsoft Titanic that could never make the turn to catch rapidly changing technology. Their new CEO, Satya Nadella, appears to served up a four course meal of my own words, because he is intent on switching the vessel into a lean, mean tech creating team.

A rapid pivot causes a maritime lean and some 18,000 employees will be swept overboard. I suspect they have some nice life rafts available in Redmond, though the space may be limited for teams in less friendly waters. Most of the lost workforce will result from the Nokia merger but the most promising aspect is the middle management disintegration.

The structure of an old organization is where most of the weight sits. The Redmond offices were the living embodiment of Office Space dysfunction with supervisor sandwiches served with retardo review relish throughout the firm. When an org chart calculates middle management levels in scientific notation, you know that any idea will sink long before it swims. It is only the believed brilliance birthed from the board of directors womb that have any chance to tread water, and even then it can take an eternity before it floats through the flood of team meeting decks to create a completed product.

Apple and IBM were once drowning in a similar ocean. IBM saved itself by dumping their core business and donning their dunce cap proudly. You can still hear them sobbing into the history books today. Apple avoided this fate when Steve Jobs' life boat brushed up against their sinking ship. He eliminated everything that was not directly linked to his core goals and since the only ideas in place were being concocted in his head he could micro-manage the process throughout the organization.

Satya can see some similarities. Microsoft was the leader of the geek world but now that Android and Apple have consumed their lunch. They no longer coin the course for crafts on the silicon creativity sea.

Microsoft refuses to cower in the "we were once important" corner with IBM and the first step in healing is to admit you have a problem. Microsoft has done so, stating plainly that they now control only small percentage of the consumer market. They are the underdog and, as such, Satya has focused the light on their opportunity to grow. They need to fill the cracks in the desktop market by making operating systems that individuals and corporations with a keyboard and mouse want to use. They will address the infiltration of Chrome OS by creating Windows devices that compete at the same price point. Finally, they need to create phone, tablets, wearables and new products that no one has heard before to grab a share of the expanding consumer portable market.

Yes, even Microsoft's captain now admits that they hit an iceberg. While Balmer was doing the monkey macarena the competition was gushing in. Mr. Nadella has arrived with a new ship. It is more agile with far fewer decks separating the crew but it only has room for the people he needs. Many will be left behind on the Titanic to sink. Smart move. The only question is whether the new flotilla is nimble enough. They will take their best shot at becoming a leader again. Regardless of whether they succeed or not, I tip my hat to Sadya and his crew. It is thrilling to see them riding in a new ship that gives them a legitimate shot at becoming the world leader again.