Working With Microsoft
This post was first published on my business blog, which I’m closing down now that I’ve retired, so I’m archiving some of the better posts to this blog
The ‘great’ Jeffrey Snover has written an extremely interesting blog post that provides a real insight into the new Microsoft. A Microsoft that’s not complacent, not comfortable with its many billion dollar businesses, not awash with people looking for ways to add value. He presents a view of a ruthless, lean Microsoft. The post is designed to help companies understand how to work with Microsoft and it gets straight to the point:
"A lot of people want to talk with Microsoft with the hopes of establishing a business relationship. Most of these engagements go nowhere because people don’t know how to have that conversation"
He goes on to talk about just how much pressure the leadership team seems to be under, how many balls they are juggling and surprisingly how fearful they are for their jobs:
"We all have ten jobs and our only true job is to figure out which nine we can fail at and not get fired"
For those of us outside Microsoft wondering why seemingly obvious opportunities never get addressed, why obvious gaps in their product lines don’t get filled, or obvious flaws in their products don’t get fixed he provides this insight:
"The great thing about the Microsoft situation is that it isn’t even remotely possible to succeed at all the things you are responsible for. If you had two or three jobs to do, maybe you could do it but ten? No way. This situation forces you to focus on what really matters and manage the failure of the others. If you pick the right things to focus on, you get to play again next year. Choose poorly and you get to pursue other opportunities"
The result is obvious:
"What that means for potential business partners is that everyone you talk to is juggling way too many things and can’t afford to waste time. Any time they spend with you and your opportunity risks them screwing up the one job they can’t screw up and get fired. Of course if we are always looking for great opportunities so we often take these meetings but what that means is: You have to do all the work."
"Explain (in qualitative and quantitative terms) what the opportunity is, what you would do and what Microsoft would do and how that would generate value from the marketplace (vs getting money from each other) and how that differs from what others could do"
I found this point particularly interesting “how that would generate value from the marketplace “ all too often, even in my own company, I see conversations with Microsoft focused on our mutual interest, and not on doing something that’s really going to make a difference for our customers, if this is really a key Microsoft consideration, I love it!
The new Microsoft is ambitious:
"Go big or go home. If you are too timid to come out and make the your case, then do everyone a favor and stay home."
He closes with the hard truth:
"If you don’t look like a $billion/year opportunity – you need to do all the work,"
I’ve personally been involved in a couple of Microsoft collaborations that fizzled and to be honest it’s because we expected too much of the energy to come from Microsoft and we didn’t expect to “have to do all the work”, it’s a great insight, I’ve never seen it spelled out so clearly and to be honest to bluntly! Well done Jeffrey, this is what I’ve come to expect from you.