So the winds of change, or should I saw the Windows, of change are coming to Microsoft. Today Steve Ballmer, bombastic and often demonized, CEO of the software giant will be leaving once his successor is found. Clearly the changing of the guard at the technology giant.
As Ballmer points out in his internal memo (see below), he points to some
impressive statistics of the company when he started and how he is leaving it. Of course he isn’t the only driving force behind this…a certain Bill Gates also has a few finger prints on this success.
Many who have been in the technology world have their opinions on the MSFT CEO. In a nutshell, to me he was an arrogant and pompous blow hard who thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Then again are those characteristics so foreign for someone running one of the largest and most dominate brands in business? From what I have heard, from anecdotes, he appears to have been an inspiration to some of his employees, wasn’t a tyrant (for the most part) and was able to guide Microsoft effectively enough to maintain its lofty status. So net net I would say he was a good CEO for Microsoft. Did he make mistakes and miss opportunities? Of course. But which leader bats 1.000? None.
So now what for Microsoft?
- Bring in a CEO from outside. Ballmer had been there for a long long long time. Get some fresh blood. It does not necessarily have to be a tech giant either…why? Because…
- This is a great time to “break” up the band. Microsoft, and it sounds like they are moving in that direction, is shifting focus. Well take the opportunity to bite the bullet. Does not mean sell off parts, but rather start managing MSFT much like a GE. Have separate and autonomous divisions that might have nothing to do with one another. For example: split off a corporate division, one that could restart talks with acquiring an SAP type company. MSFT already does a lot in areas such as supply chain and business intelligence. Make this a separate group. You could potentially have this division manage services – the consulting arm for MSFT. Spin off consumer division, stick the XBox in that group. That group would be ideal to look at acquiring assets such as Yahoo! as it almost did a while back. Create a mobile division – go after the likes of Android and IOS – allow them to really push the Surface see what is there. Maintain a Windows and office division. Just milk that cash cow and prepare to continue battling Google for control of the desk top.
- By doing this the new CEO would be looked at to manage these disparate groups and divisions. Much like Jack Welch at GE. The new CEO would be asked to check her ego at the door and allow these sub groups to run autonomously, at times acting as peace maker or ensuring the buck stops with them. Innovation and new directions would be expected to come from the sub teams, not from the top.
- Microsoft needs to do something to shake things up. They are woefully behind when it comes to devices (tablets, phones etc). They have no social play nor are they in the app game. Their assets such as Bing, Hotmail, Surface and XBox do not seem to be able to crack the nut of Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter or even capture buzz like did the Wii.
Not sure if this will happen. There were rumblings that Microsoft had debated spinning off Xbox in a consumer centric group. Time to go all in with that concept and allow the parts compete.
The parts are more nimble than the whole.
Memo from Ballmer:
I am writing to let you know that I will retire as CEO of Microsoft within the next 12 months, after a successor is chosen. There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our transformation to a devices and services company focused on empowering customers in the activities they value most. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction. You can read the press release on Microsoft News Center.
This is a time of important transformation for Microsoft. Our new Senior Leadership team is amazing. The strategy we have generated is first class. Our new organization, which is centered on functions and engineering areas, is right for the opportunities and challenges ahead.
Microsoft is an amazing place. I love this company. I love the way we helped invent and popularize computing and the PC. I love the bigness and boldness of our bets. I love our people and their talent and our willingness to accept and embrace their range of capabilities, including their quirks. I love the way we embrace and work with other companies to change the world and succeed together. I love the breadth and diversity of our customers, from consumer to enterprise, across industries, countries, and people of all backgrounds and age groups.
I am proud of what we have achieved. We have grown from $7.5 million to nearly $78 billion since I joined Microsoft, and we have grown from employing just over 30 people to almost 100,000. I feel good about playing a role in that success and having committed 100 percent emotionally all the way. We have more than 1 billion users and earn a great profit for our shareholders. We have delivered more profit and cash return to shareholders than virtually any other company in history.
I am excited by our mission of empowering the world and believe in our future success. I cherish my Microsoft ownership, and look forward to continuing as one of Microsoft’s largest owners.
This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love; it is the thing outside of my family and closest friends that matters to me most.
Microsoft has all its best days ahead. Know you are part of the best team in the industry and have the right technology assets. We cannot and will not miss a beat in these transitions. I am focused and driving hard and know I can count on all of you to do the same. Let’s do ourselves proud.