Mr. Ballmer, It's Time To Make The Walls In Redmond Come Tumbling Down


In the hot seat this week: org charts


Mr. Ballmer, tear down those walls.

Instead of publicly bellyaching about a general lack of motivation among Microsoft employees because the company is maturing, the time has come to re-examine the system that those employees"and by extension, your partners"are laboring under. The truth is that people are merely reacting to the existing system put in place by management during a completely different era of computing.

MICHAEL VIZARD
Can be reached at (516) 562-7477 or via e-mail at mvizard@cmp.com.

At the root of this malaise is Microsoft's organizational structure, which reflects an antiquated product focus, rather than a business solution focus. Microsoft spends most of its energy perpetuating product organizations. Not only does this result in internal discord as different product teams vie for resources, it prevents Microsoft from becoming a more efficient entity that is in tune with its customers. As a result, Microsoft is slowly watching IBM become the industry thought leader as rival IBM relentlessly drives usage-based marketing messages aimed at solving business problems.

Meanwhile, Microsoft pushes product feature marketing around releases such as Microsoft Office, rather than educating customers and partners about the opportunity to use Office in concert with other products for solving business problems related to business intelligence, intranet management, mobility and a host of other processes.

To do that, the different product groups in Microsoft would have to cooperate to build, develop and market solutions made up of products. Today, those teams are isolated from each other in different product groups with different agendas and, worse yet, different product rollout schedules.

To Microsoft's credit, Small Business Server is a giant leap in the right direction. But considering what needs to be done, it is only a token gesture. Alas, most of Microsoft's energy for the coming year will be taken up doing penance for past sins related to its lax approach to security.

 
'To regain its greatness, Microsoft needs to get in tune with the market, as opposed to expecting the market to get in tune with it just because it says so. And the best way to start doing that is by taking some sledgehammers to the walls in Redmond.'

But even with a hot area like security, Microsoft misses the point. Fixing the holes in Windows is only the first step. The real opportunity is for solution providers working with Microsoft to create Windows-centric solutions that solve security issues as they apply to small, midsize and enterprise businesses.

Talking about how Microsoft will eventually apply more sophisticated approaches to patch management shows just how nave Microsoft really is when it comes to the security problem. More often than not, the cure being prescribed by Microsoft in the form of a patch to fix a security flaw is worse than the disease it allegedly cures, because the patch breaks the images of applications sitting on top of the operating system. This happens because in today's parlance, a patch is the equivalent of a point release from the past, while a service pack is the equivalent of a major new OS release. Of course, the patch is an untested beta release of a point system upgrade, while the service pack is an amalgamation of patches.

All of this just highlights the fact that Microsoft's development team is woefully out of touch with how the company's products get applied in the real world. But it's not their fault. Very few of them actually venture off Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Wash., to talk to actual customers.

Over the past several years, Microsoft has gone from being a great company to being merely good. To regain its greatness, Microsoft needs to get in tune with the market, as opposed to expecting the market to get in tune with it just because it says so. And the best way to start doing that is by taking some sledgehammers to the walls in Redmond.

Michael Vizard is sitting in this week for the vacationing Robert Faletra. He can be reached at (516) 562-7477 or via e-mail at mvizard@cmp.com.