Microsoft COO Kevin Turner: The Man Who Would Not Be King

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Turner is known as an intensely appraising executive who possesses more comprehensive knowledge about Microsoft's business units than anyone except Ballmer. He gets a lot of the credit for Microsoft making the transition to a global corporation with a portfolio of massive, complex businesses.

Microsoft insiders say Turner's obsessive focus on metrics has led to big gains in both top- and bottom-line performance under his tenure. Microsoft's net income has soared 78 percent from $12.25 billion when Turner joined the company in 2005 to $21.86 billion now. During the same period, Microsoft's sales nearly doubled from $39.8 billion to $77.8 billion. At the same time Turner was driving the improved financial performance, Microsoft's headcount soared 63 percent to 99,130 employees, up from 61,000 employees when Turner joined.

Turner is all about numbers, and discipline, and metrics, and constant evaluation. At Walmart, this approach yielded results, and this helped him rapidly climb the corporate ladder. After starting out as a cashier, Turner became Walmart's youngest-ever corporate officer at age 29, and worked his way up to CIO a few years later. After that, he was CEO of Sam's Club, a $37 billion Walmart subsidiary.

During his time as CIO, Turner became acquainted with the idea of "using IT as a competitive weapon," and he has applied this to Microsoft's operations, one source who knew him at the time told CRN.

Microsoft had a spotty track record with internal infrastructure projects when Turner arrived. Despite having multiple ledger systems, the company had a tough time keeping track of assets. Before Microsoft got into the CRM market, it had a botched Siebel CRM project that ended up costing about $30 million to fix over several years, the source said.

After joining, Turner upgraded Microsoft's internal systems and standardized its procurement, and the benefits were immediately felt, the source said.

"Microsoft had never had a very run-the-business-oriented COO before Turner arrived. Microsoft was a fat, lazy bureaucracy because it grew too fast, and he helped clean that up," the source said. "They needed someone to come in with operational discipline and give them a business operating platform for a corporation their size, and Kevin did that."

However, former Microsoft employees, and some of Microsoft's top partners, told CRN that Turner's obsessive focus on metrics and cost cutting isn't helping the company keep pace with its rivals in the marketplace.

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