Written by: Larry Goodfellow
Microsoft’s New Direction
In a recent Fortune article by Andrew Nusca, entitled The Man Who Is Transforming Microsoft, the author looks at the progress of the new Chief Executive, Satya Nadella. The 49 year old’s leadership method is altogether different from his predecessor and much of the previous Microsoft leadership. Nusca has made some big changes since taking office, which include purchasing a popular game among children called Minecraft, the $26 billion purchase of LinkedIn, a focus on monthly payment plans for software, and cloud based computing. Nusca emphasizes his ability to listen and interact with his customers, and future customers, as being an integral part of his success.
For the article, Nusca followed Nadella on his whirlwind tour of Europe. During his first stop in Dublin, he met with school children to talk about the Microsoft game, Minecraft and the intricacies of coding. These meetings allow him the opportunity to see how his customers, in this case children, are interacting with the Microsoft products. Within the room he sees a blind, teenage student who has been using Cortana, Microsoft’s speech-activated digital assistant to build accessibility to help her in her daily life. “What she was showing me is essentially how she’s building out as a developer the tools that she can use in her everyday life to be productive.” Nadella himself has two daughters and a son who has special needs. It is his ability to relate to young and old across various upbringings that has helped him gain success.This touring and meeting customers is what makes any company strong. We believe that MROC’s afford this opportunity without having to travel the globe to meet with people individually. Instead you can gather them in the community and hear their ideas and concerns and use the reporting tools for online communities to track the key ideas.
Nusca’s Previous Experience
Prior to taking his position Microsoft had experienced a stagnation. Nusca quotes a poignant assessment written about the state of the company. “Microsoft is unable to connect with the new generation of users,” wrote Global Equities analyst, Trip Chowdhry in a 2010 research note to his clients. This is about as damning a sentence as you can muster for a technology company, writes Nusca. Despite the company’s overwhelming previous success and whopping cash reserves, the company could not seem to get it right. These included the Bing search engine, Zune, Kin and mobile devices Lumia, which were anything less than dazzling.
Some of the keys to Nadella’s huge strides include focusing on cloud based computing, getting rid of the phone business it had acquired from Nokia, and selling the Bing mapping data to Uber. The one time software licenses have changed from a one-time purchase to a subscription based revenue which ensures continual revenue rather than a lump sum. It also has set up data centers around the world to support its cloud based products. This effort to connect with the younger generation and listen and use the information gathered is what has made the turn around possible. We know through experience that qualitative research in online communities provides the ability to ask the questions that need answering and provide detailed data that can be easily understood.
The other difference that accounts for the change at Microsoft is the leadership style. In the past, the top leadership were very Type A personalities, comments Nusca. In contrast, Nadella is rather soft spoken and quick to listen. Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy, and formerly of Microsoft states, there are two types of conversations you’d have at Microsoft when you’d explain things,“one type of person waited for a break in the argument to argue back. The other listened to learn. That was Satya.” Well before he was named CEO, Nadella “could suspend his disbelief and opinion to listen to you thoughtfully. The slight difference between listening to argue and listening to learn is not subtle. It’s huge. Satya is soft-spoken but energetic, which is a weird combination.”
True Leaders Listen
What we see time and again is that this current generation of customers are not looking for a strong leader who tells them where to go and why. Nadella’s success seems to be due in large part to the fact that he is listening to every level of customer beginning with children. By being able to listen and see how customers are interacting with the products and through that insight combined with his past experience, he is able to give direction.
We believe that listening and being a customer-centric organization is key to creating the right products and helping your business grow. Not every company can spend the time or money to send their CEO around the world continuously meeting with customers or potential customers and gaining insight. We believe that through research community software you can gain deep insight for a fraction of the cost.
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