On July 10, 2014, Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, wrote an email addressed to all employees on the Microsoft workforce, which may go down in history as the pivotal moment of modern Microsoft. I can tell you just from reading it, the message was so inspiring that I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. You can read the whole email on the Microsoft site, where it's on public display—which I find interesting; how many times have we read about controversial or interesting emails that were leaked by employees? Senior Vice President Brian Valentine’s infamous all-company email that included the phrase: “I will hunt you down and fire you personally…” comes to mind. Let me warn you, however, Satya's letter is long.
Between the inspirational email and Satya’s keynote address at the 2014 Microsoft World Wide Partner Conference 6 days later on July 16th, I'd like to point out a few interesting statements from Satya and speculate about the positive implications.
“Tired traditions will be questioned.”
Most readers would assume this means that the era during which Office and Windows were the only things that mattered at Microsoft is going to end. But this could also mean significant cultural changes in the way that Microsoft's thousands of partners are embraced, armed, and engaged. Questioning traditional practices could mean a lot of things; it could even mean that Microsoft will try to woo back the large amount of talented but frustrated employees who have left the company over the last 5 years.
“Organizations will change. Mergers and acquisitions will occur. Job responsibilities will evolve.”
This statement interests me a lot; I have said many times that Microsoft and Apple should do something together to compete against the monopoly of search and advertising that Google so efficiently dominates. This statement could also mean that Microsoft will acquire Xamarin or will build a multi-platform developer toolset within Visual Studio. Either way, we developers need one of the two options at some point.
“Over the course of July, the Senior Leadership Team and I will share more on the engineering and organization changes we believe are needed.”
Now, this is not a new sentiment. Since the early '90s, Microsoft has not been afraid of reorganizing its business. For 30+ years, Microsoft has prided itself that the normal employee does not stay in the same job for over 3 years. To me, this statement says that reorganization and layoffs are on the way. Microsoft needs to reorganize many of its businesses, and it also needs to woo back the many fantastic employees that have left the company.
All this information is exciting and encouraging stuff. But, if you've read me before, you know I’m a good news and bad news kind of guy.
Concerns About What Satya Didn't Say
What concerns me is the lack of acknowledgement for the application developer. Microsoft was built on the backs of developers and it has always protected and cherished the developer. Steve Ballmer, the previous Microsoft CEO, constantly championed the developer inside and outside the Microsoft organization. Even Bill Gates championed the developer in his own way. In the last few years, however, it seems like the developer has taken a back seat to the companies who sell Microsoft Licenses. I could see the transition in the ways that the Microsoft Partner programs changed and rewarded its partners, but I just can't understand the reasons behind the change. As a result, Microsoft has lost developer adoption. Young developers entering the job market don’t even consider the Microsoft platform and the software giant has lost significant amounts of developers to other platforms. In my opinion, which happens to not be a unique one, losing the developer was the start of problems at Microsoft. Satya has inherited these problems, but they are the problems I trust him to fix. It is time for Satya to win the developer back.
Microsoft has made it very clear that its future lies in Azure. Azure is now so robust and has so many moving parts that you can call it a stack or even a platform. But Azure isn't a vertical product and it never will be; it needs developers for implementation, adoption, and overall success. There just ain't no Azure without developers.
In order to buy into Satya’s promise of a cultural change at Microsoft, I need to see the developer taken care of, nurtured, and loved—that's the investment that will produce results.