Microsoft as Enabler

David Tan
There seems to be some interest in the online world stemming from an article that appeared on regarding the seven things Microsoft must do in 2010.

As someone who lives and breathes Microsoft just about every day, I found this article extremely interesting, albeit a little uninspiring. Sure, some of the points it makes are extremely valid. Microsoft does have some uncertainty in the executive offices that needs to be cleared up, and it is way too concerned with floundering consumer electronics devices like the Zune. However, telling Microsoft to slash prices and extend its service offerings is not the solution.

At the risk of making this sound like an intervention, Microsoft is an enabler. Traditionally, Microsoft products never stand alone as the solution to a problem. You don't get a form for solving complex mathematical algorithms when you install Excel; you get the ability to create one. You don't solve your inventory and order management process with a SQL Server install; you get a foundation for that solution.

Ever look at a base SharePoint installation? There is literally nothing there until somebody comes along and builds a polished product. Now Microsoft has gotten away from this a little in recent years with its CRM and Dynamics (ERP) line of products, but even these on their own are far from complete products. I don't think I know of a single Dynamics installation that wasn't customized by a Microsoft partner.

That's the magic word right there-partner. Microsoft has spent years building the best partner program and channel in the entire industry, and in one paragraph, InformationWeek wants to burn it to the ground. The minute Microsoft starts to focus on extending its service offerings, the foundation of that channel starts to crumble. Partners at all levels are what have traditionally made Microsoft and its customers so successful.

Everything from the hardware manufacturers/OEMs to Global Enterprise systems integrators to small solution providers and independent software vendors are key members of the Microsoft ecosystem that need to be maintained in the proper balance. Taking out the partner channel will spell sure failure for Microsoft at many levels.

Microsoft needs to do two things to get back to basics-simplify and innovate. 

First and foremost, Microsoft needs to make it easier to do business with it. Its licensing (which has actually improved in recent years) is still a maze of programs, part numbers and contracts that almost nobody can negotiate. As a Microsoft partner, I know if you call and speak to three different people, you will absolutely get three different answers. This needs to be fixed immediately. At the same time, Microsoft needs to deal with customers for what they are. A small business may have similar needs to a large enterprise, but they have different resources and capabilities. Don't limit what a business can do based on its size, and don't force people into working the way you want them to.

Second, Microsoft needs to continue to innovate and enable. In a previous post, I talked about the Microsoft Azure platform-Microsoft's new online operating system. This is exactly where its future lies. Like I have said previously, Microsoft owns the desktop and server operating system; now it's time for it to own the cloud operating system as well. A platform like Azure will enable partners of all shapes and sizes to build solutions that meet its customers' very specific needs. Microsoft can't do this by itself. Does it understand the business needs of a 25-person law firm in New York City, or a 200-user medical clinic in Denver?  No way. And it understands businesses and agencies outside the U.S. even less. I'll guarantee there is someone out there that does. Continue to innovate the platform and let the partner craft the perfect solution. This way, you'll have happy customers running on Microsoft solutions and paying Microsoft licensing fees for years to come.

Sure, Microsoft needs to continue to grow its online business and needs to generate ad revenues and probably still needs a substantial presence in consumer electronics. I'm not advocating abandoning that, by any means. But it spent the last 10 years focusing in those arenas, and the company is not nearly as solid as it was at the turn of the century. Take the start of the new decade to get back to basics-it never hurts to focus on what made you great in the first place.

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Jan 7, 2010 12:01 PM Chris Gledhill Chris Gledhill  says:
I fundamentally agree that Microsoft's most important and successful role is as an enabler. Speaking as a Microsoft partner with nearly 20 years experience. We tend to regard different aspects of their portfolio very differently. In a nutshell: Development tools, operating systems and database, Excellent! Enterprise software products OK and improving. The rest Irrelevant! The Crux of your argument seems to be that for the majority of individual organisations looking for business solutions Microsoft products are an excellent starting point not a gift wrapped solution. From our perspective this insight applies to any product based software offering, (especially if it is in any way generic). Expecting software to solve specific business problems out of the box is the primary reason so many organisations become disilusioned with IT - a pile of bricks and slates is not a house! Reply
Jun 5, 2011 9:06 PM JanelleBYRD JanelleBYRD  says:
It is good that we can get the mortgage loans moreover, it opens up new opportunities. Reply

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