If you are Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft and reading this headline you can:
… dismiss competitors, you can challenge analysts who predict tough times ahead.
… invest in new products at the same pace you always did [typically a 3 year product cycle].
… follow what has worked in the past confident that it will work in the end [and dismiss those who question this].
This is the strategy for Windows and Office, and it worked pretty well, but is showing signs of fading (words saturated and market should be ringing here).
This has been the strategy with Bing and Windows Mobile. Which isn’t working so well.
But as time progresses, the evidence starts to mount against you that your approach is not working.
The competitor sells more than you had hoped, their market share grows, but you maintain your long term view.
Then BLAM! a statistic arrives that hits like a bucket of ice-cold water being thrown over you.
That statistic is here.
“Apple’s iPhone Business Alone Is Now Bigger Than All Of Microsoft”
Steve, time to wake up and do something about this.
Time to rethink.
You can keep arguing … all the way to irrelevance, or you can start to tackle this seriously by aggressively accelerating timescales and focusing resources on the battles that you NEED to win, rather than a load that you want to win. Now is the time to prioritise and shift resources. Stop doing what you don’t need to. Win what you must.
The IT industry graveyard is littered with companies that argued against analysts and customers, saying it is a marketing problem – “that they just don’t get it“. Microsoft just fired a load of it marketing people. RIM is the latest company that has recently adopted this strategy.
But there is one problem … it doesn’t work.
Consumers and in particular phone buyers ARE generally well informed. They have friends, they can see kit. They play with the kit in stores.
Go to mobile phone stores, the Microsoft phones are there. They look pretty good, but next to them is an iPhone … and guess what people are buying. My son played with the Microsoft phone, he thought it was OK. Pretty good. Better than an iPhone? No. He is aged 7.
I’m not going to write a quick fix here; with three short steps, ten bullet points or an action plan of what should happen, because there is only one thing that you should start to do … start listening. Firstly to the people inside Microsoft, and secondly to your customers.
Not the senior career VPs and SVPs. Not the group presidents. All of these sold out their backbone years ago, or left. Listen to the new starters passionate about Microsoft. Listen to those who are trying to be heard. Listen to those who email you, write TechReady papers, and build demos. Listen to those in the labs, those who code their own apps, those who want to beat Apple with great products and innovation. There are a whole load of them, but recently their voice has been muted as they were worried about speaking out.
Give the permission to speak out. Get out of the office and go see people.
Then provide the resources for them to do it.
Not everything will work, but prototype fast, and kill even quicker.
Reward trying and pushing for big goals [tip: you don’t today, you fire them]
Listen to customers. Listen to small businesses, partners, analysts.
If the answer isn’t very quickly becoming clear, and very very obvious what steps are needed then you are the wrong guy to fix this, so appoint someone who can, and focus your efforts and helping them.