turning a big ship

I was recently reading Wired’s article about Satya Nadella’s efforts to remake Microsoft and was struck by a few different things*. What principally interested me about the article was the rapid transformation that Microsoft is trying to undertake and to see how an enormous, bloated and well-entrenched company attempts to recreate itself. Microsoft owned my old agency, Razorfish, for a couple of years and from firsthand experience I can tell you that it was an incredibly complex, overwrought and unwieldy organization to navigate. Microsoft was admittedly not terribly interested in what Razorfish brought to the party (having purchased our holding company for its technology versus professional services capabilities) so it’s possible that that perspective tempered their approach to us. But I can recall more than one senior leader in our organization bemoaning just how ineffectual and lost Microsoft was in terms of executing a cogent business strategy. From that perspective seeing what Satya is pushing is really interesting and worth keeping an eye on, particularly to see how some big bets like Project HoloLens (their big step into augmented reality) pan out.

The Wired article opines that Microsoft is in this critical spot right now because it failed to see how the world was changing (the cloud, less interest in closed ecosystems) and did not understand its standing or lack thereof within the new world order. In short it simply believed that its size and scope of products would save it from having to meaningfully react to changing consumer behavior and new competition. But it didn’t. We won’t know for quite a while whether the new direction will be successful but I applaud the audacity of working to shift a huge organization and make it into something different.

As we undertake the evolution of essentia paramount in our thinking is how to ensure our changes are focused on responding to the new world order in which our clients live, where distraction is a growing and invasive part of life, and our need to ensure we can help our clients build meaningful connections despite all of that. Most of you reading this post will not be responsible for an organization the scale of Microsoft or even work within such a large, global enterprise. And yet I suspect that in some way you are faced with the challenge of changing consumer expectations, and an evolving list of competitors. What is your reaction to this experience? Is it to hunker down and believe you can “ride it out” by doing what you’ve always been doing? Or is it to embrace the change, take some risk and demonstrably react to this situation by creating something that actually meets your customers where they are?

While I’ll be interested in seeing where Satya takes Microsoft, I’ll be much more interested to experience where we are going to take essentia and all of the clients’ who will entrust us with their brands. 2015 is going to be interesting.

*One other thing that struck me in the article is that the company’s first chief experience officer is a woman – Julie Larson-Green – and her role is to determine how Microsoft’s products can better support one another and perhaps work with other companies’ apps and services. That’s pretty awesome both for the approach that the company is taking with putting connected experiences at the center of what it does and because a woman is the person who gets to lead it. Kudos, Julie.