“Why does Microsoft exist?” Asked the company’s founder Satya Nadella at the Dreamforce 2015 conference.
Nadella has asked this question before and his answer at the San Francisco event was that Microsoft exists to empower people through technology, something that Bill Gates and Paul Allen envisaged in the mid 1970s when they founded new startup.
To show how he sees Microsoft’s position in the modern workplace, Nadella gave a not completely flawless demonstration of Microsoft’s integration with Salesforce.
The products Nadella pushed were Windows Phone and Windows 10, which he claims to be part of a major change in businesses with data transforming the way we work.
Interestingly, he framed the Windows 10 IoT strategy around endpoint security. While there are millions of vulnerable devices, it’s not clear shipping them with Microsoft’s firmware will resolve the problem.
“What’s the big technology shift? It’s how we use the data.” Nadella proclaimed in laying out how he sees a data culture transforming the places we work.
A Grand Pivot
Microsoft itself is dealing with a cultural transformation with the company shifting across to cloud based subscription services. “The thing that it’s done for us is it’s not a one-for-one move. It’s not like we’re just moving Exchange on premise to Exchange as a Service, it changes the value proposition for the customers.”
Nadella sees those cloud services as an opportunity to sell more products – and add more value – to customers, particularly small businesses.
The CEO’s role
A business’ success relies upon its culture and Nadella sees the role of the CEO as being about curating that culture, “I always ask what it is that defines us.”
Part of that culture is about becoming customer focused which involves thinking outside of one company’s products or silos, “how is our industry going to succeed? It’s going to succeed if we can add value our customers. Our customers are going to make choices that aren’t homogenous.”
Those varied choices are what’s driving Microsoft’s current push into alliances. “If we are going to realise the power of technology, then these partnerships will amplify that,” says Nadella.
While there were nuggets of truth in Nadella’s presentation, there was also a lot of truisms and somewhat meaningless slogans. While Microsoft’s push onto the cloud and into alliances that were once considered unholy might be genuine, it’s hard not to think there’s still a lot of marketing speak wrapped around it.