More engineers at the top: Just what the doctor ordered for Microsoft?

More engineers at the top: Just what the doctor ordered for Microsoft?

Summary: Bloomberg Businessweek has an interesting report citing those infamous "people in the know," claiming that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is readying a management shakeup which will "place more senior product executives who have a strong engineering background."

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Bloomberg Businessweek has an interesting report citing those infamous "people in the know," claiming that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is readying a management shakeup which will "place more senior product executives who have a strong engineering background."

The thinking: Microsoft needs more technology-minded top dogs to help the company compete (or at least to provide the outward impression that engineering prowess still matters in Redmond).

If this comes to pass, it won't be business as usual at Microsoft. As I've blogged numerous times, since Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates retired from his day-to-day duties at the company, many engineering-focused Microsoft managers (whom I and others call "Bill guys") have left the company, as the more management/sales-focused cadre of "Steve's guys" have risen to prominence.

Ballmer's appointments of Qi Lu and Kurt DelBene -- two more engineering-centric managers -- to "Presidents" hasn't gotten the recognition by company watchers that Ballmer wasn't simply favoring the suits. In fact, Bob Muglia, the Server and Tools President who announced in January he was leaving the company this year, led a number of Redmond tea-leaf readers wondering if yet another of the engineering-centric crowd was abandoning ship. I've heard from some Wall Streeters that Microsoft execs were hinting that Ballmer was seeking someone more management-focused to take Muglia's spot. But the latest BusinessWeek story leaves me wondering whether that's the case....

There are a number of in-house candidates that might be the kind of engineering-focused leader with a combination of cloud and server chops that Ballmer might opt to elevate if that's the direction he's leaning. I've mentioned Server and Cloud Senior Vice President Amitabh Srivastava as a possible presidential candidate. Others could include Microsoft Online Services Corporate Vice President Ron Markezich; Business Platform Senior Vice President Ted Kummert; Corporate VP of Management and Security Brad Anderson; or Senior Vice President of Technical Strategy (and Midori maven) Eric Rudder.

Until this latest report, I was thinking Ballmer might go outside the company and bring in someone more focused on upping the margins Microsoft makes on databases and systems management wares.

In any cases, given the Softies are finishing off their internal mid-year reviews, the annual Microsoft reorg announcements could happen any time now, like they did last year.

Topics: Networking, Hardware, Microsoft, Servers

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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23 comments
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  • RE: More engineers at the top: Just what the doctor ordered for Microsoft?

    Mary Jo it's called "saving one's own ass".

    Ballmer is just trying to hold on to his job.Weren't Muglia and Ozzie engineers?
    mac504
    • Perception vs. reality?

      Hi. Yes, as Bloomberg reported (and I noted in paragraph 2), this "bring in the engineers" idea is as much -- if not more -- about perception by public/Wall Street/board than it is about the reality.... MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • Perception is all they have left

        Keep selling the mirage, go Bill;-)
        Richard Flude
      • RE: More engineers at the top: Just what the doctor ordered for Microsoft?

        @Mary Jo Foley <br>M$ is toasted because they ignored FLOSS.<br>Replaceing the bean counters (or managers) with incompetent engineers won't make a difference.
        Linux Geek
  • RE: More engineers at the top: Just what the doctor ordered for Microsoft?

    Open source OS = Microsoft is saved.
    tatiGmail
    • They appear to be doing much better with their offereings

      @tatiGmail, then open source companies are, so your statement was illogical, and childish at best.
      :|
      Tim Cook
    • RE: More engineers at the top: Just what the doctor ordered for Microsoft?

      @tatiGmail LOL! You mean that open source OS that is not only a train wreck that's painful to use, but also only has 1% market share. Please!

      Microsoft doesn't need saving. They make far, far more revenue and profit than Google. They dominate every segment of the market they are in except mobile. So what is this saving crap? You know what needs saving? Linux.
      JoeHTH
  • The string of Google's failures

    already proves that creepy engineers cannot run a company. If Microsoft wants to go down that road than they might as well just merge with Google. That way they can die a slow death together.
    iPad-awan
    • RE: More engineers at the top: Just what the doctor ordered for Microsoft?

      @iPad-awan No, man, I worked in Redmond and the "managers with specialization in management" were ruining the company (Vista Era). They need to go, as well as 11 in 10 Program Managers.
      mnegrini@...
    • RE: More engineers at the top: Just what the doctor ordered for Microsoft?

      @iPad-awan,

      Funny...I thought Google was a successful company.
      bmonsterman
    • RE: More engineers at the top: Just what the doctor ordered for Microsoft?

      @iPad-awan - Interesting MS was on top of it's game when an Engineer named Gates was running the show. mmmm, Google and Apple are running circles around Microsoft and what's this....they have engineers at the lead also. Funny thing about the business of technology -a good business guy who doesn't know what the next trend is going to be will manage a company right into a grave, the Engineer can hire a bunch a suits to keep things in order - but a Business guy can't hire enough Engineers to give him vision cause he likely does not understand enough about the subject matter.
      DS-Solutions
      • Apple?

        @DS-Solutions

        Steve Jobs is no more an engineer than Steve Ballmer. Jobs's strengths are excellent taste in terms of industrial design, and a good ability to spot trends. He's had non-technical design input on Apple's products from the beginning (e.g. the physical styling), but I doubt he's ever written a single line of code, much less done any hardware engineering. Design talent, not engineering talent, is where (especially) Microsoft and Google lag behind Apple, and the CEOs have a lot to do with that.
        WilErz
      • RE: More engineers at the top: Just what the doctor ordered for Microsoft?

        @DS-Solutions LOL! So Google and Apple are running circles around Microsoft? Is that why Microsoft makes far more revenue and profit than Google ever dreamed of? Is that why Microsoft destroys Apple and Google in desktop, laptop, and netbook operating systems? Is it why Microsoft dominated Apple and Google in the enterprise market? Is it why they dominated Apple and Google in the server markets?

        You don't have a damn clue. You might as well go shove your head back up Job's butt. Then again, anyone with the name iPad-awan has to be an idiot to begin with.
        JoeHTH
  • Good luck, Microsoft.

    It's very difficult for engineers, who are technically oriented, to put themselves in the place of non-technical consumers, and anticipate their reactions to a product. I agree with iPad-awan that Google has had problems with some of their products because of that. Creating technically-sophisticated products that are easy to use is something that not many companies can do successfully.
    Userama
    • RE: More engineers at the top: Just what the doctor ordered for Microsoft?

      @Userama - who runs Apple? is Jobs a business guy or an Engineer with great vision?
      DS-Solutions
      • RE: More engineers at the top: Just what the doctor ordered for Microsoft?

        @DS-Solutions
        Business guy/salesman with great vision.
        Userama
  • A wise strategy, Mr B.

    I'm available. I have some conditions. You know where to find me.

    www.timacheson.com
    Tim Acheson
    • RE: More engineers at the top: Just what the doctor ordered for Microsoft?

      @Tim Acheson
      www.timacheson.com, probably we have different tastes of technology, but I don't like any MS-based web server. That site doesn't impress me.
      LinuxUser&XPGamerGraphic
  • Good move

    MS worked better in the 1980s and 90s when techies were in charge (I didn't like them then either, but...). It seems to me that one of the (many) reasons MS has stagnated over the last decade is the replacement of technically oriented executives with money men and generic MBAs. The biggest reasons for the stagnation, of course, are the antitrust cases and the consequent efforts to maintain dominance by non-technical means; but there are others.

    I do agree with Userama that it's difficult for engineers to place themselves in the place of non-technical customers, but I also think the superior engineer overcomes this by communicating with his users.
    John L. Ries
    • RE: More engineers at the top: Just what the doctor ordered for Microsoft?

      @John L. Ries ... I think it's important to have a balance of technical and non-technical leadership. You simply can't be successful without both styles. My opinion, however, is that they shifted from being one style to the other and haven't quite found a balance yet. I expect it to change this time around if they really are serious about the return of technical leadership.
      GoodThings2Life