Every columnist and editor has a checklist of story types, templates that get dropped into current events to fill pages.
Microsoft’s announcement last week that it was naming Satya Nadella as only the third CEO in the company’s history brought out one of the most consistent of those evergreen story types, the “XX Things The New Company/CEO Must Do Right Now” piece.
Of course, I had my own entry in the category last week:
Right up front, I want to make it clear that I'm not so much smarter than Nadella that I can tell him how to do his job:
I’m not going to pretend that I have enough insight or experience to tell Satya Nadella how to run Microsoft. (And I’m always amused by my colleagues when the “18 Things Satya Nadella Must Do Now to Save Microsoft” phase begins.)
But I do think I have a pretty good handle on the challenges he’s facing right now. And my guess is that these items are all high on Nadella’s to-do list.
In fact, I'm not sure that many of those challenges have a single right answer. Any CEO can make the right strategic decision and then botch its execution, or make a questionable decision and accidentally succeed when the competition stumbles.
But that uncertainty hasn't stopped some analysts and editors from wading into the fray.
I’ve been collecting examples over the past week. If you’ve missed the flurry of advice that tech pundits have been offering to the new CEO, here’s your chance to catch up.
In the Financial Times, West Coast Managing Editor Richard Waters plays a game of Pundit Ping-Pong, laying out a fairly black-and-white vision of Nadella’s options:
For all the plaudits given this week to his deep technical nous, there is no easy solution to the dilemma the new Microsoft boss faces. With minor adjustments, the company can continue for years on its current course. That is exactly what part of Wall Street, with a penchant for cash flows it can map out in the medium term, is calling for as it urges him to narrow the company’s focus to business and government customers.
But – like IBM, which is facing a growth crisis after years of squeezing cash out of existing businesses – to follow that course would risk eventually hitting a wall.
That’s followed by a similarly dualistic analysis of cloud and mobile options, leading up to this:
Retreat is not an option. Consumer markets have become the touchstones for innovation in the technology world, the places where the new ideas and behaviours are being formed. To abandon them would be to leave the company’s most profitable flank exposed to rivals using their ties with personal users to break into the enterprise market.
So, keep doing everything. Good luck with that.
AFP (in Japan Times) offers a big bold opener:
Satya Nadella must renew the world’s faith in Microsoft and then deliver on his promises if the aging technology giant is to flourish anew.
From there, the advice homogenizes into a series of platitudes and quotes from analysts, starting with Rob Enderle of The Enderle Group that Nadella “has got to repair Microsoft’s image. People have to see the company as an up-and-comer and not as a legacy firm that is past its prime.”
I’m thinking basic Jedi Master powers might come in handy to pull that one off.
Margaret Heffernan of CBS MoneyWatch argues that Microsoft needs to “rebuild credibility.” To do that, “it needs to be more considered and concerted in everything it does.”
As an aside, being considered and concerted seems like a checklist item on the job description for the CEO of a Fortune 50 corporation. But I digress.
The “Here’s what the company needs” list is scattershot, to put it kindly, with a bulleted list of broad, touchy-feely suggestions like building “a coherent culture” and delivering “software and hardware that interoperates seamlessly.”
Finally, this conclusion comes down firmly on the side of “I have no idea”:
The big question, of course, remains whether Microsoft will slim down, exit some businesses or break itself into smaller units. There are no obvious answers here; everything depends on the logic behind decisions.
In most companies, reorganizations and re-engineering typically cost a full year in lost innovation and productivity. Nadella will want to avoid that – unless he believes the status quo is more costly still.
There’s not much to take away there, really.
At the Motley Fool, stock-market enthusiasts are treated to this broadside from MSFT shareholder Daniel Kline. He compares Windows 8 adoption rates to the identical period for Windows 7, using NetMarketShare statistics, complete with a chart, and then goes through a lengthy on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand-on-the-other-other-hand recitation of how the PC market is slowing as the tablet and smartphone markets explode.
And then, finally, we get to the “What Satya Nadella must do” part:
Still, with PC sales dismal but stabilizing, Nadella has the money and time to attempt to convince his customer base – still 90.7% of the PC market – to stay in the family. If he can do that, while building mobile share with Surface and putting Windows 8 phones back on a growth path, the new CEO cand be perceived as a success whereas the same results from Ballmer would likely have been perceived as a failure.
That’s it. No details on exactly how to accomplish that Herculean task of convincing Microsoft customers to stay in the family. Just “Satya, figure it out.”