Mayer expected to lay out Yahoo's turnaround plan Tuesday

With honeymoon over, new CEO needs to detail strategic plan to motivate employees

Yahoo's new CEO Marissa Mayer is expected to unveil her plan on Tuesday to turn around the ailing Internet company.

Industry analysts say it's time for Mayer, who joined Yahoo in July, to lay out a vision for Yahoo's future that will motivate employees and keep investors on board.

Mayer is set to roll out her new plan during a companywide meeting at Yahoo's Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters, according to a report from All Things D. Citing an internal memo, the report noted that Mayer, who left a high-level executive position Google for Yahoo, met with Yahoo's board of directors twice last week to detail her plans. The company is expected to hold two meetings -- one in the morning and one in the afternoon to accommodate various time zones.

A Yahoo spokeswoman declined to comment on the report or to confirm or deny that a plan will be unveiled Tuesday.

Mayer has spent a few months at the helm of a company that has gone through three CEOs in less than a year, suffered slipping mindshare and an executive scandal.

"This will make the difference over whether Yahoo grows or becomes the next Netscape," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. "She needs to provide a vision the employees, investors, users, and advertisers can believe in and then execute. Yahoo is in a mess, but she has been making some strong initial decisions."

He added, for instance, that it was a good move for Mayer to reverse a previously made decision to return excess cash to stockholders, which he said would have been a "very stupid thing to do."

Earlier this month, Mayer reportedly gave all U.S. part-time and full-time employees their choice of an Apple, Samsung, Nokia or HTC smartphone. Citing another internal memo, Business Insider reported that Mayer, who in August made all company cafeteria food free, for full-time employees, wanted Yahoo workers using the same technology that their users do.

Free food and phones aside, Mayer needs to let employees know that she has a solid plan, according to Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group.

"From what I'm hearing, she'll lay out the lines of business that they'll be focusing on going forward and their goals," he added. "It has to be specific enough so that everyone understands which individual parts of Yahoo are most relevant and how they'll each contribute to the whole. From what I hear, she has a maniacal focus on the user experience, which, if true, can only be a good thing."

One of the big questions is whether Yahoo's future will include a focus on search.

More than two years ago, Yahoo tossed aside its own search engine and began using Microsoft Bing to fuel Yahoo search results.

Both Olds and Enderle said they doubt Mayer's plans will include having Yahoo end its deal with Microsoft.

"I think that search will definitely be a key part of this new plan, but that doesn't mean they're going to deep-six Bing," said Olds. "I think they might re-open conversations about the Microsoft partnership and maybe lobby for some Bing changes, but I don't see them dropping it entirely. If there's one thing that Mayer knows it's search, and Microsoft should probably pay attention to her thoughts and suggestions."

Enderle said if Mayer tried to push Yahoo back into search, it could easily break the company.

According to Olds, all eyes will be on Mayer on Tuesday and she needs to come out strong.

"She's had time to study the problems. She's bonded with the employees and improved morale. And she's had time to fashion a vision for Yahoo," he said. "The honeymoon isn't quite over, but it's just about time to start packing the bags and heading toward the airport and the long flight back to everyday life."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

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