Microsoft's CIO reflects at the two-year mark

Microsoft's CIO talks about playing a revolutionary role, being his company's best customer and purging alien technology

Why would a successful CIO leave one company to become co-CIO of another with only one-third the revenue and employees? Answer: The new company is Microsoft. Stuart Scott moved there in mid-2005 from General Electric, the US$160 billion, 319,000-employee behemoth where he had worked for 17 years, most recently as CIO of GE Industrial Systems. Then, about a year ago, co-CIO Ron Markezich was tapped to run Microsoft's budding managed services business. Scott has been Microsoft's sole CIO since then.

How is managing IT at Microsoft similar to or different from managing IT at GE?

GE grew a lot through acquiring and integrating different businesses. IT had to be at the forefront of that, to be able to connect people and to make the combinations of businesses be successful by enabling people to work together and leverage the talent that crossed from the acquired company to the host company. That's very similar to what we're doing at Microsoft.

As an example, how are you integrating the recently acquired advertising firm aQuantive? Does the company use a lot of Adobe or open-source technology? Will that be dumped in favor of Microsoft technology?

We're going to look at what they have and continue to leverage the technology that's in place. But yeah, we're certainly going to move them to Microsoft technology. We run our entire business today on Microsoft technology on the infrastructure side, and we're going to continue to do that.

Is there an actual prohibition on non-Microsoft technology, or do you allow exceptions at the departmental level or for esoteric back-end applications?

If we have a problem that we need to get technology for, we look at the marketplace. If Microsoft has the best technology, then we certainly choose it. And if they don't, then we take that information back to our product group and we work with them to identify our needs as a customer. In some cases, we decide it's just not a large enough market for Microsoft, so I'll go out and buy third-party products.

Is there any third-party software that I would be shocked to find is widely used at Microsoft?

Nothing's really surprising. We use SAP for our ERP, and that's been in place for a long time. We're actually moving some of that functionality into our [Dynamics] product. We have a large installed base of Siebel CRM that we're rapidly replacing with our own Dynamics CRM products.

Is dealing with employees who think they know better than the IT department a challenge at Microsoft?

Microsoft is a challenging culture. Everyone seems to have input into everyone else's job. It keeps you sharp. Certainly, there are people at Microsoft that think they can do my job, but they really don't want to do my job. I think that just goes with the territory of any CIO.

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