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

What do you consider your main accomplishments in the two years you've been on the job?

We continue to up our game in terms of being Microsoft's first and best customer. We're doing more work with the product groups, to continue to bring an enterprise customer perspective. That's a fun part of the job. I spend about a third of my time with product groups, a third with customers and a third actually running the IT organization. We have dramatically improved our execution, in terms of program delivery and financial accountability. Our spending has remained flat [while] we've more than doubled the benefits in terms of revenue and growth, as well as contributions to margin and cost-effectiveness.

You've said that you think IT should serve as a value-added partner for business.

That's the approach I've always tried to take. So when I came in, we shifted 30 percent of our investment to higher-growth, more-strategic business areas.

Still, despite your philosophy of partnering rather than dictating, it seems like your role as CIO is more consolidated, and hence more powerful, than that of prior CIOs at Microsoft.

Prior CIOs have always run the corporate systems and infrastructure for the employees. What we've added is the direct line-of-business systems. It's all part of Microsoft learning how to be a big company but still remain innovative and agile. So we have brought together the IT organizations from around the company into a more traditional enterprise structure, but I've organized it so that we stay very close to the businesses.

You hosted a summit for about 300 CIOs several months ago. What did you hear from them?

That more and more, CIOs are strategic partners with their CEOs. The majority of the discussion was not about technology or the latest version of a product; it was about how you could make technology drive growth in your company, how to connect customers and salespeople together, how to speed a product to market faster than your competitor.

I believe the CIO role is going through a dramatic revolution. It is no longer about putting in monolithic ERP systems; it's about connecting people. When I look at the programs where we're getting the highest payback and benefits, it is when we bring in collaboration tools like presence awareness or unified communications or wikis and blogs, and blend them in seamlessly with the business environment.

Enabling people still means making sure that their equipment works well and is economical. It's not about command and control anymore. At the same time, you don't let go completely. Because if e-mail is not up 24/7, then I don't get invited to the product strategy meetings.

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