Microsoft is stepping up its efforts to improve customer and community relationships evolving from what the company concedes are harsh perceptions in the marketplace around the reliability and security of its technologies and distant relationships with customers.
The company has yet to overcome barriers around perception, with customers and partners often reporting: “We have some issues in believing that your technologies will do this or that,” Peter Moore, Microsoft CTO for Asia-Pacific and greater China, said at Microsoft’s Tech Ed conference in Brisbane this week.
“We want to overcome that.
“We want to focus on value, and value for the customer. And Tech Ed’s a very important venue for that.” Moore reaffirmed for some 2000 attendees that customers were at the heart of the company and the means of its existence.
Microsoft’s Tech Ed is the vendor's key annual educational event aimed at giving customers, partners and its developer community the “skills to take advantage of Microsoft technologies” and leverage it in their business.
“We’re going to make sure we…do that; that we focus on value, not just on features,” Moore said.
Meanwhile, Moore noted the company’s current competitive landscape was a much tougher environment in which to offer value to businesses.
“Once upon a time, it was really easy for us to say ‘We think we’re the best and we’re also the cheapest.’ And that was a great position to be in, but from the [customer’s] point of view, being the cheapest is getting more difficult now.” Microsoft’s goal is to focus on its overall value to enterprises - specifically on total cost of ownership - and remaining relevant to its customers and partners.
Microsoft also wants to carve out meaningful and long-term relationships with customers. “By ensuring the right tools are available to users, [customers can] contact the people to help them when they need [to],” Moore said.
“We’re reorganising, we’re making sure that we’re there for you, making sure we’re relevant because we’re going to be here for a long time.”
Security will also be key strategic initiative for Microsoft for the long term, with the company reiterating its Trustworthy Computing strategy (announced in January 2002) at Tech Ed.
That initiative is based on four key pillars: security, privacy, reliability and business integrity.
It will overhaul the design and development process of all the company’s technologies, ensuring security enhancements are attuned to market feedback and demand, according to Microsoft’s chief security strategist Scott Charney.
“Time and time again [customers] tell us that unless our products can deliver a secure platform, then it’s not going to be considered. So we’ve got a big focus on security this year. And we want to give you the belief in our technologies and platforms to make sure that we provide you with not only a solution that solves a business need, but also addresses any security issues you may have,” Moore said.
Microsoft is trying to create a single view of the company for the customer by realigning its people. “We’ve been forming as a company. We want to make sure that as an organisation we’re structured to be able to act like one company rather than multiple companies. So we’re structured to provide you with the sort of resources that you deserve when you’re looking at our technologies,” Moore said.
As such, Microsoft will ensure its people are “goaled on things that are important to the customer – not just on revenue – but things like ‘Are you satisfied with us as a company? Are you really getting value out of us?’” To that end the company was committed to “making sure that [customers] survive and thrive as a result of its focus on these important issues, Moore said.
The company plans to reaffirm its value to different communities such as IT professionals, IT developers and students, by moving past being a mere supplier of technologies.
"We’ll focus on the unique needs of those communities where we’ll provide a vehicle for interactive communication with those different communities and be more responsive to them,” Moore said.
Microsoft will step up its interaction with its developer community in particular through its ‘Integrative Innovation’ concept. According to Moore, that concept “recognises that in its software, the company is in a unique position to be able to integrate between the various layers of the technology” enterprises use. “We’ll add value to really let you innovate, allowing you to do things that you could not do if you had to take individual pieces from a number of different vendors.
“Really getting down into the operating system and providing those features for applications and a platform for development so you can build applications to really leverage the richness of the [Microsoft] platform.”
1600 delegates attended Tech Ed in Brisbane this year. Other attendees included 60 local and international speakers from Microsoft, 410 students, 130 Microsoft staff and 28 media and analysts.