Muglia Weighs in on New Vision

Q&A: Microsoft embraces a long-term view of its customers with its "people-ready business."


Microsoft has a new mantra, the "people-ready business," that it is trying to explain. Bob Muglia, the Redmond, Wash., companys senior vice president for servers and tools, talked about this during his keynote at the TechEd conference in Boston June 11-16, while CEO Steve Ballmer is expected to continue to promote it at the companys Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston July 11-13. Muglia sat down with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli at TechEd to explain this vision as well as how Microsoft wants to work with the open-source community on product interoperability.

Microsoft is trying to elucidate its vision for the people-ready business. What is really new here?

Whats new is that we are certainly going to meet our promises. Those promises are, at one level, focused, long-term, strategic, coherent and very much in line with what customers are looking for. It is Microsoft taking a long-term view of working in partnership with our customers, focusing on their needs, understanding their business and trying to help them drive business results.

That has not been our classic focus in the past. You know, we have been a technology-focused company, and we are still a technology company, no two ways about that, but we are looking at how we can help provide technology to provide our customers with the business value they need. It is our sincere and absolute goal to be able to stand by the commitments we are making now, successfully.

But this is a set of promises for the long term, that go beyond just one wave of product releases, correct?

We are trying to be very upfront about that. We are talking about the System Center wave in 2007, and the "Longhorn" wave in 2007. And while we are talking publicly about some specific projects in the short-term, we are also talking to customers, under nondisclosure agreements, about products beyond that. This lets customers meet with us to help shape where we are going in the future. Obviously, we dont want to make commitments about future time frames while we are still learning from those customers what shape those products need to take. But we are trying to be very transparent in terms of what we do know.

There are a lot of products coming to market under the Longhorn wave. How do you and your team manage all of them along with the releases beyond that which are under development?

Id be happy to talk about that. We came from the perspective of a software company where a few people had in their heads all the things that we are doing in a coherent way. But its not what we need anymore. What we need is to be much more focused on what customers require and then to be able to engage with those customers in a very interactive, continuous way to be able to shape our future direction. Three or four years ago, we put the concept of workloads in place, and that is now the bible for how we run the business. There are now more than 25 workloads. My job is simple: to put the organizational and strategic framework in place to allow us to work with customers to build the right products.

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So, you have this structure and then we have 10 commitments that are focused on broad areas of the business. In my organization, we have vice presidents assigned to [one or more] commitments, and underneath that are workloads, which are assigned inside commitments. Every workload has a general manager attached to it, and that manager is responsible for understanding that business. Workloads are businesses. They are integrated, and sometimes they aggregate into products. For example, Windows Server ships some 14 workloads, but each of those [is a business] in the sense that there are customers who focus on [it] and system integrators who focus on it and distributors who focus on reselling it, and [there are] competitors. So we think of those as separate businesses, and we have a process, called ... "Running the Business Process," to manage them. Once or twice a week, we have sessions where one of those general managers comes in and presents an all-up view of that business to us in a standardized format, and we have deep conversations with [that manager] about where that business is going. Each manager reports back to us in this way about every 10 months.

Next Page: Working with the open-source community.