It’s been an interesting few weeks for Microsoft. XP has gone off Support and left many clients exposed to security risks. At the same time, the US Government has just warned all users to avoid using Internet Explorer (IE) versions 6 to 11 as they say that there is a serious flaw that hackers are already apparently exploiting.
Against this backdrop, Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s newly minted CEO, joined Microsoft’s recent earnings call to talk about the ‘courage’ they will exhibit as they move forward. Let’s hope that courage includes supporting clients who find themselves in difficulty from product flaws.
Microsoft reported earnings were $6.97 billion on revenue of $20.4 billion; this is roughly flat with a year ago. But this third quarter fiscal 2014 earnings call might be more memorable for the fact that the company's CEO was on the call than for anything about the earnings report itself. Nadella spent an hour on the analyst call on April 24 talking Microsoft strategy and answering Wall Street analyst questions. That's something former CEO Steve Ballmer rarely did.
While Nadella didn't make any major announcements, he did drop a few hints that might tell us more about his plans and where Microsoft may be going.
"What you can expect of Microsoft is courage in the face of reality, we will approach our future with a challenger mind set," Nadella told analysts. Here are a few challenges that spring to my mind; cumbersome and sometimes conflicting contractual paperwork, product divisions working in isolation from each other, Google and IBM competing hard in the email/collaboration/cloud space, having to cut Azure prices to more closely align to Apple and Amazon, and a frustratingly slow start in the tablet space.
Chief information officers (CIOs) are dedicating more of their budgets to what we call “systems of engagement” (technologies that help win, serve, and retain customers) rather than “systems of record” (back-office technologies). According to research here at Forrester, new business investment in the former will be eight times that of the latter in 2014. All of which means CIOs are re-examining their back-office legacy spend to see what savings can be made to fund new front-office innovations.
But releasing back-office spend is not easy. For many companies, most of the ‘easy’ savings have already been achieved - so squeezing even more savings has become a tougher game. For example, you can only try to re-negotiate legacy support costs a few times before the vendors say ‘enough is enough’. While such comments may have discouraged negotiators in past, the advent of third party software support in the last five years has, for Oracle and SAP users at least, kicked the cost savings door back open and given fresh impetus to procurement people seeking to reduce software support costs.
I am sure that many of you have read some of my previous comments on the emergence of the third party software support market over the past number of years. Companies like Rimini Street, Spinnaker Support and Alui have saved some Oracle and SAP clients a lot of money. For companies who have moved to third party support, or who have simply used the threat of moving to third party support in order to drive the vendor’s costs lower, the savings they are enjoying have freed up cash to spend on new innovations and front-office client engaging stuff.