Executive Q&A: What Is a “People-Ready” Business?

NEW YORK , March 16, 2006 — Microsoft’s commitment to people has long run deep. To the core, even. The company’s mission statement speaks of working to help people — along with businesses — realize their full potential.

Now, Microsoft is bringing people even more front and center. Today, CEO Steve Ballmer and Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft’s Business Division, outlined the company’s vision for what it calls “People-Ready Business.” It’s the first time the company has spoken publicly about its evolved vision for business and how it plans to communicate it. To learn more about People-Ready Business, what is driving this vision and what it means for customers, partners and the industry, PressPass spoke with Raikes, the executive owner for the People-Ready vision.

PressPass: What is a People-Ready business, and what is Microsoft doing to help companies aspire to it?

Jeff Raikes, President, Microsoft Business Division

Raikes: A People-Ready business believes people are at the core of driving and achieving key business outcomes. We think that people are more important than processes, than systems, certainly than permanent outside consultants. The ultimate drivers of success are the people inside the organization. And a People-Ready business recognizes that, and invests in software and tools to really harness the power of its people. A People-Ready business believes that if you empower the people inside an organization you empower the organization itself.

We’re fueling our People-Ready vision with an incredible pipeline of product innovation that will enable businesses to address challenges in areas such as Business Intelligence, Communications & Collaboration, Customer Relationship Management, the mobile workforce, infrastructure and many more. Consequently, we are investing more than $500 million over the next year to communicate this vision to customers worldwide, and will be mobilizing over 640,000 partners around the globe to help our customers share in this vision.

PressPass: What does this vision do for your business customers?

Raikes: The People-Ready business vision gives customers a way to understand how they can leverage the biggest asset they have – their people – and a way to think about the value of software. They’ve got to give their people the tools they need to be successful. It’s a very different vision compared to IBM, which views people and IT as non-strategic assets to be outsourced and replaced by consultants.. We believe that empowering people – as individuals and as teams – to help drive business outcomes will differentiate one company from another company.

PressPass: What was the impetus for the People-Ready business initiative? Was something missing from Microsoft’s business approach or communications?

Raikes: We have always stood for individual empowerment through software. Today, with the right software, we believe people involved in industries such as life sciences, manufacturing, financial services and many others can do amazing things for their organizations. Maybe it’s a researcher who discovers the cure for cancer because he could for the first time access and compare data across siloed systems. Maybe it’s an investment advisor who makes the difference between a child getting to go to college or not through his relationship with his client and the software that helped them make informed decisions quickly. We are communicating our vision today because we want to move that pendulum in a way that inspires companies to think about how to leverage the powerful combination of people and software that will help drive results. We’ve got an amazing pipeline of innovation coming to market, from Microsoft Windows Vista and SQL Server 2006 to the 2007 release of Microsoft Office and Exchange Server, and we’ve focused our innovation on addressing customers’ most pressing business problems in areas like BI, communication and collaboration, and mobility.

PressPass: Is the People-Ready initiative directed at a specific audience?

Raikes: While it is a broad vision for businesses everywhere, the campaign itself is targeted at the business decision makers in medium-sized and large businesses. These are the people who are thinking not only about software investments, but also about how that software will create strategic advantage for them, in addressing any one of four business outcomes – building profitable customer relationships, innovating new products and services, improving operations and reducing costs, and building high-value connections with partners and suppliers. It’s super-important for us to do a good job helping customers convey the value of Microsoft software in helping them achieve their business goals to their own leadership.

PressPass: How do you think Microsoft’s People-Ready vision will resonate with customers in specific industries?

Raikes: We think it will resonate very well because many organizations today rely on people to be their differentiators in competitive and commoditizing markets. For example, the actual product of financial-services firms is the relationship between two people – advisor and client. Empowering a firm’s wealth-management advisors with great Microsoft software turns out to be one of the biggest ways to drive business success. This same principle applies to healthcare, manufacturing and retail industries, among others.

Also, the People-Ready vision is consistent with the way we’ve invested in understanding customers in specific industries – whether it’s hiring former doctors, manufacturing experts and retail professionals or adding verticalized features into Microsoft products, such as Windows Embedded for Point of Service (POS) in retail and BizTalk Server Accelerators for SWIFT (financial services), HL7 (healthcare) and GDS (manufacturing).

PressPass: Can you expand? What should a company look for in software to become People-Ready?

Raikes: The right software to enable the People-Ready business should meet four criteria: 1) be familiar and easy to use, 2) widely used and supported, 3) easy to integrate and connect, and 4) innovative and continually evolving to meet customer needs. For example, familiarity and ease of use resonates with developers using Microsoft Visual Studio, where it helps developers collaborate amongst teams, visualize how that code works in an IT environment, and helps them easily share what they’ve developed with independent software vendors (ISVs) and others. It also applies to server infrastructure for IT pros, for whom it can mean getting a new server up and running quickly because there’s consistency of Microsoft products in terms of usability and management. And it applies to line-of-business applications for information workers, where it speeds adoption, increases use and increases individual performance.

PressPass: Are you doing other things to help companies become more People-Ready?

Raikes: Sure. We’re also making it easier and more economical for customers to access software that works together, enabling comprehensive solutions for their collaboration, communication and compliance needs. As a result, customers can now deploy on their own schedule and scale as required, ensure the tools are there when the business needs them, and have earlier access to more training and support for new technologies and desktop deployment planning services that enable People-Ready business.

PressPass: Do you have any evidence to support the vision philosophies of People-Ready business?

Raikes: Those four business outcomes I mentioned come from our customers and the research we’ve done to help us understand what business decision makers and IT decision makers view as their most pressing needs. As a company, we’ve tested our vision with thousands of business and IT decision makers around the world and they really did validate the most pressing business issues that they were facing. We’ve also done a lot of research with Keystone Strategy Inc. and Professor Marco Iansiti of the Harvard Business School, and their data shows that businesses which invest in their people and software for their people as a strategic asset actually do a better job in driving their business performance than companies which don’t. For example, companies that invest the most in people with software get 23-percent more revenue per employee than companies that invest the least.

PressPass: What’s in this for Microsoft?

Raikes: We hope it leads to more value realized by our customers for current as well as future purchases from Microsoft. We believe the areas where we’re innovating are core to our customers’ success and the advancement of the People-Ready business. We also believe that our vision, along with innovative new software solutions will result in new and expanded market opportunities for Microsoft.