PARIS, Sept. 23, 2002 — Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer travels this week to Europe, where he and JeanPhilippe Courtois — , president of Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), have a busy week planned, meeting customers and partners. On the eve of Ballmer’s visit, Courtois spoke to PressPass about conditions in the region and how enabling opportunities for customers and partners is at the heart of Microsofts vision for it.
Jean-Philippe Courtois, President, Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa
PressPass: You have been very clear that Microsofts new mission is to help businesses and people around the world to realize their potential. What does this strong focus really mean for Microsofts customers and partners?
Courtois: We believe there are millions of ways that software can help people make improvements to the way they live and work. Realizing potential is about making sure that our software adds value to people in the right ways, so that they can make the most of their imaginations and their creativity through technology tools. The number of ways in which software can enrich peoples lives is still relatively low compared to the huge potential ahead. As we move toward our vision, there are significant opportunities for our partners and our customers to create and implement new software scenarios for increased productivity and performance. Realizing potential is about us working together with them, as an industry, to create opportunity for everyone.
PressPass: How is this particularly relevant to businesses in Europe, the Middle East and Africa?
Courtois: In the EMEA region, our customers recognize that software can add real value to their businesses, and are enthusiastic about using technology in new ways. So we and our partners have a positive environment to work in here. But it is also a challenging environment. We serve over 70 countries through 45 subsidiaries, and as you can imagine, there is huge variety in the cultural and economic context of our customers operations. Providing an excellent solution for a business in Turkey does not mean it is transferable to Sweden. So we are also working very hard with governments and enterprises across the region to really understand what they need from technology and to work within that local context.
PressPass: But are businesses in Europe really interested in investing in technology, considering today’s conservative economic climate?
Courtois: Certainly, businesses in the region are considering their technology purchases carefully, but they also recognize the value that technology can add, and it is certainly still on the investment agenda. A recent Datamonitor study of 12 European nations found that, between 2001 and 2005, the EMEA IT sector is expected to grow and develop in each nation between 31 percent and 56 percent. That was supported by another IDC survey of IT spending in Europe, carried out in May this year. The survey of CIOs indicated that spending on new IT projects was back on the agenda. While there is variance across Europe in the opportunities each market offers, there is real enthusiasm in Europe for adopting new ideas, especially Web services. Clearly, theres opportunity for our partners to benefit from this.
I see Microsofts role in this environment as a facilitator. We must enable our partners to take advantage of this optimism and capture the imagination of business with their solutions. So, for example, we provide technical support though our partnership programs like MSDN, the Microsoft Developer Network, as well as on specific projects with individual partners. Worldwide, we are developing some great solutions with companies like HP and Accenture, while in EMEA some of our key partnerships include Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, SAP and Getronics. One of our South African partners, Business Connexion, for instance, has qualified to deliver Premier Support on behalf of Microsoft to the South African Revenue Services, supporting the government’s initiative to actively encourage local economic growth.
We engage with partners and their customers to help create new solutions that may not have been tried before, but could change businesses practices fundamentally for the better. And, most importantly, with .NET we deliver technology that allows partners to connect information, people, systems and devices in ways that have not been possible before, leveraging their existing technologies and developing to meet the needs of their customers — rather than having customers adapt to the limitations of technology.
PressPass: Its a very demanding vision, which makes Microsoft more accountable than ever for its actions. Does this reflect a new culture in the company?
Courtois: Its true that, if we are to achieve our mission, we need to measure our success differently. We need to be more inclusive, more focused on our customers and partners and their successes. Our mission of helping people realize their potential is entirely predicated on the success of our partners and customers.
PressPass: How can you measure that success?
Courtois: Often, we realize we are on track when we hear about great customer implementations that make the most of the capabilities of our software and change the way a business runs. For example, a European airline company, SAS Airlines, has used the whole range of .NET software, including the .NET Framework, ASP .NET, Visual Studio .NET and Mobile Internet Toolkit to improve their communication and connection with an increasingly wireless customer base. Their customers dont have to be in front of a PC or laptop to access flight and booking information – they can access it from a wide range of mobile devices. Thats a great example of how a changing business environment offers a new way of interacting with customers. And the open architecture of the .NET platform opens up the opportunity for players throughout the industry to build on this opportunity and create a truly valuable solution for the customer.
Were also working with governments in a number of countries to help them and their citizens interact more effectively. Delivering government services over the Web, instead of on paper, introduces a fundamental change in culture and approach to their relationship with their citizens. In Romania and the United Kingdom, we worked with the governments to unify a range of public services into a single Government Gateway in line with the EU requirements, while in Catalonia we are helping the government roll out their own government portal. This delivers a whole range of benefits, including reduced cost and vastly improved accessibility for citizens. Thats the kind of thing that we at Microsoft love to hear about.
PressPass: It is a mission that demands much of Microsoft as well. What will you be focusing on to make sure the company continues to see these kinds of successes in the future, both in the EMEA region and globally?
Courtois: There are a couple of keys to success. Number one is we have to have great people. If you want to build software today, Microsoft should be the place you want to work. But its not just about having great people – those people have to share certain values, and the most important of these are integrity and honesty. We need to be open, respectful and dedicated to making others better.
Those factors are global, and are certainly as important in EMEA as they are anywhere else at Microsoft. In addition, we also need to continue to innovate with our technologies. Microsoft needs to lead the way here and our investment in R & D is a big part of that. In EMEA, well be playing an increasingly important role here because with the acquisition of Navision, we now have a development center in Vedbaek, Denmark, housing some of the best developers in EMEA. Microsoft Research also has a base outside the U.S. in our region. The work we do in Cambridge, England, continues to contribute directly to some of Microsofts most interesting software developments.