REDMOND, Wash., Dec. 5, 2005 – Information technology has long played a dual role at Microsoft – as both the backbone of the day-to-day business and as first and best customer of the company’s products. Now, Microsoft has dual chief information officers (CIOs) to lead its expansive IT responsibilities.
Microsoft hired Stuart Scott over the summer as its newest corporate vice president and to share CIO duties with Ron Markezich. Scott, 39, is a veteran IT innovator who has held several CIO roles within General Electric and was named among the top 100 CIOs by CIO Magazine in 2003.
Stuart L. Scott, Corporate Vice President and CIO
Now four months into his new job, Scott sat down with PressPass to discuss his role as overseer of the design, development and deployment of the IT systems Microsoft uses to run its business, and how he and Markezich divide their responsibilities. He also discussed the growing importance of IT in many organizations and how Microsoft’s pre-release use of its own products within the company – a practice referred to as “dogfooding” – is even more extensive than he had realized.
PressPass: Can you describe your role here at Microsoft?
Stuart Scott: I have two roles, with a common goal of helping our customers, partners and employees be successful through the use of innovative process and IT solutions. My first role is to help the company think through and define its strategic priorities, then deliver the business-process capabilities and solutions to achieve them.
My second role is to lead the Microsoft IT organizations in designing, building and running the IT systems that we use to run the company. These solutions include more than 2,500 applications and span an infrastructure that includes more than 220,000 networked devices and serves more than 90,000 employees and contractors worldwide.
PressPass: Before joining Microsoft you held several different CIO roles at General Electric. Tell us about your time at GE?
Scott: I served as CIO for several divisions at GE. Most recently, I was executive vice president and CIO of the GE Healthcare division. During my 17 years at GE, I got to oversee the re-engineering and re-alignment of the strategic priorities and business processes of the company’s Consumer and Industrial division, as well as the integration of the business systems of four divisions, with a total of 75,000 employees. I also led the IT and business integration of US$14 billion of new companies and technologies acquired by GE’s healthcare division.
I didn’t join GE to work in IT. I started out in product development, then moved into supply chain management before graduating to IT. That’s where I learned first hand how IT can help drive business success and shape how companies take products and services to market. In my first IT position, in GE’s Sales Force Effectiveness program, we introduced new commercial processes and implemented IT solutions that dramatically increased the time sales people could spend with customers and reduced the time they needed to dedicate to administrative tasks. That really got me hooked into what IT could bring to the business and was the start of my IT career.
PressPass: What convinced you to join Microsoft?
Scott: I was really attracted by the people and the passion and loyalty they have for Microsoft. I get to work with some of the best, brightest and most driven people in the IT industry. They are here to achieve a higher purpose, not just to earn a paycheck.
Also, I guess I’m drawn to big organizations – at work and at home. My wife and I have seven children. Seriously, I like the complex challenges that large organizations present. Microsoft offered me the opportunity to work for a premier technology company, with the complex environments I enjoy, in a role where I can have a positive impact on our IT organization and the company as a whole.
PressPass: Microsoft now has two CIOs. How is what you do distinct from Ron Markezich’s CIO responsibilities?
Scott: We have two distinct roles. Ron oversees the company’s IT infrastructure: the desktop management, the network and datacenter operations, whereas I’m in charge of the business processes and applications that run on the infrastructure. Ron has the additional responsibility of building out our Managed Services business as a platform for growth in Microsoft.
Ron and I also have shared responsibilities and have developed a common set of strategies to maintain a single, unified IT organization. We work together to evangelize Microsoft products and services by helping customers identify ways to intelligently apply IT to generate value for the business.
PressPass: The role of IT is expanding within many companies. Why do you think this is?
Scott: Look at some of today’s most successful companies. They are differentiated from the competition by how they utilize the flow of information within their business and to their customers and partners. You can see a number of companies around the world who are leveraging their information to gain competitive advantage via everything from real-time pricing and supply chain management to digital score cards. These companies are leveraging information to make quicker and smarter decisions, and it is helping them beat their competition. The CIO facilitates the creation of that intelligence and has a pivotal role in getting it to business leaders in a proactive and digestible way.
More and more, the CIO needs to lead the way in building an organization’s information “intelligence.” Because CIOs manage applications that often span the company, they gain a unique perspective into the challenges that touch multiple functions across organizations and often have a clearer view of upcoming needs and opportunities. Also, CIOs have the advantage of overseeing the alignment of business process and IT, so they can drive business strategy down to ledger-based business results.
PressPass: You’ve mentioned business and IT alignment a few times. What do you mean by alignment and how is it important?
Scott: I strongly believe that all IT development needs to start from a business need. Companies should not jump to an IT tool until there is a clear understanding of the business problem, a well-defined business process to achieve better results, and the solutions – not just IT – in place to achieve those results. Then IT can codify and institutionalize those business systems and processes.
PressPass: How do you see Microsoft IT evolving?
Scott: There is a broader role for IT to play at the front end of the development of products and services. Our IT organization knows a lot about the challenges that other IT organizations face because we build and maintain the IT backbone of a massive worldwide enterprise. IT must become future-thought leaders in the development of the product roadmap for our enterprise products.
By using our internal applications and experiences to build better products for our enterprise customers, we have the potential to solve the challenges that other IT organizations face. We’re heavily involved in dogfooding our products once they’ve been developed, but we also see a role closer to the front end of the product development cycle. Business Intelligence is one area where we will be partnering with the product groups and Finance as we build out our internal capability. I want to ensure that any product we develop to meet the needs of Microsoft, also meets the needs of the marketplace.
PressPass: Specifically, how does “dogfooding” benefit products and the company?
Scott: The feedback the IT team and employees around the company provide to the developers within the product teams enhances Microsoft’s products before customers get them. We also help evangelize Microsoft products, by sharing with customers what we’ve learned and the value our internal groups have realized.
Dogfooding also allows Microsoft, as a company, to realize the increased efficiency, reliability and other benefits of our newest products and services months before other companies. Office “12,” the next version of Office, is a great example. Once we begin to deploy Microsoft Windows Workflow Foundation (WinWF) within the Office “12” SharePoint technology, we will be able to better track and understand workflows throughout the company. That’s a huge opportunity for my organization.
PressPass: How familiar were you with “dogfooding” before you arrived at Microsoft?
Scott: I knew that Microsoft deploys pre-release versions of virtually all of its products and services within the company. But I didn’t realize just how dedicated everyone here is to the practice – or how important it is to product development.
The most recent example is Microsoft SQL Server 2005. We began running it internally more than 15 months ago. When I started here this summer, I was surprised at how SQL Server 2005 was being used to run high-end business applications. We’re talking seriously mission-critical applications. My first thought was, “Aren’t there less critical applications we could have tested this on?” But SQL Server 2005 has been incredibly stable and provided incredible results.
PressPass: How is the role of information technology at Microsoft similar to or different than at GE or other companies?
Scott: In many ways, the role of IT has become somewhat universal. IT delivers the technology solutions that run the business or organization, and helps define and drive better process engineering. Since your success is our success, ensuring that the business solution drives real business value is critical to our credibility. That is the underlying mission of any IT organization. If IT can’t deliver on this core function, then the organization should focus on the fundamentals before looking for ways to add additional value to the business.
PressPass: So are old colleagues curious about what it’s like to run IT at Microsoft?
Scott: Yeah, they all ask, “What’s it like?” I just talk to them about the company, its products and the people. Usually after 10 minutes of my raves, they interrupt me and say, “OK, enough already; we get it!” It’s been a phenomenal couple of months.