Sharpening Customer Focus: Microsoft’s Core Promises for IT Pros and Developers

BOSTON, June 11, 2006 — It wasn’t so long ago that Microsoft was regarded by many as a great company for delivering desktop and productivity software but not ready for prime time when it came to delivering mission-critical business software. How times have changed.

Earlier this year, when the company announced that its Server and Tools Business delivered its 15th consecutive quarter of double-digit revenue growth, it was clear that Microsoft had earned an important place in the datacenter. With growing momentum for the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 product line, accolades for the newly-launched Microsoft SQL Server 2005, and excitement for a new generation of products that will soon hit the market, the company has clearly gained the confidence of customers around the world. But how?

The answer is both simple and complex: intensive customer focus. For Microsoft, this has meant engaging deeply with customers on multiple levels to identify key workloads, aligning marketing and engineering to deliver the capabilities customers need, and hammering away at fundamentals such as management, security, reliability and scalability. At the heart of this work is a special focus on IT professionals and developers.

At this week’s Microsoft Tech•Ed 2006 conference, Microsoft spells out a set of four customer promises to IT pros and development teams — a set of long-term commitments designed to enable IT Pros and developers to build an infrastructure for the people-ready business by addressing their critical needs.

“The People-Ready Business is our vision for business, and it represents our very essence as a company,” says Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business. “It says that people are at the heart of business success and that when given the right software, they can do phenomenal things. This vision extends to all employees in an organization. IT pros and developers are the key people who make IT work and ultimately enable an organization to unleash the power of its employees.”

Muglia said the needs of a People-Ready Business transcend audiences – business users, IT pros and developers alike want familiar and easy to use software, that’s widely used and supported, easy to integrate and connect and constantly evolves to meet changing needs. “That’s where we excel and those principles apply to our approach in helping IT solve problems and create new opportunities,” he said.

According to Muglia, the customer promises detailed at Tech•Ed 2006 represent Microsoft’s long-term commitment to IT pros and developers. “Customers want us to be a long-term partner in their successes, and these promises not only represent our pledge to stand by them in that journey, they also define the areas that we’re going to focus on long term to make that success happen.”

The Four Customer Promises

Microsoft’s promises to IT pros and developers have their roots in years of conversations the company has had with customers worldwide to understand their problems and needs — past, present and anticipated in the future. In listening to these customers, a set of key themes emerged, which the company has coalesced into the commitments unveiled at Tech•Ed 2006:

  1. Advance the business with IT solutions. A commitment to delivering a trusted and scalable foundation that empowers development teams and IT pros to partner with the business to maximize opportunity — the ability to drive the right efficiencies, customer connections and value-added services for business growth.

  2. Manage complexity, achieve agility. A commitment to reducing the complexity and TCO (total cost of ownership) of developing, deploying and managing applications so an IT staff can focus on delivering new business value.

  3. Protect information, control access. A commitment to providing a comprehensive set of security and access solutions that enables IT pros to address the ever-changing landscape of threats and compliance demands while providing users access to business critical information.

  4. Amplify the impact of your people. A commitment to delivering the tools and technologies that enable IT pros and developers to supply the infrastructure to meet and support the maturing demands of today’s mobile and collaborative workforce.

Microsoft is striving to exceed customer expectations in all four of these areas, says Andy Lees, corporate vice president of marketing for Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business. “It’s actually very straightforward,” Lees says. “We want Windows to be the lowest cost platform. We want it to be the most secure environment. We want it to be the best for every line-of-business solution. And we want it to be the best in terms of infrastructure for collaboration.”

There is no question that innovation continues to dramatically expand the capabilities of technology, yet IT resources often remain limited. According to a Forrester Research study of North American enterprises, 70 percent of overall IT spending goes to ongoing operations and maintenance, leaving only 30 percent for creating new capabilities to deliver competitive advantages.

“That’s a fairly frightening statistic for anybody in IT management, to say they’re spending so much just treading water,” Lees says. “But at the same time, the opportunity for IT to add value to the business has increased dramatically.”

Advance the Business with IT Solutions

To be perceived as a true partner: IT must deliver more value than the business can buy in the marketplace and this is where the strategy and direction of the Microsoft Application Platform, for the building, deployment and management of applications, plays a distinct and important role.

Microsoft strongly believes that the IT organization itself is best positioned to help the business prioritize it’s technical investments and shift to a ‘valued contributor’ helping fuel business growth through strategic IT investments for which the strategy and direction of the Microsoft Application Platform plays an important part.

The technology innovation that Microsoft delivers to the IT organization is designed to enable better alignment across IT and business for continued, ongoing success. Further, security, scalability, performance and availability as quality attributes are designed to be inherent in the products that Microsoft offers, in addition to industry-leading TCO.

Given the broad landscape of existing IT environments Microsoft provides for interoperability via standards, adapters and partners. In addition, flexible business process management, empowered by products such as Microsoft BizTalk and SharePoint servers, enable a deeper connection between business users and the application framework.

“We are pioneering software engineering practices such the Security Development Lifecycle as well as collaborative development environments such as Visual Studio Team System,” says Lees, “to better advance the security of our applications and the predictability of application delivery and those of our customers. Further we are building out with our partner community a commitment to ‘always-on’ performance and availability with products like SQL Server. SQL Server now runs some of the world’s most business-critical applications, and these are just a few manifestations of how we are delivering on our word here.”

Underscoring all of the above though, and at the center of business advancement, is the alignment between business and IT, which is as much about helping the business to prioritize for the best return on investment as it is about advancing the speed of innovation.

As a catalyst for business growth and building, deploying and managing connected and adaptive applications, Microsoft is driving technology capability investments spanning data management, business intelligence (BI), business process management (BPM) and service orientation, as well as software development and user experience for the Microsoft application platform.

Further these capabilities span core architecture technologies, products and best practice guidance across the Microsoft product portfolio — such as Windows Server, Office and Window Vista — to help IT and development departments to drive the right efficiencies, customer connections and value-added services for business growth.

Manage Complexity, Achieve Agility

The complexity in enterprise IT environments contributes to a host of ills, from costly IT management and security vulnerabilities to IT governance and compliance issues and a decreased ability to respond to changing business requirements.

Microsoft’s big-picture strategy to reduce this complexity is its Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI). DSI provides a model-driven approach to put IT pros in control of their environment. Through self-managing dynamic systems, IT pros can focus on setting policy while spending less time worrying about lower-level management functions. This reduces both the complexity and TCO of developing, deploying and managing applications so an IT staff can focus on delivering new business value.

As the DSI effort progresses, Microsoft is implementing models into a variety of software technologies. For example, models are built into the development tools in Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 that help a developer easily capture the desired effect of an application in the design phase. In addition, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and upcoming versions of management tools will feature a new approach called SDM — the System Definition Model — which provides a standard way to represent operational information or knowledge for each component of an IT system.

“Microsoft is a leader in this because we have embraced the concept of using models and we have brought it to life through long-term investments and a very comprehensive approach,” Lees says. “The implications are profound when you consider that this work spans the full breadth of the offerings, from our development tools to our platform and management architecture. No other vendor is able to deliver this deep level of integration.”

Another area where Microsoft’s customer-driven approach is manifesting itself is in high-performance computing (HPC) — a specialized field historically limited to scientists and researchers with special skills. Microsoft’s answer to Linux dominance in the field is Microsoft Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, which was released to manufacturing on June 9. With this release, Microsoft aims to broaden the market with simpler tools, making HPC accessible to non-scientists and smaller organizations, and driving scientific and engineering innovation.

Key advantages over the open source stack in the field will be ease of use and integration with the customer’s existing infrastructure, says Bob Kelly, Microsoft’s general manager of infrastructure server marketing.

“Today, any HPC cluster that’s being run by a scientist or somebody in a modeling lab is a completely different infrastructure outside of their Windows infrastructure,” Kelly says. “They do not get the benefits of Active Directory. They do not get the benefits of the management model. They have to control those two environments separately. That is a limiting factor on the growth of HPC in broad-scale deployment. We will integrate the HPC experience into our mainstream infrastructure.”

Protect Information, Control Access

Companies today find themselves in a security dilemma. On the one hand, the proliferation of faster and more sophisticated technology threats makes protecting corporate information a top priority. On the other hand, employees, partners and customers need to access that information across a wide range of applications from any location or device.

As a result, companies need a comprehensive set of security and access solutions that will enable IT to address the ever-changing landscape of threats and security demands while providing users access to business-critical information. Traditional defenses are not up to this task, and the fragmentation of security technologies and products as well as management solutions makes many existing solutions difficult to use and deploy.

Microsoft is building security into all its products from the ground up as part of the Security Development Lifecycle initiative, as well as delivering an industry-leading set of security and access solutions and technologies. Microsoft aims to deliver products that enable customers to better protect their IT environments and provide secure and appropriate access to applications and data. This helps unlock business value within their existing infrastructure and empower employees to better address the needs of their customers.

Already widely used in the enterprise, Active Directory is poised to become an even more crucial element of identity management as Microsoft sets its sights on a world where the boundaries of an enterprise are not defined by a firewall, but by security policies. Microsoft is putting federated security models into Active Directory and Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) which will allow capabilities such as single sign-on, thereby granting business partners access to applications without forcing them to log on multiple times. These federated capabilities are already available in Windows Server 2003 R2.

Amplify the Impact of Your People

Business success is more dependent than ever before on a workforce’s ability to seamlessly and instantly connect with customers and partners, gain insights, make decisions and take actions. This ability lies at the core of the people-ready business idea.

According to Microsoft, software needs to meet four criteria in order to be considered “people ready.” These four criteria are as follows: 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.

The 2007 Microsoft Office system offers a complete –and single — platform for solutions that range from collaboration and enterprise content management (ECM) to business intelligence (BI), enterprise project management (EPM) and more — all designed to stand on their own or integrate with existing systems. And with XML at the core of the Office system, IT can make the most of existing investments. Additional advancements will provide the infrastructure needed for custom solutions development. 

“On the server side, Office 2007 helps people share information, share expertise in the organization so other people can find you and reach out to you, do business problem solving, do team collaboration,” says Kurt DelBene, corporate vice president of the Office Server Group. “It helps you as an organization share information across to your people, both in a broadcast way and in a role-based way so that the information that I get as a worker online is different from the information that I get as a manager.”

Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 will include new mobile features and functionality that will enhance a workforce’s ability to connect anytime and anywhere in order to gain needed insights in making faster decisions in driving business success. With the built-in capabilities in Exchange Server 2007, customers will get the protection they demand, the anywhere access their employees need, and the operational efficiency required by IT administrators.

Another key offering to help amplify the impact of a company’s people is Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. By supporting all intranet, extranet and Web applications across the enterprise with a single, integrated platform rather than forcing IT professionals to rely on separate, fragmented systems, SharePoint Server 2007 minimizes the number of systems that IT needs to create, support and maintain.

Learn to Listen; Listen to Learn

Whatever the method of building long-term relationships with its business customers — be it a bulletin board, a focus group, a face-to-face conversation or an electronically generated Watson crash report — Microsoft is taking to heart the old saw, “Learn to listen; listen to learn.”

According to Muglia, it’s critical to Microsoft’s becoming a trusted partner with its customers.

“We make sure we provide our customers with transparency in our plans, leadership in the industry as a whole and understanding of their needs at a very detailed level,” Muglia says. “We’re establishing that real enterprise level of credibility that has been growing for Microsoft over the past few years. It’s only going to continue.”

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