Sunday, July 16, 2006

Intel-ligent Re-design

The Intel employee count is bigger than Microsoft and Intel is a way different company. Intel has one-hundred thousand employees. May Microsoft never be so cursed. Intel decided that you can get too big and too many decision makers can block effective decision making. So this past week Intel announced 1,000 management positions are being eliminated and analysts hint at further layoffs.

Could your group be more efficient and agile and focused without a layer or two of management?

The only extra insight I can add here is to take Guy Kawasaki's layoff advice (though more geared towards Web 2.0 startups and their upcoming "pop!" days ahead): "#2: Cut deep and cut once:" Guy Kawasaki - The Art of the Layoff. It's no fun waiting for the other shoe to drop and your best folks will tend to say "to hell with this" while living with the stress and the ambiguity of wondering what's next and when. Oh, additional insight: Dear Microsoft HR: please don't go and hire all these displaced Intel managers. Sugar on top.

Other interesting going ons on the Minidar:

Financials: FY06Q4 financial results are coming up this Thursday, 7/20. Allow me to ask this to our executive leadership: guys, is there anything going on that Wall Street might be, well, surprised by? If so, how about letting it loose before Thursday? More sugar.

The Microsoft Financial Analysts Meeting is the following Thursday, 7/27. My wish: Ballmer gets up there and gives the same frank heart to heart he did within his keynote at the recent Microsoft Engineering Excellence conference. Integrated innovation: bad idea. Innovate first and then integrate: much better idea. Straight forward common sense stuff like that makes me see the clouds parting and the sunny future breaking through.

Underwater Options: in the world of rebel-rousing for the stocks, one commenter has this idea:

Do you have underwater options expiring this month?

On 7/24, a week before they expire, go to your SSB account and exercise 1 option. Pay the difference between fair market value and your strike price (this will be somewhere between $0 and $40). Microsoft will handle the paperwork, the volume will remind management that we options holders are still here, and the cash you pay to exercise the stock will go to Microsoft (as non-negotiable options, Microsoft must broker the exercise). Win-win, as they love to say.

And if there are institutional investors looking to engage with stock-price-aware discontented Microsofties, getting popular press for an idea like this out would certainly serve as a rallying point, if not a sobering reality check. Other ideas? (Ooo, I better be careful, less I need to start delivering this in a hall vs. via blog... I guess I help put the Red into Red Herring).

Eeek! An unhappy IT lord: Microsoft shutters Windows private folders CNET - here we go and release a relatively cool tool that also helps justify Windows Genuine Advantage (see, sugar on top!) and then we go and yank it fast when the corporate IT lords fret over it. This is a key example of what's truly wrong with Microsoft today when it comes to features. We are so obsessed over getting the IT department happy with deploying our bits in the corporate world that we forgo (or yank) features that users might actually want to use. Sure, throw a policy key or two in there so that the IT lords can turn it off. But don't abandon customer centric features. Is it possible to take Total Cost of Ownership too far? Yes, and this is a dead end path that ends with a pile of the easiest to maintain features of all: the ones we never ship out of fear of IT backlash.

Let's see if some of the big-bet features in Office are enough to cause a user-driven upswell to get the IT departments to upgrade to Office 2007 before 2010.

Joshua Allen has a good write-up, too: Better Living through Software » Blog Archive » Oh No!!! People Will Love It!

Isn't there some popular book about innovation people love to quote that tells you how it's sometimes a really bad idea to do what your customer wants?

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