How Microsoft has been future proofing itself

by: Niall McKinney on 26 March 2015

Andy Hart talks to 12ahead at Ad Week about how Microsoft has been guarding itself against disruption

It has been fourteen months since Satya Nadella took over from Steve Ballmer as CEO of Microsoft, and embedding innovation into the company culture was a key part of his mission statement. Fostering an innovative culture, a theme that has run through Ad Week Europe, involves a number of steps, one of which is taking risks.

Offering Windows for free on all devices under nine inches was one of these risks, being still a substantially large part of the organisation’s revenue, and it’s something that Andy Hart, Vice President of Microsoft Advertising, says is paying off. “This allows us access to the customer beyond just this product,” he says, transitioning towards becoming a productivity and platform company, sentiments echoed in Nadella’s emails to employees.

“Offering Windows for free, and over all platforms,” says Hart, “links back to our core philosophy; to be more human, you can think of us as the productivity company, we’re there to boost your productivity." Microsoft’s machine learning personal assistant Cortana, the Microsoft band, and how these integrate with the Internet of Things ecosystem, are all examples of how the company is trying to do this.

“We’re tying it all together for a more personal experience,” iterates Hart, “Advertising need to change; we’re entering a period of low attention and high intention; where consumers have an even lower attention span but the need to determine their intention is more important.”

Hart outlines other ways the company is putting measures in place to future proof itself;

Keep learning: “Every company is in transition at the moment, the 1.5bn consumers using our services are constantly distracted, and we need to prepare for change.” Hart attributes Nadella’s steps in creating a behavioural change in the organisation from the top down, in changing the language and actions used, shifting from a knowing culture to a constantly learning culture. Here, continual internal training is needed, personal development plans, mentors, sponsors and achievable goals in creating the right talent for the company’s future.

From 100% to 80%: Hart explains how Microsoft employees were striving for 100 – 120% achievement in its undertakings. This has lowered to 80% in order to future proof itself. “This allows room for improvement, space to learn” says Hart, as well as keep the momentum of fast-paced agility and energy high.

Flexibility: One of biggest concerns for Hart is linked to talent also, with inventory prices falling, staff are in danger of being overworked, over-stressed and hindering performance even more. Flexible working hours as well as measures, professionals trained to know the right signs to look for, for example, are in place.