Day 2 part 3 – Keynote, Jean-Philippe Courtois, President, Microsoft International

Jean-Philippe Courtois, President, Microsoft International

He has been at 19 ETRE events – and is hugely respected here.

Friends have been telling me for years that I need to hear J-P speak, so I was keen to get to this segment.  What I was surprised by is that he is such a simple operational salesman. Straight forward box and licence shifting is a major part of his life. Probably the right way to get to the top in his job.
His view is that the impact of the credit crunch on software is patchy and not predictable at the customer company level, and that the impact is being felt worldwide at about the same level across territories. With IT investment being 50% of most CEO’s decisions,  CIOs are being told to cut budgets by 30%, so this is a tough time. Therefore, the winner – if it is be Microsoft – will emerge by winning market share in a down cycle.
There was a point of view that the customer will respond positively to the supplier who has the most secure balance sheet and also managed to serve the customer (CIO’s) most urgent needs at the current time.
Big savings can come from using Virtualisation (to save on server purchases), from licence deals (to spread costs), from using Virtual Meeting technologies (instead of travel), from using energy saving tools (in new OSs), and from allowing hardware and software to age a small amount more. (Actually he did not say the last bit, but then that would not have helped him shift any more licences or boxes. ? ).  You probably also realise there was to be no mentions of using free open source software as a solution. We’ve all read the bits about “TCO from OpenSource is higher than TCO from Microsoft”, so that must be right then.
Once again the “lack of magic” in Microsoft projects was raised by Alex. Why are MS products less magic than Apple? He asked. J-P appeared at first to have missed the point, which is that style and excitement have become more important than mere effective function. When he said that it was about performance and reliability, I was wondering if he really knew that the minimum entry point for software is performance and reliability. What – in my experience – sells today is “magic” and style and that sense of joy in ownership.  So, when he did get it (a bit) I cheered up at mention of surface computing and having inspirational products (hardware and software) for the home. I got miserable again when the elephant in the room trumpeted and pointed out that – by exception – Microsoft products for the office are quite likely to be engineered for performance and function and not for grace, joy, imagination or courage. Who allows software designers to condemn the office and factory worker to having to deal with software that is soulless and “least cost focussed”?  Actually, I know the answer to that: J-P is a salesman, so when CTO and CIO customers start demanding grace, joy, imagination and courage from their software (so as to inspire and empower their staff) then I bet you that J-P will start demanding great new exciting things of his R&D team.
Get right onto that, CIO and CTO dudes.
Quite good to hear, then, of some of the new complimentary technologies that MS has acquired recently, and of their urge to find and acquire cool new stuff.
Xbox, Media Room, Mobile and new business models are providing new stuff to all of us, and they are providing real opportunities as well as real revenue to Microsoft.
After listening for a while, what came even clearer is that J-P is a really very good strategic sales guy AND a product guy. That is a pretty good mix. He is looking years ahead and quietly trying to optimise a large number of factors so as to deliver long term value. He talks brilliantly about the challenges of new products such as the X-1 mobile phone with Ericsson, and gets quite excited when allowed to talk about them.  
 The lesson of history is that Microsoft perseveres: it wins on the third time batting at the plate. So Alex pressed hard on how J-P was increasing agility and passion and customer engagement. When will Microsoft engage with its customers so it can win at the first time up. I, for one was cheered by the idea of “Dream Spark” (free development software for students) and the competitions for young companies that are sparking new innovations. Now Microsoft is working with seed investors worldwide, it no doubt has more initiatives to reveal in the “incubator / seed fund” space.
J-P talked a little about some advances in advertising, search and mobile, which, one suspects will become the Microsoft response to Google. That sounds like a “second or third time at bat” proposition to me.
J-P was not super keen on M&A of small (25 person or so) companies, until a thorough internal process had reviewed the existing internal capacity. That throws the onus back onto the small company to figure out what Microsoft needs and sell it to them.
Sharepoint could become something really cool. I like it too (but then I quite like Groove, which sets me apart from many)
Over the whole thing, I warmed to J-P. I’d want him selling for me, and he is genuinely looking ahead to keep the ship safe.
So, from me, glad that I listened and I'll give him B for execution, A for ambition, C  for empathy. But perhaps empathy does not shift boxes to large corporate customers?