Steve Ballmer is on the way out and the search has begun for the next CEO of Microsoft CEO. Whoever this person is they need to be strong and decisive leader and they need to hit the ground running. They need to take a huge, monolithic organization that has tried to be a little bit of everything and make it much more focused and leaner.
The person Microsoft hires to replace Ballmer faces incredible challenges with an entrenched culture and a political minefield, but the new leader must break down these barriers and find a way to get the company pointed in the same direction with a set of clear, defined goals for moving the company to its next stage.
Here are my top five priorities for this person.
1. Put mobile front and center
This is number one. Ballmer laid the groundwork for you with the Nokia purchase, but this is just step one. You need to nurture the mobile side of the business and make it the center of every decision you make. Use your cash stores and buy innovative hardware and software companies. Bring in entrepreneurial blood like Ballmer did with Yammer, only on the mobile side, and let them loose. Mobile is the future and you must find a way to transform your company from a desktop-centric one to one that's mobile-first.
2. Reduce your headcount
You've become way too big. It's time to reduce headcount in a big way and whether that's through layoffs and attrition or by selling off divisions that aren't part of your core mission, you need to get leaner, meaner, and more focused. You can't concentrate on mobile with so many disparate pieces that don't matter. Forget about Bing. Close the retail stores. Focus your business!
3. Kill Windows and Office (as fast as you can without a shareholder mutiny)
This is going to be one of the toughest decisions you have to make, Sure, desktop operating systems and productivity tools are your biggest money makers now, but they're going to undermine your primary mission of making Microsoft a mobile-centric company. You must de-emphasize desktop computing or it will eventually kill your company. Be swift. Be brave. Just do it.
4. Decide to be an enterprise business
It's too late to win the consumer game against Google and Apple, so why waste your time and resources trying? Focus your mobile solutions on the enterprise. Build on your success with SharePoint, Azure, Exchange and other successful enterprise pieces.
5. Cloud, Cloud, Cloud
As with mobile, you have the pieces in place, and while Ballmer built out the cloud with Office 365 and Azure, you need to commit to these products and drag your enterprise customers kicking and screaming with you. I saw how reluctant SharePoint customers were to go to your new cloud-centric vision, but don't be discouraged because you are ahead of your customers. As with mobile, the cloud is the future and it's absolutely where Microsoft needs to be if it's going to be a successful company over the next decades.
Bonus: Simplify pricing
Take a lesson from Apple and reduce your SKUs. Have a few items in each product category to reduce the number of choices and the product pricing complexity you currently have. Your customers will thank you for it. Let your rule of thumb be, if you can't lay out the pricing on a simple chart, it's too complex.