Will project management play a role in Microsoft’s (i.e. Nadella’s) 10 big changes?

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. He says big change is in the works!

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. He says big change is in the works!

In a 3100 word email sent to all Microsoft employees, CEO Satya Nadella highlighted 10 key areas of change, big change, for Microsoft as it heads into the future. Those 10 areas were succinctly described in an article in CIO written by Tim Greene of Network World. I won’t repeat them here because you can read the article yourself. But what struck me was just how many related, in one way or another, to project management and business analysis. Let’s take a look at them.

“We will be more effective in predicting and understanding what our customers need and more nimble in adjusting to information we get from the market.”

Customer needs has to do with requirements. Business analysts (BA) serve on project teams for the specific intent of gathering, refining, and enumerating requirements. The project manager is there to oversee the process. When they work together the team is more successful. Too often, the project manager acts as the BA too. That’s a recipe for poor, or at best, mediocre performance. I wonder if Microsoft will embrace the role of the BA on project teams?

“We will streamline the engineering process and reduce the amount of time and energy it takes to get things done. You can expect to have fewer processes but more focused and measurable outcomes.”

If the “things” Nadella is talking about are projects, then that’s what project management is all about: getting things done. Will, or should,  Microsoft put forth a new emphasis on lean project management, for example, to move products through the pipeline faster? Time will tell.

“Software Engineering will evolve so that information can travel more quickly, with fewer breakpoints between the envisioning of a product or service and a quality delivery to customers. In making these changes we are getting closer to the customer and pushing more accountability throughout the organization.” 

This challenge is certainly related to the one above, but it focuses more on software engineering which basically means writing software and releasing it as products to consumers. This is, of course, the heart of what Microsoft does. In my way of thinking, Nadella wants to blow up the silos and have an end-to-end process with someone in charge. Sounds like project management to me. How about you?

“Over the next six months you will see new investments in our workforce, such as enhanced training and development and more opportunities to test new ideas and incubate new projects.” 

You can’t have great products developed under sound project management practices without a well-trained workforce: people equipped with the right skills to do the job. Today, companies are hoarding cash and not making the same levels of investment in people and capital expenditures than several years ago.  Seems like Nadella has recognized a lack of investment in this area doesn’t maintain the status quo, it actually puts a company in retrograde. Will this training also include PM and BA? If he wants better skilled folks, it better.

“Finally, every team across Microsoft must find ways to simplify and move faster, more efficiently.”

Projects are all about teamwork. When a team is really clicking things get done quickly and with a lot less friction. Cycle time reduction has been the mantra of product companies for years. You just can’t throw a group of people together and call them a team. It’s the way they work together that makes them a team. Project managers have known that for years!

The question in my mind is whether project management is seen at Microsoft as a way to help with these challenges, or conversely, is seen as one of the problems. I know that at one time the company had a strong initiative in project management and had created competency maps for many positions in project management. Where it went I don’t recall.

What I do know is that you can’t give software engineers in Microsoft a copy of the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) and say “do it is this way.” Just the sound of the “thud” of the document hitting the desk will either scare people off, or cause them to roll around on the floor clutching their stomach laughing. Perhaps they shouldn’t even use the words “project management.” But, let’s face it, all these products are the results of projects and Microsoft is doing project management. The question is do they want to do it right?

Go to www.leroyward.com to read 9 Signs You Desperately Need a Vacation

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