Microsoft Embracing Failure Is Great, Except Where It Damages Customer Relationships
Satya Nadella took part in a Q&A session with Business Insider's Polish office and some parts of the conversation made for interesting reading on Microsoft's future direction.
Asked about failure Nadella responded that he "embrace(s) it" adding that in a risk-taking culture failure needs to be seen as a learning opportunity.
That's a fair comment, one that speaks of a company which values an ability to quickly make and then can new products as and when they fail. A company like Google for example.
The problem for Microsoft is its customer relationship and how it maintains this whilst allowing products to fail. For Google it is less of a problem. Users invested very little in the Circle, Google+ or Hangouts products other than their time and commitment. So whilst they weren't particularly happy they also weren't out of pocket.
Microsoft's recent high profile failures have been all about platforms and the customer relationship is very different there.
Take a few recent examples Windows RT, Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8 and Kinect.
In each case customers invested cash in a platform which Microsoft canned shortly after. In each case customers investment in hardware was cut from beneath them as Microsoft either killed the platform entirely or cut their upgrade path.
Even now Windows 10 Mobile users are finding Microsoft to be an unworthy partner for their phone investments. The latest cut back on phones which will receive the Creators Update removes phones like the 730 / 735, 830 and 930 all of which have equal or greater specs than the Lumia 640 / XL which will receive the upgrade.
There's no reason for these phones to be cut off from the Windows 10 Mobile upgrade path other than Microsoft's desire to get them out of the support cycle so that its Windows Mobile platform can be officially declared a failure.
Getting these users to continue to invest in Microsoft products or platforms is going to be increasingly difficult. Whilst that doesn't concern Nadella because they will mostly be consumer or small business customers and his focus is enterprise, the case remains that end user support is key to maintaining enterprise confidence.
Look around enterprise workplaces now and note how many users are now using non-Microsoft products. Particularly look at how many BYOD users have switched to MacBooks, and iPads. Look at the growth of Chromebook in education and how Microsoft is having to react to this new challenge.
It all speaks to a company in which consumers have little confidence. A risk taking culture is all very well, unless the collateral damage of your failures has the ability to come back and bite your future effort s.