Satya Nadella has now been named Microsoft’s new CEO, the unanimous choice of the company’s board of directors and only the third chief executive in the company’s history.
Nadella has been with Microsoft since 1992, working in and leading several divisions in that time. In the early-2000’s, as he ascended through the management ranks, he became a leader of a group that would become Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) and, eventually, today’s Microsoft Dynamics business.
Nadella’s leadership of Dynamics is a popular topic of conversation when veterans of the Dynamics ecosystem talk about the new CEO. He shaped the culture of the team during his time. And he knows the roots of the Dynamics business better than nearly any other company executive – having played a major part in shaping the group. And, the thinking goes, Nadella likely appreciates Dynamics ERP and CRM more than would executives with different backgrounds.
Nadella’s management style
According to multiple accounts shared with MSDynamicsWorld.com of Nadella’s leadership of the Dynamics team, Microsoft’s new CEO was respected and admired by both his direct reports and those lower down in the organization. By all accounts, he departed the Dynamics group with the full respect and admiration of the team he led.
So, what was it like working for the future CEO of Microsoft when he ran Dynamics? Past team members describe a manager clearly on the way up the Microsoft org structure – a bright, technology-focused executive who pushed hard for constantly improving results. And unlike some other notable Microsoft managers on the rise at the same time, Nadella was commonly described as a genuinely likable, kind person who avoided the political maneuvering that poisoned other teams. Instead he focused his intellect on the company’s goals, they say.
All the former member of Nadella’s management team we talked with noted that his genuine commitment to the team’s goals easily won people over. Nadella was described as “very demanding as a manager” by one person, noting his unwavering focus on quality and execution.
When Nadella was gathering information from his management team, there was a focus on meaningful content. He “was not interested in filling blank spaces – he wanted value added content always,” the person recalled. He was also exceptional at making his voice heard by other managers inside Microsoft, an often difficult task in the hyper-competitive corporate environment.
Another former team member gives Nadella credit for the emergence of Microsoft Connect as the primary customer input tool on the Dynamics product line. He was very much a proponent of the tool, ensuring it was not only implemented, but that the development organizations committed to using it to gain feedback about the products. He was “conscious of listening to customers and passionate about developing and delivering solutions around what people really wanted.”
A different era for Dynamics partners
The Nadella era was also a different time for Dynamics partners. Microsoft had not yet adopted the goal of Dynamics in the large enterprise sector, or the push for higher volume sales in the SMB market, so the small and mid-size channel partners were not yet feeling the pressure they do today. One veteran of the Dynamics partner channel recalls the Nadella years as less chaotic for partners. This person praised Nadella’s leadership for nurturing the channel and creating sense of comfort in partners making investments in the product line.
While some people gave Nadella credit for handling the channel with more care, others have noted that, had corporate goals been the same as they are today, Nadella would have made the same kinds of moves in the Dynamics channel that have shaped Kirill Tatarinov’s leadership term – though probably with differences in style.
Shaping the Dynamics business, for better or worse
But while Nadella departed MBS and Dynamics with the respect of those who knew him, some have looked back at his leadership as laying the groundwork for the conflicts that still live just below the surface in the Dynamics ecosystem, especially in the ERP product line.
The acquisition of two major accounting and ERP companies in Great Plains and Navision Software in 2000 and 2002, respectively (here’s a new map of those and other Dynamics acquisitions) were both billion dollar deals. And while some people position today’s Dynamics suite as the intended outcome of carefully-planned decisions, there is still plenty of debate about whether the product line has lived up to the grand expectations that fuelled those purchases in the first place.
Some even see Nadella’s time leading Dynamics as something of a failure due to his inability to foresee cultural clashes between groups. They also fault him for departing without a sufficient plan for unifiying these disparate products into a Microsoft Dynamics suite.
By the time Nadella left MBS in 2007 to lead larger businesses like Microsoft’s Server and Tools division, he was seen by the Dynamics ecosystem as a manager on the way up. In his most recent role prior to becoming CEO, he led the Cloud and Enterprise Engineering Group.
For an even older first-hand perspective, this comment on a Bloomberg article about Nadella in his early years at Microsoft also speaks to the same characterization – that Nadella is respected both for his intelligence, ambition, and likability. The commenter recalls the following from 1995: “Even though [Nadella] was married, he left the office at noon every Friday, flew to Chicago to attend the U of Chicago B-school executive MBA program, flew back home Sunday night, then back to work Monday…He was ambitious, super smart, and most of all, was extremely nice, the whole package!”
by Jason Gumpert, Editor. Published February 4, 2014 and shared via http://msdynamicsworld.com/story/who-satya-nadella-new-ceos-profound-impact-microsoft-dynamics