If you read any of the headlines, or watched any of the television coverage about Microsoft’s appointment of Satya Nadella to CEO, you undoubtedly heard him described as a “cloud man.”
Nadella, just the third CEO in Microsoft’s nearly 40-year history, most recently headed the company’s cloud computing division, as well as the business enterprise units. And while Microsoft’s public image has taken a hit as stodgy, unimaginative and lumbering ever since Apple’s ‘I’m a Mac’ ad campaign, Nadella’s divisions have quietly earned a stellar reputation from big customers, including governmental CIOs.
“They’ve performed very well,” said Baltimore CTO Chris Tonjes. “We’re a big Microsoft-centric organization, and we’ve had the good luck of being happy at all levels working with [Nadella’s divisions].”
Like government IT departments from Alabama to Wyoming, Baltimore is in the middle of a transition to cloud-based services. Tonjes said “the cloud is the future,” and called Nadella’s appointment to CEO a “good move.”
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“For us, the process of rebuilding our IT infrastructure is a question of what do we need on the premises and what will not be on the premises,” explained Tonjes. “Microsoft is very future oriented, they have met some of those needs, and we’re happy with that.”
Under Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft began scaling their cloud services to fit government needs. Microsoft was one of the first cloud companies to begin advertising cloud usage as a way for government to focus on mission-critical services and reduce the demands placed on IT support and maintenance. That message has been extremely effective. Other cloud software and support services, including Google, have followed suit.
The hope from many government CIOs is that Nadella continues to push cloud services, forcing other providers to up their game as well.
“We’re not all in with Microsoft,” said Tonjes. “It doesn’t have to be either-or. … But hopefully this can make the cloud more [scalable].”
Nadella takes the reins of the company from former CEO Steve Ballmer. While Ballmer tripled revenues at Microsoft during his 14-year run as CEO, he was widely criticized by stockholders as depending too heavily on Windows, Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer for future revenues. Ballmer also had a strong sales and business background, and saw his company fall behind Google and Apple in revenues during his tenure.
The 46-year-old Nadella, meanwhile, has a computer science and sales background. He’s also been at Microsoft for 22 years, leading some to wonder if he’ll be able to bring a new vision many believe is needed to reform and reinvigorate the company.
“The key challenge will be for him to bring fresh, new and outside perspectives given that he is a long-term, tenured … employee,” said Colorado CIO Kristin Russell.
“It is good to see Satya Nadella take the top seat at Microsoft. He brings deep technical leadership in areas that are in need of innovation at the company,” she added.
For their part, investors have largely yawned at the naming of Nadella as CEO. Since reports started circulating that Nadella was the top choice, Microsoft stock has fallen by about a percent. While generally seen as a safe pick to helm the tech company because of his long tenure there, Nadella has indicated that he wants to transform Microsoft into a factory of innovative products.
“Our industry does not respect tradition,” Nadella said in a prepared statement. “It only respects innovation.”