Microsoft Initiates CEO Succession Plan, New Boss Faces Difficult Road

by Matt Klassen on August 27, 2013

Microsoft is in the market for a new CEO, as current chief of the tech giant Steve Ballmer suddenly announced his retirement late last week. While surprising to many in the tech world, the news that Microsoft’s has accelerated its leadership transition plan with no successor in sight means that the company recognizes its precarious position in the mobile world, one that requires strong leadership, rejuvenated innovation, and a confident hand on the wheel…none of which Ballmer seemed able to provide.

That said, what Ballmer was able to provide in spades was maintenance of the status quo, and it’ll be interesting to see if investors are comfortable departing from such stability in favour of the risk-taking that will be necessary to compete in this ever-changing technological landscape.

Further, one has to wonder who Microsoft will tap to replace Ballmer, as the harsh reality has become that life at the top of the tech giant is only getting more difficult, a seemingly unwinnable challenge few would relish.

As CNET writer Larry Dignan explains, the initial task of the new CEO will not be an easy one: defining the company. “Should Xbox be spun off? Do Microsoft’s consumer and enterprise businesses really go together? Does Microsoft need to be more about corporate software where it is doing very well? What is Windows going forward? Is Microsoft a cloud company first and foremost?” They’re all questions that Ballmer left unanswered, and in this changing technological scene, they’ll all need answers…and fast.

Further, this task of redefinition, of finding Microsoft’s identity and pursuing it with renewed vigour and gusto, will have to be done without the spendthrift framework’s currently employed by the likes of Google and Amazon, as there’s no way Microsoft investors will allow the company to loosen the purse strings that much. So if Microsoft finds that Windows is no longer its benchmark product, it’ll have to redefine and re-innovate itself without over-spending.

The challenges facing Microsoft’s new boss will only be exacerbated by the fact that he or she will face a win-now situation. It’s not like the new CEO will be the company saviour riding in on a white horse, pulling the firm back from the brink of disaster. Microsoft doesn’t need saving, it just needs to succeed.

In fact, the situation is not unlike the one facing the new head coach of my hometown hockey team, the Vancouver Canucks. This past offseason the Canucks fired their long time bench boss, not because the team was failing, but because it just wasn’t winning it all. The Canucks brought in journeyman coach John Tortorella, giving him the unenviable task of taking a perennial contender and turning it into a champion. Without the two or three year cushion afforded to coaches rebuilding a team, Tortorella faces one cold hard truth: win a Stanley Cup championship now or fail.

The same cold hard reality faces the new Microsoft CEO: Bring Microsoft back to the top or be deemed a failure. Again, it’ll be interesting to see who Microsoft brings in to this unenviable job, one that will require defining the identity of a company who has seen its fair share of success, who has defined an entire age of technology, and who has no idea where it’s going.

Did you like this post ? publishes daily news, editorial, thoughts, and controversial opinion – you can subscribe by: RSS (click here), or email (click here).

Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

{ 1 trackback }

Microsoft Creates CEO Shortlist —
November 7, 2013 at 5:36 am

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: