In a wide-ranging interview with Accountancy Age’s sister title Computing today, Ballmer discussed issues such as trust in Microsoft, Windows security, innovation and the challenges of being a responsible market leader.
‘We recognise that listening and responding to our customers is and will be a key quality that allows us to continue to see the kind of success we have had,’ he said.
‘In some very important ways in the past couple of years we have really taken that to heart. The heart of trust is responsiveness – do you listen, do you pay attention, do you learn?’
He says accountability has always been a focus for Microsoft, but it is one he is particularly concentrating on with staff.
‘I’m banging on about accountability – a big theme I have internally with employees. Not that we are bad, but I want us to be better and more accountable in our execution,’ he said.
‘We’ve generally been good at setting big, bold goals – we haven’t always been as good at being accountable in their delivery.’
Ballmer says improving security remains the top priority for the supplier, and he believes customers are starting to recognise the progress Microsoft has made. ‘There’s a lot of hard problems there, the bad guys are out there and going to stay out there. We’ve done a huge amount of beneficial work,’ he said.
‘Are we everywhere our customers want us to be? I’m not going to say that. But I am going to say we have done the right stuff, we’ve taken the message to heart, and I think customers are now seeing that, seeing the outputs, seeing the results and the improvements.’
Many Microsoft customers say they want the company to concentrate more on product quality than developing new features, but Ballmer refutes suggestions that users don’t want so many new versions of software.
‘Customers need innovation,’ he said. ‘Nobody ever thinks they need innovation, they think they need improvement in what they’ve got. The companies that succeed have to bring products to customers that they don’t know they want. If you think you know everything you want, and you only listen to what your customers want – you will fail. You have to try things that surprise people. If you don’t you will fail.
‘I don’t buy into this “customers don’t want more features”. All customers, someplace in their organisation, will use them. Nobody will ask for them, but plenty will use them.’
And he insists Microsoft is aware of the responsibilities of being such a dominant market leader. ‘We recognise we do have a position that is unique,’ said Ballmer. ‘With a unique role comes unique responsibilities, and unique opportunities also.’
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