Bill Gates at the Strategic Architecture Forum (SAF)

I had the privilege of attending the SAF in Redmond. Actually, I’m presenting on a paper the Larry Clarkin and I wrote for the Architecture Journal.

Bill Gates did a great Q&A session on the first morning with Eric Rudder. It was interesting listening to him talking about the future of architecture in all companies but especially at Microsoft. This was extremely relevant after a conversation that I had at dinner last night.

The question was asked, when you think Microsoft Technology Leadership – what’s the first name that pops into your head? Ok, next to Bill Gates. (BTW – I’d love to hear the answer to this question in the comments…)

Whether you like him or not, he’s been a monumental force in the industry since the beginning and has helped shape the direction of technology across the entire world. What the question is trying to get to is that as Bill is stepping down, who’s stepping up as the all up technology leader at Microsoft? When you think Microsoft Business Leadership – it’s all Steve Balmer. He’s done a great job over the past 5 years of stepping up and running the business side of Microsoft but who’s stepping up to do the same on the technology side? Ray Ozzie? As the Chief Software Architect for Microsoft, he’s definitely helping revolutionize the directions internally but how well is he getting that message outside of the company? Craig Mundie? As Chief of Research and Strategy for Microsoft, he’s helping direct the future of Microsoft by investing smartly in the technologies that he feels are the future. (On a side note, it’s been interesting to see all of the investment in the photo and imaging technologies that Microsoft has been releasing with PhotoSynth, Deepfish and Sea Dragon and then hear Bill talking about great user interfaces of the future involving cameras and interaction. More of this in a future post) Is it Eric Rudder? As Senior Vice President of Technical Strategy for Microsoft it’s obviously part of his job as well. Is it Scott Guthrie? He’s definitely staked out the developer technologies at Microsoft. He’s not, however, over Sharepoint, Office, Windows and the like. Kevin Johnson, Don Box, Anders Heilsberg, Kim Cameron all could be in the running as well. There are many other names that I could throw in here but each of these names are leaders in some form or fashion and are playing well together to drive technology forward.

Bill indirectly spoke to this question. he said that it’s not necessary to have one leader – especially as the business spreads out and becomes more diverse. He talked about how Microsoft does architecture across the various product teams. Some of the leads are extraordinarily technical. Others are extraordinarily business and people focused but bring in technical leadership and research teams to help them understand the technical bits that they need. There’s not just one way to do this.

The question is, however who has the 360 degree view of the the business? The current reality is that we have a lot of really smart people that, federated, have the holistic view.

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