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When Success is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

When Success is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

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When Success is a Marathon, Not a Sprint


A lot of people run a race to see who's the fastest. I run to see who has the most guts.
Steve Prefontaine

It takes guts and a lot of hard work to be a successful runner.  At my alma mater, University of Notre Dame (go Irish!), I ran cross-country and was lucky enough to be chosen to captain my team and as an All American.  Back then, my job was to get my teammates performing at their very best, since a team of seven runners is only as good as its top five times.  Our training regime included running as much as 100 miles per week, twice a day workouts in the heat of summer and the cold of Northern Indiana winters.  Some people might ask, what would motivate anyone to do that?  For me, it's simple. I love competition and the hard work that is necessary to compete at the highest level. 


Today, I speak with businesses around the world to better understand their needs and help guide them to the cloud on their terms.  I work with everyone from government agencies to large enterprises - organizations such as Starbucks, McDonalds, Volvo, the State of California and the United States Department of Agriculture.  In many respects, my early days as an All-American distance runner were good preparation for my current role where I lead the team that's focused on selling Microsoft Online Services to businesses around the world. 


There's been a lot of buzz about the cloud - what it is, how it can transform IT, lower costs and accelerate innovation.  Sorting through it all is no easy feat.  At Microsoft, despite the short term industry hype around the cloud, we have a long term strategy to deliver our industry-leading productivity solutions as a service.  This requires planning, commitment, investment, understanding and, yes, guts.  In essence, delivering world class productivity solutions and helping organizations successfully move to the cloud on their terms is a marathon, not a sprint. 


I talk to hundreds of business leaders every year, and in those discussions, there are five key themes I consistently hear that are top of mind for them about the cloud:


1.       Are you a service provider or a business partner?  Whether they're moving everything or nothing to the cloud, the customers I speak to all want one thing - a partner.  They want someone who understands their business and is invested in helping them use technology to move it forward.  It's one thing to sign a contract and declare victory that a business "bought" your service.  It's another to help a customer actually move to the cloud, realize their business goals and become a trusted partner.  At Microsoft, we partner closely with customers and stick around to see that deployments are successful.

2.       What's your long term commitment?  It's more important than ever for businesses to make the most of their IT spend, and businesses want to ensure they'll be supported over the long haul.  In fact, many customers ask to have this stated in their contract.  Cloud adoption is still in the early phases, so it's not surprising businesses want assurances that they - and the solutions they're buying - are a priority and not a marketing slogan.  At Microsoft, productivity is our wheelhouse and is something we take very seriously.

3.       What if I'm not ready to move everything to the cloud? I have yet to speak to an enterprise customer who thinks it is realistic to move 100% of their computing to the cloud.  This is particularly true for industries that have regulatory/compliance requirements, many back end legacy systems or complex business needs.  These organizations need a strategy for how the cloud meets their business goals without disrupting the complex environments they run every day.  One-size-fits-all rarely works and user computing is much broader than browser or no browser.  People that would try and convince you that the rich client is irrelevant and all data will ultimately move to the cloud may be interesting, but they're not well informed.  Gartner Research provides a welcome reality check, "the big rush to cloud e-mail and collaboration services will not be visible in earnest until 2012 to 2014. When the migration is virtually complete, we expect that two-thirds of enterprises will have moved to primarily using cloud e-mail and collaboration services." (Source: Gartner Inc., "E-Mail and Collaboration in the Cloud", Tom Austin, 30 July 2010.)  That means email, often the most likely application to move to the cloud, will still have one-third of enterprises using it on premises - along with a variety of other systems.  At Microsoft, we help customers move to the cloud at the pace that works for them, providing deep integration with whatever applications they have on premises.

4.       What do you do to ensure my privacy and security?  Customers need to be able to trust that their data is secure and private.  These aren't nice to haves; they're must haves.  At Microsoft, we take several important steps in this area, including providing always-up-to-date antivirus and anti-spam solutions to protect email; safeguarding data with geo-redundant, enterprise-grade reliability and disaster recovery datacenters; and providing best-of-breed data centers and cloud services with SAS 70 as well as ISO 27001certification.

5.     What does the future hold?  Having been a former CIO, I know that no one wants to be blindsided by their technology vendor.  Businesses want to understand whether you put money behind your service going down, what your long term roadmap is, how you plan to improve the service over time, what your plans to publish APIs are and if you support industry standards that are fully interoperable.  This points to a deeper need that customers have around transparency.  I'm very proud of the work we've done here.  At Microsoft we've provided early disclosure of pre-reqs, published root cause analysis for issues, and delivered on interoperability standards.


Microsoft has been delivering world class productivity solutions for more than 30 years.  In that time, we've learned a lot about helping people do more with less, and our results show it.  People are choosing Microsoft Office hands down.  Office 2010 is the most popular version of Office in history and more than 30 million people now use Office Web Apps.  More than 15 million people now use Live@edu, our cloud suite for education.  The number of businesses on the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) more than tripled last year, and the Office 365 limited beta was over-subscribed within 24 hours.

Our commitment to delivering the best productivity solutions on the planet is clear, and the number of organizations who are choosing Microsoft is truly gratifying. 


Any serious athlete will tell you that champions are made when no one is watching.  When the noise dies down and the crowds thin out, all that's left is your will to win and the long stretch of road ahead.  That is the time I like best.  Time to listen.  Time to focus.  Time to work hard.  And time to run.


Ron Markezich
Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Online


  • These are 5 great questions.  But if you want the comprehensive list of questions there is a book written by 2 guys who have been using, advising on and implementing Cloud apps for 7 years.  They are also Microsoft Gold Partners.

    So if you are an ISV the book you need is "Thinking of... Offering a Cloud Solution? Ask the Smart Questions"    http://bit.ly/flD3yT

    BTW - This was the book that Microsoft gave to ISVs at the MS WPC 2009

    If you are a customer the book is  "Thinking of... Buying a Cloud Solution? Ask the Smart Questions"


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