Even Microsoft's CIO struggles with cloud, consumer devices

CIO Tony Scott shared details of his experiences at Microsoft

He may run IT for one of the best-known names in technology, but even Microsoft's CIO is grappling with new technology challenges like moving to the cloud and handling consumer electronics that employees bring to work.

Tony Scott, CIO for Microsoft, spoke Wednesday to public sector CIOs gathered at the company's headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

His team manages over 200,000 Windows 7 and Office 2010 clients, 764,000 SharePoint sites, 1 million devices, 70,000 monthly Live Meeting sessions and the Microsoft.com website, which attracts 1.7 billion hits per day.

"We are Microsoft's first and best customer," he said. "That's a role we take seriously."

One of the first functions that he moved to the cloud was Microsoft.com, which he said is the world's largest corporate website. That is now running on Azure, Microsoft's platform-as-a-service offering.

He's in the process of moving Microsoft's volume licensing system to the cloud. That's the system that company CEO Steve Ballmer told Scott, during his job interview, is the most important system at Microsoft.

It's also the system that his IT staff ranked toward the bottom when asked about the health, supportability and flexibility of all the company's systems, he said.

"It's probably the single biggest system in Microsoft in terms of transactions and important company information," he said. The transition to running it in the cloud is well under way, he said.

Like most companies, Microsoft has struggled with some of the issues that moving to the cloud creates. Scott recommends, for example, making sure that CFOs are well informed.

"We've found awareness is half the battle," he said. CIOs should describe to CFOs exactly what moving to the cloud will cost and what kinds of cost spikes might occur potentially at different times of the year. At Microsoft, that was good enough to satisfy his CFO's need for predictability, Scott said.

In addition, using cloud services has different implications for chargebacks. At Microsoft, Scott forced all costs into two different categories. One includes costs that can be directly attributed to and thus charged to a business unit.

The other includes things like storage or network bandwidth that's too difficult or expensive to figure out who is consuming how much. Microsoft simply spreads those costs across the company evenly. IT's role is to make sure those services are bought and used efficiently, he said.

Scott, like many CIOs, has also come up with new policies to handle the kinds of consumer devices that workers are bringing into the office. Rather than make a decision based on individual devices, Microsoft has developed a framework that determines what capabilities a device must have in order for users to do certain things on it, he said.

"Devices come and go. I can't pivot my infrastructure every time there's a new device," Scott said.

While in a widely covered cutback over a year ago Microsoft stopped paying for employee iPhone contracts, IT still supports the phones. Microsoft workers have iPhones, iPads, Droids and many other devices, Scott said.

In addition, Microsoft gave all employees Windows Phone 7 devices. IT can control those devices and do things like enforce a PIN because the phones support Activesync. "Wherever we have Activesync we know what we can do with the device," Scott said.

Scott, and other CIOs, are also dealing with the changing roles of IT workers as the move to the cloud progresses.

David Stephens, director of technology services for Plano, Texas, recently moved to BPOS, Microsoft's hosted services offering that includes Exchange and SharePoint. The move created anxiety among IT workers who feared they'd become unnecessary and lose their jobs, he said. None have, because Stephens hopes the move to BPOS will free up IT administrators to work on the many projects they wanted to but couldn't because they were too busy managing servers and applications. Still, it's a struggle for the workers to make that transition toward projects and away from day-to-day maintenance, he said.

Scott said many of his peers are worried more generally about IT workers who are soon to retire, since the pipeline for new talent has changed. It used to be that consultants would hit a ceiling in their own organizations and decide to work internally at companies, becoming leaders. But with offshoring and budget cuts, that pipeline has dried up, he said.

At the same time, CIOs are being asked to do more than ever before, he said. "We're being asked to manage costs in different ways then we've ever been asked or challenged to before, and we're being asked to be accountable," he said. "CIOs are taking on the role of operations risk management."

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftgovernmentIT management

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?