Microsoft EVP Peggy Johnson: “partnerships are a path to innovation”

There is no denying that Microsoft is in a very ‘collaborative’ mood as of late. The software and services company at its core has always been about partnerships, deals, and collaborations. However, over the last few years, Microsoft has muddied the waters a bit, on where it wanted to stand in certain industries. To its defense, some industries benefited from Microsoft-led competition, while other endeavors left people scratching their heads.

Armed with a new CEO, a clearer goal for its future and a new top-down philosophy, Microsoft is once again about collaborating and partnerships.

Peggy Johnson, the executive vice president of Business Development, recently spoke about the five partnership principles for the new Microsoft. Peggy joined the Re/code Decode podcast hosted by Kara Swisher, where she talked about her recent high profile acquisitions and partnerships. She began her discussion withthe importance of Microsoft and its valued partnerships.

Since joining Microsoft a year ago to lead business development, I often get asked how I think about partnerships. To me, partnerships are a path to innovation. By coming together with others, we’re able to unlock new opportunities, chart new territories and reach people in new ways. Office 2016, released this week, is a great example of partners like Salesforce, Dropbox and Uber bringing so much innovation to the Office platform.

When you work with competitors, as we often do, it’s easy to think that partnerships are about competing for value. They are not. Partnerships are about creating mutual value. Competition is not a barrier to partnership. Even with companies that compete, if you open your eyes and mind to the potential, you can often find rich areas of collaboration.”

To Peggy, every relationship is different but she believes are five universal understandings to every partnership.

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Respect

Simple and almost self-explanatory – respect for the people at the table and the experiences they bring, respect for the other company and its mission, according to Peggy.

Listen

Perhaps the easiest of her five focuses, listening is another form of respect. Listening also helps with connecting while establishing a relationship built on effective communication. “Plus it’s just hard to build a relationship with a bad listener, Peggy says.

Say what you mean and mean what you say

Peggy encourages being straightforward as a way to not only keep pace in continually innovating industry but as a way to achieve a mutually agreeable outcome. While we in the press might mock Microsoft for its lack of transparency or communication at times, its contracts and negotiations with its partners are often very clear.

Stay focused

Starting small and providing accomplishments is Peggy’s way of staying focused. Rather than tackle a broad scope of interest, the idea is to start with one or two areas of focus and prove that the each contributing partner can work together, successfully. Then expand from there.

Don’t be afraid to take a pause or hit reset

At first blush, this may seem like a horrible idea in a partnership. However, this is more about constantly evaluating and reevaluating the partnership so that parties involved do not begin to strain the relationship or stagnate. “Sometimes, it’s critical to look at an existing relationship with a fresh set of eyes,” Peggy believes.

As the landscape of technology and business continues to shift and evolve it’s crucial for Microsoft to do the same. Fortunately, for the company, the person helping to change its business development is not interested in playing hardball. Rather, Peggy Johnson and the new Microsoft are more interested in building relationships and establishing partnerships.

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