Some may argue that Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft wasn’t known for extending itself beyond necessity. During much of Ballmer’s tenancy, partnerships, collaborations, and acquisitions were dealt with almost surgical care. Many of the decisions Ballmer made were with the immediate bottom-line in mind. How would company X help benefit or extend Microsoft’s dominance or market position, today or in the near future? To Ballmer’s credit, this cautious approach resulted in financial wizardry for Microsoft for almost a solid decade.
Satya Nadella is taking Microsoft in a slightly different direction. Satya is still very thoughtful about the companies Microsoft does business with, but he is personally more open to the thought about partnerships, collaborations, and acquisitions, especially with previously perceived competitors. NetSuite is a cloud business software company not too dissimilar from Microsoft in approach. In particular the company offers cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning software. NetSuite’s software helps businesses track their financial, supply chain, and other operational data. With NetSuite offering a focused version of tracking software parroting Microsoft solutions like Excel and PowerMaps, naturally business would dictate the two companies compete on pricing and deployment in the enterprise space. Instead, the two companies will now partnerning to offer the same enterprise level resources planning but with extensions to Office 365 software, as well as Azure support for big data. With this new development, Azure will become the preferred cloud platform to help NetSuite build custom software enhancements to their resource planning software.
According to NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson, the partnership was driven by Satya Nadella himself over the course of several meetings. “But Satya is really interested in partnerships for Office 365. … I dropped him an email a few months ago and we found a few places we could work together,” Zach said in an interview, reported by Recode. Fortunately, for Microsoft, most NetSuite customers are already using some form of Microsoft Office. This partnership will see the two companies integrate services to deliver a single interface for accessing both solutions. Users will now have access to the various toolsets of Outlook when email and calendar appointments roll in from NetSuite. Another addition will be the use of Excel to support NetSuite business data. While Azure will be the preferred and possibly recommend cloud platform by NetSuite, users of NetSuite solutions will still be able to use other cloud options like AWS if they suit them better.
The NetSuite partnership is another indicator of a shifting mentality within Microsoft lately. Microsoft, with Satya Nadella at the helm, is becoming a more open and embracing company. However, it is still yet to be proven if this new approach is sustainable in the long run for Microsoft.