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4/5/2002
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IT Confidential

When InformationWeek editors met with Microsoft president Rick Belluzzo last month in Redmond, Wash., he sure didn't sound like a guy who was boxing up his office. Belluzzo, who's stepping down May 1 and will stay around as a consultant until September, was making plans for next year and talking about how to make Microsoft a better company.

He laid out five goals for fiscal 2003:

  • Reinvigorate the PC
  • Improve Microsoft's enterprise-software business
  • Nurture relationships with developers and small businesses
  • Extend Microsoft's consumer franchises and create new growth businesses
  • Convince developers to build applications for .Net.
    • Microsoft says the priorities haven't changed. Belluzzo also said Microsoft needs to spend more time on service to stem falling customer satisfaction, empowering lower-level managers to solve problems for customers, and establishing better communication--directly and through resellers--with small businesses. "Those people feel like they don't know how to interact with Microsoft," he said. A lot of the chatter after the resignation was announced last week focused on the idea that Belluzzo, who spent 23 years at Hewlett-Packard, never fit in amid Microsoft's bruising culture. Hmm. He sure didn't sound to us like someone afraid to take on the rough stuff.

      Paul Volkman is taking over as CIO of Vivendi Universal Games in North America, and one of his first projects will be getting a better understanding of the video-game publisher's customers. VU Games includes three studios--Blizzard Entertainment, Sierra Entertainment, and Universal Interactive--and, through its Partner Publishing Group, it also distributes games for Empire Interactive, Fox Interactive, and Interplay, among others. The New York company, which is part of the media and entertainment conglomerate Vivendi Universal, wants to create a customer-relationship management system that will let managers do better direct marketing, possibly even tying in other Vivendi products such as music and videos. Volkman takes over the CIO job from Bertrand Leroux, who has assumed a new role as special adviser to the CIO of Vivendi Universal.

      Did someone say CRM? Siebel Systems and Cisco Systems were grumbling last week about a story in The Wall Street Journal discussing "swaps." That's when Company A buys a product from Company B with the understanding that B will buy something equivalent from A. Siebel's 10-k Securities and Exchange Commission filing lists that "concurrent transactions" spiked up, reaching $76.4 million, or 7% of total software sales last year. CEO Tom Siebel was quoted in the story as saying more software companies should disclose such deals for the sake of transparency. But Cisco, which the Journal names as a Siebel supplier, says it never does swaps. And Siebel says it reports any sale to a supplier within six months of buying from that supplier, so while it's concurrent, it's not necessarily a swap deal. You know, this kind of attention might not help Tom Siebel's pitch for greater disclosure.

      How about this for the nontraditional career path to CEO: Grow up herding beef cattle in the mountains of a Southern California Indian reservation. Then do a couple of combat tours in Vietnam, and another few decades on active duty, picking up 47 decorations for heroism and service. Do another combat turn in Desert Storm to keep the leadership skills sharp. Add a bachelor's degree and a master's degree along the way, and several federal government jobs. That's some of what John Meyers, who was given the National Technologies Award last week by the National Indian Business Association, did on the way to becoming CEO of the IT services firm Native American Industrial Distributors in Sunderland, Md. Meyers says one of the Army's concerns today is that it trains high-tech people so well that it's hard for the military to keep them. And he admits he doesn't help the cause: "I hire a vet in a heartbeat."

      I'm only doing one tour of duty writing this column. John Soat will be back next week, so send him your industry tips at jsoat@cmp.com, or call him at 516-562-5326. Or meet him at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post forum: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.

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