Careers: Interviews
Frank Clegg, President of Microsoft Canada

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, ISP, has an exclusive interview with Frank M .Clegg, President of Microsoft Canada Co.

Q: As a point of introduction, can you describe your career and the decisions you made to reach your current position at Microsoft?

A. This is my second stint at Microsoft Canada – I originally joined Microsoft Canada back in ’91 and had the position of General Manager for 5 years. For the last several years I have been working as the Vice-President of the Central Region of the US, which included Canada. I have enjoyed coming back to focus on Microsoft Canada, and using some of the skills and expertise I’ve developed over the years to help expand our business.

I’ve always believed that technology has a crucial role in the lives of business and consumers, and working with Microsoft Canada has proven to be one of the most challenging and rewarding positions I have ever held.

Q: You have won the prestigious President’s award for outstanding performance, five times out of the last six years. What remarkable qualities can you share that allowed you to achieve this stellar performance?

A. I believe the people I work with can accomplish great things. I think this award is really a reflection of the dedicated professionals at Microsoft Canada who believe in our company’s vision and work hard every day to help accomplish it. This team approach has helped grow Microsoft Canada into a real force not only in the technology industry in Canada, but with the Microsoft family. I have found if a team is not doing well, challenging them in a positive way leads to great results. Similarly, if the team is doing well, they can be encouraged to strive for even greater accomplishments.

Q: Where do you see Microsoft, strategically in 2001 and where do you want Microsoft to be in 2003, and 2005?

A. We will continue to create great technology for our partners and customers on which to build solutions. In 2001 we will deliver the most extensive set of products in our history. I would like to see our partners and customers have a very clear understanding of the capabilities of this new suite of offerings and build on their current pilots and evaluations. We are also making a shift to be involved in mission critical applications and solutions. By the 2003 and 2005 timeframe, I hope we are viewed as a “trusted advisor” with our customers and have earned the right for our technology and our teams to be part of their most critical solutions to their customers.

Q: How will Microsoft’s services evolve over time for businesses and how will you shape this process?

A. As we move into the solutions area, Microsoft services will play more of a leadership role in the design and architecting of key applications. We will continue to limit the growth of our Consulting team to allow ample opportunity for our partner community to grow their businesses. Our services organization will continue to be on the leading edge of our technology and involved in the architecture and design of our solutions. By working with our customers and partners we will continue to share best practices. As stated previously, as we move to more of a solution focus, we will hire and train for the necessary skill sets. We will build our skills on .NET since it will form the back-bone of our strategy.

Q: How will Microsoft’s partnerships and distribution channels evolve and how will you direct this change?

A. Our organization is tremendously focused on working in conjunction with our partners to ensure we have the right resources and strategies in place to design, develop and deliver solutions based on Microsoft technology to our customers. We have always strongly believed in our channel partners to help us distribute our technology across Canada, and that won’t change in the coming years. We continue to make improvements to provide better service to our customers and better business benefits to our partners. We continue to increase the investment in our channel in terms of training and resources. As the Internet becomes more pervasive, we will explore other methods of distributing our product. The recent announcements of bCentral and eShop on MSN are examples. As demonstrated in each case, we are working to ensure there is an increased business opportunity for our partners whether it is directly distributing Microsoft technology, or assisting customers with the implementation of solutions on bCentral. In addition, we are working with ASP’s and ISP’s to ensure their offerings provide effective solutions to our customers at a competitive rate.

Q: What is your grand vision for computing and the Internet and other related technologies and how will you enable this vision for businesses?

A. There isn’t any doubt that the Internet is pervasive and will form the base for communication on a worldwide basis, with the ability to connect to an information source anywhere on the planet. We feel we have only begun to see the potential. In our current environment, in order to access a web site, your browser must be pointed directly at that site. And if you want to consolidate information from different web sites, it is up to the individual user or business to do that work.

Our vision is Microsoft .NET - a set of initiatives that will propel us to the next generation of the Internet. Our .NET strategy is based on what our customers are telling us. Whether they are consumers, businesses or developers, they are all saying they need an effective and connected way to take full advantage of the Internet. And we think we’re in a great position to make all this happen.

Microsoft .NET comprises four major pillars: 1) a suite of software tools for developers; 2) the .NET Enterprise Servers, which provide the infrastructure for Web services; 3) .NET devices and experiences such as the Pocket PC and Windows XP; and 4) .NET services such as authentication and notification which are services on the Web for both businesses and consumers.

Web services will allow you to access information from a variety of servers, consolidate information into one location or even allow a web service to act on your behalf (with permissions of course). .NET will allow access to any service from any device and will be smart enough to present that information to take advantage of the device’s features whether it is a hand-held PDA, smart phone or a rich personal computer. .NET is built on industry standard XML which will allow for the exchange of information from business to consumer or business to business in a completely open format.

Q: What advice would you give to businesses as they plan their own evolution in the next five years? Do you have specific technologies and processes they should watch out for and implement?

A. Business should continue to invest in Information Technology to drive benefit. Studies show there is a direct correlation between IT investment and improvements, but we are lagging behind the US in this area. One of the lessons learned from our experiences with .com’s over the last 2 years, is that we need to return to business basics: ROI, IRR and evaluate IT investments against the same hurdle rates as any other investment. There continue to be tremendous opportunities for business, at the same time competition continues. Business needs to think about being agile and using technology to meet diverse needs.

Business should also be very disciplined about investing in solutions based on industry standards. We believe XML will be one of the key standards moving forward.

Q: You have an Honors Degree in Mathematics from the University of Waterloo. How have you been able to leverage your education and what top five career tips would you give to those considering a career in computing? What aspects of your own personal experience and education did you find the most useful in your own very successful career?

A. My education at Waterloo gave me a strong foundation of creative problem solving techniques, communication skills and the ability to learn and understand complex situations. I started my career in the technical field and progressed through sales and management ranks by building on my experiences and taking on more responsibility and diversity. From a career perspective, I would identify the following areas as key to success:
  • Build a reputation of someone who can be trusted to deliver on their commitments and can balance short term and long term goals
  • Have a curiosity about learning new things or how to do things better or differently. Be committed to continually improve your skills
  • Be honest and have integrity. Be self-critical and listen to feedback.
  • Be a team player, not only in helping the team do well, but in enhancing other’s performance
  • Focus on your customers. Know their business, know your company and demonstrate the ability to analyze the situation and make appropriate recommendations. Show initiative.

Q: Can you tell us more about KidReach?

A. Microsoft Canada believes it has a corporate responsibility to contribute to our community. Our efforts in this area are tied to our belief in creating a generation of empowered children and youth prepared for the future. Microsoft Canada supports charities and not for profit organizations committed to children and youth across Canada through both cash contributions and software support.

KidReach, is part of this philosophy. Established in 1994, the program promotes computer literacy among young Canadians age 24 and under, by making technology easily accessible. Primarily, KidReach provides software donations to non-profit and charitable organizations across Canada that work with young people. This year alone, over 300 charitable organizations have received support from the KidReach program impacting the lives of over 50,000 Canadian children and youth.

Microsoft Canada also enjoys strong community alliances with agencies such as Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, Ability Online, United Way, reBOOT Canada, and Computers for Schools. And our employees play an important role in the community through volunteering time with community agencies and organizing fund raising initiatives.

Q: Where do you see yourself personally in five years?

A. I hope to continue to be involved with a great team, working on challenging opportunities with customers and partners.

Q: Consider this a blank slate. Are there additional comments you want to make?

A. One of the key areas of focus for us is the development community, whether it is in small startup companies or in large corporations. One of Canada’s strengths is our diverse heritage and population base. There is tremendous opportunity for great solutions to be built as we implement the next generation of the Internet. With the continued improvements in technology, the barriers to entry for great solution development are minimal. Combined with our vision of .NET, I believe we will see even more incredible ideas brought to market by great Canadian companies.


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