New Microsoft CIO Tony Scott to both manage and market software

New Microsoft CIO Tony Scott will both manage and market his company's software. His hiring from Disney could be prophetic for enterprise CIOs.

Microsoft Corp. announced last week that it has a new CIO, Tony Scott, to direct its global IT organization. He will oversee worldwide sales, marketing, services businesses, enterprise systems and business applications for the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant.

No doubt Scott's first order of business is to toe the company line.

Scott, 56 and the CIO at The Walt Disney Co., replaces former CIO Stuart L. Scott (no relation), who was fired in November for "violating company policies," according to Microsoft. (The company did not elaborate on what policies were violated. Stuart Scott landed a job soon after at Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp., a private mortgage lender in Ocala, Fla.)

Abracadabra

But Scott, as Microsoft's new CIO, will have to be a caretaker of Redmond policy in more than the usual sense, said people who follow the technology industry. In addition to the brain-breaking responsibility that comes with any CIO position, the CIO for a large tech vendor must also have a touch of showmanship and plenty of marketing savvy.

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"A CIO for a big computer systems vendor has a particularly challenging job to what already is a challenging job, because in addition to doing all the stuff that all the other CIOs need to do, you need to do it within the context of showcasing your company's own products, whether or not they are necessarily always the things that you really want to use," said Gordon Haff, principal IT advisor at research firm Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H.

A good example are the IT operations at Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM, Haff said. Both companies have made an effort in recent years to highlight internal practices that jibe with the best practices they sell to clients.

"CIOs at any of the software or hardware companies very much have to look at their own operations and say, "Wow, I can do that with my products, whether it is Microsoft's or IBM's or HP's, and say this is really cool." Haff said.

Phil Murphy, an analyst with the CIO group at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said, " It's a dragon's den of sorts."

In addition to the normal duties any CIO would assume, the CIO for Microsoft is producing software for customers. The company, for example, works with partners to make third-party software that works properly across platforms, he said. However big the CIO job would be in a normal organization, this one is extended by those commercial software responsibilities.

"It is a very different world when you are in commercial software as opposed to when you are 'simply' trying to satisfy some internal users. The other big thing here is that Microsoft internal users are likely to be far more savvy, right?" Murphy said. "It's no small job, certainly."

Before joining Disney, Scott served as chief technology officer at General Motors Corp. and vice president of operations at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

Indeed, the marketing aspect of the job was explicitly referenced in remarks by Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner, to whom Scott will report. Turner indicated that the company hopes to leverage Scott's IT experience and public speaking experience to engage its CIO customers.

"Our internal IT systems and operations play a critical role in the success of our business and how we deliver new technologies and advancements to our customers in the marketplace," Turner said in the Jan. 17 announcement.

In addition to running a "world-class IT department," Turner said, "Tony and the IT team will drive our solutions and deployment throughout our enterprise and provide valuable input and feedback to our product groups. … Third, we will call upon Tony to connect and collaborate with CIOs around the world to regularly share best practices with our customers and partners."

Brave new world

Many analysts also saw the selection of Scott as another example of Microsoft's recent penchant for drafting outsiders to fill big executive shoes.

To wit: The week before hiring Scott, Microsoft brought in Juniper Networks Inc. chief operating officer Stephen Elsop to replace insider Jeff Raikes as business division president. Former Ask.com Chief Executive Steve Berkowitz was tapped in 2006 to head online services. The year before, in perhaps the company's most dramatic acknowledgement that the culture needed shaking up, Ray Ozzie, founder of Groove Networks, was made chief technical officer.

Scott comes with credentials for shaking up the status quo. According to the announcement, Scott led Disney through a major transformation that included improving the reliability of the company's information systems and enabling employees.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer

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