"The reason why Ballmer is out is because the board wanted him to drive the ship faster than he was willing to do," said Ted Schadler, an industry analyst at Forrester Research, in a February interview. "He was not willing to push [workers] to go the extra mile."
Whether Nadella was given orders to march faster or did that on his own is beside the point: He has moved Microsoft at an extraordinary clip.
"I wondered if he would be able to create a huge sense of urgency to move in the new direction," Ottinger acknowledged. "Would he engage employees? Would he listen to them? Would he make smarter decisions because of that?"
One hundred days later, Ottinger believes Nadella made tremendous progress. "I give him incredibly high marks there. From everything I've heard, he came in, listened a lot, did a lot of one-on-one meetings," said Ottinger, who is based in Seattle and keeps track of the home town technology company.
And that has paid off. On Glassdoor, an online jobs and careers website, Nadella's approval rating among Microsoft employees was 85% as of Thursday, a sky-high number compared to his predecessor's. Ballmer's approval rating for his last 12 months? A dismal 39%, down from 47% the year before.
"I totally expect things will not slow down in the next 90 days, but truly creating a sense of urgency is an enormous task," said Ottinger, looking forward to his next milestone for Nadella. "If we do see a slow-down, if [Nadella] gets buried by the bureaucracy, it means he cannot fight the old culture, and that he's losing the battle."
To keep the momentum, Nadella should continue to push the company toward his vision of mobile-first, cloud-first, Ottinger said. "He has to secure that vision, perhaps by some key acquisitions. I don't know what those are, but he has to come up with a road map there," Ottinger explained.
"But in 90 days, we'll know."
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