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Ask Slashdot: How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need? 272

Posted by Soulskill
from the might-be-time-to-reevaluate-the-Clippy-department dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday, word came down that Microsoft was starting to lay off some 18,000 workers. As of June 5th, Microsoft reported a total employee headcount of 127,005, so they're cutting about 15% of their jobs. That's actually a pretty huge percentage, even taking into account the redundancies created by the Nokia acquisition. Obviously, there's an upper limit to how much of your workforce you can let go at one time, so I'm willing to bet Microsoft's management thinks thousands more people aren't worth keeping around. How many employees does Microsoft realistically need? The company is famous for its huge teams that don't work together well, and excessive middle management. But they also have a huge number of software projects, and some of the projects, like Windows and Office, need big teams to develop. How would we go about estimating the total workforce Microsoft needs? (Other headcounts for reference: Apple: 80,000, Amazon: 124,600, IBM: 431,212, Red Hat: 5,000+, Facebook: 6,800, Google: 52,000, Intel: 104,900.)
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Ask Slashdot: How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:00AM (#47482791)

    42

    • by plopez (54068)

      After they get rid of the lawyers that sounds about right.

    • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Friday July 18, 2014 @01:28PM (#47484153) Homepage

      640 employees ought to be enough.

  • by Albanach (527650) on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:03AM (#47482817) Homepage

    If you have a business division that you want to maintain, then there's a limit to how many you can get rid of. But Microsoft are clearly closing divisions. They are closing their x-box spin off TV studios, so all those staff can go. Clearly there are large chunks of Nokia that they want to close, likely maintaining the hardware designers but if you're in Nokia marketing, or Symbian/Android software development your coat is on a shoogly nail as they say in Scotland. Similarly, it looks like Nokia manufacturing will also be outsourced, so there are thousands more jobs that will go.

    Inside Microsoft is a bit different. From what I've read, it looks like there will be some streamlining of management, so some layers of management will be cut. Most people on here will have seen how management can breed more management, so this is a pretty typical corporate response. Unfortunately for the managers losing their job it may be harder to find a new job. Where a division closes there's always the possibility of a sale to a competitor or some form of management buy out.

    • by arisvega (1414195)
      It also depends on what kind of business you run: judging from Microsoft's products and behavior for the past decades, I would guess that it needs about a dozen software engineers, a bunch of sysadmins, and quite a few tens of thousands of lawyers.
    • by ranton (36917) on Friday July 18, 2014 @12:14PM (#47483479)

      Its important to remember that Microsoft is only losing about 5% of its non-Nokia jobs. That makes these cuts have far less impact to the company as a whole. I work in a small consulting company of about 40 people, so this would be the same as us letting go two members of our staff because of a restructuring. That wouldn't be insignificant, but it obviously wouldn't be a major shift for our company.

      As I see it Microsoft really only has one major problem, and that is to find a way to capitalize on their R&D budget. They have the fifth largest R&D budget [gsmarena.com] of any private company in the world. This far surpases companies like Apple and Google [cnn.com] which are far better commonly known for their innovative products than Microsoft. If they could actually make use of this R&D Microsoft would be in great shape regardless of what eventually happens to Windows, Office, or XBox.

      Microsoft engineers are clearly being funded well enough to help Microsoft grow in the future, they just need better leadership to take advantage of their work instead of just writing salary checks.

      • by lgw (121541) on Friday July 18, 2014 @01:38PM (#47484245) Journal

        What Microsoft sadly lacks is vision. They have great R&D teams, pointed at nothing, or at each other, or at random. If they had any kind of clue about what new technologies would be popular in the future, they could do great. They can afford to say "it may be X, or maybe Y, or maybe Z - so lets make all 3!".

        But they don't they make second-rate (or acquire) products in markets other people have invented, then try to make those products the best-in-class over time. That's fine and all, but it's the opposite of leadership!

  • Best metric (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    How many H1-B visas are they requesting?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:10AM (#47482889)

    About half of Apple's employees are retail employees (working in Apple stores). Only about 40,000 work as developers, testers, etc.

    Apple's 2013 10-K Annual Report states [sec.gov]

    "As of September 28, 2013, the Company had approximately 80,300 full-time equivalent employees and an additional 4,100 full-time equivalent temporary employees and contractors. Approximately 42,800 of the total full-time equivalent employees worked in the Company’s Retail segment."

    • oh, it gets worse than this. After MSFT fire everybody their headcount will still be higher than it was last year.

      AMZN has lots of people in the warehouses. Redhat is more focused. FaceBook is more focused and has outsourced (depending on you define outsourcing) a lot of its processes. Etc. all are lousy companions.

    • by unrtst (777550)

      About half of Apple's employees are retail employees (working in Apple stores). Only about 40,000 work as developers, testers, etc.

      This is what I was wondering about the most when I read the summary (not just apple though).
      Within Microsoft, I'm guessing there are many different groups, and many are fairly well defined. There's all the runnning-a-business cruft (management, marketing, helpdesk, support, etc), and the various product breakdowns (xbox, office, windows, vs, surface, etc etc etc). Ditto for all those other companies. I'd love to see a headcount of people that actually make stuff per product per company, and the count of tho

  • Corporate culture (Score:5, Informative)

    by cphilo (768807) on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:11AM (#47482899)
    My son is certified as a Microsoft Architect and at one point in his career was a senior Microsoft executive. He described the upper levels as very political. There was little team spirit.There was a lot of jockeying for position, backstabbing and attempts to degrade people to to elevate yourself. He eventually left and started his own company (which is doing quite well. He just bought a 40' RV)
    • Re:Corporate culture (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:48AM (#47483253)

      This post and a comment in another [slashdot.org] help explain the problems common in management systems.

      Initially, you have enough managers to stay busy keeping track of the work and relaying status to the guys at the top. As base employee numbers shift, some managers become overworked and others have free time. The managers with free time try to convince the C*Os that the overworked managers are just inefficient, while the overworked managers attempt to convince the C*Os that they are overworked and need underling managers (and that the underworked managers are slackers, not really doing their job). Once a few underling managers get added, there becomes a war of status over who has the most underling managers, regardless of the actual utility of any of them. The upper managers bicker for the favor of the C*Os, the middle managers compete over improving their rank, and the lowest rung of managers is stuck either trying to do a good job and crippled by the weight of decisions from above or ignoring their job and trying to squeeze up a few tiers.

      Sometimes a CEO, board of directors, or other high rank will notice that 2/3 of their budget is going to managers, 50% of their staff is management, and productive employees are leaving citing "management troubles" as their reason for going. Then starts a vicious burn cycle that tries to preserve the most competent managers and cut out all the dead weight (success rates vary), like the one that has been going on at Microsoft since Windows 8 went retail while not just ignoring but actively rejecting customer inputs about the release candidate versions.

    • by kamapuaa (555446)

      40' RV? That's like when the trashiest of white trash wins the lottery.

  • ... enough to deprive potential competitors of necessary human resources.

  • and scaling back XBox. The CEO more or less said he wanted to cut XBox because it wasn't profitable enough, and Nokia is a no-brainer. Microsoft lost the smart phone/tablet war big, and they've probably got redundancies to eliminate.

    The part that I'm wondering about is with these new, ultra efficient companies that merge up like crazy how much work is there going to be for the rest of us to do? Between that an automation it just looks like we're running out of work to do..
    • by Junta (36770)

      The part that I'm wondering about is with these new, ultra efficient companies that merge up like crazy how much work is there going to be for the rest of us to do? Between that an automation it just looks like we're running out of work to do..

      I think that's a bit of overestimation of these 'new, ultra efficient' companies. The volume of IT work has increased a lot over the past couple of decades, despite a seemingly more homogenous IT world with fewer 'newer, ultra efficient' companies (compared to the state of things in the early 90s).

      In practice, the industry has just been shuffling I think. Some key specific cases see some gains or else loudly think they got gains, but there are losers too.

      Some areas that were more automation friendly actua

    • by tobe (62758) on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:59AM (#47483347)

      > Between that an automation it just looks like we're running out of work to do..

      You are dead right there.

      Drive for a living? Not for much longer.
      Fly for a living? Not for much longer.
      A broker or agent of some kind? Won't be needing you so much.

      Globally huge numbers of traditional blue collar jobs are being made obsolete and they're not being replaced in sufficient numbers with new opportunities. We're going to have to adjust to the reality that within, say, 100 years... unless climate change or war or whatever hasn't significantly affected global demographics.. most of the developed world's population is not going to be economically active within the existing model of trading labour for goods. We're going to have to find cheap ways of keeping them fed and pacified whilst still being able to look at ourselves in the mirror.

    • by kamapuaa (555446)

      You're making shit up. What he actually said is "we will continue to innovate and grow our fan base with Xbox while also creating additive business value for Microsoft," [theinquirer.net]

      Sure he's cancelling the XBox Original TV Shows idea, but in all honest that idea was incredibly stupid and really added nothing to 99.99% of XBox users.

  • by mykepredko (40154) on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:17AM (#47482957) Homepage

    This week, I got a real WTF when dealing with Microsoft products and the amazing amount of redundancy that is possible in the company.

    We have a robot product that we can communicate to using Bluetooth SPP and we are creating an application that can control it remotely. We originally went with a serial interface (after pairing, recording the "com#" of the device and then passing it to our application), this is somewhat cumbersome so we wanted to pair from our app and connect directly (saving the user from doing those operations manually).

    Logically, this would be one set of APIs, but it seems there are five depending on the OS - the only ones that are common are for Vista/Win7. I would think that right here there are four teams that are redundant - pick a single, consistent API, add it in Service Packs for all supported OSes and assign one team to the job.

    I would expect there are many more examples out there of similar inefficiencies that somebody within Microsoft should be able to answer with the ability to make things easier for developers and make developers available for squishing bugs.

    Sorry about the rant, but standard IO interface APIs should be just that, standard.

    myke

    • by King_TJ (85913) on Friday July 18, 2014 @12:50PM (#47483845) Journal

      As has been pointed out already, the "How many employees does MS need?" question is ridiculous, as there's no way ANY of us here is qualified to give even an approximate answer that's not just a complete guess.

      That said, it *is* possible to talk specifics and point out areas where improvement is needed.

      The last I heard, Microsoft had an internal structure where those developing new applications weren't the ones responsible for debugging them. They just spit out the code, and another team would have to fix/clean it up. To me, that makes absolutely NO sense, as the people best qualified to get a program running right are the ones who wrote it in the first place! I've heard that's one of the things that's going to change to improve efficiency, and if true -- I sure hope so, even if it means laying some people off.

      I also understand that finally, the Mac and the Windows Office developers have been instructed to work as a team -- vs. treating the Mac Office developers as an isolated group in the company. (That *may* have been originally done based on a silly interpretation of the financials, vs. any true benefit to the development of the code? I remember the Mac division of Microsoft once bragging that it earned the highest profit margin of any division in the company, per employee hired -- simply because it was such a small team.)

      I will say I find it telling that even Intel corporation has over 20,000 fewer employees than Microsoft does, right now. I can't really imagine that chip development and sales by the world leader in that area would require less manpower than Microsoft needs to sell and support some of the code people can run on those chips?

    • by rsilvergun (571051) on Friday July 18, 2014 @01:21PM (#47484093)
      not a weakness. Microsoft does this is a) to maintain backwards compatibility (which locks businesses in since they'd have to re-purchase or re-write tons of software) and b) to fix bugs and work around limitations in other vendor's software ( again, lock in ).

      In office there's something called the 80/20 rule. 80% of your customers only use 20% of your features, but it's a _different_ 20% for just about every customer. There's always 1 feature a customer can't live without. That's what keeps 'em locked in :).

      The danger from dropping rarely used features and picking just one way to do things is that you'll force your users to spend lots of money switching over to the 1 way you picked, and they'll start asking if they should look for alternatives.
  • Just Steve Ballmer (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This guy can sell anything! Even Reversi and Windows 8!

    Too bad he's gone now.

  • by andyring (100627) on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:22AM (#47483021) Homepage

    I work concurrently in a large company (45,000 employees) and a small company (50-ish, but for years we were in the 5-8 range). I am solidly convinced that the larger a company gets, the higher the number of excess employees.

    How do I work concurrently in both companies? My primary employer is the small company, but the large company has subcontracted me via my primary employer to work in their HQ 3 days a week because a specific department (which my primary employer specializes in) is swamped, or so they say. So, 3 days a week I work at the big place with very little to do and end up doing a small amount of work and lots of web browsing or reading or working remotely as I'm able on tasks for the small company. And then 2 days a week I'm at the small company, swamped and playing catch-up.

    Granted, this is but one example, but the contrast I see on a daily basis is stunning. Even in my smaller employer I see us getting more inefficiencies and "dead weight" employees. Back when our employee count was in the single digits, it was a whole different ballgame. We were small. We didn't have the resources to carry extra employees. When someone would quit, it was a huge deal because we'd be losing literally like a sixth of our entire workforce. And it was a fun environment! It truly felt like a tightly connected team.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I've been employed at the small company for 16 years and have no desire to leave. But to get back to the original question, the bigger a company gets, the more dead weight they'll carry until the times get really tough. Then, you'll see where they can cut the fat.

    Here's an example. A few decades ago, the Rock Island railroad was a well-known railroad across the Midwest. They went bankrupt in about 1980 if memory serves. Leading up to their insolvency, they ended up leading the industry in getting down to a 2-person train crew because they simply had no money to pay additional crew members. From what I've heard, managers literally told train crews "Tough luck, you get an engineer and a conductor because we can't afford to pay for a brakeman." And now the industry standard is a 2-person train crew.

    Aside from Microsoft, a FAR better question would be (not to turn this political, but it's a fair question): "How many employees does $government really need?"

    Where am I going with this? I'm not sure. Maybe I'm rambling because I'm bored. :)

    • I work concurrently in a large company (45,000 employees) and a small company (50-ish, but for years we were in the 5-8 range). I am solidly convinced that the larger a company gets, the higher the number of excess employees.

      certainly large companies have more excess employees, after all the are larger and if only 10% of a company's employees are excess then, using your example, one has 45k and the other 5 excess employees. I suspect the percentage is larger at large companies because it is easy to hide employees and hire, rathe than layoff, staff.

      What is the right number of employees? It depends; largely on their revenue generating ability.I've worked at companies where if an employee was billable 65% of the time everyone was

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by osschar (442236)

      I bet you're working for the large company today :)

    • by nblender (741424)

      I like to think of it as "Silting up"... big companies with little apparent strategic direction tend to lose their most talented employees to 'churn'... The least talented employees have fewer options so they stay put marking time.. They become silt..

    • by swb (14022)

      I was a network manager at a large-ish company and took a job at a smaller consulting company.

      I work much harder at the small company than I did at the large company. The only time I worked harder at the large company was when doing large, time-sensitive projects (ie, get to pause/finish stage or network is broken).

      The upside of the large company workload was that I think I my knowledge was much higher resolution, because I had time to focus and dig into details. At the consulting job, I have much more ex

    • by dj245 (732906)

      Granted, this is but one example, but the contrast I see on a daily basis is stunning. Even in my smaller employer I see us getting more inefficiencies and "dead weight" employees. Back when our employee count was in the single digits, it was a whole different ballgame. We were small. We didn't have the resources to carry extra employees. When someone would quit, it was a huge deal because we'd be losing literally like a sixth of our entire workforce.

      I think you answered your own question in a sense. When your company was small, the culture was that every employee was very valuable and getting rid of someone just wasn't an option. People were accountable because they didn't want to let the team down. They could see how important they were. It was obvious every time a coworker took a week off for vacation.

      When a company gets bigger, it has to shed the notion that every person is absolutely valuable and needed. Equally important is spending effort

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      "Tough luck, you get an engineer and a conductor because we can't afford to pay for a brakeman." And now the industry standard is a 2-person train crew.

      The industry standard is a 2-person train crew because of FRED, who dates approximately from the 1980s. Another case of automation eliminating jobs.

  • "The company is famous for its huge teams that don't work together well, and excessive middle management." Can you guess which one causes the other?
  • by Kingkaid (2751527) on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:34AM (#47483133)
    The Nokia aquisition added 25k to their roster and they are cutting 18k. So why all the big hupla?
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:34AM (#47483139)

    Just a rule of thumb I've seen in the lower end of the tech market to stay profitable. At $100B revenue (per year), that's 200K employees. At 110K employees, they're around 900K per employee, which is great.

  • does IBM have 400k employees? is the count ~300k for temp staff?

  • by west (39918) on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:52AM (#47483285)

    If they really wanted to do what was right for the stock holders, they should acknowledge that they've got an incredibly lucrative income stream from a gradually dying product line. They should milk the Windows/Office franchise for everything they can, while cutting down development which only at this point enrages customers who have to spend big bucks on migration costs.

    Cut everything way back, and send every penny you make straight back to the stock holders (i.e. an Income Trust).

    MS Stock would instantly become the hottest income stock on the market. "Hey, we're *not* going to blow every penny we've made for the last 30 years in a futile attempt to stave off the end of our industry. We're just going to make you very, very wealthy!"

    MS is sitting on the world's most profitable oil field. There's no shame in acknowledging that it won't last forever - just exploit it as profitably (i.e. cheaply) as possible and give the money to the stock holders.

    • by dj245 (732906)

      If they really wanted to do what was right for the stock holders, they should acknowledge that they've got an incredibly lucrative income stream from a gradually dying product line. They should milk the Windows/Office franchise for everything they can, while cutting down development which only at this point enrages customers who have to spend big bucks on migration costs.

      Cut everything way back, and send every penny you make straight back to the stock holders (i.e. an Income Trust).

      MS Stock would instantly become the hottest income stock on the market. "Hey, we're *not* going to blow every penny we've made for the last 30 years in a futile attempt to stave off the end of our industry. We're just going to make you very, very wealthy!"

      MS is sitting on the world's most profitable oil field. There's no shame in acknowledging that it won't last forever - just exploit it as profitably (i.e. cheaply) as possible and give the money to the stock holders.

      This sort of argument shows a lack of business common sense. People need operating systems to run on their computers. That operating system needs to be continuously updated with security fixes. It is also nice to get new features every now and then. What Microsoft really needs to do is drop the Major Revision concept and just sell "Windows" or "Office" as a service. The OS gets updated periodically and people pay periodically.

      Microsoft has pushed this before and the backlash was/has been huge becau

      • That operating system needs to be continuously updated with security fixes.

        What you mean "need". The license doesn't put them in any liability for the consequences of security flaws. People don't use Windows and Office because they're the most secure products, they use Windows and Office because they are locked in. Microsoft could declare right now they're not going to fix any more security flaws in Windows, all future installations will be licensed at a fee of $1K/CPU/year, and people wouldn't have any more choice than they do now.

  • Consider the history of major software projects, and how many employees were required. BSD unix was a university project, developed by faculty and students. Linux was developed initially by one person, and then a relatively small team. NeXT was developed by a fairly small team over a relatively small amount of time. Mac OSX was basically the NeXT system ported over to the Mac platform; at the time, Apple had about a tenth of the employees of Microsoft, and was under significant financial stress. iOS an

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kamapuaa (555446)

      Actually Windows XP was based on the Windows NT architecture. Windows 95, was based on the DOS architecture.

      Windows 95 was decades ago, it wasn't up to modern standards but it was certainly better than Mac OS 7 or Linux 1.0. It's time to move on.

      • Actually Windows XP was based on the Windows NT architecture. Windows 95, was based on the DOS architecture.

        Windows 95 was decades ago, it wasn't up to modern standards but it was certainly better than Mac OS 7 or Linux 1.0. It's time to move on.

        OSX in fact precedes windows 95, let alone Windows NT. That's right, because the best parts of OSX originate in NeXT, which was sold as a product in 1988, six years or more before windows 95. And the reason why NeXT/OSX were so great so early was because they were based on the decades old Unix architecture. And don't talk about Mac OS 7. It was dead end garbage. Only the most superficial structures from Mac OS made it into OSX.

  • It seems to me that anyone who says this, I synthesized our strategic direction... [microsoft.com], is utterly incompetent at coordinating a large group. That is unthinking corporate-speak. It communicates non-verbally that he has no understanding of what is needed.

    More:

    "... realign our workforce..."

    "... work toward synergies and strategic alignment..."

    "... drive greater accountability..."

    "... become more agile and move faster."

    "... fewer layers of management, both top down and sideways, ..."

    "... fla
  • No Worries (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    A mass layoff would normally be a tragic thing for the employees. However, these are people with programming experience from a top tier computer company. With all the recent reports of the huge need for more coders, they should have no trouble getting new jobs. RIGHT?

  • by Rinikusu (28164) on Friday July 18, 2014 @12:10PM (#47483433)

    Because they don't need any of the former, but low and behold, a half million of the latter.

  • just that last one to turn out the light. At least for the mobile division.
  • How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need?

    With any luck, no more than is necessary to shut the doors and turn out the lights.

  • HP has over 317,000 employees, thanks in large part to acquisitions - Microsoft is no different here.

    Lots of redundancies can be eliminated (unfortunately for those employees) - and in some ways, this is a very bad thing. As monopolies grow, they are able to be more efficient and eliminate jobs. We don't stop and think about the fact that in a massive conglomerate corporation place once stood several competing corporations that meant competition (lower prices, better service to consumers) and more jobs - bu

  • ... to close the door on the way out

  • How many employees does the US Govt really need.
  • by Geeky (90998) on Friday July 18, 2014 @12:29PM (#47483617)

    I'm not sure including Amazon in the list is a reasonable comparison. Their numbers will be boosted by all the shelf pickers. Same with Apple and their retail stores - it's a different kind of business (OK, perhaps MS have some stores, but I doubt anything like as many). Some tasks are just more labour intensive (at least until Amazon perfects their robot pickers!)

  • In modern corporate thinking, the answer is two - the CEO, and a flunky to fetch coffee and do any actual work the CEO should be doing. Every other position should be either automated or outsourced.

  • by ErichTheRed (39327) on Friday July 18, 2014 @12:34PM (#47483675)

    I work for a medium-large organization (a few thousand people worldwide, nothing like a Microsoft or IBM.) Both very small and very large organizations have problems. Small businesses are usually run by a tyrannical owner and their family, and all others are treated like "the help". Large organizations develop their own political infrastructure, and yes, they collect a lot of unnecessary employees. I'm not sure which is the bigger problem.

    When things get too big, there are some people who get very good at either (a) hiding out and not doing a whole lot, or (b) taking advantage of the size of the organization and slowly building empires around themselves. I'm on a very small (way too small for the amount of actual, real customer work we do) product engineering team and am sometimes amazed at how easily some other groups within our company can just ask for and receive more headcount. Good politicians do very well in large organizations. In addition, there are simply a lot of jobs that involve processes that could be automated, but for whatever reason they're not. How many large-company employees do you know that simply take an input stack of work, perform some sort of transaction on it, and pass it on to the next person in the chain? A lot of this is probably holdover from when companies actually did have thousands of people manually processing paper and requests.

    Also, in large organizations with long-term employees, it's very easy for the employees to get wrapped up in the organizational procedures themselves. I have a lot of friends who work for the state university system and in local governments, and they tell me all sorts of stories about people throwing fits over the number of sick days they have banked, etc. just because it's a very important part of their work culture. There's a lot of bureaucracy just for the sake of it, and long-term employees use "the system" to maximum advantage. The problem is that it distracts from the actual work that needs to be done.

    I'm not really sure we _should_ get rid of every single inefficient position, for one simple reason...these office jobs keep a huge chunk of middle class with reasonable skills and medium levels of education employed. Take those out everywhere and suddenly millions of people start defaulting on their debts and the economy collapses. In that case, either (a) the economy reorganizes around a Star Trek The Next Generation model, or (b) we start seeing some really bad stuff happening in the near future. Losing manufacturing was bad -- imagine what happens when millions more have nowhere to go and nothing to do.

    That said, try to get a bug fixed or feature added in Windows or Office...it's not easy and I think I know part of the reason. :-)

  • Stephen Elop is somehow hanging on and getting promoted, despite turning Nokia from a one time cellphone powerhouse into a shell of an IP holding company, and finally into MSFT's redheaded stepchild. See Om Malik's take [om.co]
  • One advantage of being laid off by Microsoft. When the crappy job ad asks for the impossible, such as "5+ years experience with Windows 8", a former MS employee can actually claim to have that experience!

  • My experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) on Friday July 18, 2014 @01:07PM (#47483993)

    I worked for some time for one of the largest companies in the world during its biggest growth period. We had about 40,000 employees when I joined and about 15 years later we had about 120k. Honestly, we didn't really do anything significantly different production wise at the end that we weren't doing that the beginning, perhaps 10k of those extra 80k employees contributed to an actual increase in delivered products and services.

    At the beginning a department was generally a manager who reported to a VP or GM, they had 5-6 managers under them and each manager had 6-12 employees. Those first line managers were responsible for making decisions and accountable for the results. About half the company was in manufacturing or customer support of some kind.

    What we had at the end were lots and lots of meetings with lots and lots of people who all wanted a vote. Ownership and accountability were all over the place. Perhaps 3-5 people were all doing the job that one FLM was doing at the beginning. We had a ton of process and paperwork. Lots and lots of middle management. There were now as many as 7-8 layers between a first line manager and a GM or VP. That's another thing. I think we had about 9 or 10 VP's at the start and we had about 50 of them towards the end. We spent millions, even billions on things we really had no core competency on and then abandoned them when the people running them realized the quagmire they were in was about to go over their heads. We got further and further away from profitable products and services.

    Then we took a seriously wrong turn innovation-wise (like we didn't do any for a while, just insisted on doing the same stuff we'd always done, the way we'd always done it) and we almost had our lunch eaten by a far less capable competitor. We lost or laid off about 30,000 employees in just a few years. Unfortunately many of them were the talented people who just didn't need to deal with uncertainty or bureaucracy anymore. Miraculously, a small group of employees coughed up a major innovation and we got back into the game and came back gangbusters. The company has such a commanding lead in the market they're in and are so efficient at manufacturing that really nobody else can profit in the segment so they'll maintain inertia for at least another 3-5 years, maybe more.

    The company is still doing well, but frankly even at current employee levels you could take another 20-30k of the middle management and redundant "stakeholders" out to the parking lot, tar and feather them and not allow them back into the building ever again and absolutely nothing bad would happen. As long as you held onto the manufacturing, IT, customer service, engineering and about 50 marketing/PR people, things would go at least as well.

    We worked with Microsoft a lot and I met regularly with their execs and senior management. They have pretty much the same disease. A long in the tooth cash cow that turns out money like a broken ATM and management that's sure all of that is due to their guidance and genius. Extreme narcissism and an ivory tower that goes to the moon. Most of the key decision makers and innovators are probably mired down in 7.5 hours of meetings a day and spend the other hour and a half doing e-mail and writing progress reports. Once they wander too far away from the cash cow, they burn through money and get nowhere. They absolutely fit the saying "when you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail". Its all about "how do we stuff Windows into it, and lets just try to do the same things that others already squeezed the profit out of, whether there is a real strategy there or if it even fits into anything we have any competence in".

    So I'd say that with their current reasonable and profitable product set, they probably need around 65k-70k employees. I don't think at this point that they really have any valid position in the hardware business. The mobile market blew past them 3+ years ago. They might make 4th or 5th in the ecosystem business if they tried hard. They could easily be pushed right out of business in under 5 years.

  • As a side note. The announcement of the huge Microsoft layoffs come one week after Bill Gates calls for more imported labor.

    Break the Immigration Impasse
    By SHELDON G. ADELSON, WARREN E. BUFFETT and BILL GATESJULY 10, 2014
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/11/opinion/sheldon-adelson-warren-buffett-and-bill-gates-on-immigration-reform.html?_r=0

  • by Third Position (1725934) on Friday July 18, 2014 @03:06PM (#47484895)

    ...that Bill Gates says we desperately need .

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