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

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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  • Best metric (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:04AM (#47482821)

    How many H1-B visas are they requesting?

  • Shitpost is shit (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:08AM (#47482877)

    What the fuck do you want us to do? Know every single details about that company and come back with a definite number of employees it needs? Nobody here can do that.

    What a shitty submission.

  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:09AM (#47482881)

    64K is 65635

  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:14AM (#47482923)

    The submission is so pointless that I'm going to submit my own pointless reply: between one and one million employees.

  • by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:21AM (#47483007)

    Yes the question posed is ridiculous, akin to asking how long is a piece of string.

    Regardless, the submitter has created a space in which we can choose either to flame him/her (achieving nothing) or we can choose to have an interesting and useful debate on things like how companies slow down as they scale, whether there should be mandatory size limits on companies a la KSR's Red Mars trilogy, to what extent this move is an indictment of the Ballmer era, to what extent Microsoft's competitors i.e. Google might be suffering over-staffing and so on. Many interesting topics.

    So. Who's first?

  • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Friday July 18, 2014 @11:48AM (#47483261) Journal

    Nice flamebait, but let's make it an educational moment:

    Every product/project-centric company builds up cruft over time, and not just Microsoft. Intel does periodic flushes as they dump R&D groups (I used to work for DHG at Intel). OTOH, let's face it - Microsoft's habit of counter-productivity between teams (coupled with their previous habit of stack-ranking employees) is frickin' *legendary*. MSFT seriously does need to clean house, and badly. They aren't the hungry company they were back in the '80s and '90s, and they've become about as nimble as a supertanker with a busted rudder. I mean, c'mon - who the hell else would sink untold billions of R&D money into a product (XBox/360/One) that still has yet to realize overall ROI, 15 years later?

    The new CEO has a big job ahead of him. He's seen what happens to most tech companies as they reach middle age, and he knows that there's no crazy-ass visionary (e.g. Steve Jobs) coming to jump in and revitalize them.

  • 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 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.

  • 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 mspohr ( 589790 ) on Friday July 18, 2014 @12:34PM (#47483681)

    I am not a business expert but agree that MS probably has a lot of dead wood and poorly managed employees.
    Mass layoffs are one way to deal with this problem and this is what most companies do periodically.
    However, it seems to me that it is a sign of a poorly managed company if they need to do mass layoffs. A well managed company would be continuously evaluating employees and their work and making adjustments to personnel requirements every month. It seems supremely stupid for a company to suddenly wake up one day and discover that it has an extra xx thousands of employees.
    If a company is continuously adjusting personnel, it is also much easier on the employees since there are more opportunities to move employees to more appropriate jobs, re-train them for new tasks, or, failing that, provide comprehensive out-placement service. This would define a company which values human resources.
    Unfortunately, these MS employees are likely to be unceremoniously dumped with minimal chance of re-employment.

  • Re:Best metric (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mpercy ( 1085347 ) on Friday July 18, 2014 @01:08PM (#47484001)

    About 18,000...

  • 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!

  • Reading 'lol M$ sux' over and over again becomes extremely boring.

    I think you need to work on the filter logic in your parser. It doesn't seem to be kicking in before you get all emotional. You likely want to filter out the things that you don't care about that don't matter before emotional engagement.

    Also, Microsoft does suck, and replacing the letter S with a dollar sign has a long and hallowed history which in computing dates back at least to Compu$erve. Whinging won't change those things. Microsoft is a convicted criminal. If it were a person, even or perhaps especially a person as rich as Microsoft is, it would be imprisoned and its ill-gotten gains seized.

  • by Erikderzweite ( 1146485 ) on Friday July 18, 2014 @01:52PM (#47484363)

    >That's exactly backwards. In the US at least, you can lay off anyone without cause at any time in most states. However, a layoff of this size triggers the WARN act (originally written to soften the blow of closing The Factory in a factory town), requiring jumping through 17 flaming legal hoops to keep it all legal.

    The legal department won't be downsized then.

    OTOH, the US legal system never ceases to amaze me. And many people choose to think that the unions are evil instead.

  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Friday July 18, 2014 @02:12PM (#47484525)

    > 64K = 64,000
    > In no unit of measurement is 64K(anything) = 65635.

    How the hell did this ignorance of computer history get modded up??

    In the context of [binary] computers, 64K = 65536
    In the context of Science, 64K = 64,000

    There were many [granneman.com] ads showing 64K [regmedia.co.uk] and there was never any confusion over it. Hell, Microsoft never adapted [msdn.com] the KiB notation either.

    The retarded term KiB [wikipedia.org] wasn't EVEN invented until 1998!

  • by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Friday July 18, 2014 @02:31PM (#47484703) Journal

    MS bashing has been a core Slashdot content since before I created an account. If anything it's slackened off significantly since MS lost their complete dominance of consumer computing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 18, 2014 @07:39PM (#47486685)

    Two aspects of Unions are evil:

    1. All public Unions.

    A public union can't drive the gov't out of business, they can just get promised benefits from elected officials who won't be around when it comes time to pay the piper. Private unions I have minimal problems with, if you demand too much, you'll kill company and the union will die right along with it. They have a clear counterbalance in that context.

    2. Unions which enforce the collection of union dues from all employees. Let each individual decide if they'd like to pay the dues and get the union benefits or if they'd prefer to negotiate their own. Once in place in a private union shop, if you feel the union is corrupt or overreaching, it is impossible not to support them with your funds short of quitting.

    In many places, unions are wonderful and great (and historically, unions have done great things, I think they just accomplished the vast majority of the useful stuff long ago, and have since gone looking for things to do with the power they've accumulated). In others they are merely another set of hands collecting money and power to use in a self serving manner, while talking a great game about how they're going to improve things.

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer