From 30k feet - The implementation may be herculean but it isn’t rocket surgery
I was asked a while ago (a looooong time ago) to offer an explanation about how to "fix MSN." Not to come up with every single detail but to think, on a high level, about how the business unit can be restructured into an easily digestible brand with a simple mission and with great products. So I thought I'd do a copy and paste job into the old drob blog here for kicks. Have at it.
1st off MSFT needs to adopt a different philosophy about how it will operate on the Web from this day forward. It's not going to be MSFT against Googleanymore. It's going to MSN for the Web! MSN will exist for its users and the developers that want to take advantage of the hundreds of millions of people that visit MSN. The Web doesn't run on the OS, the people who use the Web run the Web. They run it wherever and however they want, after-all, that's what the Web is all about. The sooner that philosophy is embraced the sooner MSN can move on. In short MSN needs to get more conversational in nature… it's needs to be more Semantic-y. Microsoft needs to bucket MSN into easy to understand groups that folks internally are able to understand and they must be fully enabled to be RESPONSIBLE for those experiences. The first effort around this reorganization would be to come up with a viable plan to exploit the traffic that already exists then go after the other domestic traffic at the same time as I expand internationally.
Here's the plan: Separate MSN into 2 vertical competencies and 3 cross-functional groups that have little or no dependencies outside it's core mission. It has to be this way otherwise MSN will always play second fiddle to it's master (I'm lookin' at you Windows & IE6). If MSN chooses to exploit that opening to further the mission then it has to be through all A-Gradebrowsers and NOT an OS.
The 2 Vertical Groups:
• Publishing Group
This group collects the functions of Product, UXR, Web Development & Engineering + Q/A. This group will be responsible for maintaining and redesigning and deploying every single one of MSN's vertical publishing sites in the next 18 months. The one's that don't make it in 18 months get put in maintenance mode or get put out to pasture. Impossible you say? It's not. Share the platform and an operational design system that can extend horizontally. Document the patterns and reuse : UX, CSS, HTML, JS, etc.
• Applications Group
This group collects the functions of Product, UXR, Web Development & Engineering + Q/A. This group will be responsible for maintaining and redesigning every MSN product in 18 months, period. Search (Cashback? Really?) , Mail & Messaging, Community, Registration etc. The one's that don't make it in 18 months get put in maintenance mode or get put out to pasture. Impossible you say? It's not. Share the platform and an operational design system that can extend horizontally. Document the patterns and reuse : UX, CSS, HTML, JS, etc.
The Cross-Functional Groups
• Platforms Group
This group collects the functions of Product, UXR, Web Development & Engineering + Q/A. This group understands every aspect of MSN's business. It documents and vets behavioral patterns, best practices for user experience, common practices for user experience across products and publishing. Maintains and develops publisher tools for external publishers that participate in organizations such as Open Social, OpenML, MSQL, etc. It is responsible for developer outreach and it's documentation. More, more, more…
• Competitive Research and Analysis Group
This group collects the functions of Business Development, Product, UXR, Web Development & Engineering. This group understands every aspect of MSN's business. It conducts competitive research, identifies voids and offers solutions (i.e possible M&A targets or products to build). This group has a rich set of human readable analytics tools and communicates their analysis to all of the MSN business unit employees. This group also has a small team of people who's mission it is to think of new products and experiences that aren't part of the MSN experience today and to prototype them into a working business.
• Band & Marketing Group
This group collects the functions of marketing, branding and design. This group is small. It's focus is on creating a very simple message and a simple brand that is scalable and understandable. It's also focused on entry points to the MSN network and increasing engagement across the network. The goal of simplicity cannot be understated enough… this is the primary extension of the brand.
The implementation may be herculean but it isn't rocket surgery. It all sounds so simple doesn't it? The problem is that it isn't that simple but could be. Let me say that again… it isn't simple but it could be. All you need is
So lambaste me. Fry me on a stick. Throw me in a river and call me a witch. WHATEVER!
It's just an opinion… sheesh!
Yours truly. ~ drob.