Windows NT 4 has been a big success. What are the
ingredients that produced this success? PCQ Labs speaks to TS Krishnan, Director
(Enterprise Customer Unit), Microsoft India, to find out.

We did not see much of overt
promotional activity for NT 4, like in the case of Win95. Yet NT has been a big success.
What is Microsoft doing to script this success story?

With NT Server 4, we are offering huge functionality differences that would appeal to a
lot of users. So we let the world know that NT was there with enhancements over the
previous version. Then we started on marketing the product. You must have seen our
advertising for NT over the last few months.We started building awareness about the
product across the various customer segments. We first started this with road shows and
seminars. Right now, there’s a 28-city roadshow going to the B and C cities and towns.

The next step was to get our large partners
to go alongwith us and start endorsing NT. Most software decisions are taken alongwith
that for hardware. Compaq, Digital, Wipro, and HCL have started recommending NT. We had to
get their sales people comfortable with NT. We helped them build back-end infrastructure
in terms of support and installation.

Building our own channel network came next.
They are the people who go to the small and medium organizations. NT delivers enormous
value to such organizations because of ease of implementation, ease of use, and generally
a low overhead compared to say Unix.

The other thing we’re doing is going for
large accounts and telling them how they can benefit out of NT. One of the mindsets that
we used to face about 18 to 24 months back were things like NT not being scalable, NT not
being tested etc. The proof that we have made progress is that this issue does not come up
now. On the contrary, I hear that wherever people are recommending Unix or NetWare, they
get asked-Why not NT also? That’s a really positive sign for us. We also do some pilot
implementations to gain the customer’s confidence. Wherever we have pushed NT, the success
rate has been over 90 percent.

Just touching on one specific
point. You said that your partners talk about NT. Why are they doing it?

I would say that there are multiple reasons why they’re recommending NT. Purely in terms
of performance, especially on Intel platform, NT delivers phenomenal power functionality
and robustness. So it’s a very safe recommendation. Second is ease of implementation.
Network implementations are getting more and more complex in terms of WAN connectivity and
interconnectivity with other operating systems. NT lends itself to these complex
implementations without much of a problem. For example, you can make a web server out of
NT with no additional investment. Today, you can start with a simple server and tomorrow
make it into a web server. So there is flexibility. Third is price/performance.

Those are product attributes. What
else are you doing to promote this?

There’s a whole package that we are delivering at the backend. It’s more of a partnership
initiative. We are hand holding them and investing in building their skills, to make them
confident in NT. Microsoft is investing in this country. That’s a huge confidence building
measure vis-a-vis partners because when they recommend NT to customers they know that
there is a Microsoft office nearby to provide them with the support.

How is NT doing in specific
segments like say manufacturing?

NT is kind of cutting across the lines. I’d say that manufacturing is fairly an important
sector. And more often than not where Intel is the server platform of choice, NT becomes
the default choice as the operating system. All vendors, be it SAP or Ramco or BAAN, are
very comfortable recommending NT. Manufacturing is definitely a key segment. With the wide
functionality of NT, it’s not just manufacturing, but people are also looking at it for
large email network office automation servers, and so on.

And banking?
Banking is one area where we have started making inroads, but we haven’t made the kind of
inroads that we should, probably because of the lack of applications. Bank purchases are
very tightly integrated to applications, and it’s also tightly integrated to the legacy
prevailing in the organization. My assessment is that bank computerization is driven by
the number of branches computerized than the quality of computerization in each branch. So
when the thrust is on numbers, most banks want to pick up existing solutions and use them
in maximum branches without thinking whether that is the right thing, or whether there is
a better option available.

However, we’re making significant progress
with new banks that are coming up. Also, we’re making progress with some of the smaller
banks which have grown, like Vysya Bank and Centurion Bank. We’re also making inroads into
some of the large nationalized banks for specific applications like foreign exchange
management. However, in the next four to eight months, there’s going to be a significant
change in the banking market, because we’re going to have most of the mainline banking
applications come up on NT. Whether it’s TCS or Infosys, or even relatively smaller
players, all are porting their software onto NT. I think that we will be in a position to
dominate the banking market then.

Porting to NT is also giving application
developers the opportunity to upgrade their software, a large part of which was written 4
to 7 years back. Today, if they want to add ATM facilities, or ‘any branch banking’ or
‘anywhere banking’ features, NT is giving them the opportunity to do so, because in most
of the cases, they have to write ground up. So they’re using NT as an opportunity to
upgrade their software and become current in terms of features and functionality of their
own products.

When it comes to implementation,
particularly for large accounts, what can a buyer expect from Microsoft? What can he
expect from the partners?

We never sell directly. We go and pitch with a partner. Once the customer gives us the
order, and defines the product requirement and back-end services requirement, the partner
picks up the product order, places it to the distributor, and it gets delivered. So the
partner gets the topline and bottomline of the product. Second thing is the services part.
We have a team called Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS). MCS has a very focused charter,
which is that people investing in our technology and products should get the maximum
mileage out of it.

They deliver that in two ways. First, at
the architectural design stage for example somebody says, I want to have a messaging
architecture, so MCS would go and help them do that. Second is in implementation rollout
stage. If somebody has decided to go with NT Exchange then our infrastructure team from
MCS will help them roll it out. When it comes to services after the sale, the partner and
MCS will work together in making sure that the project is implemented. MCS brings in the
core skills and the partner brings in system integration skills. So it’s very
complementary. From customer viewpoint, he sees Microsoft people coming in and value
adding because it is Microsoft technology and he sees the partner coming in and doing
systems integration, because they have those skills. Our guys may not know so much about
hardware like routers and bridges. But we know our technology best, and we can optimize
it.

There are various models for doing this. In
some cases MCS does the back ending, while in others, the customer insists and MCS does
project management and front ending, with the partner giving the back-end stuff. Sometimes
it’s a joint effort wherein we clearly define the role of MCS and the partner. But in all
the three scenarios, Microsoft is directly involved in the customer seeing value. We are
also sending them information.

We are in the process of putting together a
customer care program so there’ll be more back-end communication from us without a sales
person visiting. This will ensure that the customer is getting information from us,
irrespective of whether he is buying products from us in the next one or two months. The
back-end process for this is not yet in great shape. We need to fix that. So the customer
gets pure technical value from Microsoft.

The fourth thing that we have started
offering now is post-sales technical support. We’ve started a new group called Primary
Response Group in Mumbai. This is a 24 x 7 Microsoft support center. We have support
contract. Now with large customers we can sign PRG contracts, and Microsoft will directly
provide post-sales technical support.

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