Back in April when word came down that Niall Kennedy, of Technorati, would be joining Windows Live, I don't think there was a person that wasn't excited at the big news. Niall was a great asset to Microsoft and it will be a big loss for him to go. The more troubling part of Niall's goodbye message is his reasoning behind leaving Microsoft.
"Windows Live is under some heavy change, reorganization, pullback, and general paralysis and unfortunately my ability to perform, hire, and execute was completely frozen as well…If we had the resources I truly believe we could have tackled the number of users Hotmail, Messenger, Spaces, or even Internet Explorer might supply, and then ask for more by opening up the platform to the world…It's easier to get funding outside Microsoft than inside at the moment, so I am stepping out and doing my own thing."
This obviously does not reflect well on Microsoft's Live division. Of course, these are just the opinions of one Windows Live employee, but if Niall's statements are true across the division, then the executives need to do some serious thinking about their direction. If Windows Live is going to move forward and be a leader in the online services space, resources need to be readily available to the teams, both big and small.
I talked with Niall today for a little bit to get his reactions on his time with Windows Live:
LiveSide: What do you think Windows Live could do to support their employees, more specifically the smaller groups?
Niall Kennedy: Microsoft is currently experimenting with new methods that could be a step in the right direction. teams are trying agile programming methods, shortened product sprints, and limiting their product horizon to react quicker to market conditions. I think some of the new office space in Bellevue and Redmond will help this effort, but the biggest change that could help Live would be to better distribute the locations of their teams, as Google has successfully done.
LiveSide: Ok, such as how they have the Mail team in Mountain View?
Niall: Yep. Microsoft has a "come to Redmond" mentality, which warps the world placing Redmond at the center of a software universe. Placing individual product groups in various locations will help solve overcrowding and spur innovation. we've seen it happen with moving Xbox and Bungie off-site, I think a change of workplace setup could invigorate the groups.
LiveSide: So, you think that a change in geography will help the resolve some of the gridlock that you were seeing?
Niall: I think it might create more autonomous groups, able to act quickly in an Internet marketplace.
LiveSide: Just one more quick question then. If Microsoft had provided you with the resources and employees necessary to carry out your project effectively, would you be leaving?
Niall: No, I would have remained as excited as I was when I joined the company in April.
That statement definitely says a lot about how Niall felt while working at Windows Live during the past few months. Niall, thanks for taking out a few minutes to talk to us, I am sure you are very busy today.
Any way you look at it, Microsoft just cannot afford to lose great minds like Niall Kennedy right now. We wish Niall the best of luck with his next project, but we are also sad to see him go.