The pros and cons of making Stephen Elop Microsoft’s next CEO

Stephen Elop Microsoft CEO Candidate

Microsoft insiders may deny that former Nokia boss Stephen Elop is on the fast track to become the company’s next CEO, but there’s no doubt that he’s at least a leading candidate for the job. Bloomberg Businessweek has written up a nice little profile of Elop that details his time at both Microsoft and Nokia and provides some solid insight into some of his strengths and weaknesses as a leader. With this in mind, we’ve made a quick list of the pros and cons of making Elop the next Microsoft CEO based on what we’ve learned from Businessweek’s piece.

Pros:

  • Elop is decisive. Elop’s crucial decision to move Nokia away from its Symbian platform onto Windows Phone was incredibly controversial. It was also very gutsy and he stuck with it through all sorts of criticism. The ability to cut losses on projects that clearly aren’t going anywhere is something that Microsoft desperately needs — witness how long it tried to make the Zune work as well as its stubborn willingness to stay the course with Windows RT.
  • He’s already succeeded at Microsoft. Microsoft is a big, sprawling company that is incredibly complicated to run, so Elop’s knowledge of the firm could help him adjust more quickly than outsider CEOs. Businessweek says that Elop’s big accomplishment at Microsoft was that he “pushed the company to develop cloud-based versions of its programs — a lower-margin approach that has helped the company maintain its dominance,” so he has a history of pushing forward-thinking projects to head off startups that are trying to disrupt Microsoft’s traditional business models.

Cons:

  • His tenure at Nokia was on the whole uninspiring. Although Elop certainly inherited a bad situation when he took over Nokia in 2010, there are real questions about what he achieved at the company other than fattening it up for a sale to Microsoft. And while getting struggling companies in good enough shape to make them attractive to buyers certainly requires smart planning and strong decision-making abilities, it may not be the sort of skill set that Microsoft is looking for with its next chief executive.
  • He’s short on CEO experience. Other than his brief tenure as CEO of Nokia, Elop has only served as the CEO of one other company, Macromedia, for a grand total of three months. And since Macromedia got bought out by Adobe shortly after the start of his time as CEO, it really raises questions about whether Elop has the experience and strategic vision to lead a company that isn’t about to get bought up by a larger conglomerate.
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