Box CEO impressed with Microsoft culture change to a “partner-first” company

Vu Anh Nguyen

While there are a lot of naysayers about Microsoft, no one can deny the immense culture shift the  company has undergone in recent time under CEO Satya Nadella, so much so that it has turned around stinted past relationships into valuable partnering opportunities. An important insider of one of these turnarounds, CEO of enterprise cloud storage firm Box, Aaron Levie, spoke to GeekWire about his impression on the new Microsoft in a recent interview.

I don’t know how to overstate how much the culture has changed. It’s immeasurably different in terms of that permission from the top down to go outside of Redmond and go outside of Microsoft to drive value and drive innovation for customers.

Levie’s opinions can be summed up in a few words: thoroughly impressed. He is particularly amazed by Microsoft’s current attitude towards partnering with any value-adders for the customers, even direct competitors to some of its product lines – something unheard of just a few years ago. According to Levie, contrary to the past, the decision now comes down to individual teams of who to partner with, be it Office or Windows. In the words of Box’s CEO: Microsoft has transformed from a “competition-first” company to a “partner-first company and competition second” – a fundamental shift.

When you open up the entire organization and say — “listen, we are going to build for customers first, which is going to inevitably mean that we have to partner with a tremendous amount of companies that we used to compete with” — that sends a ripple down the organization.

Levie mentions Office a lot in his quotes; appropriate given his company’s recent partnership with Microsoft to launch Office 365 integration for Box. Microsoft’s current cross-platform strategy, championed by the appearance of its Office suite on the two dominating mobile OSes – Android and iOS – is a direct result of this culture change, according to Levi.

I think a great testament to the Microsoft culture is how quickly the organization adapted. There’s no harboring competitive vibes just because we were competitors for the first eight years of our existence. In general we are seeing tremendous amount of openness and sort of open arms around partnering with them. I think that’s a great testament to the Microsoft culture of how resilient it is and how adaptable it is to the times. Satya has just driven an amazing amount of change throughout the organization around that.

While Box’s CEO did brush off the idea of Microsoft acquiring the company, stating that Box is incredibly excited to remain a public and independent company, he nevertheless alludes to a future possibilities, while stressing the focus on partner-centric approaches from Microsoft. Whoever those partners may be, there is no doubt that they will help Microsoft grow as part of the tech industry and not just a dominator, and we’re excited to see to what heights Redmond’s new culture will lead it.