John Fikany's pitch to automakers: "We're talking about how we can sell more vehicles for them." PHOTO: JOSHUA KRISTAL
And John Fikany sees opportunities for growth.
Fikany, 43, is a former Oracle Corp. sales executive who took over as general manager of the Microsoft Automotive and Industrial Equipment Vertical in Southfield, Mich., 14 months ago. One industry observer puts the unit's revenue at $330 million annually, with about $220 million from automotive. Microsoft would not give a figure. About 200 people work in the office.
Fikany wants to reposition Microsoft from a "product-selling machine" to a "strategic adviser" to automakers, suppliers and dealers. To listen to Fikany, a sales call used to sound like this: "OK, we got this SQL Server, where can we put it?" But that was a bit arrogant, he says. So he changed the approach.
"We're talking about how we can sell more vehicles for them," he says. "We're talking about manufacturing issues, product-development issues. We're talking about marketing and sales constraints that are out there right now."
Fikany's greatest challenge will be to persuade General Motors to move business to Microsoft when GM puts $15 billion worth of information technology business up for bids. In 2006, GM's 10-year contract with EDS expires; the automaker has invited vendors to compete for that business.
Microsoft has some GM business, but neither company would say how much. A GM spokesman declined to estimate Microsoft's chances for winning some of the EDS business, saying GM does not want to "show any semblance of one company getting preferential treatment over the other."
You may e-mail Ralph Kisiel at [email protected]