Interview: Microsoft’s Brad Anderson on enterprise mobility, ‘insane mode,’ and 4:30 a.m. workouts
Microsoft executive Brad Anderson, vice president for the company’s enterprise client and mobility business, has been running a special video series on his “In the Cloud” blog in which he drives around in a Tesla with a guest, talking about the future of technology and enterprise mobility.
I joined Anderson recently for one of those drives, which turned out to be more eventful than expected, as you can see in the video below. And we decided to continue to the conversation in this episode of the GeekWire podcast — discussing the evolution of work, Microsoft’s new era, Anderson’s own work habits, and more.
Listen to the show below, and continue reading for an edited transcript.
Todd: I’m pleased to be joined in the newsroom this week by Brad Anderson. He is the corporate vice president for Enterprise Mobility at Microsoft. It’s great to have you here Brad.
Brad Anderson: Todd thanks for the opportunity. It is great to be here. What a great location you have.
Todd: You and I have some history. In fact some recent history. You’ve been doing a series of videos on your blog, In the Cloud. You put me into a Tesla Model S Roadster. Then the fun began. This is really going to be a continuation of the conversation that we had in that car so I wanted to start by bringing everybody else up to speed by playing some of the highlights.
Todd: Wow, that insane mode was nuts, oh my gosh.
Brad Anderson: Yeah, you know your reaction to that was just hilarious I still laugh about it. If you’ve never driven in a Tesla, the power is just shocking when you floor it whether you’re going 20 miles an hour, whether you’re going 60 … It throws you back in. It just throws you back in and it’s just amazing.
Todd: I would not want to experience that again. I love roller coasters but that itself was a struggle.
Brad Anderson: I tell you my kids get sick when they drive with me.
Todd: So Brad, you run Enterprise Mobility at Microsoft. … What does that mean? Give us the scope of your job.
Brad Anderson: One of the things that Satya (Nadella, Microsoft CEO) and my boss, Scott Guthrie, have asked me to do is help set the context and the vision for all Microsoft about how we bring in integrated solution for customers that enables them to take advantage of these mobility trends in the enterprise. Really our vision is how do you enable users to be productive on the devices that they love while the corporate assets are safe and secure.
Todd: In the past Microsoft’s solution to a lot of these things would have been “Here’s your Windows Mobile device,” back in the day, and then it became Windows Phone. It would have been all Microsoft technologies powering everything. Is that still the case?
Brad Anderson: No, I think you’ve seen a lot of changes as Satya’s come into the CEO role. I’ll tell we will do everything we can to earn the business on a Windows device but we also know that users have a lot of devices that are iOS and on Android. In that vision statement that I wrote for the company it literally says, “Enable users to be productive on the devices they love.” So independent of the device we’re going to do a darn good job with all the services that we build. I think Office 365 has really set the tone and really given that beautiful example of how serious we are about this.
Todd: When you talk about Enterprise Mobility, how much of that is the device versus the services and the apps and cloud, because there’s a whole thicket of things that have to happen behind the scenes for people to have a good experience on the device.
Brad Anderson: As we think about Enterprise Mobility it really is about how you enable a user to be on any device and transition across devices in a given day and have this incredibly empowering and rich experience delivered to them, independent of the device, that enables them to get their job done. It’s only possible because of the proliferation of the devices but more importantly what the cloud brings, because what the cloud brings for us is the ability for us to store all the users context, all their preferences — everything that they need to do their job is now stored in the cloud. It’s not that the device becomes just a replaceable commodity but it’s not longer all stored on the device, it’s all stored in the cloud so users can transition, roam, use different devices and everything they need is delivered to them.
Todd: Who are your main competitors?
Brad Anderson: Yeah, if you take a look at the major players in this, I’ll talk about the market in a minute, but the competitors are like AirWatch, MobileIron, Good Technology —those are the three that we see the most.
Todd: OK, and so with you as Microsoft it seems like you’re offerings would be much broader, you would be trying to sell people on a whole package of things that also include a lot of you Enterprise Mobility offerings, whereas those companies would be more, I guess they call them “point” offering in the industry?
Brad Anderson: Yeah you know, you are 100% right. This is actually like Microsoft’s playbook Page 2, if you will.
Let’s just talk a little bit about that market. If you think about the number of mobile devices that are being used to access corporate content globally today, best guess is what, a billion devices? Okay, roughly there. If you take a look at the number of devices that actually covered with what we call an Enterprise Mobility Management License, it’s less than a hundred million, less than 10% of the market is even licensed for one of these solutions. I would guess that only half of those have been deployed. This market is incredibly new, it’s incredibly young.
I think you’re just seeing the early signs that the consolidation, that all this happens as the market matures. What we’re seeing right is there are a number of organizations, many organizations that deployed maybe one solution for doing mobile device management, another solution for delivering managed email, maybe another solution for doing identity management and yet another one for doing enterprise file sync to synchronize files to all your devices. What we’re seeing now in the market is organizations saying “We’ve been at this for a year or two, we want to now have a much more comprehensive way of thinking about this and let’s put our enterprise architecture for mobility version 2 together.” It needs to be more comprehensive, more complete and that’s what we’re delivering.
Todd: It seems like, though, it would be a really hard sell for you — or at least a tougher sell — because Windows Phone doesn’t have the market share of iPhone and Android. In other words, if you could go in and say “Not only are you able to use our services and our apps but you can also use our devices.” It seems like it would be a much more comprehensive pitch that you could make. How much does not having that mobile market share hurt you guys?
Brad Anderson: I think the question that customers had for us in the past or the skepticism that maybe had been directed toward us was, “Is Microsoft serious about delivering their services on iOS and on Android?” If I rewind back 18 months ago, when I would go talk with customers they would say “Are you really serious about this?” I’ll tell you, what happened, when this changed was March 27, 2014. That’s the day that we announced and launched Office on the iPad. That Office on the iPad is such a great and beautiful experience, customers now look at that and say “Hey, Microsoft is really serious about business.” So I don’t get the questions or concerns any longer, “Is Microsoft serious about enabling users on all devices?” That really is not a conversation any longer.
Brad Anderson: At the Apple event.
Todd: Apple comes out and announces the iPad Pro and it’s basically a Surface Pro 3.
Brad Anderson: Looks a lot like it doesn’t it?
Todd: It looks like it, the screen size is very similar, it’s got a keyboard and a stylus. What a concept, right? I’m sure everybody in Redmond was going “Oh my gosh. They’re two years late.”
Brad Anderson: Yeah and then for Kirk to walk out on stage, huh?
Todd: That’s right. And so then the next thing was the first company brought out to promote the capabilities of apps on the new iPad Pro was Microsoft, it was Kirk Koenigsbauer.
Brad Anderson: Yeah, my how the world has changed.
Todd: It was like something out of the Twilight Zone. You actually have been part of this trend as well. You were the first Microsoft exec ever to give a keynote at Oracle OpenWorld. What was that like? How did that happen? Tell us about that experience.
Brad Anderson: Yeah it was really, really interesting. I remember the request came in, I worked with a couple other executives on putting together the deal that we had with Oracle. The structure of what we were trying to do for the customers was make sure that the Oracle applications were fully supported on the Microsoft cloud. That was the context of what we were working together to do. Then the request came in for us to actually send a keynote speaker to Oracle World. Oracle World has 50,000 attendees, they take over the city of San Francisco.
Todd: For people who may not be aware, Oracle and Microsoft traditionally are not friendly.
Brad Anderson: Not too friendly.
Todd: In the past, although things have change in the recent years.
Brad Anderson: Yeah, a lot has changed. I got to tell you just a quick story on this because it was super fascinating. I was scheduled to speak right before Larry Ellison. You could say maybe I was the warm up act. Either that or else Larry wanted to come in and correct anything that I said, right? You know I’m not sure which. But if you remember this was also right in the middle of the America’s Cup, in San Francisco and Oracle was the major sponsor. Okay, so you remember this incredible come back, the most incredible come back of all time in a sporting event. The US came back from what, 10 behind? Okay. This was the next to last race and it’s super fascinating because we were backstage and everyone was kind of following what’s going on with the America’s Cup. Larry’s out there in the boat and people are tweeting “Hey, Larry must going to have a helicopter to come in.” Larry didn’t come.
Todd: Oh my gosh.
Brad Anderson: And so as I was getting ready to walk on stage for the keynote, the Oracle people came up and said “Brad when you’re finished, close up, walk off and then we’re going to go out and announce that Larry’s not coming.” That was quite an experience to actually watch play out as Oracle went on and said “Hey, Larry is not coming. Thomas is going to come and be the speaker now.” You could hear the crowd out there but it was a fantastic experience. We were incredibly grateful to be there. I think that was one of the first big signs that you saw of Microsoft, whether you want to call it extending the olive branch, but it’s more about being a much more open and collaborative organization than we’ve ever been in the past. Literally being at Oracle World I think was were the first sign of that started to happen.
Todd: OK, let’s get into the really important questions, getting back to our opening there in the Tesla. Brad, I have to know, if you have somebody that you really don’t like, what do you give for your secret Santa?
Brad Anderson: I don’t know if I can even come close to your answer. Man, what would I give them.
Todd: And while you’re thinking there, I have to say the editing on that video was impeccable. We had a long car ride but as I watched it I was like “Wait a second where was my lunch?” I thought it was supposed to be lunch.
Brad Anderson: I ate it before you got there. Let’s see, what would I give someone that I really did not like? … It’d have to be something like a subscription to the Jellies of the Month club or something like that. Just something, this is like completely out of this world.
Todd: I wouldn’t mind that actually.
Brad Anderson: Well you know I’ll send it to you, you’re going to have to ask yourself “Does Brad like me? Does Brad not like me?”
Todd: That’s right exactly. Mixed messages. If I understand correctly — I’ve been doing my research — you get up at 4:30 every morning to work out. For the rest of us mere mortals how do you do that? Give us some tips.
Brad Anderson: Yeah. Throughout most of my life I haven’t needed as much sleep as I think what most people have, even when I was in college I used to get up at 3:00, 3:30 in the morning and I worked in a grocery store in the produce department. I had to stock the produce every morning. I don’t what it is, but for whatever reason if I can get four and a half to five hours of sleep at night then I’m in pretty good shape.
Todd: So you’re not only waking up at 4:30, you’re going to bed at midnight.
Brad Anderson: At 11:00. We have five kids. Three of them are still at home right now with us, teenagers coming in late at night.
Todd: It’s just something about your physiological make up where you feel you don’t need as much sleep.
Brad Anderson: Yeah it must be. I’m a morning person, I’m not a night person. If I’ve got something that I’ve got to get done, I need to get it done in the morning. If I wait to try to do it at 9:00, 10:00, 10:30 at night I’m not very productive at night.
Todd: got it. As you mentioned you do have five kids, what’s the age range?
Brad Anderson: 23, 20, 18, 16 and 12.
Todd: Wow. Okay, all right. You mentioned in an interview that you did that having children has really tempered you and helped you learn patience and then you said “I’m still learning.” Tell me about your biggest struggles and triumphs as a dad.
Brad Anderson: First of all that’s the greatest title in the world, being called a father. I am an overachiever by nature.
Todd: You got 70 badges in the Boy Scouts when you only needed 21 to be an Eagle Scout.
Brad Anderson: Yeah. Go back to when I was 13, 14, 15 … I stopped when I was 14 with 70 merit badges. I remember when we bought our first home, I used to get really upset when the flowers weren’t standing at attention. These perfectionist tendencies have always been something that’s lurked there for me. What really children have helped me understand, it’s helped me mature and helped me be a lot more patient. My expectations are high and my kids have all done phenomenally well in everything that they’ve done but I’ve had to learn how to temper how I push them and how I drive them in a way that’s healthy.
Todd: That’s really interesting and I imagine that at this point you’ve had more than 20 years of experience at it so you can make mistakes and then keep going, maybe do better with the next kid.
Brad Anderson: You know, I keep telling myself that but I’ll tell you the other thing is I married way, way up. I’ve got a wife who is phenomenal, Kim. We actually just passed our 27th anniversary. I met her when she was … I was a freshman in college she was a junior in high school. I actually took my wife to her junior prom, to go way, way back into 1985.
Todd: Another important question, is there a technical term that you’re sick of hearing? I’m throwing your own questions back at you.
Brad Anderson: I’m recognizing the question.
Todd: These were tough questions in that car I have to say. … Cloud? You’ve got to be … No, you’re not sick of hearing cloud?
Brad Anderson: No I actually love cloud. It’s really funny that as I give keynotes there are people who actually count the number of times that I say cloud and then tweet “Hey Brad said cloud 125 times in the 90 minute keynote that he just gave.” The thing to me that I think right now that I’m involved in that I worry often is misunderstood or is not understood to the depths is what is mobile application management?
Because there’s ten different layers of what mobile application management is. Some of it is empowering, some of it is actually dis-empowering to the user. The things that I’ve been working on recently in some of the blogs that I’m going to be posting over the next several weeks and months to help clarify what that is because it’s really a major area of what Enterprise Mobility has to deliver but I think that there are different vendors and organizations trying to blur what it means.
Todd: What does it mean to Microsoft?
Brad Anderson: To me mobile application management is about being able to separate corporate things from personal things on a device, being able to apply policy that protects those corporate assets but keeps IT away from anything that’s personal. It’s all about getting this balance of enabling users again to work on the devices that they love, protect the corporate assets but also protect the user from IT.
Todd: So in other words keep the IT department from getting into the user’s personal data, because a device is a device this days, you’re not carrying one device …
Brad Anderson: For work and one for personal life.
Todd: Unless you’re working for the government probably.
Brad Anderson: Yeah, there are still some of those companies that actually … I mean I visit with companies, even last week, that the users have two devices, one for work and one for their personal life and some of that is corporate culture, some of that is the users are actually nervous that if they allow the organization to take over their device that the organization will snoop on them. The number one concern that information workers have of bringing their own personal device into work is that the organization will look into their personal things. So for me MAM has to be both empowering to the user and it has to be able to protect the corporate assets.
Todd: Did you really just acronym that? MAM? Is that Mobile Application Management, is that what it is?
Brad Anderson: Yeah. That’s what it is. That’s the industry standard on it. Yes, MAM. Because you have the MDM and MAM or MAM. I think this has been a challenge in the industry of getting it right. Of, again, both giving that user that empowering rich experience. Protect the corporate data but also protect the end user.
Todd: What social networks do you pay the most attention to?
Brad Anderson: At work, Twitter. If I’m watching my kids, it’s on Instagram.
Todd: Not Facebook?
Brad Anderson: No, my kids actually do very little on Facebook any longer. Everything’s Instagram and Snapchat. It’s interesting, my second daughter, they just got back from their honeymoon in Italy and the way that I was tracking what they were doing is several times they would post Snapchats. You could actually see these 15 second blurbs of what they were seeing, where they were at in Italy. It was a way to share in this happiness and joy that they’re experiencing remotely.
Todd: Is that then a trend that you’re then expecting to bubble up into the enterprise, maybe more photo based, video based type of communication? Or is that something that stays confined to the personal world? In those short burst on mobile. [crosstalk 00:19:36]
Brad Anderson: Twitter really started with kids doing this if you will, actually the first time I heard of Twitter, all my kids were on Twitter five years ago. Now literally my kids don’t use Twitter at all. Everything has moved to these other ways. It’s really interesting one of the things that Apple announced this week is with the new iPhone when you take a picture it actually records a second before and a second after. You think about that, that actually is now getting built into the devices themselves I’ll see you actually see that kind of thing proliferating. It’s already supported on Facebook on the walls and those types of pieces. But my kids literally, very little on Facebook, very little on anything aside from Instagram and Snapchat now.
Todd: We were talking about working out earlier, do you use any kind of fitness tracker when you work out?
Brad Anderson: Yeah I actually use a (Microsoft) Band, I don’t have it on right now but I live on that Band. One the interesting things that it’s done for me is because it tracks your heart beat, I can actually see how rigorous that I’m doing and I always a target and try to keep my heart beat above 140, which is kind of hard to do for a two hour work out.
Todd: A two hour workout?
Brad Anderson: Yeah, that’s what I do. I have seen that that band has actually improved my workouts.
Todd: Actually I have a theory on why you’re not wearing your Microsoft Band, it’s because you’re testing the Microsoft Band 2 and you didn’t want to bring in to show it to a reporter. Am I right?
Brad Anderson: You know if that was the case I couldn’t comment on it.
Todd: Exactly. I’ve been around long enough to know what’s going on.
So when we were in the car you asked me a question about how Microsoft has changed, or at least the topic came up and I gave you my response. I’d like to turn that on you, because you’re inside the company over the past two years basically as Satya Nadella has come in and become the CEO. How have things changed, even just day to day. Can you sense a difference in how things are run?
Brad Anderson: That’s an understatement. It’s just been a phenomenal 18 months since Satya came into the CEO position. I had the luxury of, I reported to Satya for the three years prior to him being made CEO, so a lot of the things that you see Satya driving across Microsoft are things that he was driving across the cloud and enterprise division before being made CEO. If I were to characterize personally what do I feel and what do I see as the biggest changes at Microsoft, one I’ll tell the rate at which we are running and rate at which we are getting new innovation out to the market is like nothing I’ve ever seen.
Every year when I get to my annual review I’ll reflect back on what we’ve done and I’ll go like “Man, I would not have imagined we would have been able to get that much done in the last year.” I’ve said that for the last four or five years. I’m sure as I go forward I’m going to look back and go, “I didn’t think we could run faster but we are.” So that’s one thing. Two, you know some of the things that Satya really drives into the culture is it’s one of those growth mindset, there’s much more of a sense of behaving and acting like a start up. That’s one of the things that I’ve really tried to push into my team is we’re in this very young market, we work for an organization that’s got incredible reach, so we’ve got the best of both worlds if we can have this incredibly agile and innovative team that’s moving fast and at the same time have the breadth and the depth of Microsoft globally behind us. That’s a combination that can’t lose.
Todd: Although I could see where having that breadth and depth could make it harder to be a startup. In other words you’ve got all that legacy practice and legacy organizational capabilities. I could see where it would also be a struggle.
Brad Anderson: It can be, but if we’re doing this correctly, the engineering teams are innovating as fast as they can and then we’re getting that out in a way that allows our global field, our global sales organization to innovate and to get after the customers but I’ll tell you the biggest challenge that I have right is just helping the world in general, whether it be customers, partners or even our internal sales force just understand the new things that we’re putting out every week. It’s not like four or five years ago where you put out new release out every one or two years and you would train everybody for the month or two coming up to a release.
With services we’re putting out things it’s a little bit of an exaggeration but almost every day because we’re constantly updating the services. How do you communicate out globally, again customers, partners and the Microsoft field, what it is we’re doing — that actually is the biggest thing that I’m struggling with. My engineering teams are innovating and delivering new technology, new value faster than I ever could have imagined we could do right now and it’s now a market education to keep the world up with it.
Todd: If you look two, three years out what gets you most excited in terms of technology and the potential capabilities that people are going to have with what’s coming up the pipeline.
Brad Anderson: Yeah, I love the space that I’m working on right now. I tell people I’ve got the best job in the company because I kind of sit at this intersection for how the cloud meets the mobility trends, meets mobile productivity. I think that’s the thing that to me gets me the most excited, I see that users are going to be able to do more and more and more on their mobile devices. They’re going to be more productive, they’re going to be able to do more, they’re going to be able to achieve more, going back to my corporate mission. To me that’s the thing that I get most excited about. I think about how we can actually accelerate these trends of moving more information to the cloud, getting that accessible to more and more users on more and more devices.
I think the thing that, as I look at that, that makes me the most excited is when all this information comes together in the cloud you can actually start to innovate on the data using things like machine learning and pull insights out that you would have dreamed about in the past. Some of the work that we’ve done in Azur, with machine learning, to give you an idea of what we’re doing, all the teams at Microsoft as we bring back all this telemetry, and to give an idea of the size of this, we do over 5 billion authentications every single week with Azure or Active Directory. Every one of those authentications brings back a bunch of telemetry. We get a billion devices every month reporting back to us with Windows Update, what’s happening out there. Now imagine bringing all that data together and applying machine learning. We can now give insights, we can now act on behalf of our customers like we’ve never been able to do before.
Todd: Like what? What would be an example of something where you could take an insight and act on it?
Brad Anderson: Let me give you a very real world example that we’re seeing in just about every company today. These attacks that we’re all reading about, this cyber attacks, when you dive down into the root cause 75% plus of these come down to a compromised user account. So what the bad guys are doing is they’ll go into LinkedIn, they’ll go into Facebook and they’ll individuals who work for the company that they’re targeting. They’ll go create a phishing attack, they launch the phishing attack against those users and it just takes one of them to fall for a very sophisticated attack and now the attackers have got a valid username and a valid password and they come in and attack.
Todd: So this is, for example, an email where somebody will think that it’s a service asking to go in and reset their passwords or something like that.
Brad Anderson: Yeah, and you know these people do their homework. When they send that email, the graphics, everything in that email looks like something that they would get from their company. So unless your users are savvy enough to look at the URL or think that this appears to be a little suspicious, they fall for it. I’ll tell you at Microsoft and other companies that I work for we actually run phishing attacks against our people just to see. We do that.
Brad Anderson: Most companies do. Somebody always falls for it. What we see happening in the world right now is these incredible attacks that are happening. Certainly what we saw with Sony last year, it moves from just being an IP theft to terrorism. Let me give you and example of what we do specifically to address that issue. Everyone of these authentication I talk about, those 5 billion authentication to Azure or Active Directory brings back telemetry. One of the piece of telemetry we bring is the physical location the user is at when they authenticated. Now using machine learning we can do things like we saw Brad log into Seattle at 8:00, and then at 8:30 Brad logged in from Moscow. Physically impossible.
But using the machine learning and all that data now we can actually reason on that, surface that up to the IT professionals and say this looks like a compromised user account, what would you like to do? Do you want to change the password? Do you want to challenge the user with an additional factor of authentication? These are the kind of things that we can do now based on the data that is very real and helps customers today with a very real problem.
Todd: That’s an example where you’re applying technology in part that Microsoft acquired, right? Is it Aorato?
Brad Anderson: No. Okay, I’ll come to that in a minute. What I just walked through, that’s actually just technology that we’ve build as we’ve bring telemetry back in Azure or Active Directory and then apply that with the machine learning that we built. Now, what Aorato gave us is that exact same capability on premises for local Active Directory accounts. The example I gave was for the cloud identities, Aorato, which we shipped their product about 30 days ago and it was called Microsoft Advances Threat Analytics, it’s one of the components of the product that I oversee called the Enterprise Mobility Suite.
What it allows us to do is again using machine learning, identify those tell-tale signs of those fingerprints of compromised local identities. 95% of the world uses Active Directory for their corporate authentication. That product has been phenomenal in terms of how customers have embraced it, it’s only been out for 30 days.
Todd: Wow, OK.
Brad Anderson: Because that’s a real value. Everybody knows they have been compromised, everybody knows they have been hacked, they just don’t know which accounts. We can actually now surface that information to them.
Todd: OK, very interesting. Here’s what I want, if you could get to work on this, I appreciate it, going back to your gym analogy, you’re thinking about things. I want your thoughts to be automatically transcribed through some sort of human machine interface. Wireless, Bluetooth, I would consider implanting a chip if it accomplish that. Just thought to the cloud to my device so I could say “Here’s my to-do list.” As I’ve just organized it in my head. So, please.
Brad Anderson: We’ll get cracking on that immediately.
I’ll tell you there are times when I do like go down the locker room, grab my phone and take a note. I’ll tell you the other thing that I do that you might find interesting is every Wednesday morning I’ll bike about 20 miles. I’ll have my Surface on the bike, watching competitors keynotes while I’m on the bike.
Todd: Nice. Okay, good. Well we’re winding down here. I want to ask you just to bring it back to the spirit of our original conversation, we have a series of questions that we ask our Geeks of the Week. I think I know the answer to this first one but let me double check, Mac, Windows or Linux?
Brad Anderson: I’m a Windows guy.
Todd: Yeah, really? Okay.
Kirk Picard or Janeway?
Brad Anderson: Let me throw you a curve ball on this one, I’m more of Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker guy.
Todd: OK so you’re more of a Star Wars guy.
Brad Anderson: Even the personality of Luke Skywalker compared to …
Todd: What about Luke?
Brad Anderson: Yeah, you know that up and coming. He’s the underdog. He’s just a normal guy who did great things. I just love the story.
Todd: Transporter, time machine or cloak of invisibility?
Brad Anderson: This one is easy, time machine. I could use more time so I could sleep more.
Todd: You don’t need it though, come on.
Brad Anderson: You know what, I think my body would embrace it if I did it.
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