Connections – Priority No. 1: Innovation

Posted on Apr 1, 2014 :: Connections
Margaret LeBrun
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer
Efrem Z. Stringfellow

Efrem Z. Stringfellow

Efrem Z. Stringfellow, Microsoft vice president for the U.S. Central Region, will keynote Insight’s May 20 THINC! event at the James W. Perry Hall, UW-Fox Valley, Menasha. We caught up with him by phone last month in anticipation of his visit to the Fox Valley. Here are excerpts from an interview with Insight Co-Publisher and Executive Editor Margaret LeBrun.

What’s top of mind for you at Microsoft?

Technology is evolving rapidly. Hardware has gotten cheaper. Operating systems have gotten faster. Cell phones became smart phones, cloud services became affordable and workforces became mobile. The app and device market exploded beyond our imaginations, and 24/7 services became the norm.

The way we work has dramatically changed over the last few years. And workplaces must be increasingly dynamic. Business agility is determined by how quickly people can make connections to information and each other in order to make smart business decisions.

People are flooded with information and need help making sense of it all. It’s clear, the lines between home and work are blurring. People want technology that helps them seamlessly transition between their work and home lives. For us it’s cloud, cloud and cloud. It is a disrupter in all aspects of our lives.

Device proliferation is often the topline story, and we certainly have a lot of innovation today in that space, with more coming. But it’s only enabled by powerful cloud services and at Microsoft everything we touch, every product we offer, we think cloud first and how we can take our intellectual property and our scale in the marketplace to enable consumers to do amazing things with their devices using cloud services.


Where does innovation fall on your priority list?

That’s No. 1 on our list. We invest over $9.4 billion a year in research and development. Microsoft has an unmatched advantage in work and productivity experiences and has a unique ability to drive unified services for everything from tasks and documents to entertainment and games. And that’s really because of our deep investment in R&D.


How do you foster innovation in your company?

Our incredible people. Our spirit. Our commitment to excellence. Our belief in the transformative power of technology, our Microsoft technology. It inspires all of us to come to work each and every day excited about what we do. At Microsoft our core motivation is simple: To help people improve their lives through technology. That goes back to the founders of this company over 35 years ago. That hasn’t changed.

We work to understand how people navigate their day, and we innovate to remove friction and frustrations. We’re market driven in the sense that we go where our customers go and anticipate where they’ll go next. We’re devoted to helping people do more in every part of their lives.

We have a climate of listening to our customers and our Microsoft business partners around what’s important to them in the marketplace. From a small business perspective, if they keep their ear close to the customer and their business associates, they’ll get a better appreciation for how they want to innovate within their organizations.

If you listen to our new CEO, Satya Nadella, he’ll tell you, our industry does not respect tradition, it only respects innovation.


What do businesspeople want from Microsoft?

Business users today feel they have to choose between convenience and productivity. But we strive to give users a no-compromise experience. For example, Windows 8.1 delivers the touch experience, along with full support for a mouse and a keyboard. So users can have the convenience and mobility of a tablet, the power and familiar experience of a PC, and the ability to move effortlessly between work and personal activities. So they get to choose. We’re giving them that flexibility so that each user can tailor how they take advantage of technology.


What are some themes you’ll explore at THINC! on May 20?

At a very high level, (I’ll talk about) Microsoft as an innovator and encourage people to become innovators within their own businesses, creating a climate of listening that will aid their innovation and ensure that they are building a team culture within their organizations to take that listening and do something with it. That’s how we approach our business.


THINC! (Technology & Human Innovation Networking Conference)

3-6 p.m. May 20, UW-Fox Valley Theater, Menasha

Keynote: Efrem Z. Stringfellow, Microsoft vice president for the U.S. Central Region

Tickets: $45 through April 30

Click here to register



The Door County Economic Development Corporation is hosting its annual investors meeting and luncheon in Sturgeon Bay. Contact DCEDC at (920) 743-3113 ext. 200 or email [email protected]



The Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry will host its Business Trifecta in Appleton. For more information or to register, visit

Margaret LeBrun

About Margaret LeBrun

Co-Publisher, Executive Editor View all posts by Margaret LeBrun →