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Alexander Flade

Senior Change Management Consultant @ Microsoft | Frankfurt Am Main Area

Alex is an experienced and motivated Senior Change Management Consultant. He has successfully helped several companies of various industries with their digital transformation.

He worked for IBM while studying in Mannheim and is now working for Microsoft in a global team. Skilled in Digital Strategy, Scrum, Team Motivation, Enterprise Architecture, and Agile Methodologies, Alex always pushes for further challenges.

QX: Alex, “Microsoft is looking like the new Apple” is the title of a 2016 article in the MIT Technology Review. This and similar articles see Microsoft charging ahead while Apple is falling behind when it comes to product innovation. There were times when it looked like Microsoft had lost its competitive edge and was written off by most of the experts. How did this change happen?

Alex: Having a bit of an insight perspective, I still can only tell you my personal view. Microsoft realized that the time will come when people use IT and pay for IT different than it was before.

To start with a detailed example: Companies and private persons had installed Windows XP for more than 14 years (fourteen years in technology is like a person’s lifetime!), since it was stable and good at that time. But without any updates or new versions, people felt a lack of new functionality. At the same time, computing hardware got cheaper and often we had newer and better systems in our homes than in the office. People got frustrated and used other vendor’s systems. That was probably a starting point for change.

Today, Microsoft’s productivity software and solutions support every platform (including iOS, Android, …) and Microsoft even builds complete new form factors of devices like the Surface (PC and tablet in one device) or the great HoloLens (have a look at the video!). And you can look forward to what is coming this year with bots and artificial intelligence (AI).

No other (tech) company creates such a broad variety of products to enable people and companies to achieve more.

QX: Satya Nadella has played a vital role in this change. How did his leadership influence and shape the “new” Microsoft?

Alex: Bill Gates once started Microsoft with the vision of “a computer on every desk and in every home”. And Microsoft has done that, at least for the developed world.
When Satya Nadella got announced as CEO in 2014, he gave out a new mission: “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more”. And that is the new thinking in the company. We need to empower every person and organization regardless of the system they would like to use.

Under Satya, who started as programmer, Microsoft has changed the business model and has taken focus off Windows and the PC market.
Microsoft focus’ is today on cloud capabilities. It learned a lot and is now a leader in providing services, infrastructure and platforms online. It has datacenters all over the world and, for example for Germany, even some which are not administered by Microsoft itself. This is to ensure even the strictest data privacy laws (https://www.microsoft.com/de-de/cloud/deutsche-cloud) some industries have.

The Microsoft I work for today is another Microsoft than it was, when I started.

QX: And how did you experience the transformation during the last years?

Alex: In a company, that transforms with such pace as Microsoft is transforming, there is always room for personal evolvement. While the change started, I got the chance to support building up a consulting team that helps our enterprise customers on Organizational Change Management. For a technology company that is again a complete shift, since formerly Microsoft just had technical consulting focus.

The change team is now part of nearly every project and grows year over year in revenue and people and we are always looking for colleagues (experienced as well as interns).

QX: You yourself are an experienced expert in change management. So, tell us, how do you make change happen? What is your approach?

Alex: In my point of view change is always about individuals changing. Therefor it is important that every person affected can either see the benefit for itself or a “bigger goal”.
We usually cluster in different groups of persons, at least on three levels: Top-Management, Managers, Employees. But usual you get a handful more – different groups have different needs and benefits and most of the times need different information and support.

When I start a project I first need to understand how the company and its people are working and how value is achieved. Doing that I am often astounded how less the different departments know about the way of work of each other.

After the analysis, it is a well-defined but often individual approach. We are making sure that people are aware of the change and that they have desire for the new. Both get followed by training – theoretical (knowledge) and on-the-job (ability). Often forgotten but important is that companies reinforce the change – otherwise it will not be long-lasting.
If you want to know more about it, search for Prosci ©.

QX: At QX we also strive to change the network to a better on a constant basis. This year for the very first time we organized the TAMADA Conference flying in all TAMADAs from the city circles worldwide and meeting for a two-day conference at the QX-Manor in Frankfurt. First of all, what is your motivation behind being a TAMADA and spending part of your scarce leisure time for QX?

Alex: QX for me is a lot about the personal touch and the feeling that you always meet people you want to talk with. Formerly that was only happening on “QX-events” and not so often over the year.
Starting the city circles I thought about having this QX experience more often and on different places. Living in Frankfurt I can join the events in the QX-Manor easily, but not everyone can travel all the time. So QX is coming to the people by having city circles.

QX: Can you share your impressions and some of the insights of the TAMADA conference?

Alex: It was a great and fun conference. In usual QX-style we laughed a lot. We exchanged the different experiences we had as Tamadas for different cities. We worked on how the city circles can support the growth and internationalization of QX. Becoming more and more international we need also different structures than today.

QX: On a personal note: How does Alex’s private life look like in 2017? Any plans?

Alex: With a strong and successful year 2016 it is always hard to imagine that it can get greater. But the plans show that it will be! There will be a lot of change in my life. My wife and I will become parents this summer and relocate within Frankfurt shortly before. As she is becoming partner in her law firm, we will divide the time of parental leave. Which will shift my focus for a while completely. I am looking forward to this time!
Since I heard that this is a life changing event – I try to not make too many plans which I cannot ensure to fulfill.

QX: What is your Vanity?

Alex: There are a few…
The most curious is that I always try to catch a window-seat on the right in a plane (mostly F). Travelling much more days than I am in Frankfurt (220 hotel nights last year), you start to develop particular routines. They then make the experience feel “native / home”. When working in different cities I also have started saying that I go “home”, meaning the hotel room…
Beside I need to have fun and pleasure in everything I am doing – if I cannot make it a fun experience, I cannot do it persistent and I will not do it.

Alex, thank you for this interesting talk, your ongoing commitment and contribution to QX, and, most importantly, all the best for your growing family!