Following news of Microsoft's Solution Studio 415 in San Francisco last week, ClickZ talked with Rick Chavez, GM of the new online services division, to learn more about the effort and how the company plans to enhance marketing processes for brands.
Solution Studios will focus on solving business problems and brand problems, but "It's definitely not an agency," Chavez said. "We think agencies are critical partners." Microsoft isn't naming any brand clients yet, but of all the potential customers Chavez is talking to, "every single one of them has an agency and/or data or technology integrator partner," he said. "My view is that our job is to bring integrated value," or the prospects and opportunities that occur when "multiple disciplines collide."
"We actually expect that this will allow us to do some really cool, really great work with our agency partners," he said, when asked if Microsoft is concerned about competing with agencies. "We believe that marketing problems are complex ones. The CMO has big problems on his or her plate," Chavez said. "They have all kinds of different surfaces now, different devices where people want to connect and engage."
Microsoft's Solution Studios will be collaborative working spaces that accommodate not only Microsoft specialists in analytics, design and technology, but also customer teams and outside partners. The goal is to encourage clients to commit to a year-long effort with plans to release services or other solutions every six months. Microsoft will form teams based on each client's evolving needs, oftentimes rotating employees from other offices and divisions, he said.
"We have to start from the problem and work from the problem back - not from our products out," Chavez said.
While Microsoft isn't necessarily drawing a line in the sand by limiting the studios' output to just Microsoft services and devices, there's no doubt Microsoft sees an expanded role for itself. "We expect that many of the innovations and solutions we need will come from across the company," Chavez said.
In its quest for new solutions to brand problems, teams will prototype and test to learn what motivates human behavior, he said. "We frame, we do research inside and outside the studio... We're doing a bunch of things that you might expect to happen with the design of a consumer product," Chavez said.
Solution Studio 415 and other workspaces Microsoft plans to open around the world will initially work with customers in automotive, retail and consumer-packaged goods. Again, Chavez wouldn't name names, but he said all of the potential clients are global, top 2,000 companies.
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Matt Kapko has been writing about mobile since 2006, before it became cool. Based in Long Beach, CA, he has covered mobile entertainment, digital media, marketing, and advertising for several business media outlets. A former editor and reporter for RCR Wireless News, paidContent, and iMedia Connection, Matt is a regular freelance reporter for ClickZ. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattKapko or drop him a line at email@example.com.