Why the secretive $35 billion company behind Twix and M&Ms bet on Microsoft’s big change

Vittorio Cretella Mars Inc CIO
Mars Inc. CIO Vittorio Cretella Mars Incorporated

When Microsoft announced its last quarterly earnings in late January, CEO Satya Nadella took the time to shout out one customer in particular: Mars Incorporated, the secretive $35 billion company behind Twix, M&Ms, Life Savers, and 57 more popular brands.

“An early adopter of Office 365, Mars is using Office and Windows 10 to transform how its 80,000-strong global workforce collaborates while staying secure,” Nadella said on a conference call with reporters, analysts, and investors.

Indeed, Mars CIO Vittorio Cretella tells Business Insider that the company has been a big fan of Office 365 since 2010, when Microsoft’s cloud productivity suite was still sporting the far less catchy name Business Productivity Online Suite, or BPOS.

When Mars first signed on with the Redmond giant, it was during the era of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Now, just about seven years later, Cretella says that he’s noticed a big, positive change at Microsoft under the three-year reign of Nadella.

Now, Cretella says, Microsoft is more likely to “think of the solution first, instead of the technology first.” In other words, rather than pushing any one product, Cretella says, Microsoft is selling Mars an ever-extending way for its employees to collaborate with each other.

The Nadella years

For instance, Cretella says, a lot of work still gets done at the company with Word, Excel, and all the other classic Microsoft Office apps. But in the last year or two, Cretella says, the company has started to see “exponential” internal usage of videoconferencing tool Skype for Business and the business social network Yammer — and it’s all included in the same Office 365 subscriptions Cretella’s department is already paying for.

It’s a focus on the outcome, in contrast to the strong-arm Microsoft sales tactics of yesteryear that have been described as aggressive. And it’s opening new doors for Microsoft, even as competition from Amazon and Google in the cloud puts more pressure on the tech titan.

What Cretella really appreciates about Microsoft, Cretella says, is that they’re on the same page: Like Mars, Microsoft has a brisk business in selling straight to consumers. But because of its long history of building products to big businesses, Microsoft also understands Mars’ stringent needs around security.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Getty Images/Stephen Brashear

Microsoft is a “consumer business,” Cretella says, “but with an enterprise mindset.” Other vendors the company periodically looks at (Cretella wouldn’t name names, but Google is a strong possibility) had one but not necessarily the other.

Plus, Cretella says, the company is starting to move important applications from its existing two data centres into the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform, where it gets access to the tech titan’s ever-growing selection of supercomputing services.

A big part of the value of working with Microsoft, Cretella says, is that they can experiment with the more cutting-edge and modern ways of doing things, as with Skype or Azure, but still know that they won’t be “let down with traditional infrastructure.” Office still works like it should, as does the rest of the Microsoft tech it uses.

NOW WATCH: Here’s how the top Silicon Valley companies are responding to Trump’s immigration ban