Sunday, September 24, 2006

Beyond Redmond Product Groups

Time for a copy-and-paste job looking at one theme of comments: work life at Microsoft beyond the Redmond Product Groups. I'm interested in learning more about parts of Microsoft that I don't have much interaction with and what challenges exist in those parts. Maybe you are, too.

It's no surprise to folks out there: I don't work in the field. I was supe- er - especially excited when MSFT in the Field blog popped up because I was looking forward to learning about the trials and tribulations folks in the field have to go through, mainly because I wanted to know, as someone not in the field, what I can do to help them win. Because when they win, we win.

There's a disconnect, at least in my world, between the groups creating the software and the folks taking on Microsoft's competition (or working within the wonderful world of coopetition) one-on-one. If a deal falls through, why? How does the feedback get to me? The only time I see such feedback is usually a high-exclam email explaining how an entire deal is at risk unless some unimplemented feature can easily be worked around. Usually the response is, "Sorry, you're screwed."

Additionally, if certain shipping features are knock-outs and helping to blow away the competition, please let me know, because I might unknowingly deprecate them in the next version to do something else.

A request in a comment looking for more discussion of Microsoft beyond the Product Group:

Mini - how about spending a post or two getting feedback and exploring other problem areas of Microsoft outside of HQ?

I'm thinking specifically of MCS (Consulting Services) - over 1,200 U.S. and 2,000+ worldwide. I left the group because of extremely dysfunctional management, bullying, sleazy engagement managers, arrogant architects, brutal travel, and a law-firm mentality of billable utilization to the point of fraud.

To prevent a mass exodus former peers say there's an unwritten policy where there's a 3-6 month period when a consultant CAN'T leave for another internal position, effectively locking them into the MCS org.

I was lucky getting out but suffered an ass-whupping of a review. I'd never go back, and the only reason I stayed was the pride associated with working for Microsoft.

Goodness. A follow-up comment from a now Ex-Microsoftie:

I've been in services since my entry into MS, and I more or less agree with this comment, but not all of it. In my former org. at least, EM's are doing basically their jobs, which is selling services. They have quotas to fulfill, and they do what they need to get this done. I must say that my former position was NOT an EM, but you can’t blame salespeople for behaving like salespeople and trying to make their numbers.

I totally agree with sleazy management. In my case, they managed to grow the org by more that 100% in three years. What’s interesting about this is that we went from being around 50 consultants (the ones that actually bill stuff) and 10 managers/pseudo sales guys/admin staff, to being around 60 consultants and a whooping 45-50 non-consulting staff and 2 additional managerial levels. Not to mention filling most of these managerial boxes mostly with cronies from outside who didn’t know their arse from a consulting engagement, not to mention real consulting work. That and turning the workplace from a great place to work and a great team where could discuss any problem openly and respectfully, into a political arena where CYA and sucking up to the higher ups and HHRR is the norm.

After all that, I still think that MS is a great company (otherwise I wouldn’t be reading this blog right?), but I have to put my family and career first. That’s why I took a job elsewhere, and you know what? It wasn’t really hard to find something I liked (MS like company without the bullsh...)

Another proclaimed ex-Microsoftie:

4 years in services, 1 year in sales, now left the company. Services went from dynamic, innovation and customer focused to bureaucratic, utilization driven and internally focused after Mike Sinneck took over and remained so after he left. Thanks Mike for creating a little mini-IBM GS and populating it with your former colleagues.

The hallmarks of my MSO experience were weak management, self promoting behaviour and back-stabbing by "peers." It's such a great feeling to trust someone on your team only to find they have pre-empted all of your work and already claimed credit for it...before you even finished...and management had already rewarded them for it.

I also saw a lot of victories claimed when nothing of value had actually been delivered, pronouncements which were picked up by the sales/marketing management and praised, on at least one occasion, as "role model behaviour."

I'm in a smaller, more dynamic company now, making more money for far less stress.

Another broad follow-up comment from the field that is great to end with because it has some positive thumbs-up for soon-to-be-released (when?) products:

Notes from the field ...


General feedback I'm getting on reviews is not bad to good. I'm hearing way fewer "I got screwed" than I did under the old system.

Vista RC1 looks good, but I agree with one of the previous posters that called it a misnamed beta. The Sept EDW should release this week - I don't remember the exact numbers, but the fixed bug count is HUGE, with tons more planned for RTM. This isn't your daddy's RC ...

More less than positive news on the Vista front - the number of machines some of our customers have that can't run Vista is much higher than some people estimated. I'm not sure Vista is compelling enough to drive large upgrades on desktops. I can't imagine a public company not requiring Vista + bitlocker on laptops, particularly given the inability of high-paid consultants to order coffee and not lose their laptops ...

Kudos to the Office 2007 team. Not quite there yet, but Office has some killer new features. The new version of SharePoint and the addition of Excel Services and Forms Services rock the server side too! The new interface has a learning curve, but once you get used to it, it's hard to go back. Nicely done!

Exchange 12 or MSIT's implementation thereof has a ways to go. I'm one of the lucky ones that gets to dogfood E12 - I truly understand the meaning of dogfooding now. Just doing my part for the greater good.

Stock is moving up ... babies need a college education. Steve - if you're reading, please don't say anything to the street. Take a page from Bill's book and pay someone smarter than you to do it. It's not one of your core competencies.

SQL Server rocks! Lots of wins against Orifice. 64 bit, dual-core servers with loads of memory allow SQL Server to do some *amazing* things. With AMD's quad-core just around the corner and ram prices continuing to fall, it only gets better.

.NET 3.0 (aka WinFX, Indigo, Avalon, et al) is generating a lot of buzz. Windows Workflow is getting a lot of attention and I've seen some incredible WPF prototypes. Does anybody get Cardspace (or whatever we're calling it today)? Ruby on Rails is cool and can do some things really well, but it's not even in the same league as .NET 3.0, particularly from a versatility standpoint.

Q1 is almost over - if we meet or exceed our sales target, and Vista and Office don't slip again, we could see $30 for Christmas ... I guarantee morale will increase as the stock crosses $30.

Getting bonus and stock vesting in a two week period didn't suck. With 4 grants maturing next year, it becomes a non-trivial event. In general, morale in the field seems up. Either that or the happy pills really do work ...

Congrats to the Fun in the Sun winners. I hear Hawaii was excellent. Now get back to work and close some Q1 business!

re: some of the MCS comments. It seems that things are better in general, but there are still some practices (or subsets) that suck. MCS lost a *lot* of talent over the last 5 years. Some internal, but a lot left the company. Services is a big business - it's real money now - amatuer hour is over. The days of being a boutique consultancy are gone. Someone needs to step up and drive the business. Sadly, we probably need to go to IBM, EDS, or one of the Big 4 to find that person (that worked so well last time ... NOT).

As for the hiring binge, there aren't many open field positions outside of services and we're stretched really thin. Maybe we could get some of that headcount reallocated?

Mini - thanks for inspiring people to be positive. As bad as Microsoft can be at times, it sucks *WAY* less than most of the rest of the world (that's no reason not to continue to push for improvements, just a dose of reality for the grass is greener crowd).

Just a peek. Are there serious problems out there and are they being addressed? I'd love to know more. For my day job, I'd especially like advice on figuring out how to be in the loop with the field directly and hear from them how things are going and how we could do a better job based on competitive reality vs. our current persona-puppet theater.

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