Tuesday, May 29, 2007

End of May Conversations

Checking in on some recent conversations here... break-out the Welcome Mat for AQNT: okay, Mini-Microsoft is probably not your first preferred Microsoft-focused blog to read:

Thanks for making us feel so welcome!

(An aQuantive employee)

You could drop by MSFTExtremeMakeover and, ah, see if that helps. And helping to provide some perspective comes this comment:

To the poor aQuantive employee feeling unwelcome after reading posts here:

Don't take it too seriously. This is a blog devoted to making Microsoft smaller; we'd complain about an acquisition of 2,000 employees even if they were all super-geniuses carrying big carts of gold bars. People commenting here aren't going to be too happy about it.

Microsoft is so big it varies a lot from team to team. Personally, I've found that joining Microsoft's online services division brought me a substantial salary increase (15%, though my previous employer was admittedly underpaying and bleeding employees like crazy as a result) and a pleasant working environment where performance is expected but the rampant workaholism that plagued Microsoft in years past is not. It's not all bad by any means.

This said, it's not all good, either. The stock's not a good investment (and may never be), the review process is schizophrenic (we can't decide if we're a company of stable, career engineers or genius workaholic alpha males, so we end up pleasing neither), and the fastest way to move up the salary scale is still to quit for a year and come back at a higher level.

I'll go on record with stating I'll welcome anyone coming to Microsoft with big carts of gold bars and that I'll hug 'em long-and-hard right after they drop off my bar. So let's turn to our future co-workers with open arms and --

I'm not looking forward to having to work with Microsoft employees. From what I've seen, all you do is bitch about your jobs.

We ship software, alot of it, and hardly ever have to work more than 40 hour weeks. And our products are highly reliable and actually work.

I don't look forward to having a bunch of Microsofties working on our products, bitching about our processes, because thats all you guys seem to do, I'd put one of our offshore developers against 10 of yours, attitude is everything. Your egos are sickening.


What makes our company great is teamwork, and positive attitude, and Microsofties, all I see here is attitude, the bad kind. Its just like in life, if you think negatively, you get what you think, and you think your company is so aweful to work for and broken, guess what, IE7 is broken, office is broken, your OS is unreliable.

One thing good about the aquisition, it will be one if the few pieces of microsoft software that actually works.


InsideMS impending restructure: a number of comments about the change around the internal Microsoft discussion blog:

There has been lots and lots of constructive, on-point, substantive commenting on that blog (though why people bother is a good question) and she has systematically ignored just about every bit of it. No mention of people's honest and realistic questions of her when she's posted new entries. No mention of the influence of people's suggestions or concerns when she rolled out MyMicrosoft 2.0 (uh...yeah, well 1.01 or whatever you want to call it).

Now she complains that it's just degenerated into a mess. Well, honey, if you're not going to pay attention to the kids or listen to their concerns after setting them up to expect that, then you get what you get. Take some of the responsibility.

First of all, I hope beyond hope that the recent myMicrosoft post (with comments) never slips outside of Microsoft... it's shaken my confidence in my comfy wardrobe. Second, I expect there will be a common sense re-org for InsideMS. More interaction with the posters, certainly, if the conversation is valued. Comment moderation, perhaps? I think even the threat of moderation would help. Third: I've written about the need for sophisticated comment handling in blog infrastructure and this internal comment flame-out is a classic example of how entropy sets in within a linear, unmoderated, untended world.

I can't imagine the top priority for any blog technology provider beyond innovating in community managed comments (e.g., something like what Slashdot uses). Personally, I would also prefer the case where there's a feed for the most recommended comments for those comment jewels that come in that surpass the original blog post contents. That happens here quite often.

Re-org Intrigue: some speculation regarding what the recent re-org might mean:

Interesting re-org in putting STB under Jeff Raikes. Does anyone else think this looks like a pre-cursor to a break up? I mean, now we can cleanly carve off Windows into its own company, MBD into another and then whatver we do with Live and Entertainment. Honestly, that would be cool. I want the company broken up. I'm in Raikes' world and I'd love that group to be decoupled and given some more freedom to innovate.

As for MSFT insider trading this comment notes:

Robbie Bach dumping a s--t load of shares on the market today...what a shocker!!!!

Everyone pales in comparison to Mr. Gates, but it looks like Mr. Bach and Ms. Brummel are in hot competition for #2.

New Microsoft is Just Fine for Me: here are a couple of positive comments around compensation at Microsoft and the strategy going forward:

Once you factor in the few grand from stock and occasional bonus, even measly ones, the salaries at msft are pretty damned good in the Puget Sound area. I was lucky and bought my house in 1999 when I moved here, so I have zero complaints about the numbers. Coupled with working on software that is run by hundreds of millions of users, I really don't see what all the complaining is about.

New Microsoft:

The new Microsoft is willing to enter new markets, very quickly, and do quick iterations or quick acquisitions. The journey and the learning is important - not duplication of someone's existing product. This generates the insight which enables building something people will want to have versus the old way of rebuilding something they already have. XBOX, ZUNE, Windows Live, MSN, and its incubations (under Ray Ozzie & Gary Flake) have all internalized this. The leadership is willing to quickly make the changes needed to ship current versions and add the right functionality to new versions of projects.

Rank-my-Yank: And here we are on the verge of the major review season. And by season I mean the entire summer, 'cos it sure seems to take that long. Do you know when your stack-rank aka rank-and-yank aka calibration meeting is? Somewhere along the line, we'll figure out that having co-workers compete against one-another for their differentiated compensation lessens our teams, our innovation, and our ability to compete externally (how can we compete in the market place while we're competing internally?). This comment from Simon G notes a study:

If rank-yank is still a hot button with you, here's something for Stanford about it "Business School professor Jeffrey Pfeffer ... faults businesses for spending too much time in rank-and-yank mode, grading and evaluating people instead of developing their skills."


I'd expect it to be one of those revelations that changes Microsoft completely for the better. In the meantime, let the ankle kicking begin...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ack! As in Ack!quisition...

A is for Ack! As in acquisition of aQuantive (wow, now that is a five year chart).

Six billion dollars.


Holy crap.

In my opinion, this is a huge demonstration of fear, desperation, and dim-dog market tail-light chasing greed on our part. Every acquisition represents our failure to use our 70,000+ employee base to solve a solution or create a new market. Rather than buying back stock or pushing out a dividend, shareholder money got mis-invested in a hugely overpriced acquisition. And you're a shareholder why?

Seeing how much aQuantive is aligned with us and our technology stack makes you on the surface say, "hmm, yes, excellent strategic acquisition." Then you see the price tag (and goodness help you if you see it in the middle of taking a sip of something). "Who the hell is in charge here?" And of course, that reckless, desperate spending is now what disgruntled people will hold up as the paragon on executive spending, wondering why we're being so pound foolish while saving relative pennies for ESPP and other cut-backs.

Deal Journal - WSJ.com Bubble Wrap How Will Microsoft-aQuantive Be Remembered has this interesting gameplay comment from Steve Yuen:

Speaking of News Corp, its $5 billion offer for Dow Jones’ stable of premium brands is eminently rational compared against Microsoft’s $6 billion proposal for aQuantive. MSFT is playing checkers while GOOG plays chess.

24-7 Wall St. Microsoft Bid for aQuantive Signals Desperation

Shares of AQNT were trading at $36 yesterday and that quote was pricing in a lot of buyout speculation already. Somehow they got Ballmer and Company to offer more than $66 per share in cash, an 85% premium. Such a bid puts Mister Softy on the hook for a cash outlay of $6 billion. In return it gets a business at 104 times trailing earnings, 86 times current year earnings, and a whopping 67 times 2008 earnings.

The Key Why Microsoft's purchase of Aquantive is So Smart

Aquantive, through its Atlas division, has built the most advanced ad tracking and management technology out there. It can follow every detail of an online display ad--and help advertisers figure out where to target an ad and to whom with incredible precision. But Aquantive also tosses search data into the mix--and certainly it will do this more and more as part of Microsoft.

Microsoft agrees to buy aQuantive for $6 billion and Microsoft faced competition in aQuantive bid

"When Google bought DoubleClick, which is the prize here in the industry, it made Microsoft look more and more behind, and I think they just had to do something," said Tim Bueneman, senior vice president at McAdams Wright Ragen in Seattle and a devoted aQuantive investor who speaks highly of the company.

Even so, Bueneman said he "was just totally shocked" at the price, adding that it seems to reflect "a little bit of desperation" on Microsoft's part.

And of course there's the addition of the, what, 2,600 potential employees? Ah, screw it. If people haven't figured out that we have way too many employees by now I'm certainly not going to be able to help.

Post-Town Hall and myMicrosoft. Hey, was there a change in the way we're granted stocks? Man, what a wonderful demonstration of a small bit of poor communication that resulted in heated discussions. I think people are still trying to figure it out. Okay, backing up: I think it is great that the Town Halls happen, hopefully on a quarterly basis. It provides an important connection between executive leadership and the rest of us (and the potential for audience video cameos by [slick down the eyebrows, straighten the shirt] damn good looking Microsofties). This last one was pretty light in content, though; I would be just as happy with a few emails to skim through instead. It would be nice to have a big topic or two to cover in the future... things like:

  • Microsoft and The European Union: how is this going? This isn't just a thorn in our side but rather a bramble growing through our veins. And we hear very little directly from our leadership regarding how this is going and how we expect decisions and outcomes to affect the company.
  • Intellectual Property vs. Open Source: what's the strategy here? For the longest time, we've held off throwing punches here because we knew, although there are infringements, it would be costly to wage this battle on the public stage. What changed? GPL3?
  • Windows 7 and Office 14: how are the cash cows next iteration shaping up (I mean, I know, but I'd like to hear what leadership thinks)?
  • Windows Live / Core / MSN / Search: is this relatively detangled and figured out? So much groovy potential.
  • Zune / WMP / WMC and DRM: I know, no where but up for MP3 player market. Have we acknowledged the anti-DRM movement? Are we brave enough to take a step in that direction?

Regarding myMicrosoft: tweaks. Iterative tweaks that seem to be focusing on the tail-end of being a Microsoftie and not even getting close to undoing Mr. DiPietro's professional failings as an HR manager. The workflow evil, time-consuming career performance tools remain, they just get consolidated into one site. You can provide feedback up the chain and provide ad-hoc feedback for other people. The financial planning stock grant change. The ability to ship packages again-OMG that's awesome! Lisa I love you! I-ahem, eh, excuse me.

Hey, my gushing reaction to the return of employee shipping really surprised me: again, they're returning an easy benefit that was yanked away some time ago. An awesome, time and money saving benefit for those of us who ever have to ship packages. I still miss the flip-side to that coin: direct office delivery of personal packages shipped to me at work. Both of these save me time and help me get work done. Now, I have to occasionally clear my schedule so that I can work-at-home the day that my new personal laptop or handheld or some other package I have to sign for is arriving.

Oh, and Limited II? Well, now you're just a 10%'er. You were before, but because of the screwed up metrics not being well thought-out managers wanted to soften the blow for you ending up in the 10% bucket. I don't think we're going to introduce 10% II or 10%+ but I wouldn't put it pass HR once managers start seeing super valuable high-level employees that have plateaud dropping into the 10%.

But nothing about 15% ESPP or increased 401K or the MSPoll. Well, it was probably too early for the MSPoll numbers to be revealed, but... OUCH! I'd say anything below 60% requires action and anything - from the broad-Microsoft-as-a-company questions - below 40% requires executive leadership action. Or at least acknowledgement.

Some interesting comments to wrap up on: from the school of suck-up-your-salary-compression, T.Higgins shares:

As a person who has been with Microsoft for 8 years and contributed (in many public facing ways) to improve the perception of Microsoft in the developer community, I [was] provided information that shocked me. Actually, it makes me angry. A new hire straight out of college (read: no experience) will be compensated slightly less than I currently earn. Never mind that there is a $5000 signing bonus AND because there is, apparently, no space will be given the summer off before even swiping her badge.

Is it time to just give up stock compensation altogether and just give the people cold-hard-cash (or acceptable raises):

I think it's time for Microsoft to end giving stock awards to low and mid-level employees. Keep, and even bolster ESPP, but let's stop pretending that stock is a significant portion of the compensation package. It's been years since anyone worked harder because stock options were vesting. Let's admit to ourselves that there is now a rank and file at Microsoft; pay them commensurate to their value in the marketplace and even base raises on group/division profitability, but let's not pretend anymore that employees have an ownership stake in the company.

As a manager, it had become rather embarrassing to hand my L59-61 employees their pittance of shares. Incentivize people with promotions to technical leadership or partner jobs, and work to returning promotions to a merit system from the nepotistic buddy system in place today.

And one last one to reflect on our awesome compensation package vs. the potential raise you can get working beyond Microsoft:

I left Microsoft one year ago. my biggest fear when I made the decision to leave was the health benefit change. As you mention, no one even comes close to what you get at MSFT. Well, let me share my experience with you. Background - I have 3 kids and I am 35. I left as level 63 and made back then about $115K a year. I left because I got an offer (that most people at MS could get but just don't try) of about $180 a year.

My total out of pocket in health is about $1000 a year. So the math becomes very simple. you CAN MAKE much more outside of MS. There is so much going on outside.... benefits at MS are OK but JUST OK.

Striking my best Arsenio Hall pose here: "hmmmmmmmm..."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

(DAX 3.0) SysExportDialog form extension

After working for some time with DAX 4.0 you can't help but notice the names given to exported xpo files - all the objects all prefixed with the type of the exported object.
I found this to be very convenient, that's why I wanted to lay my hands on the SysExportDialog form and add this feature in there as well.
And that's exactly what I did today.

This turned out to be a task a little harder than I'd hoped, because there are special methods on the TreeNode class that allow to see the type of the object. Those methods are not present in DAX 3.0 yet, so I had to write something similar (probably on a more primitive way, as this is the only place the code will be used - unlike the DAX 40 modifications which are now available everywhere the Treenode Class is used)

Also, I "fixed" a small issue that was present in DAX 4.0 with this: exporting an entire node of objects (e.g, Forms) resulted in the following name of the file : "_Forms.xp".

Anyway, here is the xpo file -- notice the neat name of the file ;). -- download Form_SysExportDialog.xpo
The file contains the SysExportDialog form only.
The original form was taken from DAX 3.0 SP5 KR2.

Hope you like it as much as I do ;)

Monday, May 14, 2007

3 great Tabax Plugins

As you might already know, starting with version 0.3 of Tabax, plug-ins are allowed to subscribe to events fired by the Tabax form. This fact couldn’t be left unnoticed. J So here are 3 plugins that you might consider useful for your DAX installations.

Before installing any of the plugins, you need to install Tabax 0.3 or later and the DEV_TabaxSDK
Use the following link to download the latest version of Tabax and SDK: http://axaptapedia.com/Tabax

(homepage - http://www.axaptapedia.com/DEV_TabaxPlugin_OpenInAOT)

This is a very simple plugin, based on a tool I made a while ago (you can download the original EditorScript at http://www.axaptapedia.com/Editor_scripts_OpenInAOT).
This tool is available only to developers (SysDevelopment security key).

Installation instructions are very simple: just import the project and refresh the AOD (this is specifically needed for the rich AX4 client)
Now you can open AOT objects just by typing their name in the Tabax form edit box (prefixed with ‘go’).
Here are a couple of examples:

  • “go InventTable” will open the Tables\InventTable node.
  • “go InventDimDevelop” will open the Macros\InventDimDevelop, etc.

DEV_TabaxPlugin_RecentProjects - download

(homepage - http://www.axaptapedia.com/DEV_TabaxPlugin_RecentProjects)

This plugin, when started (which happens automatically on startup of Tabax), adds a button on the Tabax toolbar. (it resembles an ‘Undo’ button).

This plugin keeps track of projects you use during the day, providing for a simple and fast way to open one of them.

This tool is available to developers only. If you do not have developer rights, the button will not be added to the toolbar.

Here is a list of what will happed when the button on the toolbar is pressed:

  1. A context menu is rolled down showing the list of projects recently used. (maximum 15 projects are shown, but the number can be changed in the plugin ClassDeclaration method)
  2. The first 10 entries are assigned hotkeys (1 to 10 (0) respectively).
  3. If Ctrl key is pressed, the last closed project is opened (the selection form is skipped).
  4. If Shift key is pressed, the selection form is opened, providing more functionality than the context menu.
  5. In the context menu of the selection form you can find menu Items that clear the contents of the recent projects list or control startup project settings.
  6. You can cancel the form by pressing Esc or the CloseDialog button in the top right corner

To users using Sidax this button will be very familiar, as it mostly copies the functionality available on the RecentProjects tab there.

DEV_TabaxPlugin_RecentWindows - download

(homepage - http://www.axaptapedia.com/DEV_TabaxPlugin_RecentWindows)

This plugin, when started (which happens automatically on startup of Tabax), adds a button on the Tabax toolbar. (it resembles a green ‘Recycle Bin’).

This plugin keeps track of windows you use during the day, providing for a simple and fast way to open one of them again.

This includes editor windows, AOT object windows and regular Axapta forms (this does not include forms opened from other forms).

This tool is available to both dev and non-developers. If you do not have developer rights, the AOT and editor windows are not kept track of and the recent windows list is used solely for DAX forms.

The nice part of this is the specific record you last used is remembered as well, so you can reopen a form and start working with the record right away. (AxPath is used for this)

The functionality of the toolbar button is similar to DEV_TabaxPlugin_RecentProjects.

That's it. Come back for more :)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pre-Town Hall, Posters, and Micronews

Post-Town Hall Update: so, what did you think? Nothing too shocking. Rather than address the whole Limited label issue HR just decided to go with percentages. No more Limited II, true! Now you're just a 10%'er and your manager gets to beguile you with numbers. It still means: time for you to leave.

Speaking of being beguiled with numbers: can someone put a spreadsheet together to compare similar stock awards under the old and new programs? Given the stock going up two bucks a year and the stock going down two bucks a year. My very shallow first impression is that you lose if the stock price goes up, but that surely cannot be. No one would design something that way and say, "Hey, at least the stock is going up! Stop yer whining!"


Administrivia: I'm having an unhappy blog connection, so things might get blocked up here and there.

The Week Ahead: it's a Town Hall meeting on Tuesday. I value this and I believe it helps build a bridge between executive leadership and the rest of us everyday contributors. And it looks like a potential w00t! fest: it's not myMicrosoft 1.1 nor is it myMicrosoft 1.5, but rather myMicrosoft two-point-freakin'-oh. That turns my expectation dial up to significant.

What are some example announcements or topics you'd like to see that puts Microsoft on an efficient and productive path with appropriately reward and motivated employees? Some of my top of the mind include:

  • Reflection on our awesome package: I think before you look at any changes or other rewards and compensation, you do need to take a moment to reflect on our total compensation package. It is still awesome, especially the medical benefits. Sure, they could be better, but they were great when I joined and have just become even more awesome: way more than any company I've worked for (or have considered working for).
  • Limited and Limited II: aka, "Dumb and Dumber." If during the past year no-one in HR has managed to do something about this poorly chosen designation, let alone the Limited II insulting moniker, everything else is useless. Limited II is today was the trended 3.0 used to be: a demoralizing kick in the pants to what is an effective, valued employee. Should a Limited II stay with Microsoft after that slap to the face, you are setting a low performance bar for them to drop their contributions back to and meet. Why would any review system have this? If this is fixed, I wonder whether to clap: "And, hey, we fixed this abhorrent insulting mistake we shouldn't have made, just for you." "Yeah! Hurray! OMG, you're soooo awesome! Hopefully you break something else this year so that you can fix it next year and we have something else to clap about!"
  • Internal transfers: easy and easier. Only if you're moving between job descriptions (e.g., SDET to SDE or SDE to PM) should you go through a full-blown interview loop. A hiring manager can decide an interview loop would be appropriate but would have to get HR's buy-in. And if it's just between teams in a product group (say, between Access and Excel), it's just a done deal. Excellent teams with excellent leadership should find it easy to attract the best in the company. And poor teams with poor leadership should likewise discover themselves giving over a bunch of empty offices.
  • Hiring: I want internal transfers to be easier as part of load-balancing within Microsoft and to stop the hiring madness. But I know the madness will continue. We have to ensure that the best are getting in and that the best actually want to be here and can be effective. Hiring should be clamped down on, and we should go through a year of where only Microsoftie interviewers who have made the best "no hire" or "hire" decisions for candidates - matching their feedback on hired candidates career velocity and reviews - are put on loops. Everyone else has to go through retraining to get back on.
  • ESPP: back to 15% and the way it was. No clapping for this because it's just fixing another dumb mistake that shouldn't have happened in the first place.
  • 401k: And in addition to a pony and a milkshake, I'd also like Microsoft to match our 401k at a higher percent and even contribute some to it as well. The stock isn't working out as a retirement plan, so Microsoft should make this their focus now in retaining employees who suddenly have that, "Ooo, I need to think about retirement" revelation.
  • Tool fatigue: the Rube Goldberg machine that is our current review system toolset has to be streamlined. I feel bad enough managing my career vs. focusing on getting great results for my product team, I really don't want these tools managing me and sucking up a week here and a week there for my team. It's so bad I want the return of the old Word document. Again, I feel a bit abused if I clap for simplification here: you made my life suck and now you're making it suck less. You're... awesome? (Well, okay, I guess you are awesome. You pushed for a change for the better to address employee concerns. I think it just got a bit too Frankensteined up along the way.)
  • MSPoll: early results from the latest MSPoll are... ? And don't go and sugarcoat any bad results. I think you can rely on InsideMS to bring-up ad-hoc discussions of the bad numbers. Please don't let it come up that way.

I really don't care about Bread and Circuses like food service, dry cleaning, and the like (but, uh, please don't take my Starbucks machine away because I've become quite addicted, even to its little brewing cycle clucking).

I'd appreciate Mr. Ballmer taking this chance to hit the reset button and go over major changes in what we value in this company. First of all: we reward for shipping and for profits. Followed by accountability. In addition to a second milkshake, I'd also like a change in perspective about the stock: if the stock price is not a valuable measurement of a publicly held company, what is? And if anyone dares to put up a one-year chart and strut about saying, "Hey, hoo-yahh, lookie at that break-out stock performance!" they, and anyone who cheers, deserves a solid dope-slap to the back of the head. Gee, how did we get all the way down into that slump to begin with (remember: Wall Street + $2,000,000,000 surprises = huge stock drop)? How does the last five years look?

I'd also expect all that Quests that the L68+ Partners have been involved with to turn into results that Mr. Ballmer is going to put into action and share with us. Otherwise... what were all those Quests for?

Anyway, I look forward to reflecting on the changes coming this week and then dialing things here at Mini-Microsoft down to low-key here and await the FY07 results.

A Plan For The Posters: this past week my mailbox came stuffed with gobs of promo-stuff, including a glossy about the Technical Community Network. Look, there's Queen Gertrude's observation over protesting too much. Bragging too much is a sign, too, and a rather desperate one at that. And as I flipped that TCN into a recycle bin to let it join a large stack of its siblings, I looked at the weekly replacing of the internal promotional posters. Okay, I'm not going to complain. Complaining doesn't solve anything. My solution to all the expenses around this mostly ignored internal promotion stuff?

The return of hardcopy Micronews. Slick. In color. Ad supported. That's right. No more posters. Your group advertises in Micronews instead. And if you really want to put up a poster, well, you still give a percent over to the Micronews budget. One pro being that people will have your website address in front of their computer vs. having to remember it after wandering the halls. And I'd expect Micronews to change and be less of the softballer it ended as but rather an advocate of engineering excellence across the company and to have a hard-nosed Microsoftie editorial freedom. We have a bunch of great writers: have the editors grab interesting blog posts or have those internal / external bloggers write an occasional piece. Summarize great resources in Microsoft. For instance, we have fantastic training at Microsoft: have a monthly summary of some of the more interesting classes.

And sure, have an online version, too.

Finally: two interesting news bits I saw today:

Microsoft claims software like Linux violates its patents - May 28, 2007 - an interesting confrontation to manage. We've been circling this boxing ring for a while, and it looks like we've at least put on our gloves and have started jabbing the air to warm up.

Why Doesn't Microsoft Have A Cult Religion - Microsoft Blog - InformationWeek - it is rare to see a Microsoft fanboy. It's something I've tried to work on for my responsibilities and my desire to build relations with the Alpha-Geek crowd. I think we need to cultivate fandom. If we can't, we have to be honest as to why people are not fans of our technology and our products. A snippet:

Think about it. When was the last time an editor was fired because of a scathing article entitled, "10 Things We Hate About Microsoft?" When was the last time a group of developers stood up at a VS Live show and shouted ... "Yea, man! Orcas Rocks! Language Integrated Query is da' Bomb! New and improved ADO.Net? Oh, no you didn't!" It just doesn't happen.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Now I am a MCBMSS in Dynamics AX

More than 2 years have passed since the day I took my last certification exam.

Today I passed the AX 40-508 (DAX 4.0 Development Introduction) exam, so now I am a Microsoft Certified Business Management Solutions Specialist in Dynamics AX.

Don't you love it how certification titles get longer and longer every time their name is changed? :)

As for the exam itself, I should say that it was a little bit of a disappointment. At least, I was expecting more from it. Basically, it was the same DAX 3.0 Development Exam, with only 5 or so questions added for Dynamics AX 4.0. Of course, it's a DEV INTRODUCTION exam, so I guess I shouldn't be expecting much from it.

Anyway, I will be anxiously waiting for the MorphX Solution Developer Exam. Hope they will actually try to write some new questions for this one. ;)

Sunday, May 6, 2007

MicroYa! and Thinking About a Big Reboot

(A refreshing post. Not because of the content, but rather just because there hasn't been a post here for a while. First, some administrivia: the new Blogger template here has at the bottom of the post a link to the comment stream URL. Plus some other goo. Another note: hey, tried running the blog without moderation for a while to see if it would decay into the lunacy you see sometimes in the InsideMS blog. Not so. I might try this more often.)

Given past jinxing, I hesitate to mention how MSFT is above $30 again. The $30+ price is too late for the set of stock options that expired a week prior, however. Leadership who wander around saying how stock doesn't matter have to take a moment to remember what it was like to be in a work-group when the stock was excelling. Folks were motivated and excited and engaged. Yes, they did put in extra effort and - at least in their minds - saw a direct connection between their contribution and their team to the Microsoft bottom line.

And now?

As the stock meandered towards $31 that MSFT/YHOO rumor out of the New York Post came out. My first thought of a Microsoft / Yahoo! merger was: "Oh, yeah... Steve Ballmer and Terry Semel: together at last." That was followed by imagining a film being shot in heaven, with Rodney Dangerfield and John Candy playing CEO roles of two Wall Street stock-price losers out to combine forces and get some due respect. Only to be foiled by those rascally Google boys... and I'm not quite sure who would play those rolls roles.

Regarding the MicroYa! rumor, my feelings echo that of Brier Dudley: Microsoft merging with Yahoo!?!#@!!!. Mr. Scoble does a pretty good cafe stool analysis, too, regarding the overlap and issues involved. Of course, my shallow-self freaked out over the possibility of incorporating 11,700 new employees into Microsoft. Well, no, it would be less than that. You figure it would serve as a proper time for the remaining superstars to detach and go into Start-up-Ville. We could hope for some fun, though, by Thunderdoming up the overlapping groups: two product groups go in, only one comes out!

Looking at Yahoo!, the main thing I keep reflecting on is: I like flickr. And having more data centers couldn't hurt. The rest seems to be as scattered and randomized as most of Microsoft's online offerings and initiatives. But I see Microsoft's online and connected story finally coming together in a pretty impressive series of well thought-out releases. Yahoo! still seems to be on a dithering path with interfaces that get more and more DHTML'ized noisy and busy overtime. Seven plus or minus two, right?

Anyway, going a bit backwards in time, interesting posts about the financial earnings:

(1) MSFTExtremeMakeover: Show us what you've got.

(2) Joe Wilcox: Microsoft Q3 2007 by the Numbers. Even taking out the results of the deferral, the results are impressive. Now, scanning through the comments, it's interesting that Mr. Wilcox is engaged in a debate whether he's a Microsoft basher or not. I've noticed in the past that his comments have attracted people who like to engage in their inner /. in their hatred of Microsoft.

(3) Todd Bishop: Microsoft revenues up 32%, profits beat estimates and the follow-up Microsoft shares rise 3.5%, both posts reminding us of the big plunge that happened a year ago. Mr. Bishop also posts about my new favorite guy, Andrew Rashbass, in Economist publisher pokes fun at Microsoft. The highlight:

He got in several zingers while speaking on a panel discussion after a keynote presentation by Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division.

One of them: "I thought it was great, by the way, that Robbie Bach was giving you a talk, which 2,000 people attend, about monetization and business -- and he just lost $300 million in the last quarter," Rashbass said.

What, else, what else... the major review season is (unfortunately) right around the corner. Just when you thought all that career management was over and you could be productive comes the march of myMicrosoft 1.5, or 2.0, or whatever's next. Wake me when it's at 3.0, because then I'm sure it will be mostly ironed out and people can focus on doing their job versus managing the perception of doing their job. Personally, I don't think we need incremental changes at this point. Given where we are and the challenges we have, we are not going to succeed based on incremental steps.

Sure, the Starbucks machines are great, but we need a company-wide Back to Basics (or a rewrite of our basics) from the CEO level to shrug off the past and focus on what's important today:

  • Delivering: products, solutions, whatever. You don't get rewarded for talking about things, you get rewarded for shipping things.
  • Deliver Often: efficient organization around not only delivering but also being able to quickly deliver quality results and features again.
  • Team Success: teamwork needs to be rewarded over individual success. Teams that work well and that deliver and deliver often should get exceptional rewards.
  • Streamlining: if it's not profitable and not going to be profitable, we can walk away. Also, we don't have to ship a product in every possible imaginable software market in the world. People are efficiently placed just where they both want to be and need to be.

We need a reboot. A reset. A refocusing on what's essential for Microsoft to succeed and realign its culture into the fantastic, crazy, wonderful place that it has all the raw potential to be. And by hitting the reset button, it gives people the permission to push the boundaries and align with the positive goals of success.

We'll see what this summer holds. If we were going to hit the reset button and align against some basic, positive goals, what would you get behind?

Updated: as always, thanks for the roly-poly syntax check.