TECHED: TechEd clarifications – the need for clear direction

Posted on September 24, 2006. Filed under: Software |

TECHED: TechEd clarifications – the need for clear direction

I’ve had very little feedback on my TechEd Disappointment post (even though surprisingly it has become my second most hit post of the last 6 months). Of the feedback I have received there has been two main points:

1.       The post was far too long and wordy – yep, can’t deny this (in fact I suspect that most of the hits I’ve received has been lost – ie people take one look at how long it is and go elsewhere {g})

2.       Some of the points are unclear

It is this second point I’d like to address. A passing comment by Nick Randolph at the end of his excellent podcast alerted me to my need to add clarity (I’ve a lot of respect for Nick – anyone who’s heard him present will know he is very smart. So if he’s misunderstood my point then it’s clear to me I haven’t presented it very well!)

The point in question is with regard to Microsoft’s overview of strategy (this was my suggestion to do with the opening keynote at TechEd). Nick is right to say that the Vista and Office roadmaps have been clearly presented by Microsoft and that anyone reading blogs will be aware of such. (As an aside: from my experience, many people, including attendees at TechEd, don’t read blogs, so assuming they do could be a little presumptive – but for this post let’s assume that everyone reads blogs and is well informed on short term strategy at Microsoft.)

Microsoft’s longer term strategy – what is it?

However, my main point is the longer term view. I’m really after a clearly articulated overview of where Microsoft is going to be in 5 years time. Perhaps not so much in the developer community, but definitely in the IT Pro space, people are looking for assurance that the decisions they are making now are valid for the 5-8 year timeframe. Microsoft can really help out by providing more information here. For example, if I embark on a big SharePoint project within our company (which we are just commencing by the way) where will this leave us in 5 years time? What can we expect going forward once Office 2007 has been released? In my opinion a keynote is a perfect place to present this. Please note, I’m not after details of feature sets, I’m after strategic direction. How is Windows Live and Office Live going to fit in with their other plans? How does Microsoft really plan to respond to Google as a competitor (reputed CEO chair throwing aside {g})?

Unity

The other request I have is to make Microsoft’s strategy more unified. Let’s take an example that our company has experienced recently. We’ve been called into a large Healthcare company to consult on their BizTalk architecture and methodology. You may be surprised to learn that both their IT Manager and Development Strategy Manager had no idea what BizTalk was. (They need to interface with BizTalk at another company and thus need to get BizTalk running at their end.) To us this isn’t a surprise. Like all IT Managers, they are time-poor and under resourced. They don’t have time to read all the blogs and Microsoft articles that they’d like to. They have no idea where BizTalk fits in the Microsoft strategy.

Now, I’m not criticizing these guys. They are the norm in my opinion. They are very good at their jobs and have built an impressive infrastructure so far. And yet they hadn’t heard about BizTalk. What can Microsoft do to reach these people? My suggestion is that the opening keynote at an event like TechEd is the ideal place to include coverage of these technologies.

In Nick’s podcast Athena mentions that TechEd had single day focuses on key tools such BizTalk (to be honest I wasn’t aware of this). Even in light of this, and although BizTalk 2006 was included in the fanfare of the Ready Launch last November, I’ll wager money that a survey of IT Pros (and developers even) would reveal that the majority don’t understand where BizTalk sits in the Microsoft strategy.

The problem is not lack of information on products – in fact just the opposite – we are bombarded with too much information. What managers need is high level overview clarity.

Best practice

A final example is the Patterns and Practices team. Although many might disagree, it is my opinion that Microsoft should be making mention of this in an opening keynote. It is an excellent spoke in Microsoft’s software integration wheel. And I’m not just talking about Developers. IT Pros should be made aware of the P&P strategy. In fact they should be mindful of it when evaluating their software providers.

As personal feedback on the P&P perception, we’ve been interviewing a few .Net developers lately for roles in Talman. None of them have known what the Enterprise Library is. That’s right, none. Not one has known anything about the P&P team. Most have not known what a design pattern is. Now, I could be critical of them and wonder at their lack of general knowledge. But, I’d rather suggest there is an opportunity for Microsoft to be clearer on these matters. It was great to see mention of it (again) in Frank’s last MSDN Flash (note, at the time of this post the latest edition was not yet up on the site). Frank’s regular email is a great way of staying informed. But, what can we do to ensure that all .Net developers are reading it? And as Nick asks in his podcast, how can we get more people to value user groups? It is very important that we get these tools and strategies from Microsoft out to a wider audience.

Ill informed?

In closing let me be the first to admit how ill-informed I am. It well may be that this is all clearly articulated somewhere. If so please point me to the relevant resources – I’ll be very grateful.

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