Microsoft, Past and Future

John Gruber writes:

“A computer on every desk and in every home” was incredible foresight for 1977. It carried Microsoft for 25 years of growth. But once that goal was achieved, I don’t think they knew where to go.

We can only presume that Satya Nadella was hired, in part, to help them figure that out. Only time will tell, but it’ll be fun to watch either way.

How to Handle an IT Shitstorm

As in life, it is not possible to anticipate or prevent every problem that may come up in IT. Nor is it necessarily desirable to do so.1 Business is about accepting certain risks, making trade-offs, and allocating varied but never limitless resources. Tough decisions must be made every day in business. Not all decisions that end up leading to undesirable results were flawed decisions.2 And there’s always insurance for some things.

A few years ago I sat in with a team that was dealing with what can best be described as a shitstorm of epic proportions. They were experiencing a denial of service attack against their Internet facing server farm infrastructure. As a global SaaS business, this was devastating.3

This team had set up a “war room” with the various involved parties all represented. When I visited, this included eight individuals, not including myself. The team’s leader had directed most of the immediate efforts towards the active attack. This would surprise no outsider observing the situation. The attack had been partially mitigated at one point already – only to pop up in another spot. This, too, was not surprising.4


  1. Though many a systems engineers will die trying. 

  2. And not all decisions that lead to attractive results were unflawed decisions; business – like life – can be confusing. 

  3. Any resemblance to any particular organization is merely a coincidence; this is an amalgam of several situations, though all pertinent details, including the whiteboard quote, are from real situations I’ve observed or been a party to firsthand. 

  4. It’s par for the course when it comes to DDoS attacks. 

Truth for Non-Fictional IT Leaders

Bob Lewis, a senior management consultant with Dell, shares an IT leadership lesson on his always thoughtful Keep the Joint Running blog. It is drawn from the process he went through when writing his new fiction book:

The characters have to be plausible – we figured people do things for reasons that make sense to themselves, which meant we needed to know our characters’ biographies and personalities.

It isn’t just fictional characters who have to be plausible. The real men and women you work with have to be plausible too.

Many managers just aren’t very good at this; some don’t even understand why it’s important.

What Do Project Managers Wish For?

The 7 Top Wishes of IT Project Managers, compiled by Jennifer Lonoff Schiff for CIO.com:

Ah, the joys of being a project manager. From being treated like a servant of management and not being included in key decisions, to having priorities, tasks and deadlines constantly changed on them — and then being blamed for delays and slip-ups — IT project managers have a lot to deal with. But what if project managers could change all that? What if a genie could grant IT project managers three (project-related) wishes? What would project managers wish for?

What, indeed.

Fixing a Business Relationship With a $30 Cake

Resolving a billing dispute with big companies can take some creativity. Robert Kaye, of the MetaBrainz Foundation (operator of MusicBrainz), shares his breakthrough, and the adventure that went along with it, as he worked to get a three year old (!) outstanding invoice taken care of by Amazon.com:

For the last 6 months I’ve stepped up my pestering to get this resolved. I’ve been assured progress for the past 6 months, but nothing has happened. Promises of progress, then nothing. Again and again. I finally had an idea how to make change happen: Send Amazon an anniversary cake and post a picture of it publicly!

I even told my Amazon contacts about this idea, but it didn’t really catalyze anything. Then I finally set a deadline of Dec 2nd. The deadline came and went with more unfulfilled promises, so on December 2nd I picked up the phone and ordered a cake.

`11 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Business’

Stephanie St.Claire shares some gems. My current favorites are 7-11.

My name is Stephanie St.Claire, and I am an unfunded entrepreneur. I’ve been in business for 3 years, after engaging in my own personal and tenuous renaissance (uh…divorce) and rediscovering my Divine Core Purpose. In other words, I grew a pair of ladyballs and started living the life I always wanted to while making money doing it.

But there was a LOT to learn, and some of those things weren’t covered in Who Moved My Cheese.

A More Pragmatic Microsoft

Nice to see some frank talk about their vision needing to evolve.

The Guardian reports:

Larson-Green, who is executive vice-president of Devices and Studios at Microsoft, said that the aim of Windows RT was “our first go at creating that more closed, turnkey experience [that Apple has on the iPad]…” but that Microsoft now has three mobile operating systems: “We have the Windows Phone OS. We have Windows RT and we have full Windows. We’re not going to have three.”

And:

“So the goal was to deliver two kinds of experiences into the market, the full power of your Windows PC [on the Surface Pro], and the simplicity of a tablet experience that can also be productive. That was the goal. Maybe not enough. I think we didn’t explain that super-well. I think we didn’t differentiate the devices well enough. They looked similar. Using them is similar. It just didn’t do everything that you expected Windows to do. So there’s been a lot of talk about it should have been a rebranding. We should not have called it Windows.”

Notably:

Meanwhile Windows Phone has been scaled up to larger and larger screens, such as the 6in 1520, and smaller 8in tablets with Intel architecture have begun to go on sale – leaving Windows RT with no obvious niche.

Also a great quote from Richard Windsor, commenting on his blog on this news:

If Microsoft can apply this pragmatism to the rest of the company and to its choice of CEO, we might just have a phoenix rather than a turkey.

This isn’t just a matter of the non-Pro models having lower specs or less features, they’re entirely different software platforms. Confusing to consumers and developers, and the value proposition is even murkier with Windows Phone in the mix.

“Dilbert” Wrote Itself →

HBR posts (comics found at the link):

Adams started cartooning while working at Pacific Bell Telephone Company (later acquired by AT&T), after being repeatedly passed over for promotion. “The day you realize that your efforts and rewards are not related, it really frees up your calendar,” he says in his book, “I had time for hobbies.” Some of the first Dilbert doodles appeared on the whiteboard in Adams’ cube, and it was one of his coworkers who suggested the name of the title character.

And:

In the early days of Dilbert – March 1990, when the strip appeared only in a few newspapers – Adams included a direct quote from a memo written by the then-VP of engineering at Pacific Bell.

Inevitably, an employee of the VP mocked in the strip shared copies with his staff. But because it would be a strike to morale to fire a popular employee for making jokes, Adams insists that his bosses opted for a different management approach.