Are we apologists for Microsoft?

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Vijay asks: Are we apologists for Microsoft?

Yes. Yes, we are. Absolutely, totally, without a doubt.

Please go read what Vijay has to say. It is a very positive look at the state of Microsoft partnership, to say the least. Kind of flawed at the close (HP’s scandals and internal affairs do not directly impact my bottom line, Microsoft’s incompetence does) but good summary overall.

If I were to put my finger at one thing.. one thing.. that Microsoft is doing wrong, and is the root cause of why Microsoft is easilly the most hated software and hardware manufacturer in the universe – it would be their total and utter lack of humility when dealing with their customers and partners problems. You will never hear a Microsoft official apologize, you will never see them use the word “sorry”, you will never see the slightest bit of remorse for the damage they continue to do not just to the partner ecosystem but to the customer as well.

For example, one of the nicest people I know at Microsoft sent the email earlier this weekend, using the following phrase “We sincerely appreciate your patience and efforts..”; It is this inability to connect with the pain of partners and customers that is costing Microsoft not just in terms of product sales but also in goodwill and faith customers place in the vendor. It is not hard to say sorry. We say it all the time. For Microsoft software. That is what makes us apologists, by definition.

Now that I’m done with the rant, there is actually a very legitimate reason for using these expressions. For example, Disney has for years emphasised that they are never to admit fault, guilt or remorse when they are at fault. There is never to be an admission of fault by a cast member.

Guest: “You messed up my vacation. You messed up my reservation. You didn’t wake me up.”

Cast: “I am sorry you feel that way.”

Notice they are not really sorry for any of the wrong-doing. They are sorry you feel that way. Anotherwords: “Dear customer, you’re wrong.”

If that is the type of behavior Microsoft wants to adopt in the small business I’m afraid Microsoft solutions will not stay here in the long term. I do not use “the most hated software company” words lightly, Microsoft is deeply despised by many of its customers and partners. It is a shame for those of us that work with Microsoft’s employees and know them to be probably the nicest people out there, both on and off the clock. However, this type of direct communication and the inability to show compassion for the pains, in an official way, that the ecosystem is creating is not going to be good for Microsoft. I hope they can take those words to their superiors and explain to them just whats happening down here. These changes must to come from the top down because there are already awesome people at Microsoft, someone just needs to stop the pattern of hiring marketing pukes that ruin the overall reputation by showing no respect, compassion or even acknowledgement of the mistakes when they happen. Microsoft needs more Kevin Beares’s, and less Joels.

18 Responses to Are we apologists for Microsoft?

  1. vlad says:

    < ?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?> < !DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> Untitled document See, thats the problem at its core. There are great people in Microsoft, we all know them. There are Microsoft staffers all over the world that go around, understand the problems and issues, work on the solutions, try to address them, etc. So are these people completely fake lying bastards only out for the show…. or is there a corporate mentality at Microsoft that suffocates these voices, complaints, pains and objections and just keeps on going forward? Judging by the fact that the people we interact with at many levels and departments (both product and business, both SMB and enterprise) and judging by the fact that I've seen them say the same things while in the blue shirt and in a casual shirt after a few beers… I doubt they are bs-ing. And if those guys can't change it… well… Microsoft is the primary one at a loss here and if there will be anyone around to care to hear them say "sorry" when the organization is prepared to apologize… thats up to them to determine. -Vlad

  2. doverton12 says:

    Vlad,

    I have to disagree on several counts. Do you want Microsoft to post up the word “Sorry”? Does that help? How about real actions.
    SBS 2003 shipped with a time bomb – 5 free CALS
    SBS 2003 SP1 shipped with ISA 2004 – not the orginal shipping product – free upgrade for those who had SBS Premium – I know the product was originally designed with ISA 2003 in mind, but it shipped with ISA 2000.
    XBox – price change – MS gave people upto 3 free games I think.

    This sounds like a company saying sorry in themost meaningful way.

    Now, software as an industry is not perfect – even your software has problems. What happens if you phone Microsoft and your problem turns out to be a bug – we give you the support call for free.

    Service Packs – many companies charge for them, or a service charge – not Microsoft.

    The list goes on. So, let me ask you again “What do you actually want Microsoft to do differently? What would you want the phrase in the e-mail to be?”

    Finally, what happens in the US if a company says it is at fault? Do people say “thanks” or do they start a class action law suit to get as much money out of them as possible?

    as always, throught provoking blog.

    ttfn

    David

    P.S. On when I said sorry on the blog – I meant it. As for the official route – it was not the sorry bit that had to go through the official channels – it was so that the counting mechanism used month in month out showed the peak of peoples upset over the action pack. Introducing a new channel of communication and reacting to the metrics on 1 sample does not work.

    ttfn

    David
    http://uksbsguy.com/blogs/doverton

  3. vlad says:

    Dave,

    Thats not gonna do sorry.

    Microsoft is hurting my business.
    Microsoft is hindering my ability to grow my business.
    Microsoft is not admitting to any of its faults.

    So when my customers lose faith in me, I lose their business.

    Now, love you dude but if it came to my job vs. your job you’d be sailed down the Thames river in a cracked McDonalds fry box.

    So what am I telling my customers? Let’s not bet the house of Microsoft.

    If you don’t meet me half way and help me save face, I will not apologize for you. I will replace and cut you out.

    You HAVE to admit to your problems, make it easy for BUSINESS people, decision makers, etc to see them. If they cannot go to the web site where they can see that there are issues with your patch then they are going to blame me. And if its not my fault I can only say it’s not my fault so many times before I replace your solution with someone elses.

    -Vlad

  4. RussGrover says:

    Dave, I have to agree with Vlad. (Much how it hurts me Laugh.)

    But this update @#$# my client doesn’t point the blame on Microsoft. The Point to ME! why? I’m the “Expert” I’m the Microsoft Certified (For What it’s worth.)

    So when the @#$@# hits the fan and I get Blind sided by Service Packs that Break Help and Support and other things, It’s not Microsoft that they look at, it’s Me because I installed it. (Luckily Most clients Don’t use the help so most didn’t see the error)

    But what Most are complaining about is the Number of RESTARTS that the Server has to do, and again “This Week”

    Microsoft is Hurting my business, I’m not spending my time building my business, I’m spending time fixing things that IMO should not be broken.

    Regardless if they are free, What good is Free if it breaks the server?

    And the Compensation for Errors?

    Well I’d rather them Not compensate me at all, and do it right the first time.

    Just like when you go through the Drive-In When you drive off you want your Order to be Correct, Does it matter that when you complain you get a free Coupon for a Burger on your next visit?

    While I was on Vacation once I had a Pizza Place try to give me a 10% coupon off because they made the wrong pizza for me and it was to go. I said What? I live $1,200 Miles from here, I’m leaving tomorrow and you want to compensate me with 10% off on my NEXT Pizza?

    What good is that?
    I said Half off is better since 1/2 of the ingredients I wanted was on it.

    I would gladly go through life not to be compensated ever again from Restaurants Air Lines Hotels or Microsoft, to get what IMO is basic service.

    Sure I understand when People make Errors, and Human Errors Happen from time to time, But the Errors I’ve seen From Microsoft Lately are Basic, NON Testing Errors.

    Not like my clients have Custom Servers with Special Exotic Drives Etc etc. We are talking off the shelf Dell Servers with Stock Install of SBS.

    I’m tired of Saying I’m sorry all the down time caused in the last two months from Microsoft. It’s like I’m back at Intel again trying to Defend IT Corporate Management Stupidity.

    At least when I was at Intel I could break the rules and fix things to make them work, With Microsoft I often don’t have a choice.

    As far as Selling more Microsoft stuff?
    I think Maybe Next year is probably my best bet, given this years track record of Update issues..

    Nuff Said.

  5. doverton12 says:

    OK, I am still confused. Are you telling me that you don’t also test software that you install at customers? Are you telling me that there is honestly other OSs out there that give you more value for your money, add more value to businesses, but are easier to run, take less of your time or even give you the level of support that MS does with it’s software? If so, don’t run on MS. I think MS does the best it can and it is a lot better than others out there. I started life on Mainframes – they required reboots and patches. I then sold and services Unix and Linux systems. Regular patch tapes and maintenance was the key.

    If you don’t think MS is the best for you, surely you would not sell it or use it?

    Computers need managing by clever people – Microsoft relies on you being the clever people. I’ve already posted on this subject weeks ago at http://uksbsguy.com/blogs/doverton/archive/2007/03/22/who-should-test-software-and-service-packs-i-think-vendors-customers-and-partners-others-think-it-is-just-microsoft-vendors.aspx.

    It is simple, computers and the levels of software that run on top of them are complex. They require care to stay secure and delivering business value. I spent my 1st 9 years in work after University doing mission critical secure computing. It was 20% technology and 80% people and process. This has not changed. There is no such thing as “off the shelf” or “standard” – I offered a group of SBSers to come up with a list of standard components – just 50 say to be hard tested – they refused and agreed that all the “common” systems that they ran SBS on was very long if you included the list since SBS 2003 shipped. Any hardware provider will tell you that their internal components change even if the part code does not.

    If you want something that is bullet proof tested, look at Windows DataCenter and the approved hardware for that. It tooks months for anyone’s network card to just sustain 2 weeks stress testing – and that was not a MS issue – it was hardware and drivers.

    So, I get really frustrated when someone wants the diversity that is available in the WHQL approved hardware list and yet expects everything to work all the time without them contributing to the process. If IT were that simple then so many of us would not make money as IT Consultants.

    Yep the Help & Support issue was not good – I tested the Service Pack before it shipped and missed the issue until after it shipped. It was fixed with a simple command that is documented.

    So, could the process be better – yes. Do we do things to improve it – yes. Do we listen and communicate via blogs to make that more informal – yes. Can we take onboard more ideas as to what you actually want us to do that is reasonable – yes, yes, yes.

    If there is 1 thing we need to do more of to make things better – say so. If it is just “my hardware is standard, test on it 1st” – nope.

    If it is put in place more tests to make sure that the Help and Support issue does not rise again – I’m with you all the way.

  6. vlad says:

    These are not hardware issues, these are software issues.

    We have a standardized virtual hosting platform. It is Windows 2003 Enterprise running on PowerEdge 2800. All same controllers. All same ram. All same hard drives. All same BIOS, same driver versions, etc. Yet every second Tuesday we have an issue on a small percentage of these servers. Always on different ones. Sometimes even in virtual machines. Blame that on hardware 🙂

    But seriously, our customers are experiencing issues with the degraded level of quality checking. We can’t afford to call PSS/CSS every time the box hangs when it is supposed to be rebooting.

    So our customers look to us – and we have to point to you as a party at fault. It is YOUR fault that you produce software that does not behave as designed, not ITPROs. So when we point them to Microsoft, where do we point them to find out if the issue is your fault or not? KB revisions a few days after the patch has been released?

    As I posted on one of the SBS lists, you’ve gotten this far on the features. Yes, features are great. But if the system is not reliable, features don’t matter. People will dump an unreliable solution no matter how functional and feature-full it is.

    And the testing stuff is Microsoft’s job, not IT Professionals. IT Professionals job is to configure the software and make it meet a business need. It is NOT our job to make sure Microsoft is doing what Microsoft is supposed to. Is Microsoft so incompetent in its QC that they want to ask each SBS customer to buy a separate test system to test patches on before they roll them out?

    If thats the case, the TCO arguments Microsoft has been surviving on for years just burned down in a flash. Add 8-10 hours a month of IT time per Microsoft product managed to the operational costs in order to make sure Microsoft is releasing quality patches and service packs.

    -Vlad

  7. Susan says:

    Russ why did you install SP2? What reason did you have for installing this service pack?

    What reason? What need? It already includes previously included security patches so why did you install it?

    At some point in time it’s my network, my risks, my buck stops here. I don’t really care why Microsoft thought it needed to stick Service pack 2 on Microsoft update as a high priority patch. The only reason why I even attempted to install it was because all you other insane people kept installing it. Service packs never go on servers week one, nor week two, they go on when it’s deemed appropriate. And what rule book of best practices are you guys reading that says “oh we just install them”

    Service packs that break help and support hardly damages the box.

    Come on guys.. SBS 4.0/4.5 RRAS broke. SBS 2000 serivce pack caused file locking issues so I had to roll back. Have you folks not been installing service packs over the years or has it just been me doing this? Maybe I’m the jaded one to consider that Help and Support getting mangled is reasonable on a box that does so much. I can’t get a clean box to recreate the help and support issue and furthermore on the box at home, I can’t tell you the last time I even used it, nor can many I speak with. So if we didn’t use it?

    Vlad, do you honestly think your clients are going to read a patch issue page? If so, it’s already there on Security patch issues in every bulletin. It’s called the caveat section. In that they’ve warned about issues with patches.

    I know what Microsoft has the ability to test. I know what they cannot test.

    They do not have my line of business applications. They can’t test for my stuff, because they don’t have the stuff I have installed.

    At some point in time the buck and responsibility is with me.

    Action items:

    1. Better heads up about service packs that I’ve been asking about for years.
    2. Include external testing to be pro-active and not reactive.
    3. Make it easier to partner (yes, Vlad I said partner) to help debug the rebooting issue or other issues because everyone is rebooting and no one is calling in. I’ve seen numerous people complain, and only one person Dave Nickason call in and attempt to set up a repro.

    But for all those wanting to be pro-active about these issues? Patch on YOUR terms not Microsoft’s and sign up for http://www.patchmanagement.org listserve.

  8. vlad says:

    Susan,

    Please, stop the bull.

    First of all, if this service pack was not neccessary it should NOT have shown up under the high priority updates. Microsoft customers should expect Microsoft to do proper QC so that patches, hotfixes, service packs, etc can be applied automatically and transparently.

    Let us not forget that we are FORCED to deploy these fixes because they fix holes that Microsoft is introducing into the software because they are rushing it to the market. These faults in the software are not faults of the customer, of the partner, or of the ITPRO. They are fault of Microsoft. Period. End of story. End of discussion. Game -f’n- over.

    Now we’ve played along. We’ve deployed patching mechanisms. We have test systems. We have labs. We have round clock shifts on the second tuesday. We have god knows how much money tied up in making sure the patches are applied because not applying the patches means opening the door to hackers.

    So please go tell that “you determine your own risk” to someone that doesn’t know any better. We all know why these security fixes are being released, and they are released to keep systems from being compromised.

    Enough is enough! Microsoft’s patching has gotten incompetent enough, customers who do not have a RELIABLE system today will not upgrade to the next one, they will seek alternatives.

    And we will gladly install it for them.

    -Vlad

  9. Susan says:

    I decide when to install patches, not Microsoft. I disagree many times with their analysis. I install on my time table not there’s. There still is no need to install SP2 at this time.

    Service packs are not security patches. You are confusing the two. Stop that, Vlad. Use the terms properly.

    I am telling people to determine your own risk by educating them Vlad.

    Like I said, sign up for http://www.patchmangement.org.

    Game over.
    Buck stops right here.

  10. vlad says:

    Name does not matter. Patchmanagement.org doesn’t matter.
    Risk evaluation doesn’t matter.

    There is only one thing that matters:
    It is an official update issued by Microsoft that is AUTOMATICALLY pushed down to the server by default.

    There should be no reason, aside from a physical failure of the hardware, for the patch to result in anything but a perfectly functional system. Ever. That is Microsoft’s stand as well, thats why built-in patching in Windows server recommends the patches be automatically downloaded and installed by default.

    -Vlad

  11. Susan says:

    Service pack 2 at this time doesn’t install by default.

    And no Vlad, Microsoft doesn’t set the risk in my firm.

    Yes it matters. And it should to you as well. Caveat section of every security bulletin details the known issues. Read them tomorrow.

    Then you approve.

    Again, that may be Microsoft’s stand, but it’s not mine. I’m not the mindless drone here, I’m the one making the decisions.

  12. vlad says:

    This isn’t about risk, this is about Microsoft not doing enough QC on their patches, updates, rollups, service packs or whatever. The more you distract from that F A C T the more you validate their position of not having to do anything.

    This is one area I cannot support Microsoft in – my organization has lost faith in Microsoft’s ability to provide a reliable AND secure operating system. My customers don’t have the luxury of picking one or the other, nothing else matters.

    -Vlad

  13. doverton12 says:

    To answer som of the questions – many, many, many software partners sign off on our SPs before they are shipped – when I was working on Windows Datacenter I saw it was about 4,000 3rd party applications that were part of the sign-off process – it may be more or less now, but this is not done without major s/w stack players – this means competitors as well as friends – I remember that Oracle and IBM could both stop a SP shipping. Our testing is proactive.

    However, like all software it is not perfect. And just becaue your h/w and software stack is standard for you, does not mean it is for others. When I was working with some major named OEMs they told me that they changed something inside the box every 5 days – without changing the number on the outside. This was one of the biggest challenges of the Windows DataCenter progam – they could not do that anymore.

    As I said, could it be better yes. Do we advice the installation of service packs – yes. Do we strongly recommend your own testing yes. Do we provide roll-back capability – yes. Do we provide free support if it is a bug – yes.

    Software is not perfect. Are you telling me that you never had a problem with your software? MS has millions of customers – we have a huge team developing the products and fixing bugs that we become aware of, through testing and feedback – and we do fix them and change the testing process.

    at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/lifecycle/servicepacks.mspx we state “Microsoft recommends that business customers use the above table to plan for the evaluation of new Service Packs as soon as they become available and to allow for the fastest possible transition time, in order to maintain all PCs on current service packs. When preparing for deployment of a service pack it is important to test your mission critical line of business (LOB) applications internally. Microsoft takes great care prior to releasing a service pack to ensure that there are no regressions in the product, and we test with many applications, but it is not possible to test with all LOB applications. Prior to deploying a service pack please consider the following as part of your deployment plan. ”

    That link was hit #2 in the search http://search.live.com/results.aspx?q=microsoft+service+pack+testing+site%3Amicrosoft.com&first=1&FORM=PERE

    Why do you think our support policy is to support the previous service pack for 12-24 months after the new one is released? For those who have done the evaluation and found a problem!

    If you want to see what it takes to keep systems patched and highly available to the extreme (we have customers with >99.999% availability) have a look at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/datacenter/dcprogram.mspx – this is a joint program between the software and hardware vendors. We don’t need to do all of this to have systems with 99.999% availability, but management of what and when something goes on a server is key.

    Does it show that this used to be a key area for me? That I care passionately about it 🙂

    ttfn

    David
    http://uksbsguy.com/blogs/doverton

  14. vijay says:

    < ?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?> < !DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> Untitled document I know Dave Overton recently said "sorry" regarding the Action Pack changes which caused a lot of consternation amongst partners. However, eventhough many people protested on his Blog, this was still not considered an "official" channel by Microsoft and so Dave had to direct people to go complain through another route which would be recognised by Microsoft. So whilst individuals in Microsoft might be listening you're right to say whether Microsoft Corp is really listening? As Partners we account for a large proportion of Microsoft's revenue so we should have the voice to affect changes, that is if we as a Partner Community could agree on what those changes should be? That's another question in itself!

  15. vlad says:

    Dave,

    See, I think thats where we are seeing a disconnect between what you think is going on and the reality.

    The reality is that the customer understands all that you’ve typed. What they do not understand is having an unexpected bill, several hundred dollars at a time, each month. While we all expect there to be issues with computers – which is why we test, lab, backup and so on – we do not expect there to be problems each and every month with what should be a seemingly problem-free process by now.

    In 2005 and beginning of 2006 that was the case. Windows Server could be flipped on automatic updates and everything would be fine. Likewise slightly before that, the only thing you had to do significant planning for were service packs.

    Please allow me to quantify the problem in as few words as possible since Susan tries her hardest to distract from it:

    Any critical update released on second Tuesday of the month should work properly.

    Is that fair enough to expect? That your security patches do not cause a downtime beyond that needed to restart the server. It is unreasonable to expect a small business server to be up 99.999% of the time. It is also unreasonable to have it down 2-4 hours every second Tuesday because you haven’t tested this properly. We, unfortunately, cannot afford to wait a while because exploits are already in the wild by the time your patch is available.

    You talk to a ton of people in the SMB, I know that. How many of you would say that the patching experience has improved over the last 6 months? Was that not the #1 selling point of SBS R2 – the green check of health indicating everything was up to date?

    -Vlad

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  18. john jurss says:

    It seems to me that when windows was released with SP1A,everything worked beautifully.Unfortunately the further down the track we travel on the windows wagon,pieces are continually falling off.e.g.system restore doesn’t work,DEP cuts in at the most inopportune moment,Internet Explorer is going from bad to worse,every day at least twenty programs”have encountered a problem”etc.etc.

    To those that are interested to find their 10-15 Gig.of System Restore snapshots,(which Windows Explorer can’t,or won’t locate,try this.
    Download a totally free program called EXPLORER XP,and then locate a folder entitled SYSTEM INFORMATION.When you open that,you will immediately come across anything up to 200 odd snapshots called R.P.1,R.P.2,and so on.
    Not only is the system restore not working,the blasted program is creating restore points by the bucketload,and not deleting any.

    When windows worked so well with SP1A,and there was nothing amiss,why did Microsoft try to fix something that warn’t broke.That question has bugged me for years.
    As I mentioned before,all you very frustrated and angry people out there whose System Restore doesn’t work,please check out EXPLORER XP and find the folder in question.

    Don’t try to follow the expert’s methodology to locate them by punching two pages of confusing commands to (maybe)achieve something you can do in a matter of minutes.

    John jurss

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