What I do at Microsoft: It’s all about the customer

I was asked yesterday, “what the heck do you do at Microsoft these days?” That was a follow up to a friend seeing a post in Computerworld that I’d missed, which was interesting as I was calling out the importance of numbers in names… as I have one in mine (hence the emoticon, which Gregg Keizer neglected to note in his post).

But back to what I do.

As I wrote here, many people in our offices focus on the work to make and keep customer satisfaction a top priority, especially important now more than ever. That’s a positive. Steve Ballmer said previously that Microsoft has more work to do to please our customers and partners, noting that “we’ve only begun to tap the real potential of computers to help you communicate, find answers, solve problems and be more productive.”

At Microsoft, I have the privilege to coordinate and support the work our product and services teams do (our business groups, aka BGs) as they focus on improving satisfaction with our customers and partners. We call this “CPE” at the company, and you can read a little more about it here.

Along with a small group focused on the BGs, and with a great team of people in our worldwide Sales & Marketing team, we help frame and prioritize issues, make connections across teams (challenging when you have as many people around the world as we do, serving so many customers) and improve upon the customer’s experience with Microsoft. This isn’t done in a vacuum, and I get to work with our talented and dedicated product and services teams to provide guidance and work with teams when needed, and sometimes actively engaging on issues. For me, that includes evangelizing best practices, identifying and resolving broad issues, and working on broad, cross company efforts (most often technical in nature, as I’ve documented on this blog).

In short, rule #1 about my job in CPE is about making our customers happy, and for ones that are happy, keeping them happy. For ones who run into an issue or have a problem with products and services, it’s about referring to rule #1 and working with teams to make them happy.

As I wrote here, fools may find fault with ease. It takes the persistent to note that the customer experience isn’t a commodity, and to course correct when we find fault…

Benjamin Franklin and Dale Carnegie both said that “any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do.” But if you listen to the criticism and respond to it — take the criticism and do something positive with it — then you can course correct and improve the customer experience.

With that, I’m off to course correct. And offer some advice.

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What I read: Designing for Dependability in the Cloud

Last week I read David Bills’ (our chief reliability strategist) post Data Center Knowledge. David is responsible for the broad evangelism of the company’s online service reliability programs. His latest item is a follow on to his posts articles “Designing
for Dependability in the Cloud
” and Microsoft’s Journey: Solving Cloud Reliability With Software.

“In part three, I discuss the cultural shift and evolving engineering principles Microsoft is using to help improve the dependability of the services we offer and help customers realize the full potential of the cloud.”

David highlights the importance of identifying as many potential failure conditions as possible in advance in the service design phase, so we can map out how the service should react when the unexpected occurs. (So really, it’s expected, if you’ve mapped out the different potential issues far enough.)

“Many services teams employ fault modeling (FMA) and root cause analysis (RCA) to help them improve the reliability of their services and to help prevent faults from recurring. It’s my opinion that these are necessary but insufficient. Instead, the design team should adopt failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) to help ensure a more effective outcome.

FMA refers to a repeatable design process that is intended to identify and mitigate faults in the service design. RCA consists of identifying the factors that resulted in the nature, magnitude, location, and timing of harmful outcomes. The primary benefits of FMEA, a holistic, end-to-end methodology, include the comprehensive mapping of failure points and failure modes, which results in a prioritized list of engineering investments to mitigate known failures.”

Akin to our work in scenario focused engineering, groups should look at the entire infrastructure, from the hardware and software we use to run our datacenters, along with the infrastructure and wetware we use to power them, to components in out cloud offerings.

Worth a quick read.


Shuttle rides, waiting for meetings, and other places: articles and posts I’ve read

On Shuttle rides, my WindowsPhone keeps me in touch and busy… And it tells me where my next ride is. What it allows me to do is to catch up on articles of interest and Tweet or post about what I’m reading. (And when I’m waiting in someone’s office for their meeting and I know they’re on Twitter, they can see I’m waiting for them… if they subscribe to my posts 😉 With work, I’ve had less time to blog publicly: that’s a choice, particularly as I’ve been busier than ever the last few months. (And, some would argue that unless you have something of interest to say, keep it to yourself.)

But on the last shuttle ride today, I ran into a friend from another side of the campus, who asked if I was “still keeping up that blogging thing. I enjoyed your weekly reading list.”

OK, so to kick off the blog and my Commitment to step up my game in 2013, here’s an installment of “What I’ve read” recently, and posted about on Twitter. You can find a complete list on my twitter stream and in my favourites.

Via @EverythingMS: Teenagers: Apple no longer cool, Microsoft Surface is in

Having great mentors, cabinet helps link

Several slim PCs to choose from. My wife has a sleek model from Samsung link

Via @_craigk: You can put this reality distortion field in my living room right over…there. #IllumiRoom

Via @Competia: Reading: Why entitled millennials and their enabling boomer parents just can’t quit each other link

Via @CNET: The best new gadgets at #CES in every category

Via @zephoria: I’m glad to see the @nytimes pay homage to @aaronsw’s accomplishments and struggles:

Via @guardian: The inside story of how David Bowie made The Next Day  (via @GuardianMusic)

Via @BradSmi: Spoke @enterpriseSEA event #EFCSeattle Need for change w/ #STEM edu & high-skilled immigration reform

To @tom_peters five minutes… then lather, rinse and repeat? Excellence as a habit comes with consistency and repetition link

Via @marypcbuk: Oracle must up its security game. With widespread adoption comes Spiderman levels of responsibility link

Via @ForbesTech: XBox is winning the living room wars. Here’s why.  #ForbesGreatestHits

Usually, Big Bird at an event is a plus: @deantak has five weirdest things @VentureBeat saw at #CES2013

This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For: @whitehouse comments on the Deathstar petition

Via @wmpoweruser: Evernote for Windows Phone updated, business features added

Via @SFGate: U.S. government tells computer users to disable Java.

Via @mahoekst: Windows Phone 8 security overview  Nice read! #wpnl #wpdev

The 100 Days Project and a Definition of Creativity via @erinjo

Weekend reading: make time for “The Anti Meeting Culture” by @docjamesw

Disruptive Trends to Watch in 2013 via @HarvardBiz

Via @aaronecarroll: Me over at @CNNOpinion: America flunks its health exam

I asked presenters to describe issues to their audience as if talking to a 5-yr old. Now I tell them to explain as @neiltyson would (link to the tweet)

Via @nytimesbits: Information Technology Dividends Outpace All Others

Via @On_MS_Products: Tablets started out as a consumer business priority but that’s changing quickly

Via @geekwire: Microsoft: Big possibilities for IllumiRoom technology

Via @VisualStudio: Really good Info for Windows 8 apps: a lot of icons are available out of the box –

Via @CNET: At #CES, two HP laptops do Windows 8 right  #2013CES

Via @MicrosoftEMEA: Steve Clayton shares why natural user interface is much more than touch and gesture

Via @wired: Recent Top Stories: CES Day 3: Curved TVs, Handheld Microscopes and Tablets Big and Small

Via @ryanday: More than 1/3 XBox Users Engage With Interactive Ads:  @MSAdvertising

Via @KevinRemde: TechNet Radio: Cloud Innovators: How Datacastle uses Windows Azure to Protect Business Data :

Pogue on the Microsoft Surface Pro: “it changes the game”… “a home run” –

Via @CNET: Lenovo’s 27-inch Horizon Table PC walked away with a #BOCA for best PC at #CES. Here’s why:

Via @bizspark: What’s the difference between Azure and AWS?

Via @edbott: Odd. Not a single mention of Gorilla Arm in this @pogue post:

Reading “Brussels takes tough stance on Google” in @ FinancialTimes

Reading: @clairesuddath @BW writes about something I know well and need: Rejection Therapy 😉

Via @whymicrosoft that should be: how we help #parents create a #healthy computing environment for their #kids:

Via @sylviebarak: Video: Intel’s CES press conference highlights:  via @eetimes

Via @DrRez: New Post from Lync team Blog: Client Side Recording: Lync 2013. #Lync #UC #Microsoft

Tags: articles, what I read, twitter.

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Words to live by, literally: Charles McConathy on Staying Healthy

Just back from a brief staycation (it’s so lovely in Seattle this time of year) and I found an old post with a few words from the great but late Charles McConathy. Charles was one of the first people to befriend me in the CA tech industry. He founded the very successful and admired MicroNet and was one of the most helpful and konwledgeable people I’d met. 
Charles died after a battle with colon cancer in 2004. A month or so before he died, he posted the following message on what he’d learned about staying healthy, which included this summary:
“… it is easier to avoid disease than it is to treat it. Do everything you can to protect your health.”
More from the tech point of view when I get back to the office. So little to talk about and so much time.
Scratch that, reverse… 😉

Subject: [FCP-L] OT: Oprah – September 1, 2004 Segment
Date: September 7, 2004 11:27:10 AM EDT

Do any of know how to get in touch with Oprah group to see if its possible get a tape of the September 1, 2004 segment which I think was based on Healing from the Heart with Mehmet Oz M.D. or if any of you taped it could I get a copy. I have some people I need to share it. Unlike Dr. Phil, Oprah does not offer tapes. Oprah does offer transcripts but that is not the same as a real live video. This doctor showed various organs of the body and how they get diseased and most revealing was his showing what body fat looks like and that some people might have 20 or 30 pounds in their system. I saw the above segment while in the hospital. I was was very impressed.

During my illness with colon and liver cancer I have had time to read and learn more about ways to protect one’s health. Remember it is better to pay the grocer and the gym than to pay the doctor. And it is easier to avoid disease than it is to treat it. Cancer and diabetes are rampant. Do everything you can to protect your health. It is not easy to eat right but its well worth the effort – especially when you consider that a cancer patient will run up bills between $400,000 and $700,000. I thank God I have Medicare that covers much of my costs. But now there is some new bills going through to limit the amount for cancer patients. This could leave some without medial treatment.

As you study and read about health you will find a lot of confusing information in books and on the internet. But if you continue to study you will find a thread of truth that is right for you. One group says don’t use soy products and the other might say they are great. After reading and thinking I tend go with soy products since asians have used them for years and have much less cancer than we do in the USA.

Below is a list of items that I feel can improve most people’s health…

• If you have an illness Trust in God and never give up hope – take time each day for devotion
• Stress – find ways to reduce stress – very important
• Rest – try to get two hours of your nightly sleep before midnight
• Avoid sugar, coffee, soft drinks, and snack foods – read the labels
• Exercise – at a very minimum walk a mile a day
• Lose weight if needed – be careful of low carb diets like Atkins – they might work now but could have other long term issues
• If you smoke – STOP – Cancer of the lungs is serious – as seen on the Oprah segment first hand
• Take a sack lunch to work versus going for fast food
• Get 20 to 30 minutes of sunshine each day – good for Vitamin D that helps absorption of vitamins
• Keep a window open day and night for fresh air – disease does not thrive in oxygen
• Drink pure water – try to drink 64 ounces a day of pure water – without chlorine or fluoride – I drink spring water
• Be aware of the effects of mercury in your system – avoid certain fish
• Eat more raw foods – cooked food tends to kill enzymes – try to get organically grown produce when possible
• Learn about enzymes and how important they are to your health
• Use flax seed oil on salads with lemon juice – avoid iceberg lettuce – use darker leaf vegatables
• Eat more berries and fruits such bananas, apples, apricots, peaches, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, and mellon
• Include almonds, sun flower seeds, and cashews in your diet
• Use extra virgin olive oil for cooking
• Use sea salt vs table salt
• Eat less packaged and fried foods
• Drink freshly made vegetable juices – such as blends of carrot, apple, beet, celery, spinach, onion, and garlic
• Avoid or reduce animal fat in your diet – eat more fish or chicken vs beef or pork
• Use almond, soy, or rice milk vs cow milk – cow milk often has hormones and other issues
• Be very careful of the chemicals you use in your home or work
• Study your personal need of supplemental vitamins and minerals
• Have your blood tested – I go to a Natural Doctor that shows me my blood cells on a monitor – very revealing
• Learn to test your silva and urine using PH paper – easy to do – better to be 6 to 7 PH vs acidic – cancer likes acidic
• Depending on your age – get a colonoscopy every five years and regular check ups
• Learn about parasites and yeast and how they affect you
• Remember that a lot of diseases start in the colon and liver – learn how to cleanse your colon and liver
• Learn how to boost your immune system through foods, vitamins, minerals, and herbs

Try researching subjects on Google…its amazing what you can find.

Thanks for your help,

Charles F. McConathy


Link to this post:


Another look at the PC of tomorrow, in your pocket with Windows To Go

A couple of months ago, I opined about what will the PC might look like in five years, and offered a view of my son’s possible Windows PC in 2016

“The icing on this hardware cake will be the additional power outside the box. Given he’ll be connected to the most powerful servers on the planet anywhere and everywhere, the cloud will provide the real computing horsepower he needs to handle heavy computer lifting.

“So I’ll stick with my wager: off hours, my son’s primary technology consumption and communication device will be a phone… with his two PCs and cloud storage allowing him to express his creativity and manage his life. (What the phone will look like is anyone’s guess, but I do like where we’re going with the Windows Phone form factor – eventually I’ll be able to replace the contents of my slim wallet with my phone, but I’m not sure we’ll get there by 2016.)”

Today, I wanted to add to that list, primarily looked at from a consumer point of view, with a bent towards enterprises, given the announcements today on the Windows blog and live at CeBIT supporting an even smaller, more portable and affordable form factor: a USB drive.

My friend Erwin Visser from the Windows org noted how enterprise customers will be able to leverage Windows To Go, which provides a Windows 8 desktop on an external USB drive…

“… that a user can boot from any PC available at work, at home, or just about any location, with or without connectivity. It’s like having your secure corporate PC in your pocket. And this means employees will be able to do things like travel light without sacrificing productivity, IT organizations can support the “Bring Your Own PC” trend, and businesses can give contingent staff access to the corporate environment without compromising security.

“Every time I talk with customers about Windows To Go, a new scenario comes up, like how it will be helpful in situations like working from home or vacation and disaster recovery, and we expect it will be highly valuable for certain industries like military or education. I’m excited to hear how Windows To Go will be used within your organization because I truly believe it will give businesses an array of new possibilities in mobile productivity.”

Imagine besides having your phone, also having a secure corporate PC in your pocket, with the same security and management you have on your corporate Windows 7 PC today. At today’s prices – roughly $1/GB – users will have affordable yet robust systems with a huge amount of storage space, further enabled with cloud connectivity, processing and storage, all on a small form factor that operates just about anywhere.

Ars Technica wrote about Windows To Go today with a step-by-step guide on creating your own Windows 8 “mobile” alternative…

“In theory, Windows to Go could give administrators a way of creating a verified, locked-down image of the Windows 8 OS that can be given to wandering users, temporary off-site contractors, or telecommuters to allow them to connect to the corporate network with confidence from their own (or someone else’s) computer.

“So is this a potential solution for enterprises? Since this works with any USB-mountable storage, it’s certainly one way to deal with the whole bring-your-own-device conundrum companies are now facing in various ways. It would allow employees and contractors to use the hardware of their choice (as long as it’s up to the task). And by using administrative tools to do system policies and Active Directory lockdown, it’s possible to prevent users from exfiltrating data to their own systems, or infect the corporate network with the viruses they’ve downloaded to their own systems.”

Today I carry a couple of password protected USB drives (using as I noted here with Bitlocker To Go) with the files I need on the go. It won’t be long until I have the entire computer experience in my pocket.

Tags: Windows, Windows 8, Windows 7, Microsoft.

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