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Microsoft Program Management for Dummies An insider's guide to Program Management at Microsoft: the myth and the reality By: Michael Surkan Who’s Michael? Technical director at PC Week Labs and IT manager in past life

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Microsoft Program Management for Dummies

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microsoft program management for dummies

Microsoft Program Management for Dummies

An insider's guide to Program Management at Microsoft: the myth and the reality

By: Michael Surkan

who s michael
Who’s Michael?
  • Technical director at PC Week Labs and IT manager in past life
  • Worked for 9 years at Microsoft in both Product and Program Management roles
  • Program Manager in Windows networking group
    • Windows Firewall, Windows Filtering Platform, IPv6, Teredo, VPNs, Peer-to-Peer networking
  • Constantly pushing boundaries
    • Started Recession Study Group in 2005
    • Conducting personal research project into Linux in 2004, with 25,000 Linux survey responses
    • Fierce advocate for customers
the amorphous pm
The amorphous PM
  • Job title loosely describes a variety of functions at Microsoft
    • Virtual development team leader
    • Partnering activities
    • Project scheduling
    • Evangelism
  • Oscillations between generalists and specialists
classical program management the generalist
Classical Program Management: the generalist
  • Classic PM role is a generalist:
    • Understanding the market, customer, and business requirements.
    • Creating functional specifications.
    • Managing schedules (and keeping them on track)
    • Coordinating the development and test teams
    • Reporting status across all team members, and upper management
    • Ensuring that marketing, documentation writers, and helpdesk teams are ready to support (and sell) the product when it ships
  • Has to get the “big picture”, responsible for success or failure of products as a hole
  • Leverage resources across company to get work done
strong yet powerless
Strong yet Powerless
  • PMs have all the responsibility but no authority
  • Must be terrific salesperson to convince team-mates, and other groups, to sign on to work
  • You are the missionary spreading the word
turning japanese leading through consensus
Turning Japanese: Leading through consensus
  • Microsoft is a matrix organization, with little central authority
  • All parties need to reach a mutual consensus
  • PM is the master of driving (and maintaining) this consensus
  • It is tantamount to a failure of leadership if a PM brings proposals to a VP that have not already gotten the badge of approval by all the teams, and individuals, who need to be involved.
  • Opinions of some individuals carry more weight than others.
  • No easy methods to navigate the eddies of political influence
    • Getting these key influencers to back your ideas, or projects, is the critical to getting your projects off to an auspicious start
the great communicator
The great communicator
  • Key attribute of any PM is the constant stream of status updates and meetings they produce.
    • Necessary to keep all the loosely connected members of the virtual project teams coordinated, and keep senior managers from getting anxious.
    • E-mails with the notes, and work items, from every meeting should be sent the same day of the meeting. A central repository all notes, and documents, related to the project should be maintained.
  • Weekly meetings with all the key project members are the mainstay of PM life
    • Include everyone who needs to be involved (e.g. marketing, documentation, engineers, product support)
conformists only please
Conformists only please
  • PMs expected to execute the vision, and ideas, espoused by managers.
  • Diverging from group consensus is a liability.
    • The bigger the idea, the more likely it will require getting the consent of even more teams, and people, to make it a reality, which makes it harder to get off the ground.
pms do it better
PMs do it better
  • Microsoft strongly believes it’s PM culture is core to success
  • PM role highly coveted as springboard to career advancement
    • Self-fulfilling since many of the best employees want to be PMs
  • Somehow mistakes still happen
    • Microsoft is dominated by engineering, other firms by marketing
  • For good or ill, PMs are core part of Microsoft culture and business processes
the pm interview
The PM interview
  • Use examples from your experiences
    • Don’t have to be directly associated with work or tech
  • Give examples of how you:
    • Handled tough decisions
    • Drove agreement across a lot of people
    • Defined a process for doing work
  • It’s the process
    • They don’t care about hearing the “right” answer for how to design or build something. They want to hear that you have a good process for coming up with the answers.
  • Show that you understand both engineering and business
    • A passion for meeting customer/market needs
  • Specialized knowledge in product area is more critical than ever
  • Michael’s blog article on Microsoft Program Management
  • Steven Sinofsky’s view of Microsoft Program Management
  • Zen of PM article on Microsoft Program Management
  • Becoming a Microsoft Program Manager
  • Michael’s “anatomy of a job search” podcasts
  • Michael’s blog