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Microsoft Program Management for Dummies

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  1. Microsoft Program Management for Dummies An insider's guide to Program Management at Microsoft: the myth and the reality By: Michael Surkan Info.mikhail@surkan.com www.surkan.com

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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)

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. Appendix • 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