Windows gurus, VS gurus, but Office gurus?

Chatting with one of my buddies the other day something dawned on me.

To my knowledge quite a few Windows gurus have taken up the blue card and become Microsoft employees. Eg the SysInternals team

Also quite a few Visual Studio devs I know from the conference circuit have made the same move. I’ve noticed quite a few MVPs having to give up their award on taking up employment with MS. In fact that seemed a ‘normal’ career path – get good, present a couple of MSDN roadshows, get a job.

It seems to go Win experts get put on the product team, VS experts get put on the evangelising team, Office experts get…?

I’m struggling to think of anyone I know or have heard of who has gone from well known Office guru/MVP to MS (Office) employee. I guess I can accept some of the VSTO team have come from this background, but core Office products?

Are there any?

Why?

Do you think community experts should be recruited? or should they be left to develop and contribute in the field (are the 2 exclusive?)

Now if you are a MS marketing wonk (‘margadeer’) you might be tempted to suggest why bother? and that Office already owns the office productivity space as it has 90+ % marketshare. That would be a FAIL. Your predecessors may own the market but the current version does not, and is in desperate need of some marketing (and UI) investment.

cheers

Simon

[personally I think the Office product teams are desperate for external expertise, but I don’t know if they know it. But I also think the Office user/Office dev community would really welcome this as a sign of commitment to Office as a developer platform/tool/framework.]

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9 Responses to “Windows gurus, VS gurus, but Office gurus?”

  1. Dick Says:

    Wow – I could really go on about this !!!

    In short I think both are needed

    1. Office users and devs working at MS and out spreading the word
    2. Better support for those “In the Wild”

    Oh sure there is the MVP program but there are a lot of people out there without the time and inclination to spend hours every day giving away their knowledge when they could be charging for it or working at keeping their family life alive rather than killing it :-)

    MS has been good to ME and continues to be, but a lot of that is because I reached out to them and continue to do so. I admit I am not a “shrinking violet” so I am able to promote myself and my skills to them and help them see my value. Thye are a big help to me.

    Unfortunately there are a lot of other people out there who aren’t as gregarious as I guess I am (or obnoxious maybe ;-)) and they need to be reached out to. That has to come from MS either with Internal staff from the community or from Marketing campaigns and seminars that leverage all our skills and give us all a leg up in promoting what we all have to offer to the business community worldwide.

    Dick

  2. Harlan Grove Says:

    How much need to ‘spread the word’ is there for a product with over 90% market share?

    Windows and VS may need evangelism because there are many commercial and free alternatives of fairly comparable quality. Office has competition only from StarOffice/OpenOffice, which has crappy documentation, at least for the object model (and what little there is makes it seem the OOo OM is hideously overbuilt compared to Excel’s OM at least), and from WordPerfect Office, which I find unstable, or did using WPO 2002, the last version I bothered trying to use.

    Not quite accurate. Microsoft probably sees the need for SharePoint and Excel Services evangelists, but core Office? I don’t see the ROI.

  3. Dick Says:

    “How much need to ’spread the word’ is there for a product with over 90% market share?”

    But if MS wants to own the desktop going forward and wants to justify Windows on the Smart client it requires a product like Excel providing critical business value in corporations everywhere rather than just being used as an underground tool being used in many cases just as a quick and dirty alternative to Enterprise apps and IT departments that fail their user community.

    In a way it’s like the phone company – I don’t use a rotary phone anymore and every day the phone company is trying to get me to stay with them rather than going to a VOIP system like Vonage. It’s totally analagous. MS has to defend their turf and if they aren’t going to sell a lot more skus overall then they have to encourage their customers to get more value out of xcel so they can justify buying replacement skus going forward.

    I have always said that without Office who need Windows and without Windows who needs Microsoft ?? I believe it is in MS’s interest to defend their Office turf.

    Dick

  4. Simon Says:

    Harlan
    In just over 4 months time Office 2003 goes out of mainstream support. At that time about 2% of office productivity suite users will be using a fully supported product from MS. Thats is far from 90% marketshare.

    I agree about OOo and lack of competition in general but I think the market is breaking up, the ‘suite’ era is passing for a lot of people.

    If that does happen that 98% of non Ms supported users may well not upgrade ever. A sensible amount of relevant marketing might encourage some to.

    Anyway my real point was how come those other areas use and recruit industry experts and Office does not?

    Dick I think the phone company is a great analogy
    simon

  5. Harlan Grove Says:

    First older versions. Microsoft is its own biggest problem. Older versions are usually good enough. Myself at home I use Office 97 (on my own ancient machine) and Office 2000 on my wife’s PC. For HOME use, I have yet to need anything from any newer version of Excel. For work use, there’s very little Excel 2000 can’t handle that Excel 2002 and 2003 can. And all of these versions are ribbon-unencumbered.

    They may not be supported, but in most large organizations, support is provided either in-house or through 3rd party support services. I haven’t worked anywhere where I either needed to or was allowed to call Microsoft directly in more than 17 years. While Microsoft may not support Excel 2003 in a few months, IBM’s CSC subsidiary is likely to for several years to come. Maybe no more service packs, hot fixes or backdoor closings, but hardly abandonware.

    Simon, are you saying Microsoft needs to evangelize for Office 2007? They may indeed, but at least where I work, we’re not upgrading, Microsoft end-of-lifing Office 2003 notwithstanding, until Office 14.

    If you mean ‘productivity software suites’ are becoming a thing of the past or a tool for ad hoc document creation only, I agree, and nothing’s going to change that.

    Take the simple fact that Excel workbooks are inherently insecure. If you can open a workbook, you can take EVERYTHING out of it without much difficulty. There are several sites explaining how to overcome ALL internal passwords and protections.

    Now it’s a bad idea to store data in spreadsheets anyway. Data should be stored in databases. Spreadsheet should contain mostly formulas and macros. To the extent formulas and macros constitute an organization’s IP, spreadsheets are a very insecure way to implement and distribute IP.

    Unless the situation has changed with Excel 2007, it’s still a security sieve.

    IT/IS departments have a proper concern with security and protecting IP. THAT CAN”T BE DONE WITH EXCEL. If that’s one of the main reasons Microsoft may be downplaying Excel/Office development, then they’re just listening to their customers.

    To repeat something I’ve written before, IT/IS departments are recentralizing development and control. I can’t see anything that’s going to reverse that trend. That has implications for Excel/Office development in the long term.

    There’ll always be people who use Excel or some other spreadsheet. There are still people who use APL. But few if any organizations are going to do much more than allow INDIVIDUALS to use such tools. Organizations are going to use other platforms for developing broadly distributed applications.

    Excel can be convenient as a development platform for one’s own development. But as a mutliple developer platform, Excel/VBA sucks. If you’ve got data in a database and most of the business and math logic in XLLs/DLLs/outside code, and are just using Excel for layout, viewing and printing, Excel is a very, Very, VERY bloated grid control.

    One thing Microsoft, collectively, isn’t is dumb. They can see the trend towards recentralization, and I think they can figure out what that means for Office as a development platform as distinct from an end-user document creation system. Hence SharePoint and Excel Services. Standalone, disconnected Excel may not be in its deathbed, but it’s at least in late middle age. I’m all for long and fruitful golden years, but I’m not going to bet on any spreadsheet renaissance.

  6. Simon Says:

    All good points Harlan, we tend to use OOo at home.

    I can’t get my head round this support issue, like you I’ve never used it (and I used to have 5 free vouchers a year). And I’m not convinced its important, but what else would drive an IT/IS dept through the pain of upgrading?

    Don’t you think IT recentralising will be a great opportunity for lots of under the radar quick and dirty Excel/VBA work directly for the business they are in the process of disenfranchising?

  7. Bob Phillips Says:

    That is exactly what happened in the late 80s/early 90s after the last greate centralising push. The businesses started to build proto-IT departments of their own, and this continued until it could be demonstrated that replication of systems and data was an enormous drain on the business.

    So like the universe, central IT expands, contacts, expands, contracts, and ever more will do so. The driver is always people, someone can ‘demonstrate’ savings, and make a career based upon this, never having being around to face the consequences when it later is shown that it was as daft as all of the other times.

  8. Harlan Grove Says:

    While non-IT/IS departments may be allowed to develop departmental applications, and even contract out some development, I suspect IT/IS departments will have the authority to DICTATE what software may and may not be used when the company pays for outside software development. I think y’all better plan on learning Business Objects, Essbase, Flavor-of-the-Day BI rather than pinning your hopes on Excel. One thing IT/IS departments will continue to try to do is replace (as in crush, exterminate, obliterate) ‘mission-critical’ spreadsheets. If for no other reasons, Excel/VBA development is best when there’s just one developer, but that leads to hit-by-the-bus (or if you prefer cheerier, won-the-lottery) risk assessment.

    Unless multiple developers can work on building the same Excel project at the same time, Excel will taken less and less seriously as a development platform. That means multiple user capabilities at the very least encompassing worksheet-level and VBA module locking per user/developer AND the ability to save ONLY those parts of a workbook a specific user/developer has locked. For example, if Peter had locked WorksheetA and Paul had locked WorksheetZ, both should be able to save their modifications to the respective worksheets to the same workbook while the other has the workbook open. If Excel 14 doesn’t provide this, rest assured there will be less (and ever decreasing) contract development work for Excel 14 than for Excel 2007 and previous versions.

  9. sam Says:

    “Unless the situation has changed with Excel 2007, it’s still a security sieve”

    In 2007 the VBA Password cannot be broken using the Hex Editor hack any more. Brute force seems to the only way out.

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