Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What's up with Microsoft India?

(The following post about Microsoft India is a long read and is admittedly one big long comment stream paste job. But I've gone through about two months worth of comments on a theme that emerged on its own and kept going and going, post to post, even amidst all the Yahoo!-acquisition foolishness. I promised a follow-up post on the specific topic - here you go. I find great irony that while these comments were brewing here, InsideMS wrote up an internal story: "Is Hyderabad the New Redmond?" Hmmmmm.)

A long time ago, in a blog post weeks ago, a commenter made the following small post:

How bad is things in Microsoft India? The GM Neelam Dhawan is fired and going back to HP. She is taking Rajiv Srivastava with her.

Well, this was first met with an anti-India "why should I care" comment response that grew a thread about racial-preference and other grudges folks hold towards their Indian peers. Which in turn was countered with enthusiastic backlash-backlash, and grumbles about racism. In the meantime, comment after comment started a far more interesting series of insight that spanned all the recent posts that came up during our ill-conceived stock-busting Yahoo! gambit:

Since there is no India blog for Microsoft I am forced to write here.

My friends and fellow Microsoft people, let me tell you that the situation in SMSG India is horrible. People are leaving and the leadership never meets the employees. We have box manufacturers trying to sell software. We have Chairman who I have not seen in 6 months in person. I have seen him on TV and the newspaper a few times. We have MD Neelam Dhawan who interviewed at Cisco 2 times and did not get a job there and is now going back to HP. The Country Manager for Xbox has left. BMO has almost 100% churn.

We now spend so much time reporting and having conference calls that I cannot meet my customer.

Does the Redmond people care about what is happening in MS India? Who can I complain to if I have a problem? Will Kevin Turner and Jean Philipe Courtois have an all hands meeting with the staff but without the India management present? You know we cannot speak the truth with our management because we will lose our jobs. And I want to keep my job till I get another offer. Like all the employees around me.


India Dev Center (IDC) is a pure empire building exercise. It is all about creating more partners as the VP mentioned in his Redmond recruitment visits. It is a good tour for a few Redmond folks who find a "sugar daddy", go to India for 2-3 years, get two promotions and come back to a different job in Redmond.

Meanwhile, a few exceptions aside, the quality of the work is abysmal. Components that came back to Redmond had to be completely rewritten.

Or, maybe not:

I work for WinSE in IDC (India Development Center). The situation is much better there.

We work in tandem with our counter parts in Redmond/China and have been making on-time and good-quality deliverables. The GDRs/Hotfixes/Service Packs which get shipped periodically are a result of good team work between the three huge teams.

However, our org, does not report to the India DC VP (we report to the Redmond VP), which probably is why we have a better coordination with the Redmond and ATC teams.

A tick for your tock, perhaps pointing an organizational leadership problem:

[...] the so called innovative ideas emerging out of IDC are so stale that they just don't get qualified to be called as innovative product ideas. The VP heading IDC is under tremendous pressure to show that there is some great innovation happening here. But, unfortunately his team is just not capable of delivering anything that will be worth talking about.

IDC is still not capable of standing on its feet. It is completely remote controlled by Redmond. The teams here are just puppets that play into the whims of the Redmond GMs. The senior dev/test managers here lack depth and confidence to deliver independently.

Interestingly enough, engagement started to happen within the Mini-Microsoft comment stream. A comment signed by Sudeep Bharati engages discussion around mobile app development at IDC:

There are few comments & assertions that have been made in this thread about “Mobile Developer” team at IDC. As the PUM for this org, I would like to make sure that the readers have the perspective from the other side too. IDC team has owned the Visual Studio for Devices charter for around 2 years now and has delivered a full release of this product with VS 2008. In this release, we added significant value to the product enabling test driven development for device projects with unit testing, programmable security configuration, managed API model to access and manipulate devices from the desktop as well as numerous enhancements to device emulator. Each one of these features are high value components for mobile developers and have been widely appreciated.

Following up on that:

We mastered the art of writing specs, converting that to code and testing it. But where is the innovation?

There is a serious lack of thought leadership in this group. Show me one senior member of the team who understands the big picture of the mobile developer story. We now have a lot of responsibility to deliver the complete platform and I do not see the maturity to do that.

Our focus is too narrow and we wear the colored glasses that only show us what we want to see! The mobile innovation is happening else where. Is there someone in the team who can confidently articulate what the competition is up to? Do we know anything about J2ME Midlet story? Do we know how Symbian stacks against us? Are we clear about Adobe's Flash story on mobile? Do we have a strategy for mobile web authoring? How do we counter the iPhone SDK? What will Google do with Android? What will IBM do with Eclipse in this space?

No! We have no time to figure this out.

A comment signed by David D'Souza responds:

The Mobile Developer Group intends to make products customers will love. We know the mobile field is broad and difficult. The strategies of the past won’t work again; as they say, people have seen that movie. Dynamics change and competitors are just as likely partners of the future - Windows Mobile includes Adobe Flash and Silverlight is porting to Nokia. [...]

As a partner at Microsoft, I’m engaged and passionate about the mobility area and equally passionate about ensuring IDC is a great place to work. If you are inside MSFT, you can browse my/site and watch our IDC Mobility Days presentations. As much as Windows 3 changed the PC experience, we need to achieve similar transformations in the mobile experience. We have breadth for multiple partner level people in this organization and we’re continually growing and enhancing our engineering capacity to deal with the challenges we face. Our products will be second to none. We will have fun, innovate, and work in new ways.

A demonstration of the As hiring Bs that end up with Cs and Ds:

The other huge concern is about quality of hires at IDC. I see pathetic hires walking into the product teams. The PUM/GM put a lot of pressure on HR and they end up fast tracking the hiring process. On top of that, you always have internal poaching which is very unhealthy.


While quality of hiring at Microsoft India IDC may be bad, the new hires in MS SMSG India is even worse. The interview process does not even exist, exit interviews dont exist, people get into jobs that are way above their abilities or interest and we have Neelam Dhawan to inspire people to join Microsoft.

On leadership:

I have been with EPG at MS India (SMSG) for a long time. I have seen the ups and downs and saw many leaders come and go. But, let me tell you that the current HP imports are horrible leaders to work with. Someone said it right - They raped the Microsoft culture.

My request to the CVP is to spend more time with the employees and hear their version.

...and leadership choosing the wrong carrot:

Everything is wrong at Microsoft India. There is now a reward of some cheap notebook if we get to the revenue target. Does Neelam (GM) not realise that we work for pride and challenge and whether or not she offers us a Rs,13000 HCL notebook we will do our best. I am insulted by this offer of a gift if the subsidiary meets the revenue goal. Last year, everyone got xbox and Neelam thought that people worked harder for the chance at winning xbox. Her cheap thinking about what motivates people at Microsoft is one of the reasons we are suffering in India today.

Go back to HP Neelam. You have no idea about Microsoft culture and how to motivate people.

...the gloves slip off:

[T]he underlying fact is that 70% of MS India is stinking with corrupt leaders. EPG has no moral values and ethics in selling. No one even understands why DPE should be paid in the first place. Public Sector has a new country lead for every 12 months and no one has a clue on handling the government accounts. HR is non existent and has the maximum attrition than any group. PR is busy bribing the media and publications to print positive stories.


The DPE lead is great at dancing at internal events and no one knows what else he is good at. Even if everyone in DPE are fired right away, it wouldn't make any difference to us. It's a well known fact that they will be the first to go out if there is a lay off at MS. This team is more of a liability than an asset. The earlier we fire them, the better for us.

An outside perspective starts with:

Well, let me share my view from outside. MS India has completely forgotten the community initiative. They are too busy impressing their hierarchy. There were times when the MVP/RD community was really valued and we were respected for what we are! Things are very different now. The MVP lead is in a deep slumber and does nothing for the community. I haven't met anyone from DPE India for ages. We only hear sugar coated statements from the GMs or senior executives when we bump into them.

Sending out an S O S:

An open letter to Mr. Jean-Philippe Courtois & Mr. Kevin Turner -

Can you please visit India once and listen to the feedback from the field?

The CVP, MD and all her direct reports made this company a miserable place to work for! They created a feudal fiefdom for themselves.

Please don't fall for things like the 'Best Place to Work For' recognition by a reputed publication. These can be bought in India for a price. It is a well known fact that the One India PR head spent a fraction of her budget to buy this! It's an irony that we got that award when we are experiencing the opposite of that - 'worst place to work for!'

You might be rewriting the corporate history and also doing something like this for the first time at Microsoft- Can you please fire the CVP and everyone who is two levels below him? Only that can save the Indian subsidiary.

Don't let the door knob hit you where the dog should have bit you:

With 4 key departures in SMSG in Microsoft India in the past 2 days, it looks like the attrition rate is worse than that of a call center. The only problem is that the CVP and the country GM are not leaving. Ravi is in denial that he is singularly responsible for the fuck up that is called Microsoft India SMSG. And Neelam is unable to find a job anywhere else.

Wrapping back to the very first comment:

Breaking News From MS India - The MD, Neelam Dhawan has put up her papers and will be leaving anytime now! Few of her direct reports would be following her.

So, Good things started to happen for Microsoft India.

The really breaking news from Microsoft India is that the MD has been fired for the same transaction that various Microsoft people in Delhi have already been fired. She will not be a Microsoft employee by the time this fiscal year ends. Finally the good news is here. I hope she takes all her HP people with her with the EPG head being the first one.

Moorthy Uppaluri is also the new DPE head.

Final comment:

Mini - can you please reopen a seperate thread on Microsoft India SMSG and R&D? There are lots of stories of nepotism, poor OHI, bad quality work and a possible financial impropriety doing the rounds in India.

Well, okay. To quote a farm boy, "As you wish." Not... that... you're my Buttercup or anything. But here's an open door and open area to discuss Microsoft India: what the problems are, how to get management to accept that there are problems, where the right place to be is, and how to get there.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Microsoft + Yahoo! - Desperately in Need of Fat Lady to Sing "It's Over!"

Oy, what we desperately need here is a Fat Lady to sing the end of the 2008 Microsoft-Yahoo! saga. She's obviously in hiding because over the weekend news came out of Microsoft looking to get a bit of Yahoo!. Or a merger. And the rumor of Microsoft looking to acquire Facebook has started again, all associated with obscene prices that make no sense, except in the obscene-cash-cow Microsoft world where billions of dollars come easily and are blown easily.

(Just a quick "page break" post given the new Yahoo! news)

Microsoft Issues Statement Regarding Yahoo! Microsoft announced that it is continuing to explore and pursue its alternatives to improve and expand its online services and advertising business. - the wordsmith genius response for "your passion inspires us to create great software to help you reach it" obviously put this one together.

Yahoo! Remains Open to Value Maximizing Transactions - your money inspires us to play hard-to-get to get more of it. Oh, craps, here comes Icahn!

Scobleizer — Tech geek blogger » Blog Archive Why Microsoft will buy Facebook and keep it closed - transitions into the scary possibility of Microsoft laying down a bunch more cash for an unworthy company. The only benefit (that I can see) of Microsoft acquiring Facebook is that Microsoft would fix a bunch of crap wrong with the way Facebook is run ("Users? Hate 'em."). Scoble on Facebook: "This is a scary company and if it gets in the hands of Microsoft will create a scary monopoly."

I guess this could be a heck of a week, and suddenly Microsoft doesn't look so evil to Yahoo! in comparison to Icahn. So freshen up that resume, pop some popcorn, and if you see that Fat Lady, please send her this way.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Microsoft Walks On By - Yahoo!

Well slap my ass and call me Judy! Microsoft is walking away from acquiring Yahoo!

Hot Damn and Yahoo!

(I have never, ever been so happy to trash a pending Mini-Microsoft post. Ah, yeah, it had a nice lemon analogy and everything but, well, forget it!)

While sanity did not prevail in making this crazy offer, sanity prevailed in not doing whatever it took to make the Yahoo! acquisition happen. Initial coverage:

(Pardon me while I crack open a bottle of Col Solare.)

With this strategic inflection point, the era of post-BillG Microsoft 2.0 has begun.

(Sip. Savor. Yum.)

The only not-so-good thing out of not blowing all of our cash at once is that we'll continue to live in an era of cash-cow abundance, preventing us from making profit-minded decisions. The lack of the money cushion would have, I presume, actually caused new projects to expect to bring in cash vs. becoming strategic money pits.

Out of this had best come a new reorganization of our online properties. Out with the old already. We had reached a bet-the-company point in going after Yahoo! to make up for the lack of performance out of MSN / Search / AdCenter in an attempt to leap-frog forward. I think we need to hang-up on the good-enough consensus culture for a while and put in a strategy czar to get things done vs. expecting something to arise out of the dysfunctional ecosystem we currently have.

And speaking of Microsoft 2.0: Ms. Mary Jo Foley's book is out now. Once you get past the foreword, it's a good read. I hope she comes to campus - well, Redmond probably - soon so that folks can have a discussion of the book and ponder the future in a face-to-face forum.

Soon, we can get back to the usual program of talking about the recent Town Hall and looping back to cover the recent comments about Microsoft India. For now, I'm going to ease back and enjoy this strange feeling I have: being happy regarding a wise decision our leadership finally came around to.