Roll out the beta for a barrel of buy-in

Microsoft CIO Ron Markezich doesn't shrink from deploying the company's software to its own end-users before it has been finalised for production

Microsoft CIO Ron Markezich doesn't shrink from deploying the company's software to its own end-users before it has been finalised for production.

People at Microsoft have a saying: we like to eat our own dog food. Not literally, of course it refers to the company using its own products.

Ron Markezich, chief information officer and vice-president of managed solutions, has the unenviable task of rolling out Microsoft beta software across the company.

Whether it is Office 2007, Windows Vista, Longhorn, Exchange 2007 or any of the other products in development, it is Microsoft's programming teams that get to try it out first, when the product reaches the alpha-testing stage. "We then increase the deployment across the company," says Markezich.

While there will always be a risk in rolling out software that is not ready for production use, Markezich says, "We want to get people excited about the software."

But then Microsoft is a software company and Markezich can be expected to toe the company line, particularly when it comes to new product development. However, he feels there is good reason for getting end-users involved with beta code.

"There are huge benefits in running a portion of end-users on beta software," he says. Give the technology to end-users early on, says Markezich, and developers can build an application very quickly. It allows IT directors to manage change more effectively. "You get end-user advocates, which beats any sales pitch."

This approach to software development, with its close end-user involvement, is a building block of agile development. Markezich also sees it as a way of improving the quality of the software Microsoft releases. "We will not ship it until we have run it ourselves."

Markezich says that offering end-users early access to code is a good way for IT directors to get closer to the business.

Not surprisingly, there is not much in the way of third-party beta software running on Microsoft's internal networks.



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