Last Wednesday was our general “ZBB” target for the Office 2008 project, a major milestone on the road to release and something we’ve been pushing hard for over the past several months. We saw some fantastic surging by the development team to clear out backlogged product issues late into Wednesday night. Thursday, we sat down to review project status and metrics in depth, and to hear all teams report out on their plans and readiness to lock down for release. The bottom line takeaway that you may be most interested in: all teams have confirmed readiness to ship on the current schedule. As previously announced, this means RTM in December and general availability starting on January 15th (by region).

ZBB what? This stands for Zero Bug Bounce, or as alternately phrased, Zero Bug Backlog. At this point we have been logging, tracking and verifying all changes to the product in great detail for some time – collectively we refer to this list of logged issues as the “bug list”, though in reality it includes a variety of issues including bug/defect reports, tracking records for artwork or content, usability improvements, numerous suggestions (submitted by team members or beta testers, or representing customer or partner requests), and various other categories of issues. The ZBB milestone is defined as the date across which we will no longer carry logged product issues that are more than one week old. Hence, the “backlog” of issues has been cleared out, and all older pending decisions on what we are or are not going to change before we ship have been made. It also means that the developers have “caught up” or “outpaced” the incoming find rate of our test efforts.

From here on out, the focus is increasingly on lock down. We are testing for defects literally around the clock, using a variety of methods ranging from automated efforts such as “massive file testing” to targeted manual test passes and “ad hoc” free testing. We also continue to log and fix significant issues found in private beta testing. At this point we remain busy fixing bugs as they are found (any one of our millions of lines of code could be the source of a defect,) but there will now be increased scrutiny on making changes – i.e., is there sufficient customer need to justify a proposed code change given the associated risk of regression (the outside chance that making a given change causes a new and potentially more severe problem.) Stabilizing the product for release requires conscious commitment to slowing and eventually stopping the changes we’re making to it, and as a result we now start reviewing all proposed changes daily in “triage”.

I’d like to congratulate and thank everyone on the product team for an amazing effort on ZBB – our developers, testers and program managers have all done incredible work. I’d also like to thank every other person who has helped in the creation of Office 2008: planners, researchers, designers, artists, writers, editors, builders, product managers, recruiters, HR generalists, international teams, MVPs, beta testers, partners, vendors, contractors, our many friends at Apple, partners across Microsoft, and many others have all helped us get this far. Finally, a very sincere special thanks to all of our families and friends for their support during this push.

Collectively we’ve made nearly four years worth of heavy investment in modernization, improvements and features in Mac Office. We look forward to continuing to share more about the new suite here on the blog and out in the world straight through RTM and into next year. But, as folks like to say, at this stage of the project the most important feature is shipping.

We’re getting more excited about that feature every day.