Everyone who read my first blog knows that I love to snowmobile.  This year, however, has been the worst snow year in memory.  There just simply isn’t much good snow in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, or Montana.  However, I’m beginning to think that recently I’ve become a “snow magnet”.  About a month ago I was in Boston and they got about 2’ of snow in the city.  Almost didn’t get in and took a while to get out.  Now I’m in the beginning stages of a European VSTS tour where I’m meeting with customers in several European cities and its down right cold, and snowing…  Last week the European tour started in NY (I know, its not in Europe but its on the way when you’re from Seattle).  It snowed.  About 10” in the city.  I gave a presentation to the NY/NJ Architect Council and even though there was about a foot of new snow on the ground in NJ where the talk was held, a few folks braved the weather to hear me speak. It was a great opportunity to talk in a small group setting with some of our potential customers about the Team System.  I received a lot of useful feedback about the product and what people wanted.  Top takeaways for me from the day were:

  • Needing a single server setup and simple installation.  Good news on this front, Beta 2 will have a single server installation.
  • Wow, there is a ton of stuff here; I need a lot more information on all of it.  I think we’re making progress on this one as well.  We have MS Press working on a small book series as  well as a major world-wide publisher working on a 15+ book series that will include authors from inside of the Team System teams as well as external authors.
  • We need more information on how to use Team System in a heterogeneous environment.  This is something we need to work on. Right now I’m not sure what format this will or should take, and if it should come from us, our partners who are extending the Team System into the heterogeneous environments, or both. 

From NY I flew into London (and it snowed) but I just spend a day in the MS Soho office before heading out to Italy.  I spent a couple days in Venice and it snowed.  6”, not just a dusting…  Over the last couple of days I’ve been in Milan where we (myself and Ajay Sudan) a day long set of talks and demos of the Team System in action.  Did I mention it snowed in Milan, but didn’t stick…  Anyway, Ajay tells me he’s going to get some of the video from the presentations posted in English in the next few weeks for people to see.  Stay tuned on the Team System site for those.  I’ve also spent time with some major customers in the Milan area and again got some very useful feedback including:

  • Adopting the tools looks easy, adapting (or documenting our existing) methodology looks like more work.  The good thing here I guess is that people are recognizing the value of the integrated methodology.  Now the realization that this is work they should be doing anyway is hitting them.  I think we’re going to try and do a pilot or 2 with some of these customers to observe them customizing (or starting from scratch as the case may be) methodologies and see how it goes.  The beta 2 build should be a great build to start this work.
  • Training, training, training.  (again a recognition of a lot of new stuff).  Several folks commented about how intuitive the UI looked, but there was so much depth that they felt it could take them months to discover it all.  Lots of questions about eLearning, training, certification, etc.  Prashant Sridahran (our lead marketing guru) and his team are working on plans for rolling out this stuff after beta 2 including opportunities for beta testing some of the eLearning and training courses. 

My favorite question so far, though, came from a professional journalist for the Italian magazine “DEV”.  He asked me since I’ve been working on the project for nearly 5 years from inception to now, what has been the hardest thing…  my answer was “building the integrated system that had productivity out of the box day one was so much harder than I expected”.  We new we wanted a “pay as you go” model where to use the initial tools, you didn’t have to invest a lot of “intellectual capital” (think brain power).  And that as you needed deeper, richer, more powerful functionality, that you should be able to get at it by investing some more of that intellectual capital.  However, we couldn’t expose those more complex scenarios to the beginning or basic user of the system.  Getting that right (and I wouldn’t say we got it all right in version 1 by the way), has been tremendously challenging.  Add to that the fact that there are nearly 250 people working on the Team System and their work output had to be integrated and you start to understand my answer…

Well, flight attendant just told me to turn off the laptop, we’re about to land in Vienna, Austria.  I’ll write more when I get a few minutes.

-Rick