So how did we ship SP1 so “Early”?

Blogging in Microsoft does allow a great deal of freedom to the blogger, but the final test before hitting “publish” is always to think “What would this story look like on the front page of the New York Times, or Wall Street Journal”.  I think the worst case interpretation of this blog might give a headline like “Steve Ballmer got it wrong” says Brian Smith.  But hopefully it wouldn’t come to that (he didn’t get it wrong anyway) – and it probably wouldn’t be the front page, and probably wouldn’t even make the Valley View (my local paper) – so here goes…

At the time of the project conference the work on SP1 was going well – still not complete, but homing in on the final few fixes.  So we knew we would soon have a release date we could stick to – but we weren’t quite there.  Steve Ballmer did a great keynote on the future of project and work management – along with some demonstrations of what is coming in the next release – and then to Q & A.

The inevitable question was the date of SP1!  Steve was really gunning for the customers here and pushing Mike Angiulo for a date.  At that point we were still on track for December, but with the holiday period approaching even a small issue could push this into the new year – so Mike gave Q1 as a safe release date.  Steve’s interpretation of Q1 was “March at the latest”.  So the date was now March!  That’s how it happened – and I know because, to quote Max Boyce, “I was there”.  And nobody really got it wrong.

You all now know we delivered SP1 on 12/11.  Plenty of customers are happy to see it earlier than expected – so what compels me to write this?  There are now various interpretations of this “early” delivery – all the way from “Microsoft has cut testing to ship SP1 early” through to “Microsoft doesn’t know what it is doing if they can cut 3 months from the plan” (with the added irony that comes with such a statement when one is on the Project support team ).  This certainly does an injustice to the many people who have worked very hard on this release both in the different product groups and the support teams.  I’m not looking for mutual back-patting here – I know there are still some bugs we didn’t fix with SP1 – but SP1 is the first step. Now we move on to the rollup patch of hotfixes we have addressed since SP1 was locked down – then to SP2.

This posting was different from my usual technical stuff but I think the better understanding customers and partners have of how we work – and sometimes how decisions are made – is of mutual benefit.  Let me know what you think.  And in case this does get brought to SteveB’s attention – I love this company too (and my job):).

And before you ask – this blog wasn’t based on a bet to mention Max Boyce and Steve Ballmer in the same paragraph, but that has to be a first.