Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

Scoble's Questions on Technology and Microsoft

After Scoble's visit, he posted a couple of questions in my comments that I have yet to answer.

What are the technology pain points you are experiencing?

Compared to most IT shops, our group is very small. Of course, our staff size is much larger when compared to other churches. Nevertheless, we face many of the same issues that IT and development groups face in most organizations.

1. How do we do more with less? What are the best tools to enable a two person help desk to manage, update, support and secure nearly 300 machines?

2. On an enterprise-wide scale, how do we best secure and protect our network and infrastructure (file, web, and sql servers) from spam, viruses, and hacks?

3. Our users have access to the best tools Microsoft has to offer (Office, Exchange, Great Plains, and RMS), as well as our own church management solution, but how do we greatly advance their skills and knowledge, in an efficient and cost-effective way? We have very few power users in our organization, and I can only imagine the gains in productivity if we could effectively raise the skill levels of all our employees. As is typical, time, space, and resources have limited our investment in this area.

What would you like to see from Microsoft in the future?

I agree with the numerous articles that have documented Microsoft's organizational improvements over the past year. Channel 9, employee blogs, community-focused product betas, and upfront product roadmaps, have all made Microsoft a much more accessible company. Here are some of our wishes.

1. An organization-wide Microsoft contact. From licensing to support, from future releases to pricing questions, from third-party vendor recommendations to implementation guidelines, it would be immensely beneficial if we had a single Microsoft contact we could turn to for questions, assistance, and sales. Obviously, this person would not handle these numerous areas, but would serve as our source for all things Microsoft, as well as a liason to the rest of the organization. This would also personalize our relationship with Microsoft which would benefit both organizations.

2. Greater support for the cutting edge. Time after time, we find ourselves pushing the envelope of new Microsoft technologies, from .NET and C#, to RMS integration with Great Plains, to SQL Reporting Services. Suffice to say, we have gone live with some fairly new technology. Obviously, we do not do this lightly and know the many pitfalls of acting before version 3.0. However, Microsoft needs to know that there are many small shops who are tasked with making some very difficult things happen, things that often rely on a beta release or 1.0 version to pull off. We don't have the luxury of two year implementation plans and full lab duplication of our production environment. The more Microsoft can support early adopters through thorough documentation, enterprise examples, and active discussion, the better.

3. Better training and curriculum. Simply put, the official Microsoft curriculum is consistently disappointing. At one point, I took an official Sun Java course, followed months later by the MCSD C# program, and couldn't believe how much better the Sun program was. The course curriculum itself was small and portable, but also very detailed and readable, and was supported by the best industry books on the subject.

Microsoft's curriculum, however, is shallow, step-by-step material which is completely unpleasant to actually read. I've never understood why Microsoft doesn't utilize the many terrific books published by Microsoft Press for their courses. Instead, we receive gigantic three-ring binders that are hardly portable, lack an index, and are impossible to read in bed.

Here's a suggestion I've been dying to get in front of Scoble. Why doesn't Microsoft offer their course curriculum (preferably actual books) in a Tablet PC version for people taking Microsoft courses? What better way to promote tablets, OneNote, e-books, and even digital document protection than through IT professionals who are learning Microsoft technologies? Can you imagine taking the MCSD series with a Tablet PC, reading and annotating the curriculm, taking and recording course notes, and then flipping the screen and doing the labs? That's where I want to go today!