Thursday, October 13, 2005

MICROSOFT SECRETS by Cusumano & Selby

WHEN you talk about PCs, Microsoft is the name that jumps out at you. Thanks to Bill Gates, we have the level of technology that our forefathers were totally unfamiliar with. But there are "secrets". Yes, secrets about Microsoft that you will need to know. But I will go no further. You should read them for yourself.

IF you think Microsoft Secrets is a treasure chest of secret formulae
about making you a super computer nerd, you are sadly mistaken. This book
is a swampland of management practices, procedures and techniques that
will either amaze you or bewilder you till you are totally lost in its
labyrinth of operating systems.
Whatever the outcome, you are forewarned. If you are just a computer
buff who wants to know more about the microworld, bypass this book.
If you are a management student who is uninterested in information
technology, forget it. Go and see a movie.
Microsoft Secrets is strictly for those who entertain visions of
themselves evolving into another Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. It is also for
those who want to learn more, very much more, about running big
organisations, about letting creativity flow, and it's about allowing
bright young people to use their brain power to move the world.
To be sure, there are many "invaluable lessons" lodged between the front
and back covers but the part about "superbly readable" as claimed in the
backcover blurb is debatable. It is not reader-friendly because it has too
many uncommon terms like "marketing research to support activity-based
planning", "psychology of scheduling developers and terms", and "product
improvement initiatives."
Cusumano and Selby, in their zeal to pump in as much information as
possible (to the point of a near system breakdown), have forgotten about
ordinary folks' distaste for an uncontrolled proliferation of management
Basically, the book is about Microsoft's approach towards creating
technology, managing its staff and shaping markets (although there may be
some people who prefer the term "manipulate").
Seen mainly from a management perspective, the strategies employed by
Billy "the Kid" and his bunch of friends are fascinating, to say the
least. Microsoft Secrets consists of seven chapters. The first is
`Organising and Managing the Company' and the last is `Attack the Future'.
One reason for its massive reservoir of words to explain some simple
organisation procedures could stem from the fact that this book started
out as "part of a project at Massachussetts Institute of Technology to
compare the management of product development at PC software firms with
that of older companies making software products for mainframes and
At the risk of being unfair to the authors, I have to say the condition
of information overload could be aptly applied as a verdict at the
conclusion of the last chapter.
However, there are saving graces in the form of interesting nuggets of
information. For example, out of the 17,800 people Bill Gates employs,
about 3,000 of them are millionaires and they all have young Billy to
thank for.
There is also the lesser known fact that Windows 95 codenamed Chicago
was only released when Microsoft had flooded the world with 400,000 beta
copies by August 1995. This was to ensure that its beta testers further
strengthened the organisation's efforts in debugging the new Windows
Beta test simply means a pre-release product version which Microsoft
participants, outside the organisation, receive and evaluate. These beta
testers serve as an informal branch of the firm's testing team. Any
problems or errors will be reported back to Microsoft.
Microsoft Secrets has been thoroughly researched. Its information is
complete. At this point in time, no loopholes can be found, no flaws in
its research methods can be located.
After 40 in-depth interviews with Microsoft employees, the authors zero
in on the seven key areas, as mentioned earlier, which embodies the
organisation's pulse points.
The fact that Cusumano and Selby are technology-scientists may go some
way in explaining why this book would better serve students in the
tutorial rooms than the tired office worker in his own living room.
It serves its purpose by being a gateway towards better understanding of
Microsoft's vision for the 21st Century and how Bill Gates and his
colleagues have changed the world, and are still doing it.
So you are well advised that unless and until you are thoroughly at home
with terms like Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) or Dynamic Link
Libraries (DLL), stay clear of this book to avoid suffering a sudden
downtime of a cerebral kind.

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