REDMOND, Wash., March 13, 2000 — A ferocious winter storm that shut down much of the East Coast last month came at a particularly bad time for Microsoft Program Manager Glenn Pittaway. A member of the Windows 2000 Server Security Group, Pittaway had just arrived in Connecticut and was planning to meet with a major customer the next day. By the time of the scheduled meeting, however, eight inches of new snow had fallen. So when Pittaway arrived for the meeting to find that everyone had actually shown up, he was surprised.
But only a little. Because this meeting, and others like it that Pittaway had attended in recent days, promised customers something they weren’t likely to find elsewhere: the opportunity to meet face-to-face with members of the Windows 2000 development team in a small, informal setting.
Such meetings are part of the Windows 2000 Door-to-Door Program, a worldwide effort designed to facilitate discussions among customers who will be deploying, administering and supporting Windows 2000 and the people who actually created it. Launched in mid-January and running through March, the Door-to-Door Program dovetailed with the February 17 release of Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Advanced Server. Through the program, technical professionals can learn more about the latest generation of the Windows NT operating systems and how their integration with Internet technologies, reliability, manageability and support for new devices can help to increase system uptime and ultimately decrease total cost of ownership.
An Ideal Venue for Substantive Technical Discussion
The Windows 2000 Door-to-Door Program works by joining some 400 Microsoft program and group managers, developers, design engineers, test engineers, technical writers, and members of the local sales account teams with individuals from more than 1,500 corporate entities, which include hundreds of Microsoft customers and channel partners. Program participants are visiting more than 50 locations in the United States and Canada and 30 other countries for meetings with their customer counterparts, including CIOs, IT managers, analysts and other technology decision-makers.
To Pittaway, one of the best things about the program is its informal approach to the sharing of technical knowledge.
“In a telephone conference call or a large gathering, customers can sometimes be intimidated,”
“But seeing a friendly, human face in a casual, non-threatening venue is something altogether different. People ask questions and bring up topics they might not have otherwise.”
This was certainly the case for the customers Pittaway visited.
“We figured all along that customers would take the opportunity to ask lots of questions, and we were right,”
“Frankly, some of the discussions have been at such a non-stop pace that after three meetings in one day I’m exhausted.”
One of the customers visited by another engineer through the Door-to Door Program was Bell Mobility, a Toronto-based subsidiary of Bell Canada and leading provider in Canada of cellular, paging, wireless data and mobile browser services. Bell Mobility will be using Windows 2000 in an ambitious effort to enhance the Web ability of its dealer channel, explained James Gillen, the company’s manager of technical architecture. For this reason, he and his colleagues were delighted to take advantage of the Door-to-Door Program.
“Our project is a pretty big one, involving COM, Microsoft Transaction Server, Microsoft Message Queue Server, XML and Internet Explorer 5.0,”
“So it was invaluable to be able to talk one-on-one with the people involved directly in the development and testing of these technologies.”
Gillen’s colleague, Bell Mobility CIO Frank Anderson, agreed.
“We have a regular, ongoing dialogue with Microsoft, but the Door-to-Door Program goes beyond that,”
“I found it enormously useful to sit for a couple of hours with senior engineering people and talk about Windows 2000 and what it will mean for our e-commerce environment.”
Learning on All Sides
As Windows 2000 Product Manager Kay Morita points out, the Door-to-Door Program benefits more than just the corporate customers.
“To learn what developers and program managers do on a day-to-day basis means a lot to our channel partners as well,”
“With this knowledge, they’re that much better prepared to serve their customers.”
That was precisely the experience of Ivan Cole, president of the New York-based Microsoft Solution Provider Cole Systems.
“Because we’re close to the customers and our reputations are on the line, we’re passionate about making Microsoft technologies work flawlessly,”
“So we’ve got to maintain an in-depth understanding of the architecture and how best to deploy it. The Door-to-Door Program helps us do this by connecting us directly with top Windows 2000 engineers.”
Also benefiting from the Door-to-Door Program are the engineers and other technical professionals on the Windows 2000 development team, notes Windows 2000 Product Manager Sarah Lefko.
“Let’s face it, for the people who created Windows 2000 it’s a thrill to be able to show off their ‘baby’,”
she said. They’ve been able do just that, since every Door-to-Door meeting culminates with a small gift from the Microsoft team to the customer or channel partner: final, official media for Windows 2000 Professional and Windows 2000 Advanced Server.
Yet another benefit for those members of the Windows 2000 development team lucky enough to take part in the Door-to-Door Program is the chance to hear what customers have to say.
“If you’re a developer, some of the questions that customers ask can really turn things around in your head and open up a new way of looking at product features that you might have been mired in for the past year and a half,”
“That sort of eye-opener is essential for the creative, innovative thinking that you must have if you’re going to keep coming up with the products and features that customers want and need.”