Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Microsoft gets rid of stack-ranking

Just read this rather interesting article about how Microsoft is abandoning their rating system which has been around for quite many years.


Although quite many MS employees probably like the fact that this is going away I also believe the system had some good traits.

One aspect is the difficulty boxing people in, but the calibration part of the system which the article doesn't really mention was in my opinion part of ensuring that people were treated fairly.  The fact that different managers had to defend their ratings towards their fellow managers was a good thing. It was not easy to favour a bad-performing individual just because you liked him/her - and the ones truly shining were also identified in agreement with other managers.

It will be interesting to hear how the new system will deal with the cross-team calibration aspect in the future.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dynamics UX?

I was just checking out the new Dynamics CRM 2013 and some of the User Experience (UX) elements showing up inside the trial version of Office 365.

Please disregard the danish UI texts in the screenshots...

I am wondering if this is the first example of a new general thin client UX from the Dynamics suite of products - or in other words, will the Dynamics CRM, AX and NAV product teams converge towards the same UX...

At first glimpse the interface looks quite appealing with hints to the Windows 8 tiles used in the menu access from the top-bar. The top menu is multilevel with more tiles showing up below the first ones if you click the small drop-down arrow.

What strikes me though is that the UX is not exatly touch-friendly. I would have expected something which works better on the Surface or similar devices. The drop down arrows are quite small and it's a bit difficult to hit the right places on my Lenovo Tablet 2.

What I am also noticing is that the UI loads asynchronously in the different parts of the page and that the loading time seems a bit slow at some times. The customer contact page took around 6 seconds on my normal HP laptop and 12 seconds on my Lenovo Tablet 2. Not critical by any means but not exactly snappy either.

In general it seems the menu approach is changing from the traditional Office Ribbon  to a more flat Windows 8 look-a-like with action buttons below the top-menu. It's still not completely carried out - try for instance the "advaced search" feature and you suddenly notice a new browser window opening with the Office ribbon UI appearing (click the "..." in the actionbutton line).
A cool quick search feature is the horizontal a-z indication below list pages which enables you to scoll to the records quickly (although I have no data in the demo below).
There are many interesting aspects of this UI/UX - some problems have been adressed in a good way - others not so much. I like the feature of "latest shown" which is accessible under each main menu. I don't necessarily like the - at times - very busy UI  wich buttons all over to click on. I think I counted more than 50 clickable buttons on the customer contact page.
It will be interesting to drill further into the user experience and see how much of this will be taken up by the other product teams over the coming releases of AX and CRM. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Leaving the comfort zone

I am betting that over the next couple of years quite many people will have to go through a significant learning curve stepping out from their current comfort zone.

I am referring to many of the technical people spending the majority of their time inside "MorphX" (Dynamics AX development environment) or the equivalent Dynamics NAV development environment, "C/SIDE".

So far quite many ERP developers have been living inside a fairly protected environment. They have been able to focus on datamodelling and business logic without worrying too much about aspects of software architecture, design patterns, security, authentication, performance, user experience etc. Things which developers working from scratch spend quite a lot of time on before they can get to actually write the app functionality. Good for developer productivity (let Microsoft worry about these things) but perhaps not so future proof in terms of having a career as developer.

This is my brain storm list of technologies which I would consider if I was an AX developer today. Simply because I believe this is where the AX direction is going. The good news is that there are even more developers out there which knows about where we are heading than developers knowing where we are coming from.
  • From MorphX to Team Foundation Server
  • From X++ to C#
  • From AIF to Webservices and WSDL's
  • From flat files to XML and SOAP
  • From SQL to SQL Azure
  • From Intellimorph thick client to HTML/Javascript/JSON/Entity framework
  • From manual test to Microsoft Test Manager/Lab Manager, coded UI and SoapUI 
  • From Word to on-line HTML documentation
For many this will mean leaving the comfort zone. The ones being succesful are probabely the ones taking up the challenge.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bill Gates - a role model to follow

I've had the pleasure of meeting Bill Gates on a few occasions when I worked at Microsoft. The first time was at an internal strategy workshop in Snowqualmie where Bill participated with a few other Microsoft executives and a bunch of us more "normal" employees. This was a fantastic inspiring couple of days and pretty awesome to see the dedication and engagement from the leadership team at Microsoft.
At another session I was participating in a so-called "Gates"review where we - as a product team - were presenting our new project to Bill and others. This was likewise a fantastic experience - although a bit more scary to experience the level of detail which he was capable of dealing with.

These days Bill Gates has dedicated his time to the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation where he is spending the majority of the money earned through Microsoft trying to improve health and fight poverty around the globe.

I just read a brillant interview with Bill Gates which I would recommend. It can be found here:

It's interesting to see that even though Bill has spent most of his life building technology he doesn't believe it in itself can save the world.

"I certainly love the IT thing,” he says. “But when we want to improve lives, you’ve got to deal with more basic things like child survival, child nutrition.”

As he also states in the interview [parafrased], "what is most important - internet connectivity or finding a vaccination for malaria". There is not doubt that these days Bill Gates prioritizes the disease challenges rather than bringing internet connectivity to everyone.

I'm not sure I've ever had a role model as such, but Bill Gates certainly could be one.

Read the article - it's truly inspiring.

Monday, November 4, 2013

EG aims to become the world's largest Microsoft ERP partner

After recently having been acquired by Axcel, the new board of directors have been formed. Check out the press release.

New chairman of the board is Klaus Holse, who some of us know from his past as Corporate VP, MBS Sales and Operations and later President Western Europe with Microsoft.

This is really good news which will help us in EG reaching our ambitions of becoming Microsoft's largest ERP implementation partner. I'm sure it will also help us grow our own portfolio of software solutions built on the Microsoft technology stack.