Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nick King Post-Event

So, with Nick King having visited Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne with only 18, 10 and 10 attendees respectively, I think that this gives a clear answer to the question from Microsoft about what we think of the current state of affairs and the future of MS Technical training in the SMB IT market space. Unfortunately.

Now, this post will likely piss some people off. That's definitely not the reason for the post, but then I'm not one to pull punches. So I won't.

Microsoft has failed when it comes to technical training in the SMB market space, and they have a well established history of failure. They've pissed enough of their channel partners off that we just don't believe they can deliver valuable technical training any more. The grand total of 38 people that took the time to meet with and discuss the situation with Nick should be a loud, scary statement to Microsoft of what they've done with this area of their responsibility.

The absolute worst example of Microsoft's lack of ability in delivering technical training was the recent EBS 2008 Hands On Lab that was pulled and totally reworked after I sent a letter on behalf of all of the Brisbane Lab attendees. Basically, every single lab failed, one snapshot was left in RegEdit to start, and the reboot after this resulted in constant BSODs, making that lab useless, we don't even know why they were in RegEdit without explaining this anyway, the notes often were plain wrong, the course, delivered in December, was built on RC0 code (ie, old and KNOWN to be broken), FTMG failed to work properly at all, the lab machines were seriously underpowered and the experience was, without a doubt, the absolute worst training experience I've ever experieced and I know the same was said by those other attendees in Brisbane. The ball was well and truly dropped with this course.

Nick assured me that, even though Microsoft didn't bother to take the time to reply to my email, they had taken action to "restructure" the team responsible for producing this Hands On Lab and to ensure that a situation like this never occurs again.

As I explained to Nick, Microsoft really, really shot themselves in the foot with this Hands On Lab - of the 10 attendees in Brisbane, 9 were IT consultants and one was from a Distributor. Out of the 9 resellers/consultants who attended, a resounding 9 have decided that if this is the best knowledge and support Microsoft can give on this product, that there's no chance we'll be promoting this to our clients. One fairly large company in Brisbane is also no longer looking at EBS as an option for the clients they had initially considered EBS appropriate for. Microsoft won't be making their sales targets in EBS if this is the best technical support and training they can provide.

It will take quite a while before attendees of this course want to even look at EBS again, let alone want to shell out for more training on it.

Excom who was stuck delivering this course, have been really good - Adele (in Brisbane) who is my new account manager has been following this up and keeping in communication with me. Something Microsoft didn't have the time or willingness to do. Excom realise how badly this course will affect them and as I have explained to Adele the state of affairs with the SMB IT community's level of trust in MS training, she understands how this situation will affect their own profitability and that of the other Microsoft Training Partners. They are taking the situation seriously. After all, with business taking some measure of a hit right now for many people, this is the ideal time to do some training to skill up before the market picks up again. Maybe we could get some good Ubuntu, NOWS SBE and training in since Microsoft has nothing of value to offer. :)

And the SBS 2008 Hands On Labs were an introductory course, again not what was sold to the SBSC community and user groups - we ALL had ample access to the WEBS and SBS pre-release code (thanks very much to Robbie Upcroft for this - he went above and beyond the call to make this available to anyone who wanted it) and should have covered pretty much all of what this Lab covered. Granted, the Migration secion of this course (2 hours out of the 2 days) was beneficial to people who'd not performed a migration before, however again the information in the course was already out of date and was using pre-release code. This course, however, was not a complete waste of 2 days of our lives, like the EBS course was.

Before this, in November Microsoft toured The Wayne and Robbie show to the User Groups which, again (and unfortunately) turned out to be a Vendor Salesfest instead of the advertised technical training from Wayne after his trip to Seattle to spend 2 weeks learning from PSS about WEBS and SBS. We got what was reported to be 24 minutes of this material (The Wayne says it was about 45 minutes), but whatever the time, it was overshadowed by all of the salesy crap Microsoft was pushing. Unacceptable. Not what was marketed to the User Groups.

We all know how the WESS Pre-Day at Tech Ed '09 worked out. So enough said about that Sales and Marketing event.

Does Microsoft even know what Level 300 technical training is? Apparently not. As I mentioned to Nick King on Monday, Microsoft has to do some serious work on Expectation Management - it seems what Microsoft considers Level 300 Technical Training is what the community considers Level 100. There's a great gulf between what we've been asking for and sold and what Microsoft's actually delivered.

If you have a look here, you'll see the levels as per the Microsoft Webcasts. Why are these levels not also applicable to SMB IT technical training in Australia? Why does SMB IT Technical Training at Level 300 down here equate with Level 100 webcasts? Or even here as related to MSDN? Or even here for the events held in Ireland?

The more I look at this, across the board Microsoft has one definition for Level 300 Technical Training and they have simply not lived up to it when delivering any technical training to the SMB IT Pro community, except for the short time at The Wayne and Robbie show - a lot shorter than we all believed we'd be receiving. So it seems not to be an Expectation Management issue as I spoke to Nick about, it seems to be a "Microsoft simply doesn't understand their own technical training levels" thing. I'm now even more disappointed.

So, with all of that in mind, as it seems that Microsoft is out of answers, what answers can we, the community, come up with? And this is SMB IT Pro answers, not necessarily Microsoft answers. What are the areas that we think are important for training - which products, technologies, solutions? Which manufacturers? What level of training are we after? What are we doing now to keep our skill levels up - or, more appropriately, improve them - whilst there's a bit of a slow down in business in preparation for the return of life as we knew it?

I'm talking with a few people about SMB IT Pro training to see what they think. I'd definitely like some feedback from the Aussie SBSCs out there so we can come up with a plan that can reach the many SBSCs and other SMB IT Professionals out there, not only in the capital cities, but everywhere. What would you like to see happening?


The Outspoken Wookie


MangroveMtn said...

I agree with parts of this and disagree with others.

Firstly i think the poor attendance to see Nick King was because of a failure to promote it - pure and simple. I had noted that something 'might' be happening last night, because it was mentioned at the Sydney meeting. I then noted the further details to be posted message on smb it-pro group, and put off a decision pending the promised follow-up post, that never eventuated.

In short I don't think it's valid to draw conclusions from the small audience about the willingness of the community to attend training.

Where I do agree is that a decision has to be made as to whether to attend each event/training session. The criteria are cost including opportunity cost versus perceived expectation of benefit. When the actual benefit in the past has fallen well short of the expected benefit, it makes it more unlikely that one will choose to attend.


makkacbr said...

I know this may not be helpful but Clone Jeff Alexander.

He alone seems to be able to deliver content that is “as promised” which is in no small way because of his completely open “I don’t know SKU’s” and “That’s almost a licensing question” responses. What I would REALLY like to see is streamed training – not levelled. So for SBS we’d have training for Sales and Marketing, training for installation/deployment, training for Licensing/SKU’s and training for best practices.

I think as a whole we seem to miss a-lot on Best Practices. The more involved I become with various communities the more frustrated I get with realising I have been flogging myself trying to find how to (fill in the blank) when someone has already accomplished the task AND is willing to share the info.

The training timing (by and large) is out of whack. The Excom training is the exception it was timed well.
We (as SBSC’s) need Best Practice and Implementation training 3-6 months BEFORE release not AFTER. The sales and marketing can wait till the Wave launches and the other two tracks can get updated material. We do not need to see the same information again.

Finally a response to queries/issues would be great, you are our link up-to MS, but is there a concise flow back to us? The SBSC forums/e-mail lists are great but MS need to sponsor wider reaching paraphernalia. Newsletters/Webcasts/Online interviews and or training FOR SBSC’s only would be GREAT. A once a month online interview with someone like Nick would be 1. Much Cheaper for MS and 2. Much more likely to get a wider response. (How do Adelaide/Perth/Hobart feel about being ignored)

End of soapbox