Decoding Micro-speak

I spend a lot of time at conferences where Microsoft employees, such as product managers and developers, make presentations. In addition, I also spend a lot of time talking with them, one-on-one. Over the years, I have noticed that Microsoft has its own set of internal buzz words. Many of these terms are used generically in the IT industry, but I don’t know if they started with Microsoft and then transitioned to the IT industry, or if Microsoft picked up this terms from the IT industry and made them their own.

However it happened, here are some of the buzz words that I hear over and over again from Microsoft employees, along with what they mean.

UbiquitousCommonly and widely used or available. While the use of “ubiquitous” at Microsoft is not as ubiquitous as it once was, it was one of the first terms I noticed that Microsoft used over, and over, and over.

Story: An explanation of the benefits of a particular feature, product, or service. This now appears to be the most common buzz word at Microsoft. Everything has to have a story, from a new feature in SQL Server, to the latest marketing campaign. Another variation of “story” is the buzz phrase “value proposition,” although it is less in fashion than it used to be.

Space: A market niche. “Space” has become popular throughout the IT industry, and is still used a lot at Microsoft, but its use seems to be dying out over time.

Adoption Blocker: Something that prevents a customer from buying a Microsoft product or service. Microsoft often assumes that everything they design and market should sell well. If it doesn’t sell well, then some “adoption blocker” has prevented the sales from taking place. Sometimes, I think Microsoft forgets that not everything they design and sell is necessarily what their customers really want.

Ecosystem: All of the parts that make up a larger system. For example, SQL Server has its own ecosystem, and when Microsoft evaluates a new feature to be added to SQL Server, it has to fit appropriately within the “ecosystem.”

Baked In: A feature or functionality that is included with a product. This term is becoming more popular, and I have often heard Microsoft people say that a particular feature has been baked in the product, which often implies that the customer is getting it for free (as part of a larger purchase).

Dog Fooding: We use our own products for internal use at Microsoft. In most cases, “dog fooding” refers to Microsoft using a beta or CTP version of a product internally before it is released to the public. Think of it as internal beta testing.

Conversation: A discussion. I think a “conversation” often implies that someone is asking for input and feedback, but that it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are really listening, or will take action based on the “conversation.”

Long Pole: Critical path. For example, “If we hire another two engineers, we can do tasks A and B in parallel, but C and D have to be done sequentially, so that’s our long pole.” Thanks to a former Microsoft employee for providing this definition for me.

There a lot more of these buzz words, and I don’t have the space to cover them all. What I want to hear from you is what buzz words do you commonly run across in your work, especially those buzz words that sound amusing or are way overused.

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