November 27, 2003
@ 04:51 AM

Robert Scoble writes

Lionel, in my comments: "the problem is that it's "common wisdom" that Microsoft has more than $40 billion in the bank, so your point doesn't *sound* true. "how can they talk about resource constraints with that kind of safe deposit""

This is a common misunderstanding. First of all. That cash isn't just given out willy nilly. It's NOT our money! It belongs to our investors. They want to see it spent properly. Translation: don't let Scoble spend it on whatever he wants!

In 1999, published an article called 12 Simple Secrets of Microsoft Management . One of the entries is entitled "Shrimps vs. Weenies" and is quoted below

7. "Shrimp vs. Weenies"

Even with its billions upon billions in cash, Microsoft is as frugal as Ebeneezer Scrooge. It's a company that buys canned weenies for food, not shrimp. Until last year, even Bill Gates and his second-in-command Steve Ballmer flew coach. (For scheduling reasons, the company purchased its first corporate jet.) Bucking the trend of most large, wealthy corporations, Microsoft remains in start-up mode where tight budgets are the rule. When you sit back and think about it, this frugality is less surprising and even explains how a company can come to accumulate such great hoards of cash.

This is probably the one of the most frustrating things to adjust to as a new hire at Microsoft; resource-strapped teams are the order of the day. There never seem to be enough devs to fix bugs and ship features or when there are there aren't enough testers to ensure that the code is up to snuff so you end up cutting the features anyway. Asking around about this leads to the realization that to many this is The Microsoft Way. I've heard all sorts of justifications for this behavior from the fact that it leads to managers making better hiring decisions since they never have as much headcount as they want so they don't waste it hiring people they aren't 100% sure will be good performers to statements like "it's always been this way". It's hard to argue with this logic given that this practice (and the others listed in the article) have lead to one of the most successful companies in the world with more cash on hand than the annual budget of most third world nations.  

However every time we cut some feature because we don't have enough test resources or scrap an idea because we don't have anyone to code it up, I wonder if there's a better way...