The old adage says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Microsoft, in the software world is certainly an old dog, but it seems to be learning “new tricks” in changing the way it defines and ships software. This may not work yet for all of Microsoft, my view is primarily at the Developer Division and the Visual Studio/Team Foundation System set of tools. In particular this behavior is best seen with the Team Foundation group which has transformed itself from a traditional boxed product vendor with a two year release cycle to a full agile, continuous delivery style organization similar to Rally, VersionOne, Atlassian, Collabnet and other agile focused tools.
This hasn’t been a speedy transformation. It is an old dog after all with a strong history in traditional product management, large teams and a broad customer base that often has competing needs. The company as a whole has had pockets of “agile” for at least the last 10 years. So what is different now? The cloud. The move to deliver TFS on Azure has been a transformation point enabling new styles of delivery and requiring a new approach to the definition and delivery of customer value. With TFS Azure, Microsoft can now build minimal viable products, turn the features on selectively, and gain feedback from a broad set of users.
Microsoft certainly has brought in some “new dogs” that have agile experience but the real transformation has been driven by Cloud and the drive that social driven open source development has provided. The key isn’t the new dogs but that the old ones have been able to adapt, to learn new tricks and adapt to new conditions. Remember, survivors are those that can adapt to changing conditions and if Microsoft can evolve, your organization can too. The Nexus of Forces represents an inflection point for survival either you will adapt and thrive or remain stagnant.