A comment about September and October 2013 Patch Tuesday

Given our challenges with September I thought a comment about our preparation for the October release appropriate.

Update: Details about the release and its contents have been published to the Office Updates blog.

September caused us to spend time examining some of the processes we're using for updates. We have made adjustments to our pre-release procedures for testing, release preparation and communication.

For me, this is the first release in my 3 years of leading this team that was intensely personal. The outreach from customers and the engagement I've had with Susan Bradley and others pertaining to September has been very educational, and has put an exclamation point on something that everyone on my team understands: Our customers are very passionate, they want and need our support. I am thankful that we have dedicated IT professionals who are as open and willing to provide us the feedback we need to get better.

If our language in prior communications was not clear, please allow me to say this: We apologize for the issues caused by our September update. We strive to provide an outstanding customer experience, and we fell short of that commitment in September.

The challenges we faced in September were internal timing issues. Late changes caused us to do things at the last minute in an attempt to ensure our release was of the best quality possible. Unfortunately our changes resulted in a situation that was worse than the one we fixed. Zeroing in a bit further, the issues were not that things were "late," it was that the final release version of the shipping packages arrived in a staggered fashion. That they landed at different times in the ship cycle created difficulty in a number of operational contexts. We are pretty familiar with late-breaking changes, but in some cases, even the 190 years of combined release experience on my team can't overcome some of the challenges introduced by late stage churn. Adjusting for this we have implemented (re-established) a normal timing and cadence for updates. Between development, build, test, packaging, we're focused on reducing the variability within the system, giving every internal team a greater opportunity to evaluate release candidates in total.

Another area where we received feedback was our communication pattern for changes to our update releases. We use a combination of KB Article updates, Social Media, our Support forums and our Support teams to get the word out when we need to alert folks of issues. The synchronicity of those updates was a little weird in September, mostly due to the need to find the first available channel to communicate. Some latency is natural when we are moving quickly to remedy a problem. Moving forward, however, we will have a much more coordinated approach for communications. Our blog posts and social media updates (what we are able to do most easily) will reflect what our support teams are saying, what our forums entries communicate, etc. Additionally we are working with our Customer Support teams on better early warning guidance and other areas that will improve the customer experience in situations where issues are evident in our update releases.

I'm at the edge of diving into the "Inside Baseball" talk that only makes sense to those who know exactly how we do this work so I'll leave it at that for now. But the effect should be clear in the future, and I look forward to your feedback on our changes in these areas.

We are looking at additional investments to make MSI patching for enterprise updates easier. Stay tuned for more news in this area.

What we also learned in this release is the efficiency of Office 2013 Click to Run SKUs, specifically Office 365 and other retail versions of our 2013 release. Because these are whole image updates and stream to the desktop clients automatically, the challenges manifesting for MSI customers did not impact Click to Run. Something we've always known internally, but is now more evident externally is the efficiency of Click to Run updates and the relative ease of staying in sync with changes we publish to our products. If you're not evaluating Click 2 Run versions of our software for deployment, it is probably time to start. This is a very good update experience, we are investing heavily in making it better.

As always I welcome your feedback. I'm not perfect, but I will do my best to ensure you are satisfied with our products. Feel free to reach out to me through the blog or otherwise.