Powers Unfiltered

An entrepreneur’s journey into grid computing and partnering with Microsoft, by John Powers

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Hey, Microsoft — get off of my cloud

January 8th, 2008 · 5 Comments

All my regular readers know I use the Microsoft partner Web sites fairly often, and that I experience frustrating time-sucking issues almost as often. Believe me, I spare my readership the great majority of my experiences with the unending nightmare that is the Microsoft partner online world, and when I do raise these issues I’m trying to be constructive — I really want to see Microsoft improve the online experience for its partners and customers. So I sometimes do a lot of self-editing and softening of language and hedging . . .
But I’m done caring who I offend — this is just ridiculous. The emperor has no clothes.

One thing I get to do every year is renew our status as a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. Fine. The program requirements are difficult enough without technical hassles. Previous years have been a joy — one time, partners.microsoft.com was sufficiently screwed up that I managed to pay our $1500+ fee twice (yes, I eventually got a refund) — and this year appears to be worse.

So far, using the forms on the Microsoft Partner Program Web site, following absolutely basic and routine steps that are completely necessary to renew our status, I’ve encountered timeouts a few dozen times in the past two weeks. Fine. If Microsoft wants to provide a poor online experience for its partners, we can assess for ourselves whether the value is worth the pain.

But those few dozen timeouts don’t even include the repeated timeouts encountered by Digipede’s best customers, who have agreed to serve as references for us.

That’s right — my best customers get to sit in front of multiple timeouts waiting for the Microsoft Partner Program Web site, following Microsoft’s own instructions in an autogenerated email, just so they can provide Microsoft verification that we’ve done work for them. And yes, I get to explain to my best customers that they should be patient with Microsoft in order to do Digipede a favor. And yes, this conversation is every bit as delightful as it sounds.

My experience is not “bad luck,” nor is it unique. I’ve tried to submit information at different times of day, and on different days of the week; my customers have tried the same. And yes, I have talked to technical support, and reproduced the problem for them (“yeah, we’ve been having some of those problems lately…”). Is this just viewed as an acceptable cost of doing business by other Microsoft partners? By the rest of Microsoft?
Hey Debra Chrapaty — do you really expect to deliver online “cloud computing” services to hundreds of millions of customers when you can’t serve 640,000 partners any better than this? Do you want the help of those 640,000 partners in delivering online services to your customers? What level of confidence do you think your best partners and best customers have in your ability to deliver responsive online applications when our primary online experience with Microsoft goes through partners.microsoft.com?

Hey Kevin Turner — is this the “operational excellence” we keep hearing so much about?

Hey Allison Watson — how can your team be so great in person (and they are) while your systems are so consistently flawed (and they are)? Never in all my interactions with Microsoft do I encounter as much eye-rolling and well-practiced apologies as when I talk with your team about your systems.

(Woohoo! Invoking Allison’s name must have been the key — I just hit “OK” for the 8th or 9th time on the dialog box that’s been sitting there mocking me as I type this — these are LONG timeouts –, and FINALLY I’ve assigned ONE additional customer reference successfully. Hang on — gotta go tell another of my best customers to hit retry while the site may (briefly) be working!)

And these minor trials and frustrations are NOTHING compared to the slog we’ve been going through to get Certified for Server 2008 — but that’s another story for another day.

UPDATE:  In the past two hours, I’ve had about 70 hits on this post from within Microsoft.  In the past two hours, I’ve had one of my customers give up trying to provide a reference through the Microsoft Partner Program Web site because he does not run Internet Explorer (not sure what he uses, but I just tested with Firefox 2, and sure enough, there are some features that apparently do not work).  In the past two hours, a different one of my customers tried again to approve his reference; he received timeouts again, and now wants to know how to fax in his reference instead.

Tags: Customer Service · Partnering with Microsoft · Usability

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 West Coast Grid // Jan 8, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Partnering with Microsoft: The Ugly…

    My colleague John Powers has frequently posted about the good, the bad, and the ugly of partnering with Microsoft–and today’s post would definitely qualify as “the ugly.”…

  • 2 Marc // Jan 9, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Hi John,

    Your experiences with Microsoft at the operational level mirror my own experiences. I fully sympathize with you, and I feel your pain,

  • 3 Deborah // Jan 10, 2008 at 1:01 am

    I thought we’d avoided a similar experience, until I went to renew today. There’s a problem with our points, and the partner reps can’t get past the same timeouts to see our data. Seems like a system meltdown, and they can’t blame the weather like United Airlines can! Fortunately we’ve already jumped through the customer reference hoops — my blood would be boiling a lot hotter if we hadn’t.

  • 4 Mark // Jan 10, 2008 at 2:54 am

    Oh my god! Same issue and Same problem for our references!

    I thought the Microsoft Partner Web site was under a DoS attack, but after calling the Gold Partner Program its normal to experience these outages and timeouts right now because they are “upgrading” the parter pages

    And when I tried right now:
    “We are sorry; an unforeseen error has occurred. Please go to the Microsoft Partner Program Web site and sign-in again. For further assistance, please contact your Regional Service Center.”

    PS – Thanks for Posting it John – and for the record it was suggested you just call up your customer refs (cuz they’re not busy) and ask them to try again in 24 or 48 hours.

  • 5 Improvements in Microsoft Partnerland // Jan 30, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    […] the process of renewing our membership as a Gold Certified Partner in January, 2008.  (You can see my rant here, and my follow-up rant […]

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