So, Ed Brill has been reading the Exchange team blog, probably for much the same reason that Microsoft PMs read his blog-- know your enemy, and all that. So, let me leave aside the fact that it's disingenuous (and, IMO, slimy) of Ed to say "I'm not spinning, but $spin..." and point out one key difference between IBM and Microsoft's support programs.
With Microsoft, any customer with a credit card can call Microsoft PSS and get support for any active product. If you want to buy a support contract, fine, but if you don't, you can still get support. The PSS org thus has to be sized for variable call volume from an unpredictable mix of 5.5, 2000, and 2003 customers, calling at unpredictable intervals. As far as I can tell, the only way to get any support from IBM (apart from their relatively useless support forums) is to buy a Passport Advantage contract, pricing information for which isn't publicly available. This gives IBM a pretty good way to predict required staffing levels, given that they know exactly how many customers they're obligated to support.
It's an interesting tension: limiting your support to contracted customers helps screen out a large percentage of customers, who are then hosed when they do need support, but that smaller support base means you need fewer support engineers, who will generally have lower utilization. Of course, MS would hire more PSS engineers if they could; in fact, they're aggressively hiring for the Exchange support team, but the skill bar is pretty high, so it takes time to fill the open positions.
Ed and I are in agreement on one thing, though: it is refreshing to see the blog-driven openness that is slowly permeating Microsoft, IBM, and other large companies. (Well, we agree on two things: AT&T's new upgrade program stinks.) That openness is all the more refreshing when it's factual and technical, not just more marketing spin and hype.
Update: Ed was kind enough to link here from the comments to his post, in which he points out that edbrill.com isn't an IBM web site. That's true, and I should have made it more clear that Ed is of course speaking only for himself, so I retitled this post slightly.Posted by Paul at March 09, 2004 06:42 AM
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