Microsofts Team Tools Leader Leaving the Fold

Rick LaPlante, leader of the Visual Studio Team System effort, plans to step down after 18 years as a Microsoft employee.

Rick LaPlante, the man who championed Microsofts push into the enterprise tools business, is hanging up his guns and heading for the ranch.

LaPlante, who is currently on an extended vacation after spending six years working to get Microsofts Visual Studio Team System off the ground, said he will be returning to his post as general manager of VSTS at Microsoft in mid-May, only to leave the company in September after 18 years as a Microsoft employee.

"The short version of the story is, 18 years, all of my adult life—and damn near half of my entire life—has been spent at Microsoft," LaPlante said in an e-mail. "I never worked anywhere else. I always wanted to do something to have an amazing, positive impact on the world, and VSTS was it. Now Im ready to do something completely different but dont have a clue what that is yet."

LaPlante spoke with eWEEK on April 24 and said he will be going back to his job on May 15 after an extended vacation that started on March 22.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about the release of the Team Foundation Server component of VSTS.

"Ill go back May 15, the new guy will start shortly thereafter, and well spend about three months getting him up to speed," LaPlante said.

The new guy, as LaPlante put it, is Andrew Kass, formerly senior vice president of product development at Atlanta-based S1 Corp. At S1, Kass was tasked to lead the companys global engineering team. S1 delivers customer interaction software for financial and payment services.

Kass has also held positions with Oracle, PeopleSoft and

Asked why Microsoft went outside of the company to find the leader to take over its enterprise tools business, LaPlante basically said Kass is the right person for the job.

"As a leader it was my responsibility to increase the IQ of the company," he said. "Andrew is a phenomenal business leader who has sold software to midsize and large companies with mission-critical systems. Hes an excellent leader, and I have personally been recruiting him for a year."

Kass will begin at Microsoft in early June, LaPlante said.

"We have an excellent bench, but the whole team was comfortable with bringing in an external guy. It was an opportunistic hire," he added.

Moreover, LaPlante said it was simply the right time for him to leave Microsoft. Working at a software company like Microsoft "is something I always wanted to do, but not the only thing." LaPlante said, "I grew up a rural kid, not a big city kid." With that in mind, LaPlante said he and his wife are looking at buying a ranch in Colorado or Wyoming.

"Its been on my mind for several years," he said. "With version 1 [of VSTS] shipping, it seemed like a great time" to make a move, he said.

"I told Bill [Gates, chairman and chief software architect at Microsoft] and Steve [Ballmer, Microsofts CEO] I was committed to getting VSTS out the door and seeing it to a successful start," he said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifGuru Jakob Nielsen offers advice on designing applications for usability. Click here to watch the video.

LaPlante jokingly said his extended vacation was warranted as "a little R&R after spending the last six years working my butt off 60 hours a week."

However, even on vacation LaPlante was working on building a bio-diesel processor and was planning "to go out and try to find some waste oil from a restaurant" as part of his project.

However, when he finally leaves Microsoft, LaPlante said he is not sure what he will do.

"I dont think Ill go to work for a software company again," he said. "Im not interested in going and working full-time somewhere." However, "there are a lot of great small companies out there looking for people to help them grow their business. So maybe Ill look at joining a couple of boards of directors."

In a recent interview, LaPlante told eWEEK he initiated Microsofts foray into the enterprise or ALM (application lifecycle management) tools space and sold the idea to Gates and Ballmer.

"I remember around 1999 I had to get in front of Bill and Steve and say we should go into the enterprise tools business," LaPlante said. "And the enterprise tools business in 1999—who really cared a lot about that, right? It was an uninteresting business," he said.

"So I went to them and said we really have to do something here. I said theres an opportunity for us because this is whats been holding people back from building enterprise applications on our platform. Weve got to get the platform capabilities there. And remember in 1999 we had the road map for how to get the platform there, but this needed to be the next big thing."

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