Microsoft Corp. on Friday promoted Ron Markezich to CIO of its IT organization. He had been the general manager of finance and administration in that department.
Markezich will report to Rick Devenuti, who has been serving as both Microsofts corporate vice president of worldwide services and as IT CIO after the previous head of services, Mike Sinneck, left the company last year.
Microsoft has used its IT department for some time now as one of the primary testers of its upcoming products, with software such as Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 running the companys actual desktops, servers, Web sites and day-to-day operations for as long as a year before those products became release candidates.
Markezich told eWEEK in an interview Friday that this would continue to be his No. 1 priority as an organization: making sure that Microsoft runs its products well internally before their release to customers, so it gets that feedback directly to the product teams. “We will continue to be Microsofts first and best customer,” he said.
The IT organization, which comprises about 3,800 staff members, including Microsoft employees, vendors and contingent staff, starts testing software under development in its labs as early as the alpha stage, which is before any public betas. Deployment in its production environments takes place once the public betas are released, he said.
A few thousand client machines are already running early builds of the Longhorn client, the next version of Windows, on the network, he said, adding that its too early for that with the Longhorn server code.
“We are working very closely with the Longhorn server product team on those builds, as there are a lot of features in Longhorn that we are looking to take advantage of in our IT environment,” he said.
Other products under development that are being run in production environments include Whidbey, the next update to Visual Studio .Net, and Yukon, the next version of SQL Server, Markezich said.
The IT organization and the various Microsoft product teams also develop a “shared goals” process where the two sides sit down together—even before a product reaches the alpha stage—and agree on what they want to accomplish, with the products and from IT, and what they are willing to commit to.
“We then sign off on those shared goals, and throughout the process, well take checkpoints every month to see how we are tracking to those shared goals and to make sure were getting the value out of that product that the product group committed to give us,” Markezich said.
The IT team also has access to the product teams bug system, so any bugs it finds in the product are logged in the same way the development team logs them—and can then be tracked and resolution-tested.
The IT team is also able to make design-change requests throughout the product development process and, as an early adopter, guarantees that its entire environment will be running the product before it is released. But this is done in a phased way, as its Active Directory environment is structured to phase deployment of its products out, he said.
Asked what he is likely to change in his new role as IT CIO, Markezich said he wants to get more knowledge and education out to the field, something Microsoft has not been aggressive about in the past, he said. The company wants to help its customers understand the experiences and best practices that have been gained by bringing its IT and services divisions under the same umbrella, he said.
“This will take place by training and educating our services staff through a couple of programs, one of which is called an IT Fellowship. Here, they come into IT for three weeks to three months and work with our IT folk to learn some of the operational best practices we use. They then take that experience out there to customers,” he said.
Microsoft had also created an Exchange center of excellence where staff from the product, services and IT teams were brought in to build best practices and guidance for its customers and partners running Exchange, Markezich said.
Markezich, who graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a bachelors degree in management information systems, joined Microsoft in 1998 as the general manager of finance and administration in the IT department, where he and his team developed, maintained and supported systems for the finance, human resources and corporate services organizations.
Prior to this, he spent more than nine years at Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting) in the electronic and high technology group, where he focused on improving business operations through technology use.
Editors Note: This story was updated to include comments from Markezich.