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Microsoft's CIO: 'I feel your pain'

Microsoft wants to feel its customers' pain, and has enlisted its new CIO to do just that.

I really liked this Ina Fried interview with Microsoft's new CIO, Tony Scott. It gives good insight into how Microsoft "eats its own dogfood," and how it can improve in understanding customer requirements.

On this last item, Scott's commentary was intriguing:

What I am trying to do is improve our world in all three areas. On the dogfood side, I think this is where maybe I bring some value as an outsider. I've been going to Microsoft for years...What I was always disappointed in was the relative degree to which Microsoft could talk to us as external CIOs about what the upgrade experience was like....

Microsoft used a very different process than what customers would use. We never historically went from production bits to production bits in terms of the upgrade process. We went through a series of betas.

One of the changes I am trying to bring is...we are going to take some segments of the company and use them to experience what customers experience and go through the normal upgrade process. I think by doing that we can be more relevant to the ultimate consumers of Microsoft's products.

This is a great move on Microsoft's part, and a testament to the innovative role a CIO can have, particularly at a software vendor.

Now Microsoft's customer base just needs the company to also experiment with seriously mixed environments: open source, proprietary, and different blends of proprietary software. Scott acknowledges in the interview that Microsoft "predominately" uses its own software internally. This is appropriate, but it would be useful for Microsoft to see how the other half lives, as well.

By the way, I'm very interested in having a fishbowl debate at OSBC in 2009, involving the CIOs of Red Hat, Google, and Microsoft. I've been trying to reach Ben Fried at Google, with no luck. Can anyone help gather these people? It would be fascinating to have them talk about the relative strengths and weaknesses of their respective approaches in front of a live CIO audience.