The Test – E + SV + SR = T/t

The Complexities of Trust (Organization)

In his book “Hit Refresh” Satya Nadella says “..for me, trust is a sacred responsibility.”  Beyond his view on empathy, I can’t think of anything more important or powerful in his book than his message on trust.

He shares his idea for trust as an equation as 

E + SV +SR = T/t

Empathy + Shared values + Safety and Reliability = Trust over time.

I have seen other trust equations like the one below. 

Trust Equation - 1

We have a frame and baseline for an engineering-oriented perspective on trust.  This makes absolute sense as Satya joined Microsoft in 1992 emigrating from Hyderabad as a skilled engineer.

It is safe to write about Satya’s perspective and comment on it as he has clearly written it himself.  I have the employee edition of his book which has highlights and side notes.  I admire his work and a lot of his perspective.  I also see clearly why Microsoft is becoming such a powerful force.   There is however a twist conceptually that I would like to offer you in thought.

The tools and technologies that Microsoft provides have ultimately created vendor lock-in for many companies.  I imagine this would have been a goal for the company to become more than simply a premier service provider but the water of life to any and all business.  In many ways, Microsoft has achieved this goal at least in part.  Who better than to lead this company into this historically unprecedented dominant market position?

While I admire Satya, I am worried and concerned about the future and the power this company has today along with the potential of what it will control in the not so distant future.

The Citizen Developer

For every organization large or small there is a culture.  This culture forms over time through the mission and vision.   For every organization it is different.  Each organization has boundaries, guidelines, guardrails or tracks depending on their individual frame. Technically, the idea of empowering people to have tools to enable themselves individually is very powerful.  The citizen developer concept is designed to extend the power of development tools to non-technical people enabling them to make business applications.  My technical friends know the power of these tools and how these can change and empower a workforce.

If a company or service provider creates a tool, set of tools or capabilities to enable individuals this is good business.

If a company or service provider enables those same individuals without regard for the business in which they serve, this is a threat.

I worked for a company that had important security and compliance controls and restrictions.  One of the many platforms had tools and services that enabled users to compose logic and workflow.  The tools were easy to use and offered non-technical people a way to do things easier.   The tool was used by many people for knowledge management as well.   The service provider and the internal services team didn’t know all the use cases for the tool.   When the company went through a transition and the tool was slated to be decommissioned,  not only was it not possible,  they found violations that had to be remediated at costs that were unplanned, unexpected and beyond the benefits of potential savings through synergy.   In other words,  it was a “found” cost due to a lack of governance.

This happens often and isn’t unusual.  Many companies face this situation and have to navigate it.   The underlying difference between this situation and the idea of “on by default” enabled “citizen developer” is the intent.

In a recent post about the new world being shaped by service providers including Microsoft,  I warned folks about this idea of testing the market.

My perspective on citizen developer and business enablement is that as long as the service provider does NOT violate a “guiding principle” of the company for which it serves,  creating and providing tools is a great thing.

Empowerment and enablement are good things but governance and education are required and service providers are not in a position to understand every business for which it serves.

On By Default

Last week,  I along with many others experienced what I would call one of the first open market tests with blatant and obvious exposure.  Frankly,  I thought it was bold and brilliant.  While it had evoked mixed emotions across the board, it was not well received overall by decision-makers and organizational administrators.  For those who subscribe to the MVP philosophies and wear the Microsoft flag proudly, I tip my hat to you.  For those like myself that see ethical violations, breaking of trust and underhanded and unconscionable business practice, we haven’t seen the true beginning of this thing yet.

I am referring to Microsoft turning on self-service and self-provisioning capabilities for individuals inside companies that have existing service agreements with Microsoft.  If anyone reading this doesn’t think this was well thought out;  read Satya’s book.   I am not anti-Microsoft.  I am against business practices that seek to undermine companies and violate ethics and values.

What Microsoft did here was so egregious that the uproar forced them to back off of their position and offer admins and business leaders an “opt-out” option.

Many people that I have spoken with over the past week or so have strong feelings about the concept of enabling and empowering end-users.    While I acknowledge that in many cases IT can be too slow for some,  this digital laggard position isn’t for a service provider to solve by force.   Should Microsoft enable companies to allow for self-service? Yes. Should they force it? No.   Not just “no” but no in that they have no right to do it.   A contract with a doctor’s office doesn’t give a doctor a right to allow patients to self medicate.  “Well, George knows how he feels and he really shouldn’t have to wait for me to prescribe him with anti-biotics and shit, this system is super slow so, I am going to just let him write his own scripts.”    Yeah, it is the same thing.   Why?  Because there are consequences that people simply don’t know about when they light up technologies.  Now, in this case, Microsoft started with something fairly small but if you read the message center post as I did it said …” starting with..”  and this is where it begins.

For those who wholly disagree with my perspective, I offer that many organizations successfully navigate slow IT challenges.   With the use of Enterprise Architecture, IT operations governance, guiding principles, policies, standards and best practices, there can be fast track mechanisms to accomplish tasks and goals with speed.

Some companies have taken the approach of team enablement, using a boundary model.  Meaning,  a person identifies a need, checks in with the team, they do a quick check across the small enterprise and large enterprise using communication tools and capability lists.   If something doesn’t exist, they can fast track it with a monitor.  If something doesn’t exist they can make a thoughtful determination to take a risk.    It isn’t done by one person.

If people want full autonomy in a company to act and execute on anything they want when they want, I can’t imagine they would actually want to work for anyone but themselves.   There is no such thing.   There is no business today anywhere no matter how much they say “enable” that actually gives any single employee holistic autonomy.  It doesn’t exist unless you work for yourself and even then it doesn’t exist because you have to work in the bounds of society.   We aren’t free to do whatever we want and that’s a fact.

The Test

Satya and Microsoft change so many things so quickly that it is impossible to keep up and understand the change.   The contracts and conditions change on the fly.  Licensing models change quickly.   The products change quickly and everything is designed from an administrative perspective to be confusing.  You can’t master what you can’t come to understand.  That said, many MVP’s come to understand the engineering of the product and services.  I’d argue that there isn’t anyone on the planet that could talk to all of it.  In fact, it is so confusing and dynamic that the engineers themselves that design the products don’t know what they break or enhance in a tacit way.  They learn through testing.  Everyone that uses the Microsoft services is a tester.

What Satya is doing is providing and covering so much of the service market that his blanket smothers and annihilates the competition.  Successful companies are the feeder fish to this great white.   Service consumers are so confused as to the totality of the ecosystem that they can’t understand and comprehend it enough to do anything but pay the bill.  Service companies exist just to sort through license and provisioning models.   If you understand that you need to hire a company as a trusted agent to manage the complexity of licensing alone,  not including this idea of self-service, it is unreal.  Not that long ago, we had procurement teams and legal teams inside companies that could help but today, you have to have a Ph.D. in licenseology.

  “Always keep your foes confused. If they are never certain who you are or what you want, they cannot know what you are like to do next. Sometimes the best way to baffle them is to make moves that have no purpose, or even seem to work against you. Remember that, Sansa, when you come to play the game.”- George R.R. Martin

The real nature of this open test was to see if people would notice and how they would respond.  Was the market ready for such an aggressive push?  Maybe not today but the underlying goal of the self-service model was actually achieved.  You see, they got what they wanted regardless of the fact they allow people to turn the function off.   Many people are so concerned about the function being on by default that now there is no or little complaint of the existence of the function in toto.


Technical services have evolved into a timeshare.  Gone are the days where we own anything.  We simply subscribe and license for a given period of time.  We also pay for every aspect of the timeshare including when bad things happen.  By design, there is no real way to actually trust a service provider anymore.   When I worked for the defense department,  I was told that services had to visible, understandable and accessible with high availability and reliability.  These were built to be resilient.   The warfighters didn’t need faith, they required and demanded something beyond faith.   This was validation and trust.   Trust is the foundation of all relationships.  It is the key to everything.   Today, when you open a bottle of water, you have trust in a whole chain of people all the way back to those who live near the well.

Satya has in action violated his own trust equation as Microsoft has created a lack and deficit in every portion of his mathematical equation.

  • Empathy – The company would have to listen to be empathetic.
  • Shared values – With whom do you have shared values?
  • Safety and Reliability – The services and technologies are changing too quickly to be safe and reliable. 

Each of these in deficit creates a vacuum but due to the needs of companies today including the war for talent, organizational transformation and lack of time to pay attention to operational complexities,  there is very little trust required in the bank other than the operational presence and being mostly available.

The underlying brilliance of this organizational model, structure and flawless execution is in the fundamentals.   The reality is these companies are moving down the pyramid in regard to the hierarchy of needs.   Everyone in modern society is becoming reliant on cloud computing.   The more reliant and locked in, the more control the vendors have.  The limited number of vendors offer them the upper hand.

Do people have options today in service providers, capability and technology?  Yes.  At the same time,  the options are shrinking and the ability to choose is becoming constrained.   Once a person or company chooses a company to work with, it becomes a marriage.

Right or Wrong

I started my career as a technician.  My whole career was built off the ideas that IBM engineers had in that anyone can fix or replace parts in a computer they designed.  This modular design and easy access model was the first citizen technician model.  Thank goodness it didn’t work because I would have had a different career path.   My perspective is fairly simple.  Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Salesforce, IBM, and the other cloud providers have the same ethical and behavioral responsibilities of John D. Rockefeller.  Most people don’t know that Standard Oil had lots of competition but it was still a market controlling company.   I believe we will see cloud regulation and I think we need it.   As Boeing has proven in recent days, the software can do harm.


What do you think? I’d like to know.