Office space…


This post is about how office space is allocated at Microsoft, and it has nothing to do with the movie of the same name.  You will also be hard pressed to find something really useful Exchange-related in it!

In most of the company, we have offices with actual doors rather than cubicles.  Of late, we've been running into a space crunch due to a general underestimation of how many hires we could make (typically, it's assumed that only a certain percentage of allocated head count will be filled at any time due to attrition and the time it takes to find and bring in new people).  I don't know the exact percentages, but we hired more than we expected we'd be able to, so we've been getting a bit squeezed for offices until more can be built.

Offices are allocated to teams based on their head counts, and offices are allocated to people based mostly on seniority.  There are four types of office arrangements, ordered by prestige: corner offices, window offices, interior offices, and multi-person offices.  Corner offices, which are larger than regular ones, are the most coveted and are usually allocated to very senior managers (like VP's, General Managers, Product Unit Managers, etc).  Although with the space crunch, a few of our senior managers took one for the team and moved into interior offices and let their corner office be occupied by several others (they can typically fit four people without too much crowding). 

The next most desirable offices are window offices.  These are allocated strictly by seniority at Microsoft, although depending on how space has been divided up between teams and how senior certain teams are, we could and do end up with less senior people trumping more senior ones on occasion.   There's always a good bit of grumbling when that happens.  How senior you have to be to get a window office depends on many factors, most particularly how senior you are relative to your team.  I got my first window office after being at MS for less than two years, but that was in less crowded times and occurred after we moved into a brand new building.  In Exchange today, there are people that have been at MS for 5 years or more and still are in interior offices.

The least desirable situation is to be in an office with one or two other people.  I've shared an office before, and also worked in cubicle land for a number of years, but that was 10 years ago (before I joined MS), and there is no way I could go back that.  Aside: about 15 years ago I was fooling around in my cubicle one day with a pen and a rubberband, spinning it around and around (why, I couldn't say).  What I didn't realize was that the pen was leaking and I was spraying little ink droplets on people in all the surrounding cubicles.  I was not the most popular person in the office that day (or that week, for that matter).  It's best to keep me enclosed in a roof and walls.

- Jon Avner

Comments (16)
  1. Brian G says:

    All I can say is that the entire Exchange team should lose their offices for the poor job done on Exchange 2007.

    Powershell is nice, but not at the expense of not having a fully working GUI to manage the system. Not the half-ass one that was shipped with Exchange 2007, but one with as many features as the Exchange 2003 version. What in the hell were you guys thinking?  Did you ever ask resellers that actually have to sell the product to customers for feedback? Not the fortune 500 type, but the people who sell/purchase the majority of your products?

    Removing features from OWA?  Who had the heads up their behinds to do that?  Yes, SP1 addressed that. However, who was the idiot that made that decision in the first place?

    Don’t get me wrong, I love MS and their products.  But, this is the first time in many many years that I have actually been disappointed with a new product. I actually have customers who are looking at competing products due to the mess you guys have created.

    Heads should roll around there.  Office space should be increased by firing the idiots who made these decisions.  It appears that the wrong people are in the corner and window offices around there.

  2. Ronald says:

    I actually enjoyed that movie, Office Space!  In addition, I always thought that that stupid paper clip thingy majigy in Office should be replaced with a nice big red stapler! :-)

    The best office arrangement I have seen was at Cabletron.  The meeting rooms had no chairs with the purpose of making meetings short and to the point.

    I think open office plans work well.  No walls, no cubicles but large spaces between desks and if you really want to hide from your colleague, put a plant in the way.

  3. Wapatoo says:

    Damn Jon, Such an organisation is freaky.. I’m scared ^^

    Everything is so precise and I can’t imagine what happens when two guys switch offices..

    I’m a regular reader of your blog, and enjoyed the website you’ve done on "Exchange team is recruiting" (few weeks ago) but has nothing to do with the organisation you just described ^^

  4. RickP says:

    Can we get a Visio flow chart of office priority :-)

  5. Maao says:

    I had the pleasure of working in building 34 a few years back. I got lumped with an interior office as I was only there for a few months. To be honest I think the whole layout of offices there was really poor and not conducive to good team work or communication.

    Some people had their own coffee machines and sofas in their little offices. That always made me chuckle.

  6. EngineerBoy says:

    I have to second what Brian G said – what the heck were you guys thinking releasing Exchange 2007 in its current state?  My guess is that someone somewhere got to check off a successful release date and reap the associated rewards.

    However, if you don’t actually finish a product (much less polish it) then it’s easy to hit a release date.  Just so you know, in the trenches we’re seeing a resurgance in customers struggling with the Exchange vs. Domino question, based strictly on the still-crippled release of Exchange 2007.

  7. Wapatoo says:

    Unfortunately, now Marketing guys set up the release date and R&D has to follow. eg. video games : why there is so many patches after a release

    Exchange 2007 release date has been set regarding last release (4 years ago..) and regarding Domino release, and blackberry.. all that unified messenging stuff..

  8. Robert says:

    OK. This was a nice break. Breaks are good. It’s important to rest. Now, stop whining about your palatial setting and the freak back to work on the half-assed product that is Exchange 2007. How about a decent way to manage public folders? And if we’re supposed to migrate to Sharepoint, how about some tools to that with? Whining about not having a window. Some of us don’t even have cubicles. I’m in a bullpen. Try that for a non-conducive working environment.

  9. JJ says:

    ha ha – funny what happened with the pen! Wish we had separate cubes in my area, IT people get moody.

    Sounds like Brian G had way too much coffee too, for raggin’ here about Exchange 2007. I love the new powershell – it’s gives admins commands with real cajones!!

  10. JJ says:

    Sorry Brian G, didn’t mean to single you out – didn’t see the other postings…….

  11. chuckr says:

    It is evident that you guys are running out of ideas to post.

    Suggestions anyone. PLEASE!!!

  12. ES says:

    I have to agree with what Brian G stated.  I am a Consultant and talk with a lot of Exchange engineers and clients.  Really don’t know what in the hell the Exchange Team was thinking releasing Exchange 2007 in the state it was in.  Their excuse was that some features couldn’t make it by RTM.  THEN DON’T RELEASE IT!  Release it once it’s ready.

  13. John says:

    This isn’t the right forum for some of these comments but as there isn’t a more appropriate one here are some more in the same light.

    Unfortunately I have to agree with Brian G and others. I was all fired up about upgrading from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2007, being an MS supporter … then I went on the Exchange 2007 training course. I came out of it thinking "There is no way my company is going Exchange Server 2007".

    Public Folder support seems to have hit a nerve with many people, and even though SP1 improved things greatly, it still isn’t back on par with Exchange 2003. I didn’t want to focus on PF with this post as it is a minor concern when compared to others, but even the new SP1 GUI (seperate from the Exchange GUI mind you!) doesn’t allow permission changes. What the .. ?

    Speaking of permision changes, this is one of the top 5 functions an Exchange Admin does in my org on Mailboxes. Need to give someone full access to a shared/generic mailbox, or assign send-as permissions?Such a simple process under ADUC with Exchange 2003. So simple it is delegated out to AD admins across the org who look after users in each department. How do you do it in Exchange 2007? command line! (yeah, right. I’m going to give that to a hundred admins to play with).

    The powershell has been given to us with a great deal of cheering from your team. I agree, it does empower some admins. People like me, who write scripts for everything and have a chance of understanding it. Using it for the whole admin of Exchange? Make everyone who NEEDS to do simple Exchange admin task use it? Are you crazy? Nearly everything in the shell should be possible via the GUI.

    When you compare that to the things that were in ADUC interface and the Exchange 2003 Admin GUI everything seems to be a step backwards.

    I read on the Exchange 2007 that the install process is much simplified. If that is true then everything every other aspect of managing Exchange seems to have gotten magnitues of order more complex. In Exchange 2003, navigate in the gui or ADUC and see an answer. In Exchange 2007, not possible via the gui and attributes not visible in ADUC, so run a shell command requiring 10 parameters and not be able to see the results be the simeple view cuts column data after 10 characters. [of course that isn’t a problem, just use -format list and be overwelmed by the pages of irrelevant data you weren’t interested in].

    Guys, I’m sure Exchange 2007 is a great product. The engine is probably tuned to perfection. But listen to the people here; The management of Exchange is a HUGE step backwards for most people. It sure made us halt upgrading.

    John

  14. Rune3 says:

    Brian G and John,, right on the spot,, exactly how I feel.   I was so looking forward going on to 2007,,, but now after 3 month in production there are so many things that I mis from the 2003 world, mainly on the GUI management side.

    As a SysAdmin I definitely love Power Shell,, but giving that to our ServiceDesk people is a No Go. Forcing them away from ADUC is a big step down and Public Folders, I keep them on 2003 for now.

    And then there is the "Manage Clustered Mailbox Server" feature. What happened to just use Cluster Admin Move Group. In the Cluadmin you are at least able to see what server is actually the current active one.

  15. Mike Crowley says:

    Regarding all of the hatorade everyone in here has consumed.

    1. get your facts straight.  sp1 allows public folder management

    2. be thankful these types of casual forums exist, and dont yell at people when they get so casual, you might mistake it for a real conversation

    3. I like exchange 2007, and while learning new things is hard, don’t be rude to people because you dont like change

  16. Jon Avner says:

    Uh, thanks for the comments everyone.  I actually wrote that post about 2 years ago (not sure why it took so long to get published, I guess we were saving it for just the right time, which apparently this is not).  It was, of course, intended to be a fun distraction from reality, but clearly there are some important issues that are on your minds with Exchange 2007.  I will definitely forward these comments on to the team for further review.  Thanks.

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