Doctor’s Orders

Can a prescriptive architecture help you make money?

Auntie endured her usual winter cold last month. It seems like I get a doozey at least once a year, usually just before I have to meet with a client. Fabio claims it’s his chicken soup that made me better, but I hedged my bets and went to the doctor. The prescribed pills upset my stomach and were tough to swallow, but they did keep me conscious and un-sniffly enough to carry on—or perhaps the chicken soup really did it.

Anyhow, this gal had prescriptions on her mind during the meeting. Seems the customer needed a flexible solution for sharing information generated by hundreds of knowledge workers spread across all departments in the enterprise. Of course, it wasn’t explained quite that way. As best as I can recall, the actual words were, “Help! We can’t find anything on our network!”

Fortunately, it’s an almost-all-Microsoft shop, so I was able to proffer the Microsoft Solution for Intranets as the answer. If you haven’t run across the Microsoft Solutions before, it’s a set of “prescriptive architectures” for implementing Microsoft products. You can learn more at http://www.microsoft.com/solutions/msi/techinfo/solutiondocs/. In addition to intranets, topics include enterprise project management and Windows-based hosting.

As best I can remember, Microsoft started out with core IT solutions: Web hosting, systems architecture—that sort of thing. Lately, though, it’s been moving out of the data center and into the rest of the business by presenting detailed, step-by-step instructions for deploying Microsoft products to handle particular tasks. The intranet solution, for example, targets an enterprise that has a million documents to share among 20,000 employees. The Prescriptive Architecture Guide is divided into sections for planning, deploying and managing solutions.

If you recall other technology demonstrations from Microsoft, you might be surprised by what you’ll find. For one, the folks writing these guides don’t try to hide the warts. If you need to install a particular hotfix or configure a fake proxy server, they’ll tell you. For another, they integrate products from other vendors to handle virus scanning, backup and other tasks at which Microsoft’s products don’t excel.

It appears that it has finally come to the attention of some folks in Redmond that the uses of their products aren’t entirely self-evident. Sure, we know that Microsoft’s wares interoperate—but do you know how to integrate Project Server with SQL Server? How to make SharePoint Portal Server and Content Management Server play together nicely? Microsoft Solutions helps answer these questions.

The other interesting aspect is that Microsoft Consulting Services isn’t trying to hog all the work. Yes, you can get MCS to come out and help implement the prescribed architecture, but you also can call partners such as HP to help with the job—and the knowledge doesn’t stop there. Anyone can download the documentation.

It’s tempting to view this as a sign of a new wave of Microsoft business, in which it freely shares knowledge in the hope of selling more products. Certainly, solution providers and certified professionals (hey, that’s us!) may benefit from such efforts. The current round of Microsoft Solutions is also part of an overall shift in Microsoft’s business plans. The company knows that Office and Windows won’t be cash cows forever and is searching for the next round of opportunities. That quest includes businesses as diverse as MSN and Xbox, but Microsoft has made no secret of the fact that it would like to own a big chunk of the mid-size business software market. The purchases of Great Plains and Navision are part of that plan, and it seems like some of these solutions fit right in.

Your task, as a certified professional, is the same: Learn everything about everything that comes from Microsoft. If Microsoft does start gaining market share in mid-size businesses, there should be plenty of work to go around.

Meanwhile, I’m going to fake a few sneezes and see if that’ll make another bowl of heavenly chicken soup appear.

Ready to leap to new fields? Let me know at Auntie@mcpmag.com and get the chance to win an MCP Magazine hat. The best comments will be published in a future issue.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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