Long Journey Home

UPDATE #5 – The End

Spent last week in Toronto for Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference (more of that in other posts), but rather than fly back to Australia straight away, some of us decided to pop down to New York for a few days over the weekend.

Had a great time. Stayed at the W on Times Square, watched Yankees beat the Angels, shopping for family at the Macy’s sale, walked for miles seeing the sights and of course a few drinks a bit of food.

However now the payoff – the journey home.  We (Doug, Warren, Carolyn and me) have to go back via Toronto  and so the trip is going to cover customs in 3 countries, lay overs in Toronto, LA and Melbourne and is going to take 36+ hours.  Will post this as soon as I get some Wi-Fi and update as we go…

NY Time Sydney Time Elapse Progress
11:45 Sun 01:45 Mon 0 Taxi from Times Sq to LaGuardia
12:15 02:15 0:30 Check in but am on standby!!!
14:00 04:00 2:15 Called to gate desk and allocated a seat. Hopefully “standby” sticker will be removed from checked bag so it can follow me to Toronto.
14:05 04:05 2:20 Announcement that plane is now full and anybody else on standby will be rolled over to next flight
14:30 04:30 2:45 Flight AC715 NY-Toronto due to depart
14:45 04:45 3:00 Boarding
15:15 05:15 3:30 We are in queue of 20 planes waiting to take off
16:06 06:06 4:21 AC715 due to have landed in Toronto
16:15 06:15 4:30 Pilot announces poor weather which we will need to go around
17:45 07:45 6:00 Land in Toronto, but due to lightning storms long delays in getting on gate
18:30 08:30 6:45 Connecting AA flight to LA due to leave.
18:45 08:45 7:00 Exit plane (crew had requested that people who were not connecting staying seated – amazing how 80% of the plane had connecting flights!!!!)
19:00 09:00 7:15 Canadian customs great, quickly through and waiting for bags, including a 10 minute delay where bags just stopped on belt)
19:30 09:30 7:45 AA flight left – we would not have made it anyway……
      This started as a little bit of fun, but it is now getting silly
19:45 09:45 8:00 After multiple Air Canada people point us in various directions, we arrive at ticketing to try and find out how we can re-arrange and get to LA.  We are politely but firmly told that not their problem, all they had promised to do is get us to Toronto.
20:00 10:00 8:15 Arrive at the American Airlines desk over in T3.  Carla the first smiling face we have seen, could not be more helpful.
20:30 10:30 8:45 The very helpful Carla has done her best, however….
All Qantas flights to Melbourne are now full in ALL classes until Wednesday!! So we are currently booked for Tuesday (Toronto time) on AA to Los Angeles and then Qantas to Sydney. Arriving on Thursday (Sydney time)
21:10 11:10 9:25 Still at airport trying to find hotel rooms for next 2 nights
22:00 12:00 10:15 Checked into Sheraton
13:20 Mon 03:20 Tues 25.35 Great nights sleep and loads of work…who cares about delays when you are a mobile worker.
06:30 Tue 20:30 Tue 42:45 Take 2. Taxi leaving hotel
07:30 21:30 43:45 Checked in, through customs, bags gone (hopefully they turn up in Sydney!!) In Admirals Lounge
08:35 22:35 44:50 On board AA1529
09:30 23:30 45:45 Woke up, we are in the air, assuming we took off on time!!!
14:00 04:00 Wed 50:15 Landed in LA (early)
14:20 04:20 50:35 Given that everything that could go wrong has gone wrong so far, we are checking that our bags have not been offloaded…
21:40 11:40 57:55 We are checked back in through LA International security and into lounge (10 mins for security – is this a cruel joke before the next hitch!?)
00:35 Wed 14:35 60:50 On plane, however Tennis racket that has travelled with me so far in hand luggage has been taken and sent to checked luggage – apparently it is the law (seriously).  (see * below)
01:25 15:25 61:40 Woke up in air, assuming we took off on time!!!
16:25 06:25 Thurs 74:40 Landed in Sydney
17:15 07:15 75:30 All bags (inc tennis racket) arrived.  In taxi on way home……
18:30 08:30 76:45 HOME Smile


* [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/4969384/Secret-list-of-banned-hand-luggage-revealed-after-court-challenge.html]

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BPOS Health Status dashboard

(Stephen Parker, Head of Cloud Strategy)

Following the recent embarrassing down time for BPOS services Microsoft are now offering a Health Status Dashboard.  Morgan Cole the man who “leads the team at Microsoft whose mission is to make sure that BPOS customers have a great experience” explains about the dashboard and thinking behind it here.

The URL’s to access the dashboard vary depending on where your service is supplied from and you will need a BPOS “administrator” account to access the dashboard (If your service is EMEA you will not be able to access the APAC dashboard)

Datacenter Location Health Dashboard URL
Americas (NOAM) https://health.noam.microsoftonline.com/
Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) https://health.emea.microsoftonline.com/
Asia-Pacific (APAC)


The need to login with an Admin id does raise a potentially interesting circular argument depending how Microsoft have implemented the dashboard (e.g. separate platform from the core service).

  1. Everything appears good, but I login to check and sure enough all status lights are green
  2. I think the service is down and I try to login with my admin ID
  3. But I cannot login so I am left inferring that the service is down but am not sure!!!!

UPDATE: feedback from Paul Englis (http://blogs.technet.com/b/msonline/archive/2010/09/27/introducing-the-microsoft-online-service-health-dashboard.aspx) confirms that the dashboard is provisioned at the backup datacentre for the region, so sanity returns :)

UPDATE: on the same technet blog there is a lot of commentary questioning the need to “login” to see the current status “The community’s feathers are ruffled about the login for the dashboard. Feedback heard and recorded. [paulenglis]”

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Exit planning for Cloud Services

Been a long, tiring but very enjoyable month.  I have been down in Australia targeting new business opportunities for “Cloud” consulting and as I get ready to return to the UK I am left feeling very positive.

One area that I discussed with a number of organisations (whether they be buyers or suppliers) was the readiness of Cloud service providers to assist customers who wished to leave the service.  This was not about bad leavers, but those who had naturally come to the end of their period of service use and wanted to “exit” as good leavers, taking their data with them.  Although there were plenty of “that is a good question” and “we would work with our customer” responses, when pushed nobody had a good answer.  Bear in mind that I am not talking about a 5 man startup, these were blue chip organisations on both sides of the buyer/supplier fence.

It makes me realise how advanced/visionary/lucky (!) we were at IMPAQ (now part of Procserve) when we designed our Supplier eProcurement service.  Built in was the self-service ability for a supplier to export all of their procurement documents that were held by the service in a choice of open/well known document formats.  The data was kept for a period of time after the customer left with repeated automated notifications that access would be removed.  Even after access was removed the data was kept for an “expended” period.

So given all of the above it was with interest that I spotted a link on The Register about Microsoft’s patent application that “..provides a system and/or a method that facilitates preserving and maintaining data and/or services associated with a network service”.  As with most patent applications it is a stimulating and interesting read (Not!!).  However the top and bottom of it is that it appears to be talking to the very issues that I have been discussing with buyers and suppliers.

Are Microsoft taking a smart lead or will we find that another party jumps out with a “prior arts” objection?  Interesting either way.

Posted in Cloud Computing | 3 Comments

People in Glass Houses

The recent Cloud* outages for Air New Zealand / IBM and T-Mobile / Sidekick / Danger / Microsoft are clearly a wake up call for the emerging Cloud industry.  Having sailed close to the edge as a Cloud startup I am only too aware about how harsh customers can be and how quickly we had to get VERY professional in all aspects of our service.  However the Air New Zealand bosses claim made me smile:

"In my 30 year career….supplier so slow to react…accept responsibility".

These may be testing times for the emerging cloud providers HOWEVER – I bet there are plenty of people who are either currently or can remember only too well when "Their internal IT departments were so slow to react…accept responsibility"

Outsourcing of any kind needs to be managed, it should NEVER be an abdication of responsibility.  Any “30 year career expert” should be careful where they throw the stones of blame, some of them may come back to land on their own failings.  I am sure that when the dust settles there will be lots of lessons that Air New Zealand will have to learn about their own process failings.

* I do not want to enter the debate about whether these are really Cloud services

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Cloud Computing Books

Been busy over the past few months capturing experiences from the last hmmmm years about the internet/SaaS/Cloud and putting them into a couple of books:


The idea behind these books is that if you are currently thinking about the Cloud (whether as a buyer or supplier) then it is critical that you ask yourself some smart questions from a business and technical perspective before you dive in.  Is the Cloud right for you and your customers, what will stay the same and what will need to change within your business.  How should you view the commercial opportunities and challenges a pay-as-you-go model offers and is this the only option, are there others?.  Do you move some or all of your applications into the Cloud?  Whatever your role it is critical you ask the smart questions so you make the right decisions about the Cloud BEFORE you leap.

Really exciting news was that Microsoft commissioned 2000 copies of the Offering book to give out at the recent Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans to attendees of sessions in the cloud track.

The books have been published by Smart Questions Limited

These are both available on Amazon if you are interested, see links above :-)

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Mont Blanc – great customer service (story #3)

What is going on?  Third time in as many weeks that I am compelled to talk about a company that has offered great service.  Is this a general trend that reflects how good companies are showing their customer service colours during these challenging times? (Please let this be true) Is it my non confrontational approach that makes it easier for people to “help me”? (I’d like to think so).  Whatever the reasons I am a happy customer.

So on with the story… I purchased a Mont Blanc pen back in 2004 as a treat following a successful period in one of my businesses.  Since then it has been my “lucky pen” which I use for all important signing moments (the largest being on a contract with a lifetime value of GBP40M).  About a month ago I noticed that there was some chipping of the black enamel and called the Mont Blanc service centre.  They advised that this was not normal and I should either send it in for review or visit one of their retail outlets.  Today whilst in London I was in the area of Old Bond Street and so went to the Mont Blanc shop there.  The pen was inspected and the chipping confirmed.  After showing the warranty book I was advised that the pen was now out of of it’s 2 year warranty.  I then politely asked if this sort of chipping was normal, pointed out that this was a Mont Blanc one of the best pens in the world and asked if, on a good will basis, the chipped part could be replaced.  The very helpful member of staff smiled, said he would see what he could do and went to the back of the shop.  One minute later he returned with a smile and handed me back my lucky pen with the offending part replaced.

Thank you Mont Blanc for another example of great customer service. 

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Continental Airways – Great customer service (story #2)

Following my previous post about great customer service at Honda I offer a second example this time from Continental Airways.


I have just been out in New Orleans for the annual Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC09) and ended up travelling with Continental from London Heathrow to New Orleans via Houston (there are no direct flights from the UK to New Orleans!).  I have to confess up front that Continental would not have been my first choice, not, I hasten to add because of any previous experience with them, rather the poor experiences with other north american airlines.

So why the good news story you may ask?  Initially all I can say is that the flight out reset my expectation for Continental as the plane was clean, staff were friendly and helpful and all in all it was a much better experience than I had expected.  The point of this story however was about my return journey….

At the WPC09 conference one of the books I have written (Thinking of… Offering a Cloud Solution? Ask the Smart Questions) was being given out by Microsoft during their Software plus Services track (2000 copies to be exact).  Any way when everything was finished there were 3 boxes of books left, plus a couple of boxes of some other books that my company publishes (so 5 boxes in total).  I arrived at check-in with my colleague and between us we had 2 large bags, 2 carry on bags and the 5 boxes.  We were expecting the worst.

So here is the amazing story of the Continental check-in staff at New Orleans.

Following an initial exchange of smiles and can you help, the supervisor was asked to come over.  A considered look from all parties and then a question from the supervisor about whether the boxes could be packed together in 2’s.  Of course came our reply and shortly after the supervisor returned with 2 larger boxes.  Onto the scales and the weight was 60lbs for each of the “double box packages”,  this would be an excess charge of 2 x USD50.  This seemed OK and we were ready to pay, when we were asked if books could be removed from the boxes to bring the weight below 50lbs – if so there would be no charge as this would now be the same as having 2 hold bags each at less than 50lbs (our normal allowance).  A few books removed and placed in our carry on bags and off our 2 large bags and 2 double boxes went (which had been carefully taped up by our friendly check in staff).  No excess charge so far.  All that was now left were the two carry on bags and the 5th box of books.  Much to our pleasant surprise we were told we were good to go as each passenger is allowed a carry on bag and a “vanity” bag, which actually made us one bag light!!!!

Fantastic service and way beyond what was required.  This was further reinforced when we met two other colleagues also returning from WPC09, but with a different US based airline, who had just been charged USD150 each for excess baggage.

Congratulations Continental your check in staff at New Orleans did you proud.   

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