Hello Windows Insiders, today we are releasing Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 25145 to the Dev Channel.
This build includes a few new features rolling out including an update for Narrator Braille driver support, OneDrive storage alert and subscription management in Settings, and Local Administrator Password Solution.
As always, the build includes a good set of fixes that improve the overall experience for Insiders on their PCs.
We also fixed the issue causing Surface Pro X devices to hit a black screen when attempting to resume from hibernate.
What’s new in Build 25145
Narrator Braille Driver Solution
Braille devices will continue working while switching between Narrator and third-party screen readers as narrator will automatically change Braille drivers.
You must remove Narrator’s current braille support if it is already installed by following the steps below:
Go to Apps > Optional features > Installed features.
Search for Accessibility - Braille support.
Expand Accessibility - Braille support and uninstall the feature.
Install new narrator braille support:
Go to Settings > Accessibility > Narrator > Braille.
Select the more button.
Download braille from this new window by selecting the Download and install braille button.
After braille is installed, then return to Settings > Accessibility > Narrator > Braille.
Select the braille display driver used by your third-party screen reader from the “Braille display driver” option. This only needs to be done once.
Bringing OneDrive storage alert and subscription management in Settings
In March, we enhanced the Microsoft 365 subscription management experience in Windows 11 Settings and added the ability to view your payment method on your Microsoft 365 subscription in Accounts within Settings.
[caption id="attachment_175705" align="alignnone" width="1024"] The OneDrive Standalone 100GB subscription management experience is live on Accounts page in Settings.[/caption]
Starting with today’s build, we have begun enabling OneDrive Standalone 100GB subscriptions in the Accounts page within Settings, similar to the Microsoft 365 subscriptions. This will allow you to view your recurring billing, payment method, and OneDrive storage usage within Windows 11. Additionally, if you are close to or above your OneDrive storage limit, you will be informed on the same page.
[caption id="attachment_175706" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Banner shown on Account settings page alerting you about your storage usage.[/caption]
[We are beginning to roll those features out, so the experience isn’t available to all Insiders just yet as we plan to monitor feedback and see how it lands before pushing it out to everyone.]FEEDBACK: Please file feedback in Feedback Hub (WIN + F) under Settings > Settings Homepage.
Local Administrator Password Solution
The legacy Local Administrator Password Solution product (aka “LAPS”) is now a native part of Windows and includes many new features:
[caption id="attachment_175710" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Easily manage the new LAPS group policy settings via Group Policy Editor.[/caption]
Feature documentation is not yet available, however if you have used the legacy LAPS product then many of the features in this new version will be familiar to you. Here is a short how-to to help you get started on the basic Active Directory domain-joined client scenario:
Extend your Active Directory schema by running the Update-LapsADSchema cmdlet in the new LAPS PowerShell module.
Add the necessary permissions on your computer’s OU by running the Set-LapsADComputerSelfPermission cmdlet.
Add a new LAPS Group Policy object and enable the “Configure password backup directory” setting and configure it to backup the password to “Active Directory”.
The domain-joined client will process the policy at the next GPO refresh interval. Run “gpupdate /target:computer /force” to avoid waiting. (The Invoke-LapsPolicyProcessing cmdlet may be used for this same purpose.)
Once the domain-joined client has backed up a new password (look for the 10018 event in the event log – see below screenshot), run the Get-LapsADPassword cmdlet to retrieve the newly stored password (by default you must be running as a domain administrator).
To get to this new Group Policy, open the Group Policy editor and navigate to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > LAPS.
You can retrieve detailed status via the new built in event logging:
[caption id="attachment_175711" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Easily track the outcome of all LAPS operations in the event log.[/caption]
Note: the feature is fully functional for Active Directory domain-joined clients, but Azure Active Directory support is limited for now to a small set of Insiders. We will make an announcement once Azure Active Directory support is more broadly available.
FEEDBACK: Please file feedback in Feedback Hub (WIN + F) under Security and Privacy > Attack Surface Reduction.
Changes and Improvements
Every Microsoft customer should be able to use our products knowing we will protect their privacy and give them the information and tools needed to easily make privacy decisions with confidence. The new App usage history features, which began rolling out to Insiders with Build 25140, gives users a 7-day history of resource access for Location, Camera, Microphone, Phone Calls, Messaging, Contacts, Pictures, Videos, Music library, Screenshots and apps through the Settings experience. You can find this new information under Settings > Privacy & security > App permissions (simply click on one of the app permissions categories such as microphone and look at “Recent activity”).
Suggested Actions, which began rolling out with Build 25115, is now available to all Windows Insiders in the in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
Middle clicking a folder in the body of File Explorer will now open it in a new tab.
Fixed an issue causing Windows Insiders on Surface Pro X devices to hit a black screen when attempting to resume from hibernate.
Fixed a bugcheck that some Insiders were experiencing with SYSTEM_THREAD_EXCEPTION_NOT_HANDLED related to USBs.
Fixed a bugcheck with error 0x1CA SYNTHETIC_WATCHDOG_TIMEOUT that could happen sporadically on some PCs after left idling for some time. This could happen when a laptop lid was closed, making it appear that the laptop had rebooted while sleeping.
Fixed an issue from the last two builds that was leading to InventorySvc consuming an unexpectedly high volume of memory the longer it was running.
The row of tabs should now be included in the keyboard focus cycle when pressing Tab or F6. Once focus is in the tab row, you can use left or right arrow keys to navigate through them.
Fixed an issue where the tab order when using CTRL + Tab would be wrong if you’d rearranged the tabs in File Explorer.
Narrator will now read the dialog that opens when uninstalling an app from its context menu in Start and those options correctly.
The animation when selecting the More button in Start's Recommended section in right-to-left (RTL) languages should now appear correctly.
When dismissing notification center using your keyboard, its closing animation will now show correctly.
Typing a number in the Settings search box when using an Arabic display language should no longer show boxes.
Fixed an issue causing Settings to crash when going to Bluetooth & Devices > Printers & Scanners in the last few builds.
Fixed a couple crashes that some Insiders were experiencing in the last few builds when opening the Wi-Fi section of Quick Settings, or after connecting or disconnecting from networks in the Wi-Fi section in Quick Settings.
Fixed an issue that was causing the Wi-Fi option in Quick Settings and the Wi-Fi section in Settings to sometimes take a few seconds to appear.
Using touch to rearrange the items in Quick Settings when in edit mode should no longer lead to Quick Settings unexpectedly dismissing sometimes.
Added the SOM currency sign (U+20C0) to the Courier New font family.
Pressing CTRL + Page Up and CTRL + Page Down should work again now to navigate through pages in Task Manager.
Fixed a rare issue that could lead to certain apps to sporadically crash on launch.
NOTE: Some fixes noted here in Insider Preview builds from the Dev Channel may make their way into the servicing updates for the released version of Windows 11.
We are investigating reports that the Mica material and Acrylic blur effect is not rendering correct in OS surfaces like the Start menu, Notification Center and other areas.
We’re investigating reports that shutting down via the Start menu isn’t working for some Insiders and is unexpectedly rebooting instead.
Some games that use Easy Anti-Cheat may crash or cause your PC to bugcheck.
The up arrow is misaligned in File Explorer tabs. This will be fixed in a future update.
We’re investigating reports that launching File Explorer in certain ways when using dark mode (for example, from the command line) is showing the body of File Explorer unexpectedly in light mode.
We’re working on the fix for an issue causing Widgets preferences (temperature units and pinned widgets) to unexpectedly get reset to default.
Certain apps in full screen (e.g., video players) prevent live captions from being visible.
Certain apps positioned near the top of the screen and closed before live captions is run will re-launch behind the live captions window positioned at top. Use the system menu (ALT + Spacebar) while the app has focus to move the app’s window further down.
Changes for IT administrators
We're making changes to how IT admins enroll devices in the Windows diagnostic data processor configuration option. In a future Insider Preview build in the Dev Channel, devices with diagnostic data turned on and joined to an AAD tenant with billing address in the EU or EFTA, will be enrolled in the Windows diagnostic data processor configuration. During this initial rollout, the following conditions apply to devices in the Dev Channel that are joined to an Azure AD tenant with a billing address outside of the EU or EFTA:
Devices can't be enabled for the Windows diagnostic data processor configuration at this time.
The processor configuration will be disabled in any devices that were previously enabled.
BuildTools package when you just need tools like MakeAppx.exe, MakePri.exe, and SignTool.exe
These NuGet packages provide more granular access to the SDK and better integrate in CI/CD pipelines.
About the Dev Channel
The Dev Channel receives builds that represent long lead work from our engineers with features and experiences that may never get released as we try out different concepts and get feedback. It is important to remember that the builds we release to the Dev Channel should not be seen as matched to any specific release of Windows and the features included may change over time, be removed, or replaced in Insider builds or may never be released beyond Windows Insiders to general customers. For more information, please read this blog post about how we plan to use the Dev Channel to incubate new ideas, work on long lead items, and control the states of individual features.
These aren’t always stable builds, and sometimes you will see issues that block key activities or require workarounds. It is important to make sure you read the known issues listed in our blog posts as we document many of these issues with each flight.
Build numbers are higher in the Dev Channel than the Windows 11 preview builds in the Beta and Release Preview Channels. You will not be able to switch from the Dev Channel to the Beta or Release Preview Channels without doing a clean install back to the released version of Windows 11 currently.
ALSO: Because the Dev and Beta Channels represent parallel development paths from our engineers, there may be cases where features and experiences show up in the Beta Channel first.
The desktop watermark you see at the lower right corner of your desktop is normal for these pre-release builds.
Important Insider Links
Want to learn how we made Windows 11? Check out our Inside Windows 11 website to hear and meet our makers from Engineering, Design and Research to share their insights and unique perspectives throughout this journey.
After 25+ years of helping people use and experience the web, Internet Explorer (IE) is officially retired and out of support as of today, June 15, 2022. To many millions of you, thank you for using Internet Explorer as your gateway to the internet.
For our readers in Japan and Korea, please find translations here:日本語: https://blogs.windows.com/japan/2022/06/15/internet-explorer-11-is-no-longer-supported/한국어: https://blogs.windows.com/wp-content/uploads/prod/sites/2/2022/06/Internet-Explorer-11-서비스-중단-및-공식-지원-종료에-따른-안내.pdf
As a user, my first experience with IE was version 3, and my view of what was possible on the internet was transformed by the introduction of Dynamic HTML in IE4 and the introduction of AJAX in IE6. When I got the opportunity to join the IE7 team, I leapt on it, and have been a part of the Microsoft browser journey in some form ever since. Internet Explorer’s reputation today is, deservedly, one of a product from an older era—quirky in behavior and lacking the security of a modern browser. But its contributions to the evolution of the web have been remarkable, from helping to make the web truly interactive with DHTML and AJAX to hardware-accelerated graphics to innovations in touch/pen browsing. Working on the retirement of Internet Explorer has been a constant reminder of its importance; every day we work with customers who have built their businesses on Internet Explorer. To work on a product with such broad impact has been nothing but humbling—our story in many ways is the story of the internet and what it has allowed people and organizations around the world to do.
But the web has evolved and so have browsers. Incremental improvements to Internet Explorer couldn’t match the general improvements to the web at large, so we started fresh. Microsoft Edge is a faster, more secure and modern browser—the best browser for Windows—designed for today’s internet. But we haven’t forgotten that some parts of the web still rely on Internet Explorer’s specific behaviors and features, which is why Microsoft Edge comes with Internet Explorer mode (IE mode). Regardless of the site or standard—old or new—you can access what you need in Microsoft Edge with new modern features to make your time online even better.
So, what happens now for everyday users?
Example message informing users they are being redirected to Microsoft Edge
Over the next few months, opening Internet Explorer will progressively redirect users to our new modern browser, Microsoft Edge with IE mode. Users will still see the Internet Explorer icon on their devices (such as on the taskbar or in the Start menu) but if they click to open Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge will open instead with easy access to IE mode. Eventually, Internet Explorer will be disabled permanently as part of a future Windows Update, at which point the Internet Explorer icons on users’ devices will be removed.
As part of this redirection process, users will have their data like favorites, passwords and settings imported from Internet Explorer—this will help make the transition to Microsoft Edge both familiar and simple. If a user wants to delete or manage their data at any point after, they can always do so in Microsoft Edge from the Settings menu.
Some websites only work with Internet Explorer—these websites might be built on older internet technology and not function properly while using a modern browser. Understanding this, we’ve built Microsoft Edge with IE mode.
To help users get started with IE mode, the redirection process will add a “Reload in IE mode” button (see below) to their toolbar in Microsoft Edge. That way, if they encounter a website that may not work correctly—or if they visit a website that asks them to open the site using Internet Explorer—they can easily click the button to open the page in IE mode. Microsoft Edge will even ask them if they’d like the page to open in IE mode next time automatically! Microsoft Edge will check in with the user every 30 days to make sure they still need IE mode for the site. As more and more sites get updated to modern standards, users will need to use IE mode less and the modern rendering engine more.
Reload in IE mode button in the Microsoft Edge toolbar
Check out the video below on how to use the button or learn more here.
Businesses can automate IE mode for their users
If you’re an IT professional and your organization uses older, legacy sites as part of your normal business processes, you can easily automate IE mode so that those pages launch in IE mode automatically for your users.
Today’s retirement covers all currently supported versions of Windows 10 Home, Pro, Enterprise, Edu and IoT (Internet Explorer is already removed from Windows 11). Internet Explorer will not be immediately removed on all these versions today but will be progressively redirected to Microsoft Edge on all these devices over the next few months (just like for everyday users) to give our customers time to find any sites they potentially missed and complete their transition. After this redirection phase, Internet Explorer will be permanently disabled on devices via a future Windows Update.
For certain versions of Windows currently in-support and used in critical environments, we will continue to support Internet Explorer on those versions until they go out of support. These include all currently in-support Windows 10 LTSC releases (including IoT) and all Windows Server versions, as well as Windows 10 China Government Edition, Windows 8.1, and Windows 7 with Extended Security Updates (ESUs). Future versions of these editions will not include Internet Explorer. Developers who rely on the underlying MSHTML (Trident) platform and COM controls on Windows will also continue to be supported on all Windows platforms.
And of course, we have committed to supporting IE mode in Microsoft Edge through at least 2029.
As a business, you can set up IE mode to use a site list, where you can catalog those sites that require Internet Explorer and have them load automatically in IE mode. You can store this site list locally, or in the cloud through the Microsoft 365 admin center, and any site on the list will load for your users in IE mode. This is the recommended approach if you’re a business that manages your devices and has legacy requirements.
We have help along the way if you experience compatibility issues when testing your websites in IE mode. You can get no-cost remediation assistance for those issues from our App Assure compatibility experts by submitting a request for assistance or by emailing us at ACHELP@microsoft.com.
Once you’ve finished setting up IE mode and testing your sites, you can use the DisableIE policy as the final step to redirect your users from IE to Microsoft Edge so they can start using IE mode.
Learn how to set up IE mode here or explore the FAQ.
The easiest thing to do is to start using Microsoft Edge today
Instead of waiting to be redirected to Microsoft Edge, the easiest thing to do is to get started with Microsoft Edge today. If you’re using Windows, you can open Microsoft Edge from the Windows Start menu or by clicking the Microsoft Edge icon if you see it on your desktop or taskbar.
Microsoft Edge icon on the Windows 11 taskbar and in the Start menu
If it’s your first-time using Microsoft Edge, you’ll be guided through a quick set up process that includes importing your data—complete this, and you’re set. If you’ve opened Microsoft Edge before and need to import your data from Internet Explorer, follow the steps in the video provided in the section above.
The best part? Once you’re set up in Microsoft Edge, you’ll be ready to use it when you upgrade to Windows 11. While Internet Explorer is not available on Windows 11, Microsoft Edge is the best browser for Windows, and it includes IE mode, so all you’ll need to do is sign into Microsoft Edge and get to browsing!
Microsoft Edge is also available on other platforms, including macOS, iOS, Android and Linux. Download here.
The future of Internet Explorer is in Microsoft Edge
If you have ever used IE to explore the internet, we want to share our deepest thanks for being a part of this journey with us. You’ve used it to build apps to support your businesses and to connect with people around the world; in doing so, you have been instrumental in how the web has progressed. While we bid farewell to Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge stands ready to be your new everyday browser for work, life and everything in between. With IE mode, Microsoft Edge offers unmatched compatibility for the internet, whether the website was built 10 years or 10 days ago. The future of Internet Explorer is in Microsoft Edge, giving you a faster, more secure and more modern browser.
Browse on, internet explorers.
Here’s how this works: When Move to iOS requests WhatsApp data, it
gets an encrypted bundle that Apple can’t read. That bundle is
sent to the iPhone via peer-to-peer networking, like everything
else in the migration process. When a user taps on the WhatsApp
icon on the home screen on the iPhone, the app is downloaded and
installed from the App Store. When they log in to WhatsApp (with
the same phone number as the old phone), they’ll then be able to
unlock and import the transferred bundle of data.
Interestingly, the infrastructure to enable this change is already
enabled in both iOS 15.5 (the currently shipping version) and in
the current version of the Move to iOS app in the Google
Play Store. What’s changed today is that WhatsApp has flipped the
switch on the server side to allow this feature to begin rolling
out slowly, first to people opted into the WhatsApp beta testing
environment over the next week, and then eventually to everyone on
If this doesn’t sound like a big deal, think again. Until now, when WhatsApp users switched from Android to iPhone, they lost their entire message history, because there was no way to transfer it. WhatsApp is almost incomprehensibly popular worldwide — perhaps with as many as 2 billion users. It’s not a stretch to think that this alone has been keeping untold millions of Android users from switching.
I’ve linked to this 2012 essay by Garry Wills before, and, alas, I probably will again:
That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was
the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our
demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will
have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to
make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The
gun is our Moloch. [...]
Its power to do good is matched by its incapacity to do anything
wrong. It cannot kill. Thwarting the god is what kills. If it
seems to kill, that is only because the god’s bottomless appetite
for death has not been adequately fed. The answer to problems
caused by guns is more guns, millions of guns, guns everywhere,
carried openly, carried secretly, in bars, in churches, in
offices, in government buildings. Only the lack of guns can be a
curse, not their beneficent omnipresence.
U.S. gun culture as religious fundamentalism is the only way to make any sense of what we have allowed to fester.
Apple’s rumored mixed reality headset seems like the worst-kept secret in tech, and a new report about the device from The Information (its second this week) is chock full of details about the unannounced product’s turbulent development.
One of the most notable parts of the story is about Apple’s decision to go with a standalone headset. At one point, Apple hadn’t yet decided whether to move forward with a more powerful VR headset that would be paired with a base station or a standalone one. While Apple’s AR / VR leader Mike Rockwell apparently preferred the version with the base station — which included a processor that eventually shipped as the M1 Ultra, according to The Information — Apple executives chose to go with the standalone product. Bloomberg reported similar details in 2020.
That choice has apparently had long-term effects on the development of the headset. “By the time the decision was made, the device’s multiple chips had already been in development for several years, making it impossible to go back to the drawing board to create, say, a single chip to handle all the headset’s tasks,” The Information reported. “Other challenges, such as incorporating 14 cameras on the headset, have caused headaches for hardware and algorithm engineers.”
The report also includes details about Jony Ive’s continued consultation on the project’s design even after his official departure from Apple. Ive “prefers” a wearable battery, perhaps like what Magic Leap offers. But other prototypes have had the battery in the headset’s headband, and it’s unclear which will be used in the final design, The Information says.
Apple reportedly showed the headset to its board of directors last week, so it could be nearing a public reveal. That said, it may not be announced until later this year, and it might not hit store shelves until 2023, so we could be waiting a while to try it for ourselves. For further down the line, Apple is developing a pair of AR eyeglasses that look like Ray-Ban wayfarer glasses, but The Information says those are “still many years away from release.” (I’m curious how they’ll differ in style from Meta and Ray-Bans’ actual wayfarer-like glasses.)
It’s once again “Connect Season” at Microsoft, a biannual-ish period when Microsoft employees are tasked with filling out a document about their core priorities, key deliverables, and accomplishments over the past year, concluding with a look ahead to their goals for the next six months to a year.
The Connect document is then used as a conversation-starter between the employee and their manager. While this process is officially no longer coupled to the “Rewards” process, it’s pretty obviously related.
One of the key tasks in both Connects and Rewards processes is evaluating your impact— that is to say, what changed in the world thanks to your work?
We try to break impact down into three rings: 1) Your own accomplishments, 2) How you built upon the ideas/work of others, and 3) How you contributed to others’ accomplishments. The value of #1 and #3 is pretty obvious, but #2 is just as important– Microsoft now strives to act as “One Microsoft”, a significant improvement over what was once described to prospective employees as “A set of competing fiefdoms, perpetually at war” and drawn eloquently by Manu Cornet:
By explicitly valuing the impact of building atop the work of others, duplicate effort is reduced, and collaboration enhances the final result for everyone.
While these rings of impact can seem quite abstract, they seem to me to be a reasonable framing for a useful conversation, whether you’re a Level 59 new hire PM, or a Level 67 Principal Software Engineer.
The challenge, of course, is that measurement of impact is often not at all easy.
Measures and Metrics
When writing the “Looking back” portion of your Connect, you want to capture the impact you achieved, but what’s the best way to measure and express that?
Obviously, numbers are great, if you can get them. However, even if you can get numbers, there are so many to choose from, and sometimes they’re unintentionally or intentionally misleading. Still, numbers are often treated as the “gold standard” for measuring impact, and you should try to think about how you might get some. Ideally, there will be some numbers which can be readily computed for a given period. For instance, my most recent Connect noted:
While this provides a cheap snapshot of impact, there’s a ton of nuance hiding there. For example, my prior Connect noted:
Does this mean that I was less than half as impactful this period vs. the last? I don’t think so, but you’d have to dig into the details behind the numbers to really know for sure.
Another popular metric is the number of users of your feature or product, because this number, assuming appropriate telemetry, is easy to compute. For example, most teams measure the number of “Daily Active Users” (DAU) or “Monthly Active Users” (MAU).
While I had very limited success in getting Microsoft to recognize the value of my work on my side project (the Fiddler Web Debugger), one thing that helped a bit was when our internal “grassroots innovation” platform (“The Garage”) added a simple web service where developers could track usage of any tool they built. I was gobsmacked to discover that Fiddler was used by over 35000 people at Microsoft, then more than one out of every three employees in the entire company.
Hard numbers bolstered anecdotal stories (e.g. the time when Microsoft’s CTO/CSA called me at my desk to help him debug something and I was about to guide him into installing Fiddler only to have him inform me that he “used it all the time.”)
When Fiddler was later being scouted for acquisition by devtool companies, I quickly learned that they weren’t particularly interested in the code — they were interested in the numbers: how many downloads (14K/day), how many daily active users, and any numbers that might reveal what were users were doing with it (enterprise software developers monetize better than gem-farming web gamers).
A few years prior, my manager had walked into my office and noted “As great as you make Fiddler, no matter how many features you add or how well you build them, nothing you do will ever have as much impact as you have on Internet Explorer.” And there’s a truth to that– while Fiddler probably peaked at single-digit millions of users, IE peaked at over a billion. When I rewrote IE’s caching logic, the performance savings were measured in minutes individually and lifetimes in aggregate.
Unfortunately, there’s a significant risk to making “Feature Usage” a measure of impact– it means that there’s a strong incentive for every feature owner to introduce/nag/cajole as many people as possible into using a feature. This often manifests as “First Run” ads, in-product popups, etc. Your product risks suffering a tragedy of the commons effect whereby every feature team is incentivized to maximize user exposure to their feature, regardless of the level of appropriateness or the impact to users’ satisfaction with the product as a whole.
When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.
When trying to demonstrate business impact, the most powerful metric is your impact on profitability, measured in dollars. Sadly, this metric is often extremely difficult to calculate: distinguishing the revenue impact of a single individual’s work on a massive product is typically either wildly speculative or very imprecise. However, once in a great while there’s a clear measure: My clearest win was nearly twenty years ago, and remains on my resume today:
Saving $156,000 a year in costs (while dramatically improving user-experience– a much harder metric to measure) at a time when I was earning around half of that sum was an incredibly compelling feather in my cap. (As an aside, perhaps my favorite example of this ever was reading the OKRs of the inventor of Brotli compression, who noted the annual bandwidth savings for Google and then converted that dollar figure into the corresponding numbers of engineers based on their yearly cost. “Brotli is worth <x> engineers, every year, forever.”)
Encouraging employees to evaluate their Profit Impact is also somewhat risky– oftentimes, engineers are not interested in the business side of the work they do and consider it somewhat unseemly — “I’m here to make the web safe for my family, not make a quick buck for a MegaCorp.” Even for engineers who accept the deal(“I recognize that we only get to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to give away this great product because it makes the company more money somewhere“) it can be very uncomfortable to try to generate a precise profitability figure– engineers like accuracy and precision, and even with training in business analysis, calculation of profit impact is usually wildly speculative. You usually end up with a SWAG (silly wild-ass guess) and the fervent hope that no one will poke on your methodology too hard.
A significant competitive advantage held by the most successful software companies is that they don’t need to bother their engineers with the business specifics. “Build the best software you can, and the business will take care of itself” is a simple and compelling message for artisans working for wealthy patrons. And it’s a good deal for the leading browser business: when the product at the top of your funnel costs you 9 digits per year and brings in 12 digits worth of revenue, you can afford not to demand the artisans think too deeply about the bottom line.
Of course, numbers aren’t the only way to demonstrate impact. Another way is to tell stories about colleagues you’ve rescued, customers you’ve delighted, problems you’ve solved and disasters you’ve averted.
Stories are powerful, engaging, and usually more interesting to share than dry metrics. Unfortunately, they’re often harder to collect (customers and partners are often busy and it can feel awkward to ask for quotes/feedback about impact). Over the course of a long review period, they’re also sometimes hard to even remember. Starting in 2016, I got in the habit of writing “Snippets”, a running text log of what I’ve worked on each day. Google had internal tooling for this (mostly for aggregating and publishing snippets to your team) but nowadays I just have a snippets.txt file on my desktop. Both Google and Microsoft have an employee “Kudos” tool that allows other employees to send the employee (and their manager) praise about their work, which is useful for both visibility as well as record-keeping (since you can look back at your kudos for years later). I also keep a Kudos folder in Outlook to save (generally unsolicited) feedback from customers and partners on the impact of my work.
Even when recounting an impact story, you should enhance it with numbers if you can. “I worked late to fix a regression for a Fortune 500 customer” is a story– “…and my fix unblocked deployment of Edge as the default browser to 30000 seats” is a story with impact.
A challenge with storytelling as an approach to demonstrating impact is that our most interesting stories tend to involve frantic, heroic, and extraordinary efforts or demonstrations of uncommon brilliance, but the reality is that oftentimes the impact of our labor is greater when competently performing the workaday tasks that head off the need for such story-worthy events. As I recently commented on Twitter:
We have to take care not to incentivize behaviors that result in great stories of “heroic firefighting” while neglecting the quiet work that obviates the need for firefighting in the first place. But quantifying the impact is hard– how do you measure the damage from a hurricane that didn’t happen?
My most recent Connect praised me as having done “a great job of being our last line of defense” which I found quite frustrating– while I do get a lot of visibility for fixing customer problems that have no clear owners, my most valuable efforts are in helping ensure that we fix problems before customers even experience them.
Related to this is the relationship of speed to impact— the sooner you make an adjustment, the smaller the adjustment needs to be. Flag an issue in the design of the feature and you don’t have to update the code. Catch a bug in the code before it ships and no customer will notice. Find a bug in Canary before it reaches Beta and developers will not need to cherry-pick the fix to another branch. Fix a regression in stable before it ships to Stable and you reduce the potential customer impact by very close to 100%.
Similarly, any investment in tools, systems, and processes to tighten the feedback loop will have broad impact across the entire product. Checking in a fix to a customer-reported bug quickly only delights if that customer can benefit from that fix quickly.
Unfortunately, because speed reduces effort (a faster fix is cheaper), it’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it had lower impact.
Effort != Impact
A key point arises here– impact is not a direct function of effort, which is only one input into the equation.
A friend once lamented his promotion from Level 63 to 64, noting “It’s awful. I can’t work any harder!” and while I’ve felt the same way, we also both know that even the highest-levelled employees don’t get more than 24 hours in the day, and most of them retain some semblance of work/life balance.
We’re not evaluated on our effort, but on our impact. Carefully selecting the right problems to attack, having useful ideas/subject matter expertise, working with the right colleagues, and just being lucky all have a role to play.
At junior levels, the expectation is that your manager will assign you appropriate work to allow you to demonstrate impact commensurate with your level. If for some reason something out of your control happens (a PM’s developer leaves the team, so their spec is shelved) the employee’s “opportunity for impact” is deemed to be lower and taken into account in evaluations.
As you progress into the Senior band and beyond, however, “opportunity for impact” is implicitly considered unlimited. The higher level you get, the greater the expectation that you will yourself figure out what work will have the highest impact, then go do that work. If there’s a blocker (e.g. a partner team declines to do needed work), you’re responsible for figuring out how to overcome that blocker.
Amid the Principal band, I’ve found it challenging to try to predict where the greatest opportunity for impact lies. For the first two years back at Microsoft, I was unexpectedly impactful, as (then) the only person on the team to have ever worked as a Chromium Developer– I was able to help the entire Edge team ramp up on the codebase, tooling, and systems. I then spent a year or so as an Enterprise Fixer, helping identify and fix deployment blockers preventing large companies from adopting Edge. Throughout, I’ve continued to contribute fixes to Chromium, investigate problems, blog extensively, and try to help build a great engineering culture. Many of these investments receive and warrant no immediate recognition– I think of them as seeds I’m optimistically planting in the hopes that one day they’ll bear fruit. Many times I will take on an investigation or fix for a small customer, both in the hope that I’m also solving something for a large customer who just hasn’t noticed yet, and because there’s an immediate satisfaction in helping out an individual even if the process doesn’t seem like it could possibly scale.
Learning is an Investment
Taking time to learn new technologies, skills, or even your own codebase does not typically have an immediate impact on the organization. But it’s an investment in the future, and it can pay off unexpectedly, or fairly reliably, depending on what you choose to learn.
Similarly, sharing what you’ve learned is an investment– you’re betting that the overall value to the recipient or the organization will exceed the value of your preparation and presentation of information. But beyond the value in teaching others, teaching is a great way to learn a topic more fully yourself, as gaps in your understanding are exposed, and the most dangerous class of ignorance (“Things you know that just ain’t so“) are pointed out to you.
As you move up the ranks, one popular way to increase your impact is to become a manager. As a manager, you are, in effect, deemed partly responsible for the output of your team, and naturally the impact of a team is higher than that of an individual.
Unfortunately, measuring your personal contribution to the team’s output remains challenging– if you’re managing a team of star performers, would they continue to be star performers without you overhead? On the other hand, if you’re leading a team of underachievers, the team’s impact will be low, and there are limits to both the speed and scope of a manager’s ability to turn things around.
As a manager, your impact remains very much subject to the macro-environment– your team of high performers might have high attrition because you’re a lousy manager, or in spite of you being a great manager (because your team’s mission isn’t aligned with the employee’s values, because your compensation budget isn’t competitive with the industry, etc).
Beyond measuring your own impact, you’re now responsible for the impact of your employees– assigning or guiding them toward the highest impact opportunities, and evaluating the impact of the outcomes. You’re also responsible for explaining each employee’s impact to the other leaders as a part of calibrating rewards across the team. Perhaps unfortunately for everyone, this process is mostly opaque to individual contributors (who are literally not in the room), leaving your ICs unable to determine how effectively you advocated on their behalf beyond looking at their compensation changes.
One difficult challenge is that, “One Microsoft” aside, employee headcount and budgets are assigned by team. With the exception of some cross-division teams, most of your impact only “counts” for rewards if it’s for your immediate peers, designated partner teams, or customers.
It is very hard to get rewarded for impact outside of that area, even if it’s unquestionably valuable to the organization as a whole.
Around 2009 or so, my manager walked into my office and irreverently asked “You’re an idiot, you know that right?” I conceded that was probably true, but asked “Sure, but why specifically?” He beckoned me over to the window and pointed down at the parking lot. “See that red Ferrari down there?” I nodded. He concluded “As soon as you thought of Fiddler, you should’ve quit, built it, and had Microsoft buy you out. Then you’d be driving that instead of a Corolla.” I laughted and noted “I’m no Mark Russinovich, and Microsoft clearly doesn’t want Fiddler anyway.” But this was a problem of organizational alignment, not value– Microsoft was using Fiddler extremely broadly and very intensely, but because it was not well-aligned with any particular product team, it received almost no official support. I’d offered it to Visual Studio, who made some vague mention of “investing in this area in some future version” and were never heard from again. I offered to write an article for MSDN Magazine, who rejected me on the grounds that the tool was “Not a Microsoft product” and thus not within their charter, despite its broad use exclusively by developers on Windows. Several leads strongly implied that my work on Fiddler was evidence that I could be working harder at “my day job.”
In 2007, I won an Engineering Excellence award for Fiddler, for which I got a photo with Bill Gates, an official letter of recognition, a crystal spike, and $5000 for a morale event for my “team.” Lacking a team, I went on a Mediterranean cruise with my girlfriend.
Of course, there have been many non-official rewards for years of effort (niche fame, job opportunities, friendships) but because of this lack of alignment with my team’s ownership areas, even broad impact was hard for Microsoft to reward.
Our CEO once famously got in trouble for suggesting that employees passed over for promotion should be patient and “karma” would make things right. While the timing and venue for this observation was not ideal, it’s an idea that has been around at the company for decades. Expressed differently, reality has a way of being discovered eventually, and if you’re passed over for a deserved promotion, it’s likely to get fixed in the next cycle. In the other direction, one of the most painful things that can happen is a premature promotion, whereby you go from being a solid performer with level-appropriate impact to underachieving versus expectations.
I spent six long years in the PM2 band before we had new leaders who joined and recognized the technical impact I’d been delivering on the team; I went from 62 to 63 in five months.
In hindsight, I was probably too passive in evaluating and explaining my impact to leaders during those long years, and I probably could have made my case earlier if I’d spent a bit more energy on doing so. I had a pretty dismissive attitude toward “career management” and while I thought I was making things easier on my managers, the net impact was nearly disastrous– quitting in disgust because “they just don’t get it.”
How do you [maximize|measure|explain] your impact?