Microsoft Garage installations in Herzliya, Israel
Microsoft Garage installations in Herzliya, Israel

Microsoft has just announced that the Microsoft Garage is opening three new international Garage locations this year: Beijing, China in the first half of 2017, Hyderabad, India in the second half of 2017, and Cambridge, Massachusetts in early 2018.

Since the Microsoft Garage started out in 2013 it has grown from just a few hundred enthusiasts to many thousand active employees. Microsoft shares some interesting stats of this impressive evolution in a new blog post. Recently, the Microsoft Garage celebrated its 2-year anniversary which Microsoft also covered with a longer feature article. It is definitely worth a read!

We´ve been in touch with Anne Legato, Chief Communicator at the Microsoft Garage who was so kind to provide us some more insights about recent developments.

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What have been the most successful Garage projects of the last two years?

“We consider every project a success- they are experiments, and the teams are gathering data and learning from the experiment.  However, in conventional terms,  the most utilized (highest DAU) Garage project is Arrow Launcher on Android.

We encourage all teams across Microsoft to use The Garage to inform product development. The apps Mimicker Alarm, Fetch, and My Moustache were all sample apps from Microsoft Research to test the Face and Emotions API’s which launched as Microsoft Cognitive Services in March at  //build.

What does a Microsoft employee need to do to participate?

“Any employee or intern is free to participate at any time.  We have tools and platforms to help people connect with the people and technology they need to work on their idea and try to bring it to life.”

What support does Microsoft provide for Garage projects?

“The Garage provides a platform and outlet for small scale innovation that was already happening at the company.  More than half of the Garage projects you see on Garage.microsoft.com are not side projects- they are experiments from teams across the company including but not limited to Microsoft Research, Bing, OneNote, and Office 365.

Garage resources include a team of experts to help accelerate project development. These experts consult with project teams who want to ship through the Garage on all aspects of project development including engineering, design, go-to-market, and analytics. Experts in the Garage are passionate about supporting small scale innovation and volunteer their time and knowledge in addition to their job roles.”

What happened with the original “Microsoft Garage” location? Are there similar installations in other Microsoft locations for interested employees?

“Since 2014, The Garage is investing in dedicated hacking and making spaces around the world, starting with the Microsoft Global Development Centers.  Our center is still based in Redmond, WA, and we have built staffed facilities in Vancouver, B.C., Silicon Valley, and Israel. Three more sites are being designed and built in the next 18 months in India, China, and Boston.”

How many active projects do you run currently and how many people are involved?

“Project teams own their project from ideation to retirement – they design, code, build, release, and support their project. These teams are as small as two and as large as twenty people. There are 37 projects actively collecting data from customers available through our website. There are many more in various stages of development, and not all of these are meant to be externalized for customer feedback.”

How does remuneration/recompensation work for successful projects? Are there any internal awards, bonuses on a personal level or something similar?

“Employees cite several reasons why they love working on Garage projects. People get really excited about the possibility of bringing their idea to life.  Many projects are created in response to an unmet need that is personal to them.

The opportunity to create real positive change is cited over and over again when we talk to people about their projects.  Teams that win the annual worldwide Hackathon get to meet a member of the top level leadership team to discuss their project and receive direction.”

Are there any new initiatives / plans from Microsoft to get more employees engaged in Garage projects?

“Garage philosophy is being knit into the fabric of how we work.  All new employees are introduced to Garage programs. Our internship program attracts top talent in Cambridge, Vancouver, and Hyderabad.  We are building more Garage facilities around the world to meet the demand.

The three worldwide Hackathons have raised thousands of ideas and put scores of projects in the pipeline.  Microsoft is deeply committed to providing a platform for any employee, anywhere in the world, to do their best work.”

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