I have a theory that you can't build amazingly great products if you don't deeply know the customer. And the best way to get the visceral and lasting impression is to physically go see the customer work in their own environment.
This where I need your help. I am looking to get smarter about the way custom application development in small business really works. While Microsoft has some great feedback channels for large ISVs and large business. The small business is a slightly harder area for us because of its breath. My, somewhat crazy, idea is to get folks from my team physically outside of the Microsoft campus and get a first hand experience of what life is like for folks doing custom application development in small businesses. To make the logistics easier and to allow more of m y team to go, right now I am looking for folks in the Puget Sound area (for those not in the area, I mean nearby Seattle, WA).
What I am looking for is folks willing to host 2 or so folks from the product development team to come by and observe where you work, how you work, ask you about what problems you face, how you think about the world, etc. The best visits for us would be ones that:
1. Are in small business (1-10 employees)...
2. An office in the Puget Sound area - lots of times these are home offices or even garages..
3. Doing at least part time some sort of custom application development (building a time tracking app, heavily sharepoint customization, data entry application,office VBA work, etc)
4. These apps can be for the companies internal usage OR to license to another company (for example a VAR) or even consumer facing web sites.
5. These are often side job or "moonlighting" as well as full time jobs.
6. We are looking for a variety of technology usage both Microsoft and the other guys. Some examples of what we hear folks are using include Access or VB6 or some VBA in office or some PHP or sharepoint.
If you or someone you know is interested in having a hand in shaping some future MS developer products, want to talk about how your business works, or even just wants to vent about some Microsoft technology please take me up on the offer! Drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know! We have some scheduling folks that will contact you and ask a few questions to see if we can make a fit!