We get a lot of suggestions for our tools here at Microsoft. We get some really good tips about how people are using the tools, and we get some instructions about what we can do to make them better. And we also get requests for features in the tools that we don’t already have.
But I would say about 30-40% of the requests for a feature to help someone accomplish a task are already in the product. I send an e-mail to everyone I can, explaining where this or that option is in the tools. Most of the time I get a surprised reaction, and most people are grateful to know we have it.
So why is it that they hadn’t already found it themselves? Well, I think it falls into two camps. One is that we haven’t made it easy enough to find. We found that to be true with the Standard Reports I’ve been blogging about. People were creating huge sets of scripts to display locking and other transaction information, when we have several reports that do the same thing (and more). We just hadn’t “surfaced” (Microsoft jargon – isn’t it awful?) the feature well enough. So we moved the reports in Service Pack 2 to the right-click menu, making it what we call a “first-class citizen” (more jargon).
But there’s only so much of that we can do. After a while, putting everything on a right-click menu or in the main screens clutters things up so badly it isn’t as usable as it could be. So we use techniques to lead you to the right place, consistency, and other methods to make it easier to find.
But sometimes it isn’t us. When I present management techniques at conferences I invariably get responses that say “I really need to dive into these tools more. I didn’t know all that was in there!”
Don’t get me wrong – we constantly worry about getting these things right, and one of the markers we use for that is how many complaints we get on a certain task that is hard to do with the management tools. We take your suggestions, our own studies, and industry knowledge and try to make things easier all the time. But I highly encourage you to take a few minutes today and run through the various menu items, right-clicks, flyouts, pull-offs, pins, icons and smartbars to find out what these tools can do. Hit the F1 help a few times. Open the options and read each one. Then, if you still can’t find where we put something you need, contact the Connect site and let us know. To paraphrase an old commercial: “We want to hear from YOU” – whether it is positive feedback on what you like (so we’ll keep doing it) or things you wish you could see in the tools.