Communication that Works for You

One of my biggest frustrations at Microsoft is the fact that so much of our content only goes 1 way: from Microsoft out.  We may post it on a Web site, send it as an e-mail or put it in Help, but ultimately it is one-to-many communication.  And very often it is left to get stale or even completely out of date.

My team and I decided to do something about that when we shipped CRM 3.0. I manage the team that is responsible for Help, the SDK, the Implementation Guide, and Web articles that appear in the “Using” section of our site, and a whole lot of other things.

We saw this problem as having a couple of prongs.  The first was the fact that when you do send feedback to Microsoft, especially about Help, you never hear anything except for a canned e-mail that says, “Thank you for your input.”  We decided to try and change that, at least as much as our bandwidth allowed, so we have been responding more directly to the e-mail that comes in via our documentation feedback mechanism.  The main portion of our effort is to provide the information you didn’t find in Help.  We don’t do support instances or supply information on vertical industry specific questions, but even in those cases we do let you know how to contact support if you have a support incident or post a question in the newsgroup if your question is more specific than we can answer.

It’s been fun!  We’ve learned a ton about the problems you are actually having and we’ve been rolling up a report to PM every other month to let them know too. (See we’re all about communication!) And it’s been great to get the shocked (and thrilled) responses from people who actually get e-mail from us.  As our user base grows, we may not be able to sustain this, but we are using what we learn to generate Web articles and to update the Help which we make available from the Microsoft download center. So far we’ve updated CRM 3.0 Help about once every quarter and a new update will go live sometime today.

The second problem with communication around here is that we’ve always provided a fairly limited way for you to stay connected with each other. We use the term “community” but it has pretty much just meant “newsgroup”.  We wanted to fix that too.  We want all parts of our community (users, partners, ISVs, MVPs, VARs, Microsoft team members) to be able to share tools, templates, code samples, and written content with each other.  But that is impossible on for a million different reasons. So we went out and found the GotDotNet site and we set up the CRM Sandbox.  This is the place where you can share! You can upload and download and there are 25 items out there for download right now.

Okay, now for the legal part about the Sandbox site: Microsoft makes no warranties, express, implied or statutory, as to the information in the project. The information in this project has not been reviewed or tested by Microsoft. For Microsoft-supported content, see the Microsoft CRM Web site on

The CRM Sandbox doesn’t have the navigation or user experience we would have defined had we created it ourselves but it has one hugely redeeming factor: it works. So, nothing’s perfect but we’re talking with you and we’ve provided a place for you to share and that’s a start.

Kate Harper

Comments (1)

  1. Joe Madden says:

    As a shocked/VERY pleased recipient to a response to a ‘Was this helpful’ piece of Help I can not help but say kudos.

    I haven’t had a chance to download the latest help file, but I have to say the one thing that is really missing ‘out there’ is clear ‘check this, then install that, then check that, then x’ on the Reporting module.

    We did a reinstall and the reports didn’t upload.  We did take the cautious step of reinstalling SRS and making sure we could the get the http://myserver/Reports & ./ReportServer pieces before installing CRM.

    It still failed, then we saw how it created a folder and the administrator account and then we gave the admin account all sorts of SRS type privileges and reinstalled and still failed – we have gotten to the point that we can upload a single report – but are struggling with the publishreport.exe.

    We have scoured the net/communities, picked up tips & clues on what to look for – some have been helpful and I believe some moved us backwards.

    The point of all this, as you get all this feedback, my presumption is there are areas where people are really all ‘tripping over’ the same crack in the road and providing excruciating detail on how to make sure that part works would be very helpful.

    My team and I run a HP Openview services business – a complex set of applications and alot of our work is tied to HP’s vagaries in installing things – ultimately somewhere along the way someone forgot/didn’t think to document a key step/checkpoint between #11 and #12 – commonly referred to as the proverbial #11b[-z].

    I am very excited to use this product and I am very impressed with the community forming around this – as we move to a ‘services’ world I think your proactive nature is going to do and say more about this product than the product itself.



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