In my last blog comparing forums and newsgroups I compared and contrasted some of the features of both. I have an update to some of the concerns that were voiced about using the Dynamics CRM forums on MSDN. But first you might want to look at the Joe Morel's penultimate post on the subject, Why Web Forums for Support? What Do You Have Against Newsgroups?. He touches on way more than I covered. I'll wait... (imagine Kenny G music here.)
Okay, are you back? CRM MVPs have correctly pointed out that the CRM forums do not have an offline story. They love to download the most current snapshot of the CRM newsgroups to their laptops, jump on a plane and catch up on the traffic. And we have stellar MVPs who answer a lot of customer questions. So I asked the forums team about this and heard back:
Offline Story: The next service pack for the forums is going to include RSS feeds that allow you to completely read a forum and all of its replies offline. There is no offline reply story yet. It’d be nice, but given the fact that we’ve been able to attract plenty of super-contributors through the web-only interface and 99.9% of people have never heard of NNTP, it’s not as high of a priority as other features.
Then there was the customer suggestion program which I and my team use to triage CRM customer suggestions. Here is the reply on that from the same source:
Suggestions/Bugs: We are working on integrating the customer bug/suggestion features from http://connect.microsoft.com directly into the forums and are hoping to roll out the service pack concurrently with our July release. You’ll be able to set it up for your site to directly pump customer bug/suggestion threads into a Microsoft Product Studio database.
The biggest gain from moving to the forums is that our customers and users love the forums more than the newsgroups. Sure there are a lot of old school experts out their that think the newsgroups are the only way to go. But this is more about getting to new users who have come up in a world of forums and who have probably never heard of newsgroups.
My last team (2005) didn't believe that at first. Within two months of rolling out forums side-by-side with newsgroups, they moved exclusively to the forums. Less than 1% of that audience had any complaints. The team never looked back after the move. It was the right fit for their customers as I think it will be for most of the CRM users.