Last week, ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley posted on her blog the Ten lessons the Xbox Team can teach the rest of Microsoft.
"When it comes to building community -- and profiting from it -- Microsoft's Xbox team is helping write the playbook. That fact isn't lost on the rest of the company. Increasingly, other divisions at Microsoft are studying what the Xbox folks are doing right and trying to apply those lessons to their own products and services."
She's right, IMHO.
Mary Jo spoke with JJ Richards, the GM of Xbox Live, to collect his thoughts on what other parts of the company could learn from the Xbox. Here they are...
1. Tiers need to be clear and simple. In Xbox Live, there is gold and there is silver. Fewer, simpler SKUs are better.
2. The dashboard is the UI. Users want access to lots of data, all in one place. They don't want to have to hunt for it.
3. An online marketplace sells content. The Windows and Office Live teams already grok this one. Making Microsoft and third-party wares available as a one-stop shop helps move more add-on hardware, software and services.
4. Arcade: Not everyone is a shooter-game pro. Users come with different skill sets and interests. Some prefer "Geometry Wars" to "Gears of War." Microsoft's Developer Division gets this, and is launching Express versions of its tools for hobbyists/nonprofessional programmers.
5. Achievements are a way to stay in touch. The more ways you can encourage community members to stay in touch, the better.
6. Ubiquitous voice and text are de rigeur. In the Web 2.0 world, everyone's a multi-tasker. All services and apps should bake-in messaging, mail and other unified-communications technologies.
7. Roaming accounts are key. Users want their audio and video content, contact lists, address books, favorites and other settings available on any device, anywhere at any time.
8. Build communities within your community. Gamerzones in the Xbox world allow similar types of users to more easily connect. What's the business equivalent of Xbox Live's "Underground"? Good question.
9. Points are the new online currency. Office Online already is moving in this direction, and other Microsoft Live services will likely do the same.
10. Gamerscore = reputation. Other divisions at Microsoft have been wrestling with how to rank community participants by "reputation" to help users gauge which content/commentary to trust. Gamerscore could become the model here.
"Richards acknowledged that the Xbox Live team can learn a thing or two from other Microsoft divisions, as well, such as how to handle child safety settings in world with more and more user-generated content. But it seems to me that it's Microsoft's non-gaming businesses that have more to learn from the Xbox team — at least when it comes to building community — than the other way around."
I'll add number 11: Connect with your customers. Customers want to be heard and sometimes appreciate that they have influenced product design and delivery with their feedback. More and more, teams have formalized how they get direct responses from customers, whether it's internally through a dogfood deployment, more formally through a Connect-managed beta or customer focus groups to see how people react to and how they use a new product or service. Some of the teams that have the best understanding of their customer's needs are connecting directly in 1:1 and 1:many discussions, whether it's on Xbox Live in head-to-head matches and play, or on blogs like the Xbox team's Gamerscore blog, the Xbox team blog on MSDN and of course Major Nelson.