Transparency – key to effective product development

I am a big believer in making our product development process very transparent with my customer community.  The ongoing two-way dialog and feedback is an absolutely critical part of ensuring that we together build the right product for our customers.  Earlier this year, we took a first big step in that direction with the release of Community Technology Previews.  Visual Studio was the first product at Microsoft which started doing this.  You have already seen SQL Server starting to do Community Technology Previews and over time you will see other products at Microsoft adopt this best practice.  But like I mentioned above, this is just a first big step in our journey to be transparent in our software development.


My vision over the long haul is to be able to share every spec that we write, be able to share every build that comes our of my main build lab, be able to share our internal discussions around feature tradeoffs and get your input so that we make the right tradeoffs, etc. - in summary, treat my customer community as a key extension to my development team.


A few days ago, I reviewed a presentation by folks from our Community & Customer Engagement team on something we call ‘Broad Customer Connection’ (BCC).  BCC programs are designed to create personalized relationships between Microsoft, IT professionals and developers. Activities are focused on evangelism, marketing, and building positive relationships with influencers and customer communities.  Via BCC, we hope to give the outside world a look into the minds of Developer Division employees.  BCC has helped us reach out to 5 million unique developers via the MSDN website, train over 50,000 IT Pros in Hands-On Labs, educate nearly 500 IT Pros via the Security Web Cast PER DAY and communicate with 800,000 subscribers via TechNet and the MSDN Flash.


In addition to the above, we are looking into having the following best practices be consistently used across all Developer Division teams:

·         Identify and manager a group of users interested in influencing the design of the product

·         Encourage employees to to become customer buddies via the ISV Buddy program

·         Conduct spec reviews with the influencers

·         Provide quality responses to 100% of issues reported on the MSDN Product Feedback Center

·         Foster a community where 80% of the questions asked in public forums get answered.

·         Participate in public chats at least once a month


I would love to hear your feedback on other steps we can take.



Comments (17)

  1. James Snape says:

    Whatever you’re planning, sign me up 🙂 One thing I would add is that I find it pretty easy to evangelise the developer benefits (apart from the release dates 🙂 but I’m struggling with the business benefits (to end customers) some help there would be of great use.

  2. Matt Garven says:

    That’s great – I love what I’m reading. Getting the product as right as possible the first time makes sense.

    What happens once the product is released though? I work with a team of 50 developers using .NET and have found many bugs with both Visual Studio and the .NET Framework itself.

    We’ve never had much luck with reporting the issues in newgroups and having them dealt with in a manner which corresponds with the ideology you’ve talked of in your post. We’ve always resorted to finding our own work-arounds, which doesn’t benefit the community or improve your product.

    So you release a great product, that’s cool, but there are always more bugs to be found. What then?

  3. Ricky Datta says:

    Product Feedback Center

    A feedback – most of the suggestions are

    usually marked by Microsoft reviewers as

    "Fixed and Resolved"

    even though they do nothing about it.

    So it is mostly useless feedbackk for suggestions.


  4. S. Somasegar says:

    James, for Visual Studio 2005, we are still working on pulling together appropriate ROI information, case studies and other materials to help with what you are specifically asking for.

    At Visual Studio 2005 Beta2, some of this material will start becoming available on-line.

  5. S. Somasegar says:

    MSDN Product Feedback Center is already having a meaningful impact on the work that our development teams are doing. Over time we expect it will be integral and critical to how we scope, design, build, release and service products. Mark Cliggett from our Customer Connection team talks about this in the PFC blog here (

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