Having a virtuous feedback loop built into a system is absolutely critical for the system to constantly learn, get feedback and improve. Inside Microsoft, we do an employee survey to get feedback from the employees on a variety of different topics both to get a pulse on what is top of mind for people as well as to use that information to help improve ourselves. I got in mail a couple of weeks ago one such survey and that prompted me to think about the impact of virtuous feedback loops and how the system can get better and better with the right virtuous feedback loop in place.
For the last 5+ years now, Microsoft has been investing in and improving programmatic ‘feedback loops’. One of the biggest breakthroughs that we had in the company’s history in terms of how we connect with people and get their feedback in a programmatic way is through the Watson technology. The Office team took the lead on this, but today most every product at Microsoft has incorporated the Watson technology and that provides a great mechanism for us to get debug data on any application crash which we can then use to fix crashing issues that our customers see and more importantly to prioritize where we focus our development resources on. For kernel level code, we do have a similar mechanism in Microsoft Online Crash Analysis that came out of the Windows team.
Last year, we introduced the MSDN Product Feedback Center which I wrote about in an earlier blog post. This has proven to be a great mechanism for us to hear from you about issues, suggestions, bugs, etc. and teams are getting better at closing the loop back with you. Other product teams are starting to look at how they can use such a feedback mechanism with their customer base as well.
Microsoft Office, with Office 2003, led the way in terms of having their product documentation online and being able to get feedback from customers both on the accuracy of the content as well as what additional topics people wanted more information on. This was a great way for the Office documentation team to be able to listen to feedback and then react to the feedback in a timely manner thereby making the experience of finding information on Microsoft Office a great experience. A number of the other product teams, including Visual Studio, are doing something similar in their next version of the product.
I would love to hear your thoughts on other ways or places where we can build in virtuous feedback loops that will help us listen and respond better.