Modern PM research techniques

In a comment in the previous post there was a mention of maybe the PM role will go away with the advent of new technologies that make it easier to drive data directly to the developers.  In particular there was a mention of Watson -- which is our online crash data -- which has been a miraculous help to developers (an amazing innovation, created almost entirely by development at the early stages).

My opinion is that the more data there is the more there is going to be a need to step back and to really understand what is valuable and what is not.  The next evolution of data along the lines of Watson has been the Office Customer Experience Improvement Program (sometimes called SQM internally) which was pioneered by the MSN team and is used by many groups at Microsoft (and has been used in Office previously).

In his BayCHI talk last week, Jensen described some of the data used by PM to help to develop the new UI.  In many ways the UI work in Office "12" shows how the joint work across all the disciplines mentioned can yield a success that would not be possible with only one perspective.  One thing to keep in mind is the scale of this design--no product does as many things for as many people in as many different ways as Microsoft Office, so the decision to evolve the experience and the chosen designs are a big deal to us and our customers.

Rashmi Sinha at BayCHI posted some kind words about the whole interaction we are having with customers, which I think dovetails with the comments previously.

Jensen's slides are also posted from that talk.  From the slides you can see that the data helped us to better understand how the product is used by a large number of people, but the design was still a collaborative effort that followed the model I outlined.  And of course we're still in beta so we have been going through a significant amount of feedback and iteration.  Also as a reminder, Jensen's manager, Julie Larson-Green, has a video that shows the UI in action.



Comments (10)

  1. Mike says:


    I’m flattered that I inspired a whole new post. (Or maybe I’m just arrogant 🙂

    With this article, I am in 100% agreement with you that data is key. Whether it’s a PM or a developer that does the analysis, critical dissection of data is going to be a time consuming and essential part of our jobs. It already is 🙂

    Implicitly, I think you may see this as more of a PM role. There may be some PMs, but it will increasingly be part of the work that a developer does. Good developers of the future will not just be algorithmic geniuses, but also business savvy, and they’ll take data from watson, or other CS tools, aggregate it together, and include all of the work in their solution proposals. If the dev is empowered with understanding his business, he can build in the tools to measure the effectiveness of the solution at the time the product is built, rather than having to go into reactive mode later.

    Watson is a great example of this; its developers writing tools for developers, so that developers have the data to know which bugs are the most important.

  2. Sam says:

    This is off-topic to this post, but it would be helpful to know and it is relevant to this blog.

    Would you make an entry on your comment policy so people would understand how to leave?

    I’ve seen comments about anonymous sources (in reference to an blog not named here or else this will get deleted) not being credible. Aren’t all comments in fact anonymous?


  3. steven_sinofsky says:


    I am very interested in the questions and brief comments from readers. For folks from Microsoft, I am particularly interested in carrying on discussions on our corporate email system or in person as I have said many times.

    I written that I view the comment policy as one along the lines of "letters to the editor" as you would see in any newspaper. So not everything can get printed and comments that are off-topic, or attempt to make different points on the coattails of what I wrote are not likely to be appropriate. I play the role of the editor.

    Blogs are a wonderful thing that builds on top of what newspapers (online or print) can do–if you have a view on something and want to express it, you can start your own blog and write as much as you want. I am a big supporter of that.


  4. sam2 says:

    So do you have an internal blog where employees can post their concerns?

  5. steven_sinofsky says:

    Feel free to email me.

  6. Dinesh says:


    No arguments – but the ecosystem is built around capabilities, resposibilities and accountabilities.

    Per your thoughts – developers would need to understand business requirements, create project plans, manage work schedules, manage tasks of other team memebers, manage budgets and then communicate all this along with developing the actual code? For a large project like Office, I can imagine the tasks that hundreds of PM’s work on co-ordinating the feature sets.

    Before coming to Microsoft, I worked on platform integration projects for a Wireless Telco – my mentor was a veteran Program Manager out of NASA, managed their software division writing code for satellite and space launches, that span multiple years and must result in 110% fault free code, no flexibility in terms of features and a big slap on the wrist if your system crashes during testing. Imagine that responsibility, your code runs platforms that will provide communication for millions of people, revenue for thousands of companies and impact a continent.

    It takes years to become a true program manager and many more years to become a great one.

    And if the Dev can do what everyone else can do, an intelligent Visual Studio would one day do what the PM needs, eliminating the need for a Dev 😉



  7. Fadi says:

    Long time Steven!

  8. steven_sinofsky says:

    Am I being stalked?

    Since I’m focused on careers at Microsoft I took a holiday break from blogging (students are all busy) and then was on vacation until yesterday.


  9. Fadi says:

    Stalked!!! No…I just enjoy your posts although i am now out of MS and out of the whole IT industry.

  10. note says:

    "I just enjoy your posts although i am now out of MS and out of the whole IT industry. "

    Really enjoy the post.

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