In a comment to my last post, Michel says:
It sure helps to demystify the process, but also shows there is no direct contact between developers and customers. PSS, a product group or reports form software tools are always 'in the middle'.
I'm sorry that I gave you the impression that there is no direct contact between developers and customers. That could not be farther from the truth. It may be a problem that I didn't define the term “product group“. To us, the “product group“ is the group that designs, engineers, and tests the actual product. It comprises mainly program managers, developers, and testers. So for the most part, developers == product group.
I mentioned validation with some types of customers above (e.g. MVPs), but other ways that developers get direct feedback from customers include:
- Newsgroups and public mailing lists. We have quite a few people from the product groups that lurk and even a few that post regularly to such lists. I've been a member of the exchange2000 yahoogroup since its inception. I also read and sometimes write to a number of other lists, including one for Windows usage in Higher Ed (I used to work in Higher Ed so this is near and dear to my heart) and one for SBS.
- Conferences. When I go to a typical conference for a week such as TechEd or ITForum to speak, I will probably speak directly to 200 customers.
- Blogs! I'm getting direct feedback from a customer right now!
I didn't mean for the previous post to be an exhaustive list of how we get feedback from customers.
I can highly recommend the Exchange 2000 yahoogroup (and it's 5.5 predecessor on swinc/sparklist). They have proven to be, and still are, a valuable resource for me.
The fact that developers monitor these discussion lists as well (and post, you replied to my first question ever on de 2000 list....) is great.
Indeed, you're getting feedback directly from customers. Personally I think the discussion lists and newsgroups are the best sources to find out what most people would like to see improved or new in an upcoming release. Although many people lurk most of the time (i do too, and that's hard enough with the 2000 list being the most active one I know), seeing the same questions over and over again surely shows what the majority is struggling with.
All it takes for subscribers to get heard is just a simply message. No need to visit TechEd or other time and/or money consuming options. Very accessible, which is a good thing.
(Wierd, commenting on my own comments)
I just saw this on http://www.bink.nu
Microsoft launches www.windowsserverfeedback.com
Help us improve Windows Server by providing us with your suggestions and ideas. All feedback submitted will be sent to the Windows Server Development Team for review and analysis. Your ideas can impact Windows Server in many ways, and might even be incorporated into new Service Packs, Feature Packs, or the next Windows Server release.
After completing this page, you can opt to participate in a variety of activities such as online surveys about Longhorn Server and volunteering for beta testing.
(David, feel free to change this comment in a trackback if possible)