In the three years I've been working in the Developer Division at Microsoft, I've been impressed with the focus our divisional leaders have placed on customer focus. The benefit to customers is obvious. We're responsive to your concerns and it helps us build a product that better meets your needs.
It also benefits us a lot too! We have specific customer feedback to drive decisions in feature development. A lot of it is anecdotal, but still very, very valuable.
I wanted to share the ways my team and I regularly interact with customers. You might have participated in one of the many ways, but not known other ways to get to know us and have an impact on feature direction.
The MSDN Forums are a place for people to post questions and comments. There are many different forums for specific features in Visual Studio and other products. My product team has two forums. One is for Web and Load Testing, and the other is for all general Team Test issues. Every member of our team spends some time during the week reviewing questions and posting answers. We also encourage others in the community to contribute as well. We try to touch each post within 2 days, and strive for an answer in 7 days.
About once a month, we schedule live chats on MSDN. We'll recruit 2-3 members of each product unit (TFS, TeamDev, TeamTest, TeamData, TeamArch) to attend and respond live to questions. Watch this blog and others for dates, times, and links to the planned chats. The transcripts are posted later for those who were unable to make it, and I suspect for search engines. (Interestingly, the last transcript posted seems to be April of 2007. I'll have to follow up on that and find out if the latest ones are posted elsewhere or if they just haven't made it up yet.)
Blogging is primarily a one way communication mechanism, but it does increase the transparency of what is happening inside of Microsoft. I prefer transparency, even though I realize we can't always have it in full due to IP, etc. We use blogging to show off new features made available in Customer Technical Previews (CTPs), Betas, and final releases. See David Gorena's post about our test case management features available in a recent CTP, for instance. We like to get comments on the blogs about what you see, though we don't get nearly as much feedback as we'd like. If we blog about something you like, ask us to do more. If we blog about something you don't care about, let us know that too. If you have more questions, we'd love to hear them and we'll try to respond in another comment or in a new blog post.
We interact with the community in other ways as well, but these 3 are the things we do on the most regular basis and with the most number of people. If you haven't gotten to know us in any of the ways I've listed, give it a shot and let us know how we can do better.
Blogs of interest: