What I learned at the MVP Summit: DPE, MSDN Links, and Attention

I spent a lot of time at the MVP summit this past year. My team doesn’t have any MVPs, but our work is obviously valuable to customers. I’ll thank the C# team for graciously inviting us to spend some time talking with their MVPs. I took a whole lot of notes that have already started to influence my thinking, but I wanted to write everything down here with a note about what the comment meant to me. This is part one.

DPE Connection?

“Is there no connection between the DPE and product groups when it comes to connecting with customers? Couldn’t you do a better job syncing with the MSFT folks in the field and have them engage more?”

It’s true that our efforts have tended to focus on direct influence strategies that involve members of the team working on the products to connect directly with customers. I think we’ve largely ignored the indirect influencer we could have by leveraging the work of the field folks more. It comes down to low hanging fruit for me. The field guys do a good job working with customers while most product groups could stand to improve their customer relationships.

The connection to the filed will become more important however as we attempt to take our customer connection efforts international. The product groups, for example, can’t participate as much in non-English developer communities, but our subsidiaries can.

“International MSDN web pages are just broken”

Yup, there is shall we say, a “quality variance” when you go from one developer center to the next and also when you go from the English version to the INTL version. I believe that the problem is going to be addressed in two ways. The first is that MSDN is working on some platform changes that will help. The other is that we’re investing more in keeping the content up to date on developer centers so that someone is actually responsible for this. Beth, for example, started recently and is already having a good impact on the VB developer center and creating some great content.

Attention Focus

For efforts like Spec and Documentation reviews the feedback was that we could do a better job of keeping a steady stream of opportunities rather than backing dump trucks of specs up to customers and unloading them. This is an interesting problem because inviting customers into our product development cycle means that you see the same eb and flow of priorities that we do. When specs are ready specs are ready and the product teams end up focusing on that challenge.

The difference is that we’re paid to do it and it’s up to customers if they want to participate or not. I don’t have a great answer here. What I’d love to see is more specs developed in real time with customers on a private wiki because then you’d see the trickle of progress rather than the end results of 2 month pushes like you sometimes may have in the past.