Transparency - key to effective product development

I am a big believer in making our product development process very transparent with my customer community. The ongoing two-way dialog and feedback is an absolutely critical part of ensuring that we together build the right product for our customers. Earlier this year, we took a first big step in that direction with the release of Community Technology Previews. Visual Studio was the first product at Microsoft which started doing this. You have already seen SQL Server starting to do Community Technology Previews and over time you will see other products at Microsoft adopt this best practice. But like I mentioned above, this is just a first big step in our journey to be transparent in our software development.

My vision over the long haul is to be able to share every spec that we write, be able to share every build that comes our of my main build lab, be able to share our internal discussions around feature tradeoffs and get your input so that we make the right tradeoffs, etc. - in summary, treat my customer community as a key extension to my development team.

A few days ago, I reviewed a presentation by folks from our Community & Customer Engagement team on something we call ‘Broad Customer Connection’ (BCC). BCC programs are designed to create personalized relationships between Microsoft, IT professionals and developers. Activities are focused on evangelism, marketing, and building positive relationships with influencers and customer communities. Via BCC, we hope to give the outside world a look into the minds of Developer Division employees. BCC has helped us reach out to 5 million unique developers via the MSDN website, train over 50,000 IT Pros in Hands-On Labs, educate nearly 500 IT Pros via the Security Web Cast PER DAY and communicate with 800,000 subscribers via TechNet and the MSDN Flash.

In addition to the above, we are looking into having the following best practices be consistently used across all Developer Division teams:

· Identify and manager a group of users interested in influencing the design of the product

· Encourage employees to to become customer buddies via the ISV Buddy program

· Conduct spec reviews with the influencers

· Provide quality responses to 100% of issues reported on the MSDN Product Feedback Center

· Foster a community where 80% of the questions asked in public forums get answered.

· Participate in public chats at least once a month

I would love to hear your feedback on other steps we can take.