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How do teams at Microsoft learn from our customers? How do we know that we’re building products in a way that will meet our customers’ needs?
I’m excited to share with you how our Microsoft 365 engineering teams are working to get better customer insights to build products that delight customers and help them be successful. This journey began about two years ago and has been a great partnership across the leaders in our Microsoft 365 engineering organization that builds productivity experiences and devices for people at home, work, and school. The products we build include Teams, Office, OneDrive, SharePoint, Windows, Surface, Search, Microsoft Graph, and Admin experiences including Analytics, Endpoint management, and more.
What does this look like in practice? We believe it is imperative that we incorporate input and feedback at every stage of product development. We want to make sure that we surface the critical assumptions we have about customers and hold ourselves accountable to check those assumptions with them. All of our engineers, regardless of whether they are an early in career software engineer or a seasoned design leader, are encouraged to make a habit of meeting directly with customers and consulting data and insights along the way.
Customer-driven behaviors in practice
We have been sharing stories of individuals and teams who are positively impacting culture, products, and customers. These stories serve as a source of inspiration for those who have yet to embrace the vital behaviors of customer-driven culture. One story we have told that has resonated with many comes from the Surface Packaging team, in which customer feedback forced them to rethink what ‘premium’ meant to their customers.
Better insights on what customers need, greater empathy for the challenges they might face with our products, and more advanced methodologies for having experimentation-based software development lead to better products for our customer. These elements also contribute to employees feeling more energized and excited by the purpose of what we’re doing for our customers – you feel like you’re not making the big sales pitch for Microsoft; instead, you’re just listening to what a customer needs from us. Being a curious listener to a customer builds awareness, empathy, and excitement and creates energy. We’ve focused not only on driving excitement through grassroots efforts amongst individual contributors and new hires to the organization, but are also empowering our people managers with tools and resources to help them work with their teams to ensure customer voice is at the forefront of how we are building our products.
We’ve made it easy for anyone in our 30,000 person organization to talk to and have a dialogue with a customer. Now that we can’t travel to conferences and have on-campus customer engagements, we’ve been running virtual customer engagements for almost a year, and have learned a lot. We are able to engage with an even more diverse set of customers than we would be able to do in-person, because attendance is remote and friction such as travel is removed. For example, in September 2020, the Microsoft Ignite conference was all-virtual and the audience significantly increased in size; we had more opportunities to listen to small business than we typically get during the conference. Requirements from large enterprises can vary significantly other smaller organizations, and it’s important that we are hearing from everybody, and our teams are challenged to pivot their perspectives with new information that challenges outdated data or biases.
Microsoft 365 engineering teams highly value these opportunities to engage in conversation with our customers, and we hear from our customers that they do too. They say things like: “It’s refreshing to feel like we’re being heard, and that our inputs matter”, “The two-way forum (yields) great technical input and output. Feels like true collaboration”, “It used to be that only MVPs and large clients had access to this … getting feedback from folks across industries is extremely helpful”.
How can you get involved?
- During the upcoming Microsoft Ignite conference March 2-4, join a Product Roundtable meeting to get your voice heard, in small group discussion, with the engineers building the products you use. The Product Roundtables meetings can be accessed through the Microsoft Ignite Connection Zone.
- If you can’t make it to the Microsoft Ignite conference, or you want to stay connected on an ongoing basis: join an ongoing customer insider panel to share your experiences and provide input on new designs that engineering are iterating on for future investments.
As we in Microsoft continue on our journey of being customer-driven, we are thankful for all the opportunities we have to learn from our customers so we can do our best work. Everything we do, from the pixels we paint on the screen to the compiler changes we make to get higher quality code out to customers faster do impacts customers and makes a difference.
Brought to you by Dr. Ware, Microsoft Office 365 Silver Partner, Charleston SC.