Recently on Born to Learn, you may have noticed some solicitations for customer participation in Microsoft Learning’s product development process. We’ve got the Assessment and Certification Exam (ACE) team asking for Beta exam participants and for Subject Matter Experts for exam development. We’ve got the Courseware team asking for Alpha participants for classes. Microsoft Press wants you to fill out evaluations on the books. What’s up with that?
At Microsoft, one of the ways we manage our business is by putting in place metrics by which we measure how well we’re doing. About 5 years ago, we decided to start measuring the number of customers we involve in our product development process. The idea was that getting customers involved in the creation of our products, whether for SME services or feedback, would get us closer to delivering products that customers liked and valued. So, we started measuring this as one of our business metrics.
For legal reasons, the ACE team had always required customer involvement to be a part of developing a rigorous, real-world exam. To be fair, all of our product lines had customer involvement at some point along the development process already, but we’d never had goals associated with this and we’d never systemically looked at it all-up for Microsoft Learning. The result of all this was that we increased the number of customers in the loop and got some great (and sometimes painful) feedback on making our products better.
Today, customer involvement is an entrenched part of our product development process and I bet that if you ask anyone who has ever had a hand in the process, they’ll tell you they played an important role in making a quality product. So when you see those solicitations for your feedback and involvement, think about participating.